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Month: April 2018

Same Day to Symi

Same Day to Symi

Here’s another re-created post from the old blog. Updated 16/5/18 with Monday same day flights now there is a Monday afternoon ferry from Rhodes.

For many, having a night in Rhodes or Kos at the beginning of your holiday is an advantage, meaning you arrive on Symi the next day fully rested and ready to enjoy your stay. Others absolutely hate it, and begrudge every minute they’re in Greece but not on Symi.

For this second group, here is the “Same Day to Symi” guide to flights which reach Rhodes in time to catch the Wednesday or Friday evening ferries and so get you to Symi without an overnight in Rhodes


Airline Safety?

Airline Safety?

Ever totally ignored the safety briefing when travelling on an aircraft? Carried on talking to a companion, listened to music, or read something? Now there’s evidence that far too many people do this, then when a crisis happens, they do the wrong thing.

Very recently there was a serious incident on a SouthWest Airlines plane at Philadelphia, USA. One of the engines suffered a major failure of a very unusual kind. Now engines do fail in flight, and planes are designed to be flyable with one engine out until the Captain can land at a suitable airport. But the unusual feature of this flight was that something broke up within the engine (believed at the moment to be a fan blade)  and instead of remaining within the engine casing, it emerged and hit the side of the plane. This in turn broke a window, and as the plane was at altitude, there was a rapid reduction of cabin air pressure. Unfortunately a woman sitting next to the affected window was partly sucked out of the plane, and although fellow passengers pulled her back inside, her injuries proved fatal. Nervous flyers should realise that this is the first time in aviation history that a passenger has been killed or even injured as a result of such an incident. They are far more likely to get themselves killed or injured travelling by road to or from airports!.

The safety lesson  is this. One feature in common in all aircraft safety briefings is the line “in the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, oxygen masks will drop automatically from above your seats. Pull downwards to release the oxygen, fit the mask over your nose and mouth, and breathe normally. Fit your own mask before helping others.”

This is based on decades of flight operations,  both civilian and military, and ensures that the maximum  number of people (hopefully all) will survive the incident.

But on this occasion, many passengers didn’t place the masks over their noses and mouths, just their mouths, obviously oblivious to what they had been told before takeoff. We know this because others spent valuable seconds video recording the scene on their smartphones or tablets.


Getting to Symi -Rhodes Airport and the last lap

Getting to Symi -Rhodes Airport and the last lap

Although my last blog post covered getting to Symi overland, most visitors actually approach via Rhodes Airport, with a smaller number using Kos Airport. This post describes the arrival process  at Rhodes, getting to the port, and selecting and catching a ferry. Kos will be covered  in a  later blog.

When you arrive at Rhodes Airport you’ll notice that it has no airbridges, the links from plane to terminal. Instead you’ll get off using stairs (make a mental note of the name on the side of the stairs), and usually squeeze into a bus for the very short journey to the terminal, where you’ll be dropped at a ramp leading down into the building. The right hand set of doors at the end of the ramp are for passengers on flights from inside the Schengen Area (most of the EU and EEA countries except UK, Ireland, Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia), and the left hand set, which takes you through Immigration, for everyone else. Don’t use the wrong doors, at best you’ll get shouted at, at worst arrested.

Whichever set you use, you’ll eventually end up in Baggage Reclaim. There are four sets of conveyor belts, with screens to show you which belt your flight will use. Rhodes doesn’t have a good reputation for fast baggage return, due to package holiday airlines scheduling their arrivals too  close together, though in practice domestic flights are speedy enough. While you’re waiting you can use the toilets but there’s not much else to do. Hopefully your bag won’t take too long and you’ll soon be on your way. If it doesn’t appear or is damaged you need to speak to the handling agent (could be Goldair, Skyserv or Swissport) who deals with your airline before you leave the airport. You can tell which by the name on the stairs you used to leave the plane. Their offices are in the baggage reclaim area or in the departures area (gates 1-14 zone). Leave the baggage reclaim area by the doors at the far end. Customs officers appear if there are passengers who started their journey outside the EU, otherwise just walk straight through, into a zone full of tour operators reps and taxi drivers holding signs with peoples’ names on. Unless you arranged a taxi when you booked your accommodation on Symi, keep going through the next set of doors into the outside world.

Now you have a choice – straight ahead across the drop-off area you’ll find the taxi rank – be careful crossing, driving can be erratic and you may be tired. The fare to Rhodes Town, including the port, is fixed, not metered, and currently is €25.00 per trip – up to 4 people. There are usually plenty of taxis but at busy times solo travellers may be asked to share with others going in the same direction, if this happens the fare is €25 per person or group, this is quite legal and you aren’t being ripped off. If you are going straight to the port, tell the driver the name of the ship you want and he’ll get you to the right quayside as close to the ship as possible.

Alternatively there is a bus service, two or three buses an hour between 6am and midnight in summer. Turn left and walk along the side of the terminal past the first departures zone until you reach the bus shelter by a little seating area. Ideally you need to get tickets before the bus arrives as it is slightly dearer if you pay on board, the cafe-bar in the departures area (desks 15-36 zone, door near the bus shelter) sells them for €2.50 per person. If you intend to come back on the bus as well you can stock up on tickets as each ticket works for one journey in either direction, the driver cancels the ticket you use as you get on. Luggage accommodation is limited, and the buses stop along the way, but the service is much faster than it used to be, about 40 minutes on average to the terminus behind the Nea Agora building near Mandraki Harbour. You can also buy tickets from the driver at €2.60 per person (but you’ll probably need some Euro coins as change can be a problem).

Look for buses marked Rodos Center, some start at the airport and some start at points further west and call in on their way to Rhodes Town.The same bus stop is used for buses going to and from Rhodes Town so do make sure it is going in the right direction before you board. These are usually blue and white buses, but there are some in advertising liveries.

If you have decided to catch one of the high speed catamarans to Symi, these leave from Kolonna quay on the Rhodes waterfront. This is right by Rhodes Old Town walls (there’s a Kolonna Gate through the  wall) and is  an easy bag-trundle from the bus terminus at Averoff St. All other ferries to Symi leave from Akandia quay, which is  a long way further on.  I have walked it, but don’t intend to do it again on a hot day with baggage! If your ferry leaves from or arrives at Akandia, you are best advised to use a taxi. Akandia is served by Rhodes Town buses 6 and 12, but a peculiarity of the town service buses is that they have circular routes and only go one way round the circle. There is a flat fare regardless of distance, so going the long way round the circle isn’t any more expensive as long as you have 45 minutes to spare. If you still want to use these buses, the 12 runs hourly up to 3pm, and takes you to Akandia directly. The 6 runs hourly all day long and is a quick way from Akandia to the centre. These routes use a terminal on the seafront side of the road at Mandraki Harbour. Taxis can be picked up from the central taxi station at the Old Town end of the Nea Agora. A local journey to Akandia will be charged on the meter.

Ferry times for summer 2018 are detailed in other posts. The three operators are Dodekanisos  Seaways. Blue Star  and Sea Dreams. Advance booking is possible, and is a good idea for the catamarans, but totally unnecessary for the Rhodes to Symi journey on Blue Star’s vast 1400-person capacity ships. There are ticket offices (or in some cases huts) right next to the mooring point of each company, and you can collect prebooked tickets or buy them direct there. Despite appearances to the contrary, you don’t need to find the main port agency to do this.

Baggage reclaim at Rhodes Airport
Overland to Symi

Overland to Symi

Well of course Symi is an island, so there’s always an element of ferry travel involved, but people can and do get here from Northern and Western Europe by car or rail. I covered this before in a now-lost post, but the information is updated to this week. For the rail options I cannot do better than refer you to that excellent website operated by The Man in Seat 61. 

There were once several international rail routes into Greece, but now there are only a couple of trains a day, so the alternative is to travel by train to one of the Italian Adriatic ports, catch a ferry from there to the Greek ports of Patras or Igumenitsa, express bus to Piraeus, and ferry for the final leg.

For the road option, I acknowledge the help given by the trustees and volunteers of the charity Next Stop Symi, who make regular trips by van from the UK to Symi as part of their work in delivering aid supplies to refugees in Greece, and were on Symi in October 2017 collecting supplies from the depot on Symi for transfer to Rhodes and Athens.

Their preferred route again involves the Adriatic coast of Italy,which they find the quickest and easiest.While it is perfectly possible to drive through Bosnia/Serbia/Montenengro/Albania/FYROM on a variety of routes, as these countries are not EU members there can be customs and visa issues, there will certainly be border delays, and you need more expensive vehicle insurance.

Getting to the Adriatic coast does depend where you start from in Europe. All Alpine crossings are expensive to use, and both Austria and Switzerland require you to purchase and display a “vignette” showing you have paid local road taxes for your transit of each country.

Ports with frequent ferry links to Greece are: Venice; Ancona; Brindisi and Bari. It is a tradeoff between more time on the road and so more fuel used and road tolls incurred, and more time onboard ship and higher fares. The two main shipping lines are the ANEK/Superfast consortium and Minoan/Grimaldi, there are also some less reliable independents.

On the Greek side, some ferries use the port of Patras, some Igumenitsa, and some both. Igumenitsa offers a shorter sea crossing but a longer drive to get to your next stop (accompanied by more road tolls). You’re aiming for Piraeus, the port of Athens, which has daily sailings by Blue Star to Kos and Rhodes, two  or sometimes three a week of which call at Symi on the way.

Next Stop Symi offer two final invaluable tips: Always keep the ferry ticket stubs for your crossing from Italy. If you bring a motor vehicle into Greece for over 6 months, you must re-register it in Greece and pay import duty. The ticket stubs are your only proof of when your vehicle arrived, without them it may be impounded.

Oh, and have a teddy bear on board with you. The sight seems to make tollbooth operators and customs officers stop being officious and start laughing.

My plane is too hot or too cold!

My plane is too hot or too cold!

A very common complaint, and of course each person’s ideal air temperature is different so it is impossible to please everyone. Here is some background information.

Although the outside temperature at altitude is bitterly cold, the cabin air is taken from one of the stages of the jet engines (before combustion so it is still pure uncontaminated air) and at the point it is extracted it is at 200-250 degrees C. This is called bleed air. To make it usable in the cabin it has to be passed through airconditioning systems to reduce the temperature. This consumes energy, and in turn the engines use more fuel in producing the energy. So the airline itself always likes a warm cabin – because they spend less on fuel.

The cabin crew on shorter flights like a cool cabin, because they’re moving about a lot and don’t want to end up sweaty. On longer flights they prefer a warm cabin, because for much of the flight in between meal services they aren’t moving about much, and passengers who have had something to eat and drink are much more likely to go to sleep in a warm cabin and avoid pressing the call buttons,Apart from a couple of crew members patrolling the aisles, the rest of the crew can gather in the galleys and have a good chat, or take official rest periods. It is frequently alleged that crew members use the controls to raise the cabin temperature between meal services so they get fewer service requests.

The trouble is that even after all these years the design of airflow through aircraft cabins is not a precise science and there are persistent hot and cold spots on most designs. In addition stripping out panels to access fans, clean filters etc can only be done by ground engineers and is the sort of thing that gets deferred to the next major service check rather than being done in turnround between flights.

One-off ferry time changes

One-off ferry time changes

Because of a national strike by ships crews based in Piraeus, there are changes to the Blue Star services through Symi for the next 6 days.

Friday morning’s Blue Star Patmos to Rhodes will be at 20:15 instead

Sunday’s additional Blue Star Patmos to Rhodes will be at 01:45 Monday instead

Friday evening’s sailing from Rhodes to Piraeus via Symi will leave Rhodes at 08:00 Saturday, calling at Symi (09:10 to 09:25)

The Dodekanisos Seaways and Sea Dream sailings are unaltered – their crews rarely if ever get involved in these strikes.



Now here’s some flight news that is quite unexpected.

Aegean has announced that they will be flying between Rhodes and Beirut on Tuesdays between 26 June and 4 September. Rhodes depart 15:40, Beirut arrive 17:00, Beirut depart 22:15, Rhodes arrive 23:40.

In the long gap between flights at Beirut, the plane and crew does a round trip to Mykonos and back. Aegean has planes and crews based in Rhodes for the summer, and indeed planes and crews overnight in Rhodes all year round.

There are no heavy plane maintenance facilities in Rhodes, so aircraft requiring more than basic servicing are swapped over using the Rhodes-Athens flights.

Summer ferry sailings

Summer ferry sailings

Next, here are the summer sailings for ferries calling at Symi. Note these are true ferries, you can buy one-way or period return tickets. There are also a couple of boats doing day excursions to Symi from Rhodes. You cannot use these to get to Symi and just throw away the return journey, whatever you might think, at least not if you have any baggage at all – the baggage is a dead give-away that someone is trying to beat the system.

If you try to book one-way sailings on the Panagia Skiadeni that are routed via Panormitis, you’ll find that the Dodekanisos Seaways website shows it is full. But it almost certainly isn’t. Ask the website for a one-way ticket to Panormitis, and it will happily sell you one. Then book a ticket from Panormitis to Symi, and this will come free of charge. You actually need two tickets, because you can get off at Panormitis and wander about of you want to, the ship stays there for over an hour.

For those who were hoping that the Sea Star would make a long heralded reappearance at Symi to sail to Tilos, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that the protracted overhaul seems to have been completed. The bad news is that two groups making up the syndicate that bought her from the liquidators have fallen out. Court proceedings are ongoing in Rhodes over alleged fraud and theft, with allegations of death threats too. Don’t expect any sailings this summer.

So here are the timetables:
1 May to 31 May
1 June to 3 September
4 September to 30 September
1 October to 31 October

Flights to Rhodes and Kos for Summer 2018

Flights to Rhodes and Kos for Summer 2018

Here is my most recent set of flight summaries for the various countries that have non-stop service to Rhodes or Kos.

There’s also a summary of domestic flights from Athens and Thessaloniki, the two main gateway airports that are used for journeys that don’t have non-stop flights at all, or on the day you want.

Flights from Austria
Flights from Belgium
Flights from Czech Republic, Lithuania. Hungary, Slovakia, Poland
Flights from Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden
Flights from France
Flights from Germany
Flights from Italy
Flights from Netherlands
Flights from Lebanon and Russia
Flights from Switzerland
Flights from UK and Ireland

Greek domestic flights for connections


Back again

Back again

Sorry that I’ve had to relocate this blog to a new web domain rather quickly. This follows the sad death of my much-loved friend Wendy Wilcox, the owner of the Symi Visitor Accommodation business, whose domain name the blog shared. Luckily or unluckily we had a blog database crash last September, so not much in the way of posted information has been lost this time. I have had to choose a new blog design, as the old one is no longer supported for new installations.

I’ll recreate all the ferry and flight information during the course of today, and then start with the general information postings during this week. Some new photos might appear soon too, as I expect to arrive on Symi next week.