Greece - Guided or Independent Tour?

Old Jun 13th, 2015, 05:33 AM
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Greece - Guided or Independent Tour?

We are 2 couples late 60s looking to do Greece. My husband and I have independently traveled in Europe several times, mostly France, Germany, Switz, Czech Republic, Italy, etc. and Australia and New Zealand mostly by leasing cars, but have not for about the last 10 years other than in Major cities before/after cruises.

We are now looking to do key cities in Greece and some of the islands (Santorini, Mykonos, possibly Rhodes) as well. Since traveling appears to be more complicated in Greece with ferry schedules and economic issues, we were looking at guided tours. Found a 13 day Collette tour that does about 80% of where we would like to go not too unreasonably priced. We would probably book extra days in Athens to cover more of what we would like to see.

Just wondering if anyone has used Collette in Greece and/or if Independent still would be better? If independent, what is the best mode to travel the country side? Airline prices also seem to be a lot higher there. Any suggested carriers?

Thanks for any insight, Mary Ann
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Old Jun 13th, 2015, 05:59 AM
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I have not used Collette tours. I think it would be best to check your assumptions. It would constrain your options -- mentally.

How did you suppose "economic issues" impact the travel complexity? I have not felt "economic issues" to impact traveling in Greece. The suppliers seem to be just as eager to earn living by providing products and services.

Does ferry seem to be more complicated because you are familiar with driving tours only? The ferries have scheduled routes and web sites to book them. Ferries have weather delays just like airlines during winter and storm seasons.

Depending on routing and the time of year you plan to travel, there are scheduled flights. Aegean Airlines and Olympic Airlines are the major carriers. However, realize that they don't fly between the islands except during peak seasons and only between large islands. Rest of the flights require backtracking to Athens. I don't know when you are traveling, but like other carriers, Aegean fares to go up during peak seasons. I found it is cheaper to book the inter-island segment independently from the long-haul flights to Greece.

On the mainland and on islands, you can rent a car, if you wish.
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Old Jun 13th, 2015, 06:13 AM
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Just realized I did not include information about when we were thinking of going. Probably about 2 weeks Mid Sept or even late Sept when it would not be so hot.

Yes it does seem more complicated due to the ferries. Will have to check out how far in the season the ferries operate. Thanks for the info on inter island flights. I am not exactly sure when the Peak season ends in Greece. Although flights may be cheaper, the ferries may not be running as often.
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Old Jun 13th, 2015, 07:14 AM
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Those dates are very popular so book quickly if you plan to travel this year.
We have been in Greece at that time of year several times. Use an Athens travel agent to make reservations for transportation and hotels. Two good ones are Dolphin-Hellas and Fantasy Travel both in Athens. They are recommended on this Forum. Don't go on an organized tour as Greece is wonderful and can be so relaxing.
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Old Jun 13th, 2015, 07:19 AM
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Suggest you spend some time on this site:
http://greektravel.com/

I used Fantasy Travel to book some hotels and a ferry (Piraeus to Chania) for my trip to Greece. I booked the rest of the ferries as I traveled, but it was early in the year (May for the islands).

I used a tour (Rick Steves) for the Peloponnese, but traveled independently by bus in northern Greece and by plane and ferry through the islands.
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Old Jun 13th, 2015, 07:38 AM
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We used the Rick Steves guide book for the Peloponnese. We rented a car and did it independently and it was quite easy. The multitude of ferry boats leave the dock at the port in Athens often it is not difficult at all to follow the schedules.

You can also rent a car in Athens and simply drive over the isthmus into the Pelloponnese and not worry about the ferry at all.

I think I would fly to Santorini or Crete from Athens rather than take a ferry.
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Old Jun 13th, 2015, 08:28 AM
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We have been in Greece mid to late September several times and it is a very popular time to travel there. Book your trip soon. I understand your confusion regarding planning Greek travel. Look at Fantasy Travel and Dolphin Hellas Trave, two travel agencies based in Athens. They will take care of all the details of traveling around Greece and the islands and give you good service.
Your choices may be limited at this late date so an agency will be helpful. I discourage you from taking a tour as independent travel is more rewarding and relaxing.
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Old Jun 13th, 2015, 08:32 AM
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"independent travel is more rewarding and relaxing."

IF (I repeat, IF) you pick the right tour it is more relaxing, although probably not more rewarding, than independent travel. I do both, I do not find independent travel more relaxing, but I do not travel to relax.
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Old Jun 13th, 2015, 09:37 AM
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Ferries to the islands operate all year round - they are there for the islanders who need them even in winter. What does cease are the catamaran routes aimed primarily for tourists, but they will still be operating in September.

It's easy to buy tickets for ferries, and you don't even need to book in advance for the period you are travelling - just buy the tickets when you get to Greece. If you decide to use a travel agent pick one based in Greece, such as those mentioned by HappyTrvlr.
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Old Jun 13th, 2015, 03:53 PM
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My comment about independent travel being more relaxing is that you can just hang out when you want and don't have to keep sightseeing every day; younare in conteol of your own schedule.You can take a day off and just enjoy the setting and the local neighborhoods, have a leisurely drink on your balcony and walk to small local tavernas for dinner. None of the up and out and on the bus, group dinners, etc.
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Old Jun 13th, 2015, 04:04 PM
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Well, the RS tours include half the dinners, not all, and often leave the afternoon free. I've also taken a few tours with Intrepid, and they aren't always guided at all. You're certainly free to do whatever you feel like.
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Old Jun 13th, 2015, 08:02 PM
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Thanks for the tips, Thursday -- I also am planning Greek trip (March) and looked at that site and also asked Fantasy Travel for some guidance -- will see what they come up with.

Never done a tour--but Greece is new to us--got some tips here and from Greek clients but these two sources look good for next steps.
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Old Jun 15th, 2015, 06:21 PM
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Thanks everyone for the suggestions and information. I checked out a couple. Athens survival guide and Fantasy travel are both very helpful. We are planning this for Sept 2016 so have some time yet to decide. The nice part of doing the Collette tour, which is 15 days and 13 nights, that we are looking at, is that we can go in early and do a couple days in Athens on our own, and then then there are free afternoons in several locations as well as 2 nights in Mykonos with one day free and 3 nights in Santorini with one day free. We also use Rick Steves a lot, so with your help, the links and Rick we should be able to figure it out, maximize our time and have a great trip.

Thanks again, Mary Ann
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