Recently in Important Planning Information Category

Purchasing your airline ticket

Each student must buy an airline ticket to Europe.

Arrival in Athens, Greece
You need to arrive in Athens (ATH) on May 23. Please arrive before 12 pm Athens time. You may arrive before the 23rd. However, you will need to make your own transfer arrangements and pay for the hotel stay.

Departure from Larnaca, Cyprus
Our last day of class is June 8. You may depart on the June 9 or stay later if you wish. The airport for Cyprus is in Larnaca (LCA).

When to buy
Often, you can get the best fares about 60 days before a trip; for us, that's around March 20th.

What to buy
You will need to purchase a ticket to Athens, Greece (ATH) and returning from Larnaca, Cyprus (LCA). Most students purchased a round-trip ticket to/from Athens and then purchased an additional one-way ticket from Larnaca to Athens.

If you decide to buy a round-trip ticket to/from Athens. You will need to buy a one-way ticket from Larnaca to Athens on the day of your departure. Aegean Airlines (aegeanair.com) and Cyprus Airlines (cyprusair.com) are reliable and professional. Avoid Olympic airlines.

When purchasing your ticket, pay attention to layover times. How much time do you have between flights? Less than 2 hours is risky, more than 4 more is a pain.

Travel Agent
I highly recommend calling the Learning Abroad Center (umabroad.umn.edu) before you purchase your tickets. They suggest using a travel agent; with an agent you have more personal assistance. More importantly, the agency will help you if any problems or changes occur (delays, cancellations,etc.). The LAC has recommendations of local agencies.

Getting to the Hotel from the Venizelos Airport, Athens

For those of you who are arriving in Athens before the official start of the course, you will need to get to the Exarchion Hotel on your own. I suggest the metro, in which case you will need to get from the Airport to Omonia station and then walk to the hotel. You can also take a taxi. I have listed information for the metro, suburban rail, bus, and taxi.

I've uploaded a map of the metro.  http://blog.lib.umn.edu/ianna006/rachel3/2010/05/map-of-the-athens-metro-and-suburban-rail.html  

Attiko_Metro_Operation_Company-logo.pngMETRO
This is the best method. Athens' Metro is very reliable and easy to use. From the airport, follow these simple instructions.
1. Take Line 3 (the blue line) towards Egaleo.
2. Get off at Syntagma Station
3. Transfer to Line 2 (the red line) towards Aghios Antonios.
4. Get off at Omonia Station. Walk to the hotel.

The cost is 6 Euros for a one-way ticket from airport to downtown. You must validate the ticket using a machine as you enter into the metro system.

Line 3 to the airport runs every 30 minutes starting at 6:35 AM. The last train leaves the airport for downtown Athens at 11:35 PM. For a schedule see: http://www.amel.gr/index.php?id=363&L=1

The Metro is also called AMEL for ΑΤΤΙΚΟ ΜΕΤΡΟ ΕΤΑΙΡΕΙΑ ΛΕΙΤΟΥΡΓΙΑΣ or Attica Metro Operation Company.



OSE.jpgPROASTIAKOS-SUBURBAN RAIL
The suburban rail is an alternate public transit route that you can take from Venizelos Airport to downtown Athens. The railway lines predate the metro system and will also take you from the airport to Omonia Station. From the airport, follow these simple instructions.

1. Take Suburban Rail Line toward Neratziotizza.
2. Get off at Doukissis Plakentias.
3. Transfer to Line 3 (blue line) towards Egaleo.
4. Get off at Syntagma Station.
5. Transfer to Line 2 (the red line) towards Aghios Antonios.
6. Get off at Omonia Station. Walk to the hotel.

BUS
The bus runs 24 hours a day, unlike the metro and suburban rail. If you are going to use public transportation, I recommend the Metro or Suburban Rail. Just in case, here are instructions:

1. Take the X95 from the Airport to Syntagma Square.
2. Walk from here to hotel or take a taxi.

MAP OF THE AIRPORT - GETTING TO THE METRO STATION
Getting to the Metro/Suburban Rail station from the arrivals area of the airport is VERY simple. I would start at the arrivals level where there is a bridge across the main airport road to the Metro Station. From the arrivals level, follow signs from the Metro. After crossing the street, you'll come to a large, octagonal shaped courtyard or waiting area. You can buy your metro ticket from the counter or a machine. It will cost 6 euros. Then head down to the platforms.

athens airport map.jpg

MEETING UP AT THE AIRPORT
I suggest that you meet at the Kafeneo, a coffee shop/café right next to international arrivals. When you exit through the customs doors, turn to your right. The Kafeneo is next to the Tourism Information desk. Pick up a map while you are there.

WALKING TO THE HOTEL FROM OMONIA SQUARE
The walk from Omonia Square to the Exarchion Hotel should take about 15 minutes. Be aware in Omona Square; there are pick pockets and other unsavory activity. Stay alert and keep you passport and money in a zippered bag. You'll be fine. It's safe, but be savvy.

I've uploaded a map indicating Omonia Square, Syntagma Square and our hotel at Exarchion Square. For an image of the hotel, see their site: http://www.exarchion.com/

map indicating hotel.jpg

TAXIS
To be honest, taxis are a bit of a challenge in Athens. It's very easy to get ripped off. That being said, during regular business hours, a trip from the airport to downtown Athens should cost around 35 Euros. Note that there is an extra charge for airport pickup, baggage, tolls, and extra passengers. Also at certain hours, the taxi charge is doubled. Please see this helpful website for more information. http://www.athensguide.com/airport.html

Map of the Athens Metro and Suburban Rail

MAP_Athens-METRO_en2.jpg

Credit, Debit & ATM Cards

DEBIT CARDS
The best way to access money while traveling in Greece & Cyprus is by using a DEBIT card. A debit card can be used to get cash from an automatic teller and can be used in shops and department stores. A debit card is issued by your bank and draws on moneys in your checking or savings account. It has a credit card logo (MasterCard or Visa) so it is more versatile. You need to have a 4 digit numeric PIN.

ATM CARDS
An ATM card is issued by your bank and draws from moneys in your credit or checking account. Since it does not have a credit card logo, you cannot use an ATM card for purchases. And, you may have to hunt for a compatible automatic teller. This will work fine, but it's not as easy as the Debit card.

CREDIT CARD
When you use a credit card (Mastercard, Visa, Amex) abroad, you are essentially taking out a loan from the issuing bank. You will pay when you return from your trip. It is possible that you could miss your due date as you will be traveling and incur high interest rates for your purchases.

FEES
Each bank has a different fee structure. I use two banks, for example. TD Bank doesn't charge me an additional fees to use my DEBIT CARD in Greece or Cyprus. They simply use the daily exchange rate and deduct the appropriate amount of dollars from my account. http://www.tdbank.com/personal/intl_services.html

On the other hand, my other bank, Citibank, charges a fee each time I use my debit card outside of the United States.

DO NOT EXCHANGE MONEY AT THE AIRPORT! When you arrive in Athens, simply use an ATM.

For more tips see http://www.ricksteves.com/plan/tips/moneytip.htm

Preparing for departure

Leave important documents with a trusted family member or friend:
Photocopy of your passport
List of credit card #s, expiration date, 3 digit code, and 800 phone number
List of bank account #s
Itinerary with phone #s

Your airline & agency:
Look up your airline's baggage restrictions. If your bag is too heavy you'll have to pay!
Sign up for voicemail/text message/ email alerts about your flight (see you agency or airline)
Select your seats
24 hours before - print out boarding pass

Check out the website of the Transportation Security Administration: http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/assistant/index.shtm

Check out Rick Steve's Europe website:
http://www.ricksteves.com/plan/tips/tips_menu.htm
The best tips for travelling abroad!