Athens: THE Travel Guide

Introduction

When Scoot first introduced their direct flight to Athens in January, I immediately made up my mind and started planning my trip to Greece. Now, the trip has finally materialized and I am so excited to tell you all about my experience and any tips that I might have from my adventures.

Flight to Athens

Airline: Scoot
Costs & Durations

1. Singapore to Athens [ 13 hours direct]
Departure Timing from Singapore : 0245
Airline
: TZ702

2. Athens to Singapore [13 hours direct]
Departure Timing (from Athens): 1130
Airline: TZ701

Total: SGD 800 /person (If you pick the correct days, you can actually get the flight for around SGD 700)

*Prices do not include check-in luggage, seat allocations or in-flight meals, all of which will incur extra charges

Scoot’s airplane to Athens was surprisingly comfy despite Scoot being a budget carrier. The seats had decent legroom, which gets very important for long-haul flights. The airplane was new and had this cool function for its windows. Instead of the normal window shades, you press a button which in turn changes the opacity of the window chemically. This was my first time using it and I found it quite fascinating 🙂

Arriving in Athens

My first day in Greece, and what a series of events! The long haul flight was really draining but I always seem to be able to sleep half of the time :p  You should immediately look for the essentials, the tourist SIM card and how to get out of the airport towards the main city of Athens.  The customs were pleasantly efficient so do not worry about them.

Tourist SIM Card (Vodafone): 21 Euros, 8GB, 100min calling for 1 month

Tip: You can also purchase SIM cards from Vodafone or Wind shops in Athens itself (€5-10 for 2.5 GB of data)

Exiting the Airport

Walk towards the train station and there will be a counter, make sure to request for a student discount (It would help if you have an international student’s card) I was so nervous that I had totally forgotten about it, thus paying 5 Euros extra 🙁

The one-way ticket from Athens to any stop on the red line was 10 Euros, and 18 Euros two-way.  Within the city (excluding departure to and arrivals from the Airport), any stop within Athens would be 1.20 Euros for 90 min. For the normal metro tickets around Athens, do buy yours using the ticket dispensing machines located all in every metro station. 

Prices will be half-price for students / senior citizens. 

Accommodation

How the dorm room looks like

Price (per night): €22 (Jun), €25 (Jul)
Booking.com Link: 
Here 
Tripadvisor Link: Here 

I stayed at Athens Quinta, a hostel which really, to me was more like a hotel. The facilities there were amazing, they had a garden for you to chill out with the other hostel guests in the evening, wonderful bathrooms that were always cleaned regularly, a living room, a kitchen (where they have free breakfast in the morning).

Living Room
Breakfast & Dining room

For the rooms themselves, they are well-equipped with lockers. As always, one of my main priorities when looking for accommodation would to take note of the availability of lockers to place your belongings. Brillant air-conditioning was a relief, especially in the hot Greek summer. Towels were provided free of charge.

Lockers in Athens Quinta

The service was amazing. Like literally, the receptionist (Johannes, I hope I spelled it right) gave me information on where exactly to go in Athens, besides the usual tourist sights. She provided a map and marked out various landmarks, restaruants and train stations on it. So helpful, especially in a city where you don’t understand the language nor have you been here before.

Part of the garden they had

There was a great social atmosphere when I was there, primarily because of the layout of the hostel. The garden and living made for great common areas, where people will just hang out and relax after a tiring day touring Athens. I made so many new friends here 🙂 Meeting new people, at least to me, is one of the main perks of travelling. 

Tip: I tried ringing the bell, and knocking on the main door of my hostel to no avail. I was lucky that I had a SIM card that included calling time as the receptionist was cleaning the toilet. Maybe you guys would consider getting a SIM card as well.

Apparently they have a basement as well

Transport in Athens

The people in Athens generally use the metro to get around. The usual price to get from station to station (this ticket can be used for 3 hours from the start time of purchase), excluding the trips that have the airport as a start/end station is 1.20 Euros, however as a student or elderly it is a half-price of 0.60 Euros. There are various machines that you can purchase your metro ticket from, but the buttons on them should be fairly self-explanatory. I just saw
Please remember to validate your ticket using the machines located just beside the entrance to the metro. Or incur a hefty fine when the ticket master goes around randomly checking your tickets.

I have attached a map of Athens’s metro system below for your convenience.

Taken from TheTravelPorter: https://thetravelporter.com/blog/athens-metro-map-bars-near-every-stop

There is also the option of using Uber to get around the city. I used it either for long trips (I used it when I was getting to Pireaus Port from my hostel in the city) or instances when I was running late. My fare was about 11 Euros, much cheaper than had I hailed a normal taxi.  I had a friendly chat with the Uber driver and he mentioned that most Greeks do not know about Uber, thus he mostly gets international customers.

Tip: The prices might rise due to surges when more Greeks get to know of it, so it would be good to use it more frequently now 🙂

Food in Athens

Kimathrasos (Κυματοθραύστης)

Address: Charilaou Trikoupi & Valtetsiou, 10680 Athens, Greece
Phone: +30 213 0308274

Their Greek version of a “buffet”

Following a few food recommendations from the staff at my hostel, I went to try out this restaurant known as Kimathrasos. The cute restaurant served “buffets” of 4 and 7 Euros respectively. Essentially, it is the Greek version of mixed vegetables, just that they call it a “buffet”. It was delicious, I picked the 4 Euro one where they allow you to pick one meat dish, one salad and one vegetable/pasta dish.

Kalopsimeno

Address: Ippokratous 39, 10680 Athens, Greece
Phone: +30 210 3636136

For dinner I ate at a gyros joint. It was recommended by some of my hostel mates. It was conveniently located near my hostel and the gyros was surprsingly good. It only cost a mere 1.50 Euro. If you guys don’t know what a gyros is, it is basically similar to a kebab, except that one half of it is left open instead of being sealed, which happens in a kebab.

Train Ticket to Meteora

After lunch, I went to get my ticket to Meteora near the town of Kalambaka, where the ancient Greek monastries where located. You purchase the ticket from Larissa Station (there is also a small town named Larissa, so do not confuse the two with each other). I originally wanted to purchase my tickets from the online website (tickets.trainose.gr), however when I arrived at the credit card page, it did not allow me to proceed. Larissa Station is the train station in Athens in which you make inter-city/town train trips in Greece. I purchased my ticket for 12 Euros, which was surprisingly cheaper than the price online (14), considering that I had purchased it directly from them when the Trainose website mentioned that you get better discounts when you purchase the tickets online. It was the only direct train from Athens to Kalambaka, departing at 8.25 in the morning and arriving 5 hours later.

Tip: Always make sure you get your ticket at least the day before especially if you travel during summer season (June-August).

Sights

Acropolis

Website: Here 
Opening Hours: 8am to 8pm
(last admission at 7.45 pm)
Tripadvisor Link: Here 
Info: 20 Euro admission, half priced for students / senior citizens

After purchasing my ticket, I travelled to the Acropolis, where you view the ancient monuments and buildings constructed by the Ancient Greeks. Student discounts also apply here giving you a half-price discount, lowering the cost to 10 Euros.

There are a few different options or routes that you can take. Everyone starts from the South Slope, where you trudge uphill towards the East Slope and West Slope, finally reaching the top (also known as North Slope). Along the way, you will first pass by the remains of the Theatre of Dionysus and the Temple of Athena.

Walking up to the Parthenon 🙂

Continue making your way uphill to the top, where the Parthenon and Erechtheum resides. There are also a variety of “sanctuaries”  that remain on the North Slope. The Parthenon was certainly impressive, and at the top of the Acropolis was a spectacular viewpoint that gave you perfect views of Athens. Do take your pictures here 🙂

A reconstructed amphitheatre

Besides this, there was also the temple of Dioynsus and Hygiena, the god of health, which intrigued me as a medical student.

Tip: The marble stones/slabs at the top of the Acropolis, the north slope, are really slippery, do be careful when walking on those tiles. Or wear proper shoes and not slippers :p

Tip: Try not to visit the Acropolis in the afternoon, when it was sweltering and the heat exhausts you rapidly. I had no choice as my flight arrived in mid-morning, and thus had only one night in Athens. Try to visit the Acropolis early in the morning, and leave the hot parts of the day for the Acropolis museum, where it is air-conditioned.

Acropolis Museum

Statues in the museum, you could only take photos of the specimens at certain parts of the 2nd floor

Website: Here 
Opening Hours:
Monday – Thursday 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (last admission: 4:30 p.m.)
Friday 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. (last admission: 9:30 p.m.)
Saturday/Sunday 9:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. (last admission: 7:30 p.m.)
Disclaimer: Timings might differ for public holidays.
Tripadvisor Link:  Here 
Info: 6 Euro admission, half priced for students / senior citizens

The museum has a total of 3 floors, and you can only start taking photos of the exhibits from a certain part of the 2nd floor. Basically, many relics that were uncovered during excavation at the Acropolis were brought to the museum for display. I faintly remember the first floor being the tools and pottery that were used in that era. The 2nd floor showcased more of statues and many monuments that tell different stories. And I was so tired, I did not go to the 3rd floor 🙂

In my opinion, due to my ignorant ambivalence (not disinterest!) towards history, and my state of fatigue due to jet lag and trudging around the Acropolis in the afternoon sun, I did not really paying attention to the descriptions of the items, instead just merely glancing over them. The one thing that captured my attention, and the only one I could remember vividly,  was the exhibit showcasing different colored rocks that the ancient Greeks used to make their statues colorful and pretty. It was so interesting how they combined hematite and other to make radiant hues on their statues of nymphs and gods.

Monastiraki Market

The touristy market

Because of its close proximity to the Acropolis, I decided to make a quick detour to the nearby touristy Monastiraki market. The market consists of a long main street with numerous shops offering souvenirs like keychains and other goods. Not worth the money, don’t get any. I ordered 2 scoops of gelato (Pistachio for both of them) for 2 Euros each, they have a variety of flavours. The price might be hiked up because I was at the touristy Monstratiki market area. I think the normal price for a scoop of Gelato should be around 1 Euro. At the end of my walk, I walked past a random ruin but I dont really know what it was.

Tip: If you guys are short on time, skipping Monastiraki would not reduce your experience of Athens as the markets are really touristy.

The surroundings near Monastiraki market
They had colorful wares like these curtains everywhere

Possible Day Trips

Delphi

Many tourists take a day trip to the ancient ruins of Delphi, where the Oracle of Delphi used to release her prophecies. Besides the ancient ruins, there is also the temple of Athena and an interesting museum that you can visit. I made a trip to Delphi after Meteora, and I will be writing on that soon.

Getting there: KTEL Bus Greece operates via the KTEL buses. Each area in Greece has a specific KTEL line that operates in it.
KTEL Link for Delphihere 

I have also attached the bus timetable [Athens – Delphi] coa Aug 2017 for your reference.

Delphi to Athens time table

Tip: I would recommend staying a night in Delphi instead of making a day trip, as you get to appreciate more of the quaint town of Delphi.

Cape Sounion

Temple of Poseidon at Sounion

Many people also visit the Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion for its glorious sunsets in the evening.

Getting there: take a public bus (1.5h) that leaves from the Pedion Areos Park bus terminal near the National Archaeological Museum.
Closest Metro Station: Viktoria Station
Price: less than 10 Euros

Robbery

I chanced upon a robbery at Larissa Train Station the next day, when I was due to depart for Kalambaka / Meteora. I was just patiently waiting for my 8.30am train when I saw this middle-aged guy practically dashing across the train tracks, with 2 other guys chasing after him. The security at the train station tried to help, but I personally think that it was really incompetent of them. One of the guards gestured to his colleague at the other side of the train station to block the escape route, but that guy just “pretended?” to be confused. Thus, I have concluded that the security in Athens at the station, at least, is lacking, and thus you MUST be careful of your belongings.
Tip: Do not hold them openly in your hands or risk a chance of them being stolen.

Most people use Athens as a stopover either to venture out to the islands, or to enter mainland Greece. Its appeal might have decreased while I was there, as the rubbish collectors were on strike, leaving piles of garbage on the streets. However, although I personally was short of time in the capital city, I feel that you can still find non-touristy things to do in Athens. Perhaps I’ll share this in a future post.

All in all, Athens is a vibrant city to stay in for a couple of days. No doubt it might have its security concerns, but it will be the same for all major cities. Just take care of your belongings and stay safe, and you should be alright.

Have fun in Athens!
Jared

4 thoughts on “Athens: THE Travel Guide”

  1. Hi, I am Zen. Just dropping by to say “Thank You”, your blog posts did help me a lot and I really enjoyed my solo trip to Greece!

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