Traveling by train is a convenient, cost-effective, and scenic way to reach certain destinations in Greece and to connect to other European countries. The Greek Railway Organization (TrainOSE) runs the national train network and the proastiakos light-rail line is part of the network (www.trainose.gr). In Athens, the main train station is Larissis Station, off Diliyianni street west of Omonia Square . In Thessaloniki the station is located on Monastiriou avenue, which is a 15-minute drive from Aristotle Square. Besides Athens, there are also intercity light-rail and train networks in Thessalonki and Patras.
About Travel in Greece
Trains are generally on time. At smaller stations, allow about 15–20 minutes for changing trains; on some routes, connecting routes are coordinated with the main line.
All trains have both first- and second-class seating. On any train, it is best during high season, around holidays, or for long distances to travel first-class, with a reserved seat, as the difference between the first- and second-class coaches can be significant: the cars are cleaner, the seats are wider and plusher, and, most important, the cars are emptier.
The assigned seating of first class (proti thesi) is a good idea in July and August, for example, when many trains are packed with tourists. Many travelers assume that rail passes guarantee them seats on the trains they wish to ride: Not so. You need to book seats ahead even if you are using a rail pass ; seat reservations are required on some European trains, particularly high-speed trains, and are a good idea on trains that may be crowded—particularly in summer on popular routes. You also need a reservation if you purchase sleeping accommodations. On high-speed (IC) trains, you pay a surcharge.
You can pay for all train tickets purchased in Greece with cash (euros) or with credit cards (Visa and MasterCard only). Note that any ticket issued on the train costs 50% more. You can get train schedules from TrainOSE offices.
Popular Train Routes
The main line running north from Athens divides into three lines at Thessaloniki, continuing on to Skopje and Belgrade; the Turkish border and Istanbul; and Sofia, Bucharest, and Budapest.
Within Greece, some popular routes include Athens to Thessaloniki, Alexandroupoli (Dikaia), Florina Kalambaka, Volos, and Chalkida. There is also an InterCity Express service from Athens to Thessaloniki that takes four hours instead of six. At this writing, the IC train costs €39 for A class, versus €29 for B class. In Athens, the light-rail also runs regularly from the airport connecting to the Doukissis Plakentias station, where you can change trains and continue to the city center (Metro Line 3 to Egaleo), using the same ticket. The service can also take you to Kiato, east of Corinth.
A few historic train lines have been kept up and continue to be popular with travelers. The one- hour journey from Diakofto to Kalavryta in the northern Peloponnese travels up a pine-crested gorge in the Peloponnese mountains. It is one of the oldest rail lines in Greece, assigned by PM Harilaos Trikoupis in 1889. The 90-minute trip aboard the steam train of Pelion departs from Ano Lehonia, stops in Ano Gatzea and arrives in Milies, crossing breathtaking landscapes in central and northern Greece. Finally, the 45-minute journey from Katakolo to Ancient Olympia passes through Pirgos.
You can head to the TrainOSE website to view train schedules in English as well as to book tickets online. You can also purchase tickets in person at any OSE station. Light-rail tickets are available at stations and cost €1.40 for a basic ticket and €8 one-way for the airport. Validating machines are on the platform, not on board.
Some sample train fares for longer trips include: €12 Athens to Chalkida, and €37 Athens to Thessaloniki (on TrainOSE, B-class). First-class costs about 30% more than second-class (thefteri thesi).
TrainOSE Office of Tourism and Travel. Sina 6, Athens, Attica, 10672. 210/362–4406; 210/362–7947; www.trainose.gr. Weekdays 8–3:30.
TrainOSE Customer Service. Karolou 1–3, Omonia Sq., Athens, Attica, 10437. 210/527–0762; 14511; 1110; www.trainose.gr.
Greece is one of 25 countries in which you can use Eurail passes, which provide unlimited first-class rail travel, in all of the participating countries, for the duration of the pass. Please note that the Greek National Organization has suspended circulation of international trains indefinitely (i.e., trains connecting Greece to Bulgaria, Fyrom, or Turkey), though you will still be able to use your pass within the country, or to travel from Italy to Greece. If you plan to rack up the miles in several countries, get a standard Eurail Global Pass. These are available for 15 days of travel ($798), 21 days ($1,031), one month ($1,269), two months ($1,793), and three months ($2,210).
In addition to standard Eurail passes, ask about special rail-pass plans. Among these are the Eurail Pass Youth (for those under age 26), the Eurail Saver Pass (which gives a discount for two or more people traveling together), and the Eurail Flexi Pass (which allows a certain number of travel days within a set period). Among those passes you might want to consider: the Greece Pass allows first-class rail travel throughout Greece; the standard three days' unlimited travel in a month costs $158, and the rate rises per day of travel added. The Greece–Italy Pass gives you four days' travel time over a span of two months; the cost is $395 for first class, $314 for second. Youths (18–25 years of age) pay about 50% less, and there are special rates for groups and families.
Passes can be shipped to anywhere you are in Europe, as well as worldwide, but can’t be shipped to a particular train station. Shipping is by registered mail. Residents of Canada must purchase their tickets from the Rail Europe's Canadian site at www.raileurope.ca.
Rail Europe. 800/622–8600; 800/361–7245; www.raileurope.com.