Beautiful beaches, stunning sunsets, delicious dinners – what’s not to love about a holiday in the Greek Islands? Prior to recently heading there, it had been near the top of the wish-list for many years. And luckily it’s just as easy to bring your dog along for when you travel to the Greek Islands. I’ve previously covered what it’s like to travel in Greece in general with a dog. In this post I will cover how to get to the Greek Islands with your dog, plus the logistics of getting around on the islands.
Flying to the Greek Islands
The easiest way to get to the Greek Islands is to fly. It’s far quicker than a ferry, plus a lot smoother, especially on windy days when the seas are rough. It’s possible to bring your dog along on most flights, except for some of the budget airlines heading to the islands. Check my posts on which budget airlines and flag-carrier airlines in Europe allow dogs to fly in the cabin (or in the hold), with many airlines flying directly to the islands from all around Europe over the summer season.
Alternatively, you could fly to Athens and then catch a domestic flight out to the islands. Domestic flights from Athens to the islands are operated by Aegean Airlines, plus its subsidiary company Olympic Air.
As I mentioned in my post about flag-carrier airlines, Aegean Airlines is particularly dog-friendly. (And the same policy applies to Olympic.) Domestic fares for dogs in the cabin are just €20 for most of the year, increasing to €30 over the busy summer period. Aegean Air can even supply you with a disposable cardboard container for your dog at domestic airports. On the downside, tickets for humans can be quite expensive, especially during the peak season.
Taking a Regular Ferry to the Greek Islands
The next best option to get to the islands with your dog is on one of the regular (slower) ferries travelling from the ports near Athens to the islands. In particular, I took Hellenic Seaways from Pireaus to Mykonos, then Blue Star Ferries from Santorini to Athens.
When travelling with these ferries, you have multiple options. Both of these brands are operated by the same company, with the same rules. Firstly, the large ferries they operate have big outdoor decks. Most passengers travelling with a dog elect to travel on these open decks with their dog, a free option. Alternatively, there is also the option to travel in a pet cabin (€50 surcharge) or to use a pet kennel (for €20). If utilising one of these options, contact the ferry company directly; I couldn’t see an option to book this when booking online.
On the Hellenic Seaways website, it states that pets are required to wear a leash and muzzle, remain accompanied by a guardian, and be accompanied by their health documents. Pets are not allowed in the indoor public area, and that a “special area for the pets’ daily hygiene” is available, although I didn’t spot this. Further information for multiple companies is also listed on this site.
When boarding our first trip with Hellenic Seaways, however, I spotted this sign stating that “small pets in special baskets or cages” are permitted indoors, the same as service dogs. We ended up sitting inside for the voyage, partially as there was a lot of smokers on the outdoor deck. We also did the same on our second voyage with Blue Star Ferries, even though I didn’t see a similar sign. However, on this voyage, which was quite crowded on the final leg, I also saw some larger leashed dogs going through the indoor areas, without anyone raising an eyebrow.
Be aware with Greek ferries that often they depart quite early. (Our voyages left at 7:35am in Athens, 7:00am on Santorini, with the requirement to arrive at least 30 minutes early both times, ideally an hour.) They can also be a bit chaotic, especially during boarding. Also allow time in case they run late, although both of these ferries were roughly on time, probably because the seas were relatively calm on these two days.
Taking a High-Speed Ferry to the Greek Islands
The third and final option is to take one of the high-speed ferries that operate in the Adriatic Sea, the option we took between Mykonos and Santorini. These can get you to the islands and between them quicker, at least if they’re running on-time. But reading online reviews, there are many complaints about late departures, which also happened on our trip.
Overall, I found the high-speed ferries to be the least dog-friendly option. For starters, many of the high speed ferries don’t allow dogs at all. We specially selected to travel with Seajets because they do allow dogs. Their website mentions that each of their vessels is equipped with a specially designated kennel, with no reference to a fee. However, while boarding, we couldn’t spot these, and couldn’t see who to speak to downstairs. And as we discovered when we headed upstairs, there isn’t an outdoor deck on the high-speed ferries where dogs can travel, probably partially why many don’t allow dogs.
It was quite chaotic while we were boarding, as rather than taking a direct ferry from Mykonos to Santorini, we ended up being directed onto two separate ferries, changing at in island in between. Mainly due to this, but perhaps due to the rough seas (I felt a little seasick), our voyage ended up taking nearly five hours, instead of the scheduled three hours.
Partially due to the chaos and partially as we couldn’t spot the kennels, we ended up taking our dog inside the cabin with us in his carrier bag, like on the other ferries, despite later spotting a “no dogs except guide dogs” sign when disembarking. Our dog stayed quiet during both voyages, so I don’t think anyone even realised. And perhaps this was allowed for small pets!
Read about what to do on Santorini, including the best beaches on the island
Getting Around on the Islands
It’s also worthwhile considering how to get around on the islands. On Santorini in particular, the transport infrastructure isn’t really up to transporting all of the tourists on the island. Travelling with a dog makes it even more difficult.
If you’re wanting to move around a lot, I would recommend hiring a car. Usually the main car hire depots are at the airport, but there’s also other agencies scattered around. Car hire rates are quite high on the islands, and fuel prices are astronomical. Luckily there’s not far to drive though, so you won’t be using much. We hired a car on mainland Greece with our dog without any comments made at the rental depot, so I’m sure there’s no issues with dogs in hire cars on the island.
If you have a small dog, it’s possible to use the buses. We did this on Santorini. Just note that we couldn’t find any information in advance about the rules for dogs on buses, even speaking to our hotel owner and checking the signs at the bus stops. When we caught our first bus to Thera, no one commented on our dog riding on our lap. But when we went to catch a second bus to Oia, we were informed dogs were only allowed in a carry bag. The bus operators said there were a pet shop down the road, but we instead bought a cheap beach bag to use for the rest of the day. These rules are similar to what we later encountered on mainland Greece.
The next options are taxis and shuttle buses (mini vans). On Santorini, we booked a shuttle bus through our hotel, to take us to and from our hotel from the ferry wharf. There were no comments made on our dog, although he was in a carrier bag. Later on when we went to catch a taxi (a difficult task except in Thera, as there’s no many taxis on the island), we were informed dogs aren’t allowed in a taxi, even when in a carrier bag, just in the minivans. One of the taxi drivers called a minivan for us, but it didn’t turn up anytime soon, so we ended up taking the bus.
On Mykonos, our situated was simplified by staying within walking distance of the New Port, where our ferry arrived. (Just be warned there isn’t a footpath along the edge of most roads, so it’s a tricky affair with your luggage.) We then caught the Seabus, a small ferry that operates between the New Port, marina and the Old Port (and Old Town) on Mykonos. I didn’t see any rules for dogs, but our dog was fine to join us on the outdoor deck, just wearing a leash. If the weather is bad and you want to ride inside, this might not be allowed.
Other Key Tips
For further information on what it’s like to travel in Greece with a dog, refer to my post. Some key points to remember are that it’s not common to dine indoors at restaurants with a dog in Greece. (But if you’re heading to the islands, who would choose to eat inside?) On the plus side, there’s no rules against dogs at beaches in Greece, including on the islands.
Also read my note about stray cats in Greece, which extends to the Greek Islands. We were unfortunate to have a run-in with a stray cat on Santorini, but on the other hand I can assure you that it’s easy and quick to visit a vet, with at least three vets operating on Santorini.
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