Having planned to spend just three days in Istanbul and having actually spent three whole weeks exploring Turkey, it made a lot of sense to skip the return drive north and cross over to Greece by sea. The possibility had been confirmed by some semi-reliable sources but purchasing tickets and finding detailed information was a bit tricky. I was glad to meet Bruce and Kyla (follow their adventures on facebook ‘In Which We Ride’), adventure dirt bikers from Scotland, who also had the same plan but had just as much trouble finding the details.
Part 1 – Bodrum to Kos
We decided to all make the crossing together from Bodrum which lies just 5km from the Greek border and the popular island of Kos. At the time (mid September), the ferry was running once a day, seven days a week at 9:30am, though we were advised that from the end of that week the services were drastically reduced due to the end of the tourist season so definitely check ahead if you are planning to go later in the year. Booking was easy enough and we purchased tickets in person from the sales kiosk at the Ferry Port with just our passports and licence plate numbers. The price was €17 per person plus €37 for each motorcycle so altogether €54 each. The kiosk is open until midnight but you do have to purchase the tickets the night before you board. It re-opens for check in at 8:30am.
Despite us repeatedly confusing the clerk over how many people/bikes were travelling, the she was extremely helpful and spoke excellent english. She also advised us to purchase the second part of the ticket (from Kos to Athens) separately to avoid paying the agents commission however she was able to check the times and availability of ferries for us anyway which was a great help.
In the morning, we exchanged our receipt for boarding passes and pulled our bikes up to the gate. Our panniers were lightly searched and the border guard took a few pictures of the bikes, the plates and the contents of our luggage before ushering us all inside where we went through airport type security scanners. We proceeded to passport control, got our exit stamps (the border guard did not like Rich’s cancelled Turkey visa stamp from our crossing into Turkey!) and returned to our bikes to await ‘the official opening of the gate’…. oooooh.
Kyla thought the ferry was hilarious due to it’s miniature standing and lack of tie downs. I reminded myself of the unfathomably ridiculous ferry crossing Rich and I did with our mopeds in Cambodia back in 2013 (read the post here). This ferry was seaworthy, free of livestock and did not require underwater riding skills so it was pretty cruisy in my book!
Once aboard, we had around 90 minutes to soak up the morning rays, share a healthy breakfast (a bag of fun-size snickers) and admire the hazy Greek islands in the distance.
We even shared the deck with this guy who, judging by his outfit, could only be Poseidon himself. What an honour!
36 Hours on Kos
One by one, we wiggled free of the vehicle tetras and involuntarily slid off the ferry. Rich managed to leave behind the shattered fragments of his pannier corner guard along with a serious dent in the ferry wall. The rest of us, unscathed, headed for passport control and into customs for the good old once over, one by one. Customs reviewed our vehicle registrations as well as proof of insurance but with a bit of sweet talking, Bruce and Kyla’s expired 4 Euro Moldovan insurance policy seemed to work just as well as our official £500 European cover so, like many a border, just smile and nod.
Same day tickets to Athens were available for the ferry which departed at 8:30pm that evening. Plenty of time for a whole day at the beach. Rich and I decided to stay the night with some friends on the island and instead got next day tickets giving us a whole 36 hours for fun, sun and a good nights sleep… or so we thought. We waved a ‘bye-for-now’ to the Scots as they headed for Athens and we spent an unforgettable day/night/day with the resident Italian contingent. There was plenty of fun, too much sun and absolutely no sleep whatsoever while we sampled the restaurants, beaches, bars and clubs and thermal pools of the beautiful little island. (For the full run down of Kos, see our seperate post here).
Part 2 – Kos to Athens
The ferry from Kos to Athens is a serious stint at 12.5 hours in duration. Due to the fact that we had not slept for the past 36 hours and had spent all day at the beach getting salty, I was not about to entertain the idea of spending the following night dozing in a cafe chair in what is essentially a giant waiting room. Been there, done that! The price for private ensuite cabin accommodation was €28.50 on top of the standard €77.50 (person+vehicle) fare and I’m so glad we went for it. Under normal circumstances (i.e. being well rested and having a home to go to post-journey) the standard lounge seating option would have been fine.
We arrived at the relatively empty docks at 9:40pm as instructed. There was plenty of parking space in the waiting area so I was surprised when a herse pulled up dangerously close to my bike. Within minutes there was a crowd of 15-20 people leaning against it, and it became apparent that they were expectantly waiting on the imminent arrival of a coffin. The coffin did arrive along with more relatives and floods of tears. In the chaos, I noticed we were boarding which meant I had to awkwardly backpedal out of the funeral party, start my bike and ride right through the middle of them! Awkward is an understatement and the worst part is… we go it on video!
Securing the bike was simple. Drive on, park and go to reception. The elderly bell boy made the mistake of offering to carry Rich’s 60L dry bag which may as well have been full of concrete. I could see the instant regret in his eyes. The ferry was like a massive hotel with an underground parking garage. The only difference being, this one was floating!
We had a quick shower by which time it was 11pm so we went straight to sleep. Alarm went off at 7am, we packed up and headed for the deck cafe. I smugly sipped my cappuccino while dozing economy passengers balanced on multiple arm chairs, under sarongs with their faces dangerously close to strangers feet.
If I wasn’t glad enough that we chose the cabin, five minutes driving in Athens traffic and let me tell you, I was very glad I’d had a good nights sleep. Alert or die!