For the first time since 2019 I am on Symi in May. I had forgotten just how good the island is in this month. Very green still – the winter was wet, and even saw some snow for the first time in 20 years. Most of the bars, cafes, tavernas and shops are open, trying to make the most of this first “normal” tourist season in 3 years. Some have changed hands or rebranded of course. The beach tavernas aren’t open yet (except Nimborio, and Katsaras at Pedi) but most could open literally any day now – until they do there won’t be any taxi boats though these are ready at their moorings and being carefully polished up by the crews. The Poseidon has started her round the island trips, the Symi Bus is operating though not quite at full frequency yet.
Day trippers are arriving in quantity each day, mostly on the scheduled ferries and the Nikolaos X. More day boats should start running this week, and the ferries are back to normal- with Panagia Skiadeni doing one round trip each day, Sebeco two trips, Blue Star three times a week, and Stavros two times. What is different is that the Dodekanisos Seaways fast catamarans only call on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, and then only northbound. They are providing a fast service from Rhodes to Symi on the three days that the Panagia Skiadeni goes via Panormitis.
First of all, many thanks to Hans Gsottbauer who managed to get hold of a draft timetable for Sebeco for 2022 and post it on social media. He also found that there is a new website which will show the timetable from next week (at the moment it only shows a picture of Yialos.
Assuming that the draft timetable is unaltered, there will be a daily service leaving Symi at 07:45 and 1530 for Rhodes and leaving Rhodes at 10:30 and 17:30 for Symi starting 27 April, up to 2 October. In high season there will be a third round trip in the middle of the day.
Once the definitive timetable appears, I’ll produce summary ferry times showing all operators, as we’re only otherwise waiting for SAOS Ferries, and they have only two sailings per week in each direction.
Some notes on booking:
There’s no need to book weeks or months in advance unless you feel making interest-free loans to Greek ferry companies is the best way to use your available funds. Greeks certainly don’t work this way. Now if you are travelling with a vehicle, it might be a good idea to book ahead as space can be limited, if you want a cabin on one of the overnight services to and from Athens/Piraeus the same applies. But just travelling locally in the Dodecanese (so Rhodes-Symi; Symi-Kos etc) you will be fine booking just a few days ahead, or even on the day itself (except in August when things can fill up fast). Blue Star and Dodekanisos Seaways have online booking systems and can accept tickets on mobile phones this year. We should know next week what Sebeco will do. Port ticket agents such as Symi Tours (support Symi businesses if you can) can also do online bookings. What I’d avoid is booking on line with companies who don’t operate ferries themselves and don’t have a physical office in any of the ports you’re using. Events of the past few years have shown that it can be difficult to get rebooked or refunded if you’re putting a third party between yourself and the ferry company, and that is one you can only contact by email and not by phone or in person. The official port agents on each island are well able to do this for you, as well as the ferry company itself.
Dodekanisos Seaways have a “frequent sailor” plan called Bonusways. You can join this on line before you book, and then use the membership number to get discounts right away. Blue Star have a slightly different system called Sea Smiles – here you buy the first ticket at the normal price, enter the details into a special kiosk onboard ship as you are sailing, and the kiosk issues a membership card you can use for discounts on future bookings. Both well worth joining, and you also accrue points that eventually entitle you to free travel – I got a free ticket to Kos from Dodekanisos Seaways in 2020.
Dodekanisos Seaways have published their summer 2022 timetable, and even opened bookings right up to the end of October. However with COVID-19 still behaving unpredictably there’s no guarantee the services will operate as advertised, they certainly didn’t in 2020 or 2021.
I’d avoid booking this early, if you are one of those who feel they absolutely must have every loose end tied up, book directly with Dodekanisos Seaways, or use a reputable travel agency (such as Symi Tours – other Symi-based agencies such as Lakis Travel or Panormitis Travel are available). If you choose an on-line only booking agency, and the timetable changes due to unforeseen circumstances, you may find difficulties in contacting them and getting your booking altered, and this or refunds may be a chargeable service.
Blue Star Ferries have their all-year-round Wednesday and Friday calls at Symi throughout the summer, and this increases between mid-June and mid-September with ships calling on Mondays and Tuesdays too. Booking advice is the same for Blue Star.
Once SAOS Ferries qnd ANES Ferries release their summer timetables I’ll be able to produce a summary timetable.
For a while now I have stopped updating the blog after I was accused (and blocked as a result) of spamming Facebook when I made a post to say this blog had been updated with new timetables. Now I don’t get any income from any source to maintain the blog, I pay for it entirely out of my own pocket, so this was really offensive.
However, a fortnight on Symi, and lots of Symi residents telling me they valued the information I publish here, has convinced me to continue. So once the “rush period” of the Panormitis Festival is over, I’ll produce the winter ferry timetables as usual. and make a start on the flight schedules for 2022.
Inevitably someone will ask, so I will have to make it clear again that there are no ferry timetables at all available past March 2022 yet, and even some services that are expected to operate haven’t issued times past the end of November. It is also fair to say that using previous years’ times as a guide no longer works – 2021’s sailings have been very different to 2020’s which in turn were different to 2019’s.
As predicted, the Panagia Skiadeni of Dodekanisos Seaways is not going to enter service until at least 27 September this year. To be honest, I now doubt even more that she will make an appearance before 2022. Really by 27 September there will not be enough of the tourist season left to justify the cost of putting her into commission, and I’d expect that in a couple of weeks time there will be a further timetable change pushing the date back again.
Here is the combined ferry timetable up to 12 September, and here is the one for 13 to 26 September. Best to wait a bit for the extreme end of September and the month of October, to see what ANES will do.
The ferry situation is still confused. In particular, throughout the summer Dodekanisos Seaways have been pushing back the start date for Panagia Skiadeni, and substituting stops by Dodekanisos Express or Dodekanisos Pride. As at today, Panagia Skiadeni is still in a shipyard near Piraeus,
and the earliest start date is Monday 13 September. Now the earliest start date is Monday 27 September. Personally I wouldn’t make any travel plans that depended on her sailing this year. It scarcely seems worth activating the ship for seven or so weeks work at the tail of the season.
We are still waiting for confirmation that
SAOS Ferries will continue the usual sailings of the Stavros into October, and that ANES Ferries will continue the Sebecco’s sailings after 3 October, so there’s no point in producing a schedule for ferries in October yet, when the only certainty will be 2 Blue Star sailings each way a week, plus SAOS Ferries Stavros twice a week, with slight time changes due to southbound sailings starting and northbound ones finishing at Kalymnos.
Symi is still far from overloaded with tourists and this is probably the reason why Dodekanisos Seaways has decided to defer the start of Panagia Skiadeni sailings this year by another week or so until 22 July. Instead there will be sailings by Dodekanisos Pride on Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays. Sunday sailings vary week by week and are usually only announced the week before.
A piece of good news is that the subsidy for the Sebecco is now year-round and so there will be sailings in the autumn and winter. Maybe we’ll even find out the times soon.
It looks like this summer will have one of the very best ferry services ever, used by the lowest number of tourists.
After the extra high season Tuesday service, an additional “Big Boat” has been added on Saturdays in July and August (actually up to 4 September). This is Hellenic Seaways fast ferry “Hellenic Highspeed”. Hellenic Seaways is a sister company of Blue Star and the two effectively operate as one business. This isn’t like the smaller Dodekanisos Seaways high speed ships, she is a very large long range ferry. One word of warning, the very economical €8 fare between Rhodes and Symi or vice versa on the Blue Star/Hellenic Seaways conventional ferries doesn’t apply on this ship, you’ll pay €21 each way.
On the other hand, the starting date for sailings by Panagia Skiadeni has been put back to 16 July. I’ve updated the high season timetable accordingly, we’re still waiting for ANES ferries and SAOS ferries to declare their October timetables for late season vistors, and I’m still creating the timetable for early July.
Blue Star have announced that there will be a fourth sailing per week through Symi, on a Tuesday. This will be a call by Blue Star 2, coming from Piraeus to Rhodes and calling at Symi at 08:35. It returns on the same day from Rhodes at 17:00, calling at Symi at 18:00 and continuing to Kos, Leros, Patmos, Syros, and Piraeus. The service is currently bookable up to the end of August.
This of course means that I need to re-do the summary ferry timetable. The June one is also in confusion due to a combination of strikes by ferry crews and Blue Star’s annual switch round of ships caused by the drydocking of ferries for annual inspection and maintenance. October’s on the other hand isn’t ready because we don’t know what if anything Sebecco will do after 3 October, and because SAOS Ferries published timetable stops then. Sebecco’s government contract ends on 3 October, and that covers the early morning and evening sailings. The morning departures from Rhodes and afternoon departures back are at the company’s commercial risk and how long they continue for depends on demand.
SAOS Ferries have decided to offer free travel for foot passengers up to the end of June, and from 15 September onwards. Vehicles will still be charged for. You’d still need to get tickets, of course.