Santorini is a hotspot destination for every occasion and at any time of year, and there’s great spots for every traveler to discover, from the most popular spots like Oia, to more hidden getaways.
The best way to find your favorite spot is to use Santorini’s reliable public bus system. It’s by far the cheapest way to get around, with stops in most of the island’s towns, so it’s a great way to branch out into more unknown territory on the island. It can be confusing to use an unfamiliar public transit system, but with a bit of advance planning, you should have no problem having the Santorini vacation of your dreams.
Ticket prices range from €1.80 to €2.50, correlating to the length of your journey.
There are discounts for disabled travelers (although buses are not wheelchair accessible) and families with multiple children.
Night routes, which run from 12:30am to 5:00am, are slightly more expensive, with tickets ranging from €2.30 to €3.10.
Tickets are purchased as one-way fares, so you’ll have to buy a new ticket on every bus you board, even if it’s just a transfer. In order to purchase a ticket, you just have to pay the driver inside the bus, although at busy stops like Fira, Oia or the ferry port, a ticket taker may collect fares outside. Be aware that buses only accept cash, so be sure to have enough small change to pay easily.
Every bus route on the island stops in Fira, so if you are trying to get anywhere else, you will almost certainly have to transfer here. If you’re planning on exploring several different towns on the island, it may be beneficial to stay in Fira, to limit transfers and lower your travel time.
Catching the bus is relatively intuitive. Larger bus stations will have designated lines where you can wait, but if you’re catching the bus from a smaller street-side bus stop, you’ll have to flag down the bus driver to stop. To do so, just look at the driver and wave your right arm, and they should know to stop.
Make sure to double check that you’re heading on the right route in the right direction. Each bus will have a yellow sign on the lower left corner of the windshield displaying the starting and ending location of the route. Something else different from large urban bus systems is that drivers don’t always stop at every location listed on the route. If you’re getting off anywhere other than the end of the route, just make sure to let your driver know when you board, and when you’re nearing the stop. As long as you know your route and destination, you should be able to get there and back without any issues. Locals in Santorini are very friendly, so if you do get lost or confused, don’t be afraid to ask. Another thing to note is that, on popular routes especially, you may not always get a seat, so just be sure to hold on tight on Santorini’s winding roads.
Buses by Season
May to September
May to September is the peak summer season on Santorini, and every route should be operating. During this season buses run roughly every 30 minutes in tourist hotspots, and up to every hour in other villages.
The three most popular routes are the routes from Fira to Perissa, Kamari and Oia. They run every 30 to 45 minutes, and typically operate all day, from 5:30am to midnight. Since these are the busiest routes, you may not always be able to get on the first bus, so be prepared to wait or arrive extra early. Other popular routes will run anywhere from 10 to 15 times per day. Night buses also operate between the major villages in the summer; these run from 12:30am to 5:30am, although the coverage is rather sporadic.
Mid-March to April
If you’re traveling in the shoulder seasons of spring (mid-March to April) and fall (late September to October), you still shouldn’t have any problem getting around on the popular routes mentioned above.
The timetables will be slightly less stacked, with buses still running frequently, but only until 10pm at night. If you plan on hitting the smaller beaches, like Monolithos or Koloumpos, these routes will often stop earlier, since most of the bars and nightlife spots start to close during this time of the year.
November to February
In the winter off-season, from November to February, the frequency of buses drops dramatically, and some routes are dropped from the schedule completely. Many businesses like hotels and restaurants are seasonal, so destinations other than the major towns may only be served a few times per day, or may not be served at all.
The Santorini bus system is run by KTEL, and you’ll be able to find all of the current timetables, rates, and routes on their website. Timetables change frequently, so it’s always a good idea to download a copy of the relevant timetables before you arrive. Especially if you’re traveling in the off-season, it’s a good idea to make sure your desired homebase is well-served by bus before you book accommodation.
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