Living in Greece

A practical guide to moving, living, working & traveling in Greece, plus musing and misadventures from an American in Athens

KTEL website

KTEL website

In March 2008, the ex-official KTEL website pulled all schedules and information about its vital long-distance bus network in Greece from public view. It wasn’t covered in English-language media, but what I understand from Greek media is a private company was using KTEL’s free information to make money by starting a pay-for-info call service.

Instead of starting a free service to put this company out of business — which should have been done years ago to prevent this type of violation to begin with — KTEL countered by also starting a pay-for-info call service costing 0.68/minute. With most residents addicted to their cars, not to mention damage to the environment, traffic getting worse and trains being limited in destinations, it seems wrong to create obstacles and make people pay money for information that should be free to the public.

Further, many travelers and residents will have a difficult time since these services are only offered in Greek. As tourism is Greece’s primary source of income, this is illogical.

Fortunately, some municipalities and independent websites have put up schedules to fill the void. Links are provided for anyone in need of schedules and information in English for KTEL long-distance buses operating in different regions. See:

* Hat tip to Constantinos, whose KTEL post reminded me I never wrote up an article.

Image capture from the ktel.org website

37 Comments

  Cωνσtantίnoς wrote @ June 11th, 2008 at 15:56

Hej Kat,
there was something wrong with the permalink of my post (probably because it included Greek), but i fixed it:
http://thebigc.wordpress.com/2008/04/22/ktel/

Kat Reply:

Hi, C. It should have forwarded regardless of what language it was in, but I appreciate you giving me a heads up and changing it. You’re a star.

  Peter wrote @ June 11th, 2008 at 16:03

KTEL would do everyone a favour and go belly up. It’s inefficient, unreliable, poor service hours and service customer service.

Why does it stil exist? It’s a protected racket with no competition.

Kat Reply:

Funny enough, I’ve had nothing but good experiences with KTEL. OK, I don’t take it every day or every month, but for 9 years I had no access to a car and the train doesn’t go where I want, so this is what I relied on. My only complaint is it’s sometimes very cold on board (which I suppose is better than sweating to death), and sometimes the driver smokes though the rest of us are forbidden. Otherwise, I find it rather affordable, reliable and comfortable.

  dubaibilly wrote @ June 11th, 2008 at 16:22

“As tourism is Greece’s primary source of income, ”

You have to be joking, Kat. Greece doesn’t want tourists, at least not foreign ones! Have you tried getting a Schengen visa from a Greek Embassy recently?

Last year, when my airline pilot step-son wanted to come to stay in Skopelos with us, he was required, apart from having to produce a written invite and a certified copy of our house contract, to have, in cash at the time of applying for the visa 50 euros per day for every day of his stay! No, his gold card was not enough. He had to draw the money from his bank, (South African Rand) change it Euros, show it to the git in the embassy, change it back to rand and put it back in his bank.

This year they have told my wife that she must have health insurance otherwise they will not issue the visa, despite it saying on the application that spouses of EU citizens do not need it – I am British. Apart from that we own property there!

Personally I am getting tired of Greece’s attitude to people wanting to visit.

Kat Reply:

I agree that infrastructure is very poor when it comes to traveling in Greece, but I think most people come anyway. Some even find it charming to be in a country that hasn’t submitted fully to globalization. But as I’ve said before, I don’t think Greece gets a lot of non-Greek repeat customers because of being ripped off, scammed or otherwise treated poorly. That’s too bad because this country has a lot to offer and the bad deeds of a few are really ruining it for people who are indeed hospitable and of good character.

I’m going to look into what you said about the visa. Last I checked, visas were issued based on an individual’s passport with no regard to their spouse and his/her citizenship. It’s not that I doubt what you say, but EU directives are one thing and Greece makes its own rules to enforce, override or ignore them.

Turkey has become a popular alternative destination. Cheaper, better service, etc. Stats show their receipts are going up, and Greece’s are going down. Even my friends chose to go there last year instead of returning to Greece.

  graffic wrote @ June 11th, 2008 at 22:07

It’s quite funny that instead of getting free services with the 19% taxes we pay in Greece, we have to pay more.

At least now, if we have free calls to land line numbers, you can do your tour in asking the different KTEL offices.

I do not have words for that decision. I suffered when it happened and for some time I was using google cache service. But now I just feel that some big fat manager is laughing and smoking a huge cigar from cuba while he reads this and at the same times counts the money he’s getting with the 1 euro per question service.

Kat Reply:

I remember we spoke about this. It’s not just the 19 percent taxes we’re paying, but also the price of the ticket that goes up rather regularly. My belief is that public information should be public.

  Tauros wrote @ June 11th, 2008 at 23:10

Hi!

A significant problem I found with the web site when it existed is that it was often out of date. I learned early to call KTEL anyway before counting on it. At least it wasn’t a “premium service” call. Don’t know if the local offices will still answer questions on the phone, but that would be worth a try before paying 66 lepta per minute (for a call that probably includes phone trees, keying in info, etc.) Something to consider in lieu of KTEL is a taxi. I don’t mean going down to Sintagma and hailing the first one you find and saying take me to Patras — that will cost you!.

Almost every city on the mainland seems to have drivers that specialize in cross-country trips, especially if the trip involves Athens or Thessaloniki. There are of course pros and cons to this mode. Pros: Door-to-door transportation, usually in late-model Mercedes; much fasterthan KTEL; and, can actually be cheaper than KTEL. (Let me explain the cheaper part: A fare that is close to 30 euro on KTEL will be about 50 euro by taxi. Throw in taxi fare at departure and destinatination — since you’ve likely got some luggage and don’t want to deal with other forms of mass transit — and you’re right there with, or over, the taxi cost.) Cons: These are pre-arranged, shared rides; you will have 2-3 other passengers in the taxi with you; the taxi driver decides when he will make a trip, based on bookings which means you may not find anyone for a given day; the driver tells you what time on that day he will pick you up; and, you will have to do some asking around to get names and phone numbers of drivers who do this for the cities you’re interested in. So, the taxi will not work for a lot of people, but if you’re flexible on when you travel, know a little Greek and are willing to ask around, it’s worth a shot, especially if you travel to the same city/village fairly often.

Kat Reply:

Many (not all) local offices will still answer questions if you speak Greek. However, many people do not, especially tourists. In that case, I suppose one can visit the EOT (Tourist Organization) and pick up a schedule, ask a kind-hearted hotel receptionist or friend to inquire or show up at the station and be flexible about departure.

I appreciate you adding the information about privately shared taxi rides.

  Cheryl wrote @ June 12th, 2008 at 01:11

I just think that it’s ridiculous that a schedule and/or other info can’t be available for free. How do you know if it’s going to be the right mode of transport if you don’t ask first? What a rip off. I didn’t know about that until now when I read this post. Very disappointing.

Kat Reply:

I think a lot of people didn’t know or didn’t care because they use their cars and aren’t tourists. And because it wasn’t reported in English-language media, I think a lot of people visiting Greece are in for a surprise. I suppose this is why package tours in Greece have become popular; it takes the hassle out of dealing with these obstacles, even if the nicest places aren’t on the itinerary. That’s too bad because as Thundera and I mentioned in a different post, there are a lot of really nice places in Greece not being discovered and appreciated for this very reason, and KTEL has simply made it more difficult.

  KT wrote @ June 12th, 2008 at 03:25

I hate the taxi drivers and the bus drivers in Greece. It is like they are doing you a favor yet you pay them …Anyway,.one day I waited 45 minutes for the bus and what happens? The bus driver drives by me and my neighboor and when we called KTEL he told us that he didnt see us. Give me a break… I call my uncle to talk to his friend who is a president in Ktel and what does he say “he wont do it again” what happens after a few days?

A lot of us rely on the KTEL because a majority of us dont feel like getting killed by drunk or crazy drivers in Ellada, and this information is not FREE?

ONLY IN GREECEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

Kat Reply:

As I said to Peter above, I’ve had nothing but good experiences with KTEL. Not all taxi drivers are bad guys, in fact I know a handful of really good, honest guys who don’t smoke in the car, charge the right fare and use GPS.

  Paul in Canada wrote @ June 12th, 2008 at 14:47

Glad you wrote about this. When it first happened I was appalled that KTEL would pull their website and offer a pay-per-info phone service. How f***ing backward thinking is that! Talk about making tourism more difficult as well as making travel for locals more of a hit-and-miss affair.

Only in Greece …

P

Kat Reply:

I understand what you mean. I really hoped that KTEL would counter with a free service. I’d like to think the service will one day be offered in English, but the tax filing system has promised the same thing for the past 5 years, and there’s been no movement.

  The Scorpion wrote @ June 13th, 2008 at 07:58

This is yet another example of Greeks wanting to set a trend. Not necessarily a progressive trend, but a regressive trend. Going backwards seems to be something some Greek enterprises are quite good at.

Kat Reply:

One thing I have in my head is Lennon’s “In My Life, “some forever, not for better” with regards to change.

  Peter wrote @ June 13th, 2008 at 18:34

It seems to me that the money from tourism is wanted yet things are difficult for non-Greek speakers ( I do speak Greek well). It is also my opinion that the tourist trade does not cater to the Greek population either. So as a Greek-American I am double damned since I am at times a Xenos and at other times treated like a native Greek, and expected to put up with everything. Well I wish it were differant. But it is not so bad otherwise I would not return often. Also do you still post the blogs you like to read? There was one I found and enjoyed yet I did not bookmark it. I enjoy your blog often and hope you find the time and energy to continue.

Kat Reply:

Hello! What you say is true. It’s not just a matter of catering to tourists, it’s respecting residents of Greece as well. I speak Greek, but encounter a lot of adversity because of what I look like and my passport. Yet, as you say, it’s not so bad that I’m throwing down arms or spewing. When I talk about daily life, it’s simply that. It’s what many people encounter, so I don’t understand why people think I hate it here or tell me to “go home.” I am home.

Funny you should mention the list of blogs I read and thank you for inquiring. Because the site is morphing, I took them off the front page and put them here, “What I Read.”

  Lucio wrote @ September 8th, 2008 at 14:45

Greeks are so messy! Whoever you ask information from they give different ones — you ask for the timetable of buses in Arkadia and the give you timetables of buses in Argolis. None of the various timetables published are complete. You want to see the english version of the site, you click on the flag and you see another version of the site in greek. You can travel in Greece by yourself only if you have friends living there.

  Annelise wrote @ June 16th, 2009 at 09:38

Maybe the pay phone service started in 2008, but in early 2007 when I was planning a trip to Greece the ktel site was only a statement in Greek that all the information was gone due to misuse.

I found the local ktel sites for where I wanted to go and another blog about visiting Athens that listed major buses from there.

The worst problem I had is that not all buses to Phaistos actually go there. Most of them stop at the bottom and unload their passengers onto just one of the 3 or 4 buses which goes up. So even though I noticed this on the way up and was suspicious and asked other buses if I should take them down to get the Iraklion bus, they all said no and I waited 3 hrs for one back to Iraklion.

I’m so glad about the local sites, too bad the national folks are so bass-ackward about this.

Kat Reply:

There were many times in the past when the website did not work. However I know it wasn’t permanent until early 2008 because in February I was still able to access schedules in both Greek and English. In March, they were gone. I offer links to local KTEL websites but opt to not post schedules because it’s way to much work to update, and I already have other information to keep current.

And yes, I agree with your last statement, especially since GR relies so heavily on tourism for income. It’s rather sad. Thank you for taking the time to leave your thoughts and say ‘hi’ today.

  Sandra wrote @ July 22nd, 2009 at 23:02

Hi! I was very interested to read all of your comments. I am trying to find out if there is a bus service (KTEL or other) to get some friends from the Mani (Messinia) to Gythio to catch the ferry to Crete. We know there is a KTEL bus from Kalamata to Oitylo, but not sure if you can get by bus from Oitylo to Aeropolis and then to Gythio.

Does anyone have any info about this please?

Thanks, Sandra

  Geoff wrote @ January 17th, 2011 at 15:22

Just spotted your post explaining why I cant find web-based information on bus services in Greece, namely your 2008 posting on KTEL setting up a chargeable, Greek-only ‘phone enquiry service instead.

Yes, this is a farcical decision and completely opposite to whatever every other country I have visited does.

However, it is not just bus services that are difficult to elucidate on the web. Have you ever tried to use the web to find out whether a particular site or museum will be open?

And isn’t it interesting that private sector travel companies – eg the ferry companies – do see the commercial benefit of providing timetables and ticket purchasing on the web?!

Whilst i find Greeks friendly in private, the very poor standards of public sector information and service remind me of Britain several decades ago. No travel information on websites, and a similar lack of online guidance on every stupid Greek government bureaucratic form requirement, is just part of a wider problem alongside short-notice strikes aimed at harming customers. My favourite, at a very simple level – and which ought to be fixable – is regularly finding groups of staff in (obviously over-staffed) museums claiming that they are too short-staffed to open departments, open museum shops or answer questions as that is not their job!

Hopefully, Greek public sector enterprises will become motivated to seek funds by serving their customers better, this including providing information customers need on websites, offering competitive prices for repeat visitors, providing additional visitor information services etc. Unfortunately, my recent experiences of the Greek public sector are not encouraging!

Kat Reply:

Hi Geoff,

Well, I can’t disagree with anything you said.

With tourism being such a big source of income for Greece, it’s disappointing to both residents and travelers to encounter so many roadblocks in obtaining clear, accurate and up-to-date information on museums, train schedules, changes in bus routes, including poorly translated official Greek tourist websites. Oh, I could go on.

Strikes, protest violence, inflated prices without value, the government’s failed promises (i.e., compensation to inconvenienced tourists that never happened) and gimmicks/slogans that do nothing to improve services all contribute to Greece’s lack of credibility and cause many tourists to go elsewhere. I can’t blame them, really. It’s supposed to be a holiday and vacation, after all.

The good news is some services are better than 5-10 years ago. At least there has been progress, however minor.

Thanks so much for your intelligent commentary. Hope to see you here again. :)

  Tania wrote @ April 11th, 2011 at 15:07

Thank you so much for this explanation. I too am a native Californian who has found herself, in my case due to bizarre circumstances of my spouse’s employment, a resident of Greece (albeit temporarily), and I could not figure out why the bus company website only had descriptions in Greek of a telephone service.

I can see these will be what they call interesting times! Beautiful country, intelligent and affable people, totally incomprehensible infrastructure. It’s great to have found your website—I’m sure I will be back many times when I find myself wondering what on earth is going on.

  Ediola wrote @ August 3rd, 2011 at 14:02

I want to travel by bus from Kozani to Zakynthos on 15 August 2011. Could you please send me a time schedule for your buses to this date. As far at the time is limited I would like you to answer me as soon as you may. Thnaks and regards

Kat Reply:

You can look at “KTEL buses in Greece” to find schedules or use the phone list I provide and call them directly, since you’re in Greece.

  george wrote @ April 24th, 2012 at 17:53

Your question was moved to “Buses from Greece to international locations.”

  george wrote @ May 10th, 2012 at 19:01

I am inquiring about bus service from thessaloniki to sofia bulgaria. Is thre a bus service? and what days of the week,time and prices.
thank you

Kat Reply:

See ‘Bulgaria’ at “Buses from Greece to international locations.”

When you previously inquired about buses from Greece to Bulgaria on April 24, I gave you the same answer. It’s also mentioned in the article above.

  Mary wrote @ May 22nd, 2012 at 15:36

I love traveling by bus in Greece. I find their time keeping is excellent.

I love the Greek music a lot of the drivers play.

Is there a timetable you could e-mail me of local buses that go through Methoni?

Kat Reply:

I run this website in my unpaid free time. In Comments, Questions and Contacting Me, I state why I do not email people. You are free to look at the KTEL Messinias schedules posted at “KTEL buses in Greece,” a link also offered in the article above.

  aris wrote @ June 23rd, 2012 at 17:57

I would like to know the scedule of ktel, from thesaloniki to kozani/velvento, the fair fare, times and phone number in thesaloniki please thank you!!

Kat Reply:

Same link given above in the article: “KTEL buses in Greece.

  Kat wrote @ June 23rd, 2012 at 21:05

Since closing comments on “KTEL buses in Greece” due to redundant questions, I noticed that people are attempting to use this article and its open comments to get around it.

Unfortunately, I see the same behavior repeated and have closed this post to questions also.

Sorry, comments are closed at this time.