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We are looking to travel from Santorini to Mykonos by boat in the second half of June in a group of 5 - 10 people.

Due to the relative clarity of information available online, the boats offered by Hellenic Seaways currently seem like our favourite option, and they offer an online booking facility via the agency Paleologos S.A..

At least in September/October, it sounds like those ferries aren't too crowded. Likewise, Santorini's port website implies that ferries are most likely crowded only in July and August, while of course, things might be different in June. (Also, none of the resources I found specifically dealth with the probability of finding enough tickets for a larger group of people.)

Is it a good idea to book those tickets for June beforehand online, or does the gain of having the security that the boat is not booked out not match up with the possible hassle of actually finding the pre-booked tickets on Santorini and relying on the online booking?

  • Mykonos and Santorini from the most famous islands in Greece. Mykonos is one of the islands that I prefer as I do because there are many things to do but surely to enjoy the tour on the island of Mykonos is to rent a motorcycle in Mykonos or a car! Beaches are unique as well as restaurants and hotels! – maounas May 10 '17 at 7:22
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You do not say it in your question, do you have a car?

Experience

First, for the close experience, I went during August to Greece and did not book ahead (we were pedestrians). On a very large car ferry between Athens and some islands, booking the day before let us without reserved seats, but cabins with beds were still available. We went for non-reserved seats and it was less comfortable than the reserved ones for sleeping, but these are comfortable for sitting even on long distances (Santorini to Mykonos seems to take 3 hours). The seats are first-come, first-serve but even in August they probably do not sell out. So if you are pedestrians, that could be fine.

So it was not full but booking ahead would have been smarter, especially because buying tickets there made us lose time (the harbour is 1 hour from Athens center) and made our plans risky (if there were no more seats, our itinerary would have been messed up).

We took other more local boats and we never had any issues, but these were intended to be booked last-minute anyway.

As you said in comments, websites selling tickets do not seem particularly trustworthy, that's a good argument. But when I went to the harbour in Athens, there was no distinguishable "official" ferry ticket seller for a carrier, only a string of many travel agency offices selling tickets for any ferry operator. And the one I bought my ticket from made a typo when copying my name from my ID (I don't have a "greek-friendly" name, though).

Whom to book from?

On the website of Hellenic Seaways they do not mention any office where they would sell their tickets, but a forum thread suggests the travel agent Pelican Travel is the agent that is "official" reseller of Hellenic Seaways on Santorini island.

I found an article on tripadvisor on the topic that mentions a couple websites to book from. I could not find reviews for these though.

Prioritization of constraints

But overall, it is this kind of question that depends mostly on your prioritization of constraints: do you have a car? Do you have a tight schedule?

  • The price does not change with time, so in our society paced by revenue management, you do not have the pressure to book early to save money
  • I would say the most important criterion is how flexible you are. If you are on a trip where you gather your options in advance but make the decision of where to go next on day-to-day basis, it is preferable to wait. If on the extreme other hand, you have planned everything already and you can name every thing you do on every day of your trip, then it is better to book ahead.
  • On the close topic of planning, when and how would you book your tickets if not online? You may book it at the harbour the first time you arrive, but maybe booking online beforehand is competitive. In any case, if you decide to buy tickets at the harbour, I would recommend to write down now on a paper (or your smartphone) all the options you searched, the schedules, prices, and which one you prefer and for which reason. You would not want to lose time searching again for everything the night before you go on the boat.
  • Why would you not book in advance? Do you have super high fees on your credit card that makes buying it before going? I see they ask for 10 euro of reservation fee if you get your tickets there, which is low compared to the 60 euro *8 (people max per reservation) of the tickets. The site does not look trustworthy but in my experience, neither do the travel agencies in Greece.
  • A search of ferries for this trip on a random day in June showed 6 possible rides, so the risk, if you have no car, of missing a boat is not too bad, you can probably board another boat during the day.
  • If you have a car, you have more risks to have no spot on a boat (especially with 2 or 3 cars, as the Highspeed 5 of Hellenic Seeways has room for 90 cars). If you are a pedestrian, it is easier to "squeeze" (not literally, you will have room) 10 people on a boat.

Notes:

  • tickets for ferries have your name on it but it is not as strict as airplanes (for pedestrians at least), my name was wrongly spelled and they did not care.
  • Santorini harbour does not seem right by a village, so you should expect to lose time going by bus or car to the harbour if you decide to book your tickets while on the island.

Summary

To summarise, as large ferries use this itinerary, if you are a pedestrian, you can still take the risk of booking last-minute and you will have a spot. If you have a car, you take more risks.

But anyway it depends mostly on you and on how flexible you are: if you really cannot plan ahead what schedule you would want, then wait for the last minute with the risk of staying one more day. If you have a tight schedule and prefer peace of mind, book ahead.

Regarding where to book, I was not inspired by websites to buy tickets, but neither was I inspired by the travel agents in the harbour. I think there is no better choice, but if you are concerned about the security of buying online, this is totally understandable and a good point.

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    "You may book it at the harbour the first time you arrive, but then what is the advantage compared with booking online beforehand?" - mainly, my question arises from the fact that I did not perceive the boat info websites as having quite the same level of trustworthiness as, say, a hotel booking website. A hotel is somewhat stationary, the existence and location of buildings depicted on one website can be verified on another website (e.g. aerial photographs), whereas a boat ticket vending booth that is happy to provide pre-ordered tickets today might disappear without a trace by tomorrow. – O. R. Mapper Mar 7 '15 at 16:54
  • @O.R.Mapper good point, and do not see it as a judgement anyway, I actually did the same. – Vince Mar 7 '15 at 16:55
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    In any case, thanks a lot for all your suggestions. We don't have a car, though we have booked accommodations and thus are restricted to travelling on the indicated route at any time on a particular date. I'll wait for a few more days till I accept this answer, just in case someone else happens to somehow provide even better info, but I'll already upvote for now. – O. R. Mapper Mar 7 '15 at 16:57
  • @O.R.Mapper I added comments on whom to book from, I remembered that when arriving at the harbour I was disappointed by the travel agents. – Vince Mar 7 '15 at 17:35
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    I have marked this answer as accepted as it is very well elaborated and considers various alternative cases. Hence, I think it is (among the answers provided so far) of the greater use to the public. Nonetheless, I personally ended up booking on the ferry agency suggested in the other answer and thus will reward that answer's author with a bounty. – O. R. Mapper Jun 30 '15 at 15:55
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+50

Alternatively to Hellenic Seaways (more expensive but faster): Seajets. Read the FAQ too.

My personal experience (native Greek) would also suggest that there is no need to book in advance. Only if, you keep checking the prices online a few a times a month until (say) May and you observe any significant price drop so you may save, otherwise prices should more or less be fixed.

Have a safe trip and great holidays!

  • I have marked the other answer as accepted as I think it is of greater use to the public. However, I did use your suggestion of booking with Seajets (which actually took about the same time as and was even a few Euros cheaper than Hellenic Seaways - we travelled on the quite spacious Tera Jet ferry), therefore I'll give you a 50 rep answer-reward bounty (in 23h). We booked online, but very briefly before the trip (so the payment of the credit card bill was due after the boat trip). Finding the agency of Seajets in Thira was actually very easy. – O. R. Mapper Jun 30 '15 at 16:02
  • Appreciate the bounty. Of course the other answer deserves to be accepted, but I'm glad I helped. – ilakast Jul 2 '15 at 1:09
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Well, we usually book in advance in Greece for any boat trip we make so I would advice you to book at least a month earlier. I should also remind you that even though September and October are not considered full season in Greece, there are lots of tourists roaming the country and especially the islands since the weather is still very hot in these months. I don't find it impossible that you find tickets the day that you want to travel but it would be safer for you to book in advance. Almost all travel agencies in Greece can book you tickets for the islands, I am not sure how you can book online though because I have never tried it.

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