Planning a Trip
By Plane -- Olympic Airways (tel. 210/926-9111; www.olympic-airways.gr) offers daily flights between Athens and the Santorini airport Monolithos (tel. 22860/31-525), which also receives European charters. There are frequent connections with Mykonos and Rhodes, and service two or three times per week to and from Iraklion, Crete. For information and reservations, check with the Olympic Airways office in Fira on Ayiou Athanassiou (tel. 22860/22-493), just southeast of town on the road to Kamari; or in Athens at tel. 210/926/9111. Aegean Airlines (tel. 210/998-2888 or 210/998-8300 in Athens), with an office at the Monolithos airport (tel. 22860/28-500), also has several flights daily between Athens and Santorini. A bus to Fira (3€/$3.90) meets most flights; the schedule is posted at the bus stop, beside the airport entrance. A taxi to Fira costs about 10€ ($13).
By Boat -- Ferry service runs to and from Piraeus at least twice daily; the trip takes 9 to 10 hours by car ferry on the Piraeus-Paros-Naxos-Ios-Santorini route, or 4 hours by catamaran if you go via Piraeus-Paros-Santorini. Boats are notoriously late and/or early; your travel or ticket agent will give you an estimate of times involved in the following journeys. Remember: That's estimate, as in guesstimate. In July and August, ferries connect several times a day with Ios, Naxos, Paros, and Mykonos; almost daily with Anafi and Siros; five times a week with Sikinos and Folegandros, and twice weekly with Sifnos. Service to Thessaloniki (17-24 hr.) is offered four to five times per week. There is an almost daily connection by excursion boat with Iraklion in Crete, but because this is an open sea route, the trip can be an ordeal in bad weather and is subject to frequent cancellation. Confirm ferry schedules with the Athens GNTO (210/870-0000; www.gnto.gr), the Piraeus Port Authority (tel. 210/451-1311 or 1440 or 1441; phone not always answered), or the Santorini Port Authority (tel. 22860/22-239).
Almost all ferries dock at Athinios, where buses meet each boat and then return directly to Fira (one-way to Fira costs 2€/$2.60); from the Fira dock, buses depart for many other island destinations. Taxis are also available from Athinios, at nearly five times the bus fare. Athinios is charmless; when you come here to catch a ferry, it's a good idea to bring munchies, water, and a good book.
The exposed port at Skala, directly below Fira, is unsafe for the larger ferries but is often used by small cruise ships, yachts, and excursion vessels. If your boat docks here, head to town either by cable car (5€/$6.50), mule, or donkey (5€/$6.50); or you can do the 45-minute uphill walk. Be prepared to share the narrow path with the mules. We recommend a mule up and the cable car down. If you suffer from acrophobia, try taking the cable car both ways with your eyes firmly shut.
Nomikos Travel (tel. 22860/23-660; www.nomikosvillas.gr), Bellonias Tours (tel. 22860/22-469), and Kamari Tours (tel. 22860/31-390) are well-established on the island. Nomikos and Bellonias offer bus tours of the island, boat excursions around the caldera, and submarine tours beneath the caldera. Expect to pay about 30€ ($39) to join a bus tour to Akrotiri or Ancient Thira, about the same for a day-trip boat excursion to the caldera islands, and about twice that for the submarine excursion.
By Bus -- The central bus station is just south of the main square in Fira. Schedules are posted here: Most routes are served every hour or half-hour from 7am to 11pm in high season. A conductor on board will collect fares, which range from 1€ to 4€ ($1.30-$5.20). Destinations include Akrotiri, Athinios (the ferry pier), Oia, Kamari, Monolithos (the airport), Perissa, Perivolas Beach, Vlihada, and Vourvoulos. Excursion buses go to major attractions; ask a travel agent for details.
By Car -- The travel agents listed above can help you rent a car. You might find that a local company such as Zeus (tel. 22860/24-013) offers better prices than the big names, although the quality might be a bit lower. Be sure to take full insurance. Of the better-known agencies, try Budget Rent-A-Car, at the airport (tel. 22860/33-290) or in Fira a block below the small square that the bus station is on (tel. 22860/22-900); a small car should cost about 60€ ($78) a day, with unlimited mileage. If you reserve in advance through Budget in the U.S. (tel. 800/527-0700), you should be able to beat that price.
Warning: If you park in town or in a no-parking area, the police will remove your license plates and you, not the car-rental office, will have to find the police station and pay a steep fine to get them back. There's free parking -- often full -- on the port's north side.
By Moped -- Many roads on the island are narrow and winding; add local drivers who take the roads at high speed, and visiting drivers who aren't sure where they're going, and you'll understand the island's high accident rate. If you're determined to use two-wheeled transportation, expect to pay about 25€ ($33) per day, less during off season. Greek law now requires wearing a helmet; not all agents supply the helmet.
By Taxi -- The taxi station is just south of the main square. In high season, book ahead by phone (tel. 22860/22-555 or 22860/23-951) if you want a taxi for an excursion; be sure that you agree on the price before you set out. For most point-to-point trips (Fira to Oia, for example), the prices are fixed. If you call for a taxi outside Fira, you'll be charged a pickup fee of at least 2€ ($2.60); also, you're required to pay the driver's fare from Fira to your pickup point. Bus service shuts down at midnight, so book a taxi in advance if you'll need it late at night.
By Foot -- Use caution when walking around Santorini, especially at night. Keep in mind that many drivers on the roads are newcomers to the island and may not know every twist and turn.
The American Express agent is X-Ray Kilo Travel Service (tel. 22860/22-624; fax 22860/23-600), at the head of the steps to the old port facing the caldera, above Franco's Bar. Its hours are daily from 8:30am to 9pm. The National Bank (Mon-Fri 8am-2pm), with an ATM, is a block south of the main square on the right near the taxi station. The health clinic (tel. 22860/22-237) is on the southeast edge of town on Ayiou Athanassiou, immediately below the bus station and the new archaeological museum.
There are a number of Internet cafes on the main square, including P.C. Club, in the Markozannes Tours office (tel. 22860/25-551).There are several do-it-yourself launderettes in Fira; if you want your wash done for you, Penguin Laundry (tel. 22860/22-168) is at the edge of Fira on the road to Oia, 200m (656 ft.) north of the main square. The police (tel. 22860/22-649) are several blocks south of the main square, near the post office. For the port police, call tel. 22860/22-239. The post office (tel. 22860/22-238), open Monday through Friday from 8am to 1pm, is south of the bus station. The telephone office (OTE) is off Ipapantis, up from the post office; hours are Monday through Saturday from 8am to 3pm.