I thought I better put in a small bit about ferries in Greece, since they are the main method of transport for the budget island hopper!
There are many different ferry lines and the best way to book ferry tickets is to go into any of the many small travel agents that are dotted around the harbours of the main towns on each island. Otherwise, you can just turn up and pay at the dockside (probably the most normal thing to do, although it can be very chaotic if it is a large ferry on one of the busier routes) or book online. There are many websites for the Greek ferry firms. A good one is www.ferries.gr>. This site has links to most of the other ferry sites and includes details of most of the main ferry lines. You can also book online, although I don’t see the point.
Arriving for the ferries is an alarming experience! For anyone that’s ever caught a P&O or Stenaline from Britain to Ireland or France . . . it is nothing like that! Those routes are nice and orderly and organised. The Greek ferries are not. Basically you turn up at dockside, and everyone is milling around and there are cars, lorries and motorbikes galore waiting to load, and pushing forward so they can get on first. There are no orderly queues like at Dover or Rosslare. Random people, not in uniform, are wandering around taking tickets of people and telling them where to go.
You generally have to get onto the boat up the ramp along with the cars etc that are loading at the same time. This can be hair-raising too, as the drivers are still in a mad rush to get a good spot for their vehicle and probably wouldn’t even notice if they knocked you off the ramp!
Once on the boat, there is a mad scramble to get seats inside. I don’t know why this is because I’ve not been on a Greek ferry yet that has air-conditioning and with the amount of cigarettes that the Greeks smoke, the air is soon hot, smoky, and quite nasty really. On the other hand, outside there is plentiful seating, generally with huge portions being under some kind of shade.
I’ve always sat outside when getting the ferries. In the daytime, it is lovely and cool in the breeze, and you can catch up on your tanning, whilst keeping an eye on the passing scenery (where there is any!). Be warned though: even though it’s nice and cool, you WILL be burning and you WILL be getting dehydrated. Sitting outside can become quite miserable when it is a night ferry journey, however. If you are planning one of these, remember to bring some warm clothes or a sleeping bag. It can get quite chilly in the breeze when there is no sun shining. And a towel wet from a day sunbathing and swimming is just not good enough! Trust me, I speak from experience. There is one reason however, which makes freezing all night on a ferry worth it, and this is the sunsets and sun rises. They are not to be beaten. I don’t know why it is, maybe the air is clearer out at sea, but the colours are amazing, and they can be especially beautiful when an island (any island) is silhouetted in the distance.
Food on the ferries is the same as one any other ferry line. Overpriced and not the best. You get the feeling that the food, whatever it is, has been sitting there for a few days. The smaller ferries may not sell food or drink at all. In any case, I advise bringing your own picnic, its much cheaper and at least you are guaranteed it’ll taste nice too! Remember to bring plenty of water; this is also overpriced on board, and with all the salt in the air, you’ll be surprised how much thirstier you are than normal.
It’s been a number of years since I’ve been on any Greek ferry line, but I remember being surprised at how cheap they were, compared with prices on Stena or P&O. I also remember being surprised at how punctual and efficiently they seemed to run. There were never any delays (not Stena sized ones anyway, them being anything over two or three hours), and they nearly always arrived at the stated time.