Many people would like to take a ferry from Italy to Greece but are a bit nervous about what to expect. There isn't a lot of information that talks about the actual experience. So, I decided to write a quick post to give you a step by step, first hand glance at our trip from Brindisi, Italy to Igoumenista, Greece. You will see that it is a pretty smooth process but there are some surprises that are good to know before you go. Are you ready to get sidetracked on the ferry to Greece? Let's go!
Where to Catch the Ferry in Italy
There are four ports in Italy that go to Greece - Venice, Ancona, Bari and Brindisi. However, Brindisi is the closest Italian port to Greece and the fastest. Since we had our car and we were already road tripping our way through the south of Italy exploring Puglia, we decided to use the Brindisi port.
Ferry Operators & Cost
There are several ferry operators like Ventouris, Grimaldi Lines, Blue Star, and more. All of them offer different schedules, speeds, pricing, and accommodations and may or may not be available on certain days. Most ferry operators allow you to walk aboard, bring your car or campervan, etc. and even your pets. Costs will vary based on all of these factors, but we found it very affordable overall. We chose Grimaldi Lines because they were the fastest and had an overnight crossing available the day we needed it. Our tickets were reserved 1 month in advance for an April crossing with a family of four, our dog, and the car. We stayed in a comfortable quad bunk, internal cabin and it cost us €422.
Some operators have daytime crossings available too, which would be a super fun experience with some beautiful scenery. If you are planning to cross during the summer tourist season, be sure to make reservations early.
To check ferry schedules and options, you can visit any general ferry reservation web site like www.netferry.com. It is easy to use and will show you all schedules and prices.
Getting to the Terminal
If you are going to walk on, it is best to take a taxi or Uber to the terminal. If you are driving to the terminal, be sure to use the directions in your confirmation. Driving to the terminal was easy but you may find yourself wondering if you took a wrong turn, like us. It is a commercial port area so it will be very industrial with cranes, semi trucks, loading docks, and a lot of other industrial looking stuff all around - I'll be honest, it looked a bit rough. Don't worry though, you will find the terminal and the very small car parking lot. Don't be surprised if you are surrounded by semi-trucks getting ready to board. Cars are the minority.
You are asked to check in 3-4 hours ahead of time -- yep, that is right -- 3-4 hours ahead of the scheduled departure time so be sure to plan for this. As you go into the terminal to check in, there might be a car line and a semi truck line so be sure to stand in the correct line. The semi truck line is much, much longer.
Also, be sure you print out your tickets. When I got in line, I noticed that everyone had their tickets printed but I didn't! I got a bit concerned. Luckily, I was able to use the PDF ticket from my phone, BUT I have heard stories from people who had to shell out €40 to print their tickets. So, be sure to print it before you go, just in case!
Tip: There is a cafe with very limited food and beverage items at the terminal and the ferry also serves a buffet type dinner but just know -- you may not get on board until after 10 at night. My suggestion is to bring snacks with you since it is such a long wait. We had a nice picnic dinner at the car while waiting to board and that made everyone much happier.
The Boarding Process
About an hour and a half before our departure time, the semi-trucks were asked to begin heading towards the ferry. Cars and camper vans loaded up last. We drove towards the boat and then waited in cue for quite a while before loading. We were curious about why it was taking so long and the reason really surprised us. Each semi-truck had to load on backwards!! It was quite a sight to see huge semis backing into the ferry and parking within inches of their fellow trucks. Also, the cars had to go down several floors into the belly of the ferry. We were all parked end to end. Unloading was interesting too... but more on that later.
Once we were all parked, we got our smaller packs out of the car and got the dog and his pack ready. We had already put a change of clothes and basic toiletry items in our smaller packs so we were prepared for an overnight stay in our cabin. We also brought our electronics, important paperwork, and passports with us too. Even thought the ferry was very safe, we felt more comfortable having our "valuables" with us. Then, we headed up the stairs to the main lobby area to find our room and check in at reception.
Tip: Be sure to take a picture of where you parked or better yet, pin your car's location. Many stairwells look the same and there were quite a few people who got confused when trying to find their cars in the early hours of the morning.
Inside of the Ferry
I grew up in the Pacific Northwest and am accustomed to Seattle ferries that transport cars from place to place. They are clean and efficient with no fancy frills. So, we were shocked by how fancy this ferry was! When we entered the inside stairwell area it looked like the inside of a cruise ship with mirrored ceilings, carpeted hallways, and fancy railings. It was easy to follow the signs to the reception desk where we picked up our keys and the dog kit. Then, we found our rooms and relaxed a bit before exploring the rest of the ship.
There was an outdoor bar and pool area (closed for the season), an arcade, a huge lounge with cafe bar, a buffet dining area serving dinner for a reasonable price, shops, outdoor decks, and so much room!
We were able to sleep pretty comfortably in our room but it is always a good idea to bring earplugs. The other sleeping options are to get an air chair (pictured below), sleep on the many couches in the lounge area, or camp on deck. We definitely knew we wanted a cabin for the kids and the dog, and honestly, it wasn't that much more expensive than an air chair. Bonus -- we had our own bathroom!
Oh, and it may be good to know that our phones did not work and there was no free WiFi. However, you can pay for WiFi if needed. Other ferry operators may be different. It didn't impact us too much though, since we slept through most of the trip. It will be good to keep it in mind if you plan on crossing during the day.
In the morning they wake you up via the intercom and you will have plenty of time to get breakfast at the buffet or coffee bar. You should definitely take a walk on the outer decks to enjoy the views. I was able to catch the start of sunrise over Greece and it was a beautiful way to start my day.
They will also let you know when it is time to head to your cars -- this is where your pinned location will be key. Oh, and be sure to plan for a late arrival -- Greece is a bit more relaxed about their time tables than some other countries. We arrived about 30 minutes late, which wasn't too bad.
As we sat patiently waiting in our car, we watched the ferry officer direct each car to back up and turn around to go up the ramps. It was definitely an organized mess with cars having to "Austin Powers" their way around the corner to get up the ramp (if you don't understand my reference, watch the movie where he is trying to turn around in a tight spot - hilarious!). Then, it was our turn. We were no different from all of the other cars who had gone through the maneuvers before us -- in fact, it took us 3 back and forths to get safely around the corner with zero damage!
We really did enjoy taking the ferry from Italy to Greece. It was safe, clean, fairly efficient, and comfortable. The kids especially loved having a fancy, mini "cruise" type of experience. If you had any reservations about taking a ferry, I hope this post gave you some information to help ease your mind a bit. If you have any other questions, be sure to ask them in the comments below and I will answer them as best I can.
Thanks for getting sidetracked with us and don't forget to subscribe below so you don't miss future posts about Greece and all of our other travel destinations. You can also see a fun Reel that shows the ferry ride in action on our Instagram page! Hope to see you there.
Nancy & Family