Finding the way from the airport to your yacht in a strange foreign land can be a daunting prospect. Don’t worry, it isn’t! So if this is the main reason you’ve booked packages in the past, read on. It’s often just a question of balancing how quick and comfortable you transfer is, with how much you’re prepared to pay. The difference between taking a bus and a taxi could easily add a couple of hundred Euros to the cost of your holiday but sometimes you don’t need to pay at all and can still travel in style.
Most yacht operators will arrange transfers for you, meaning someone will be waiting at the airport to greet you. In some places, such as Bodrum in Turkey, many operators will do this for free (though only one transfer each way per yacht booking, so if you’re changing crew mid holiday, or have people arriving on different flights at different times there will be a small charge for the extra transfers).
Even if you have to pay, this will often be cheaper than taking a cab from the airport and the bonus is they will stick around if your flight is delayed. The only downside can be the choice of vehicle. Whilst larger yacht operators will often employ a local company to do the job, smaller operations may rely on employee’s cars, though the days when you could end up squatting on the remains of a broken outboard engine wedged between a couple of spare sails have largely passed.
If you’re booking a package, transfers are usually pre-arranged but do read the instructions carefully. Some years ago as I helped one group of clients on board their yachts in a small island in Greece, I became aware there were two more clients than expected. They were quite easy to spot – they looked terrified, as they were expecting to shown to their luxury villa (the stilettoes were a giveaway), on a different island, not put on a small bobbing yacht! The coach driver, having checked all the names on his list in the airport arrivals hall, had simply said “come this way everyone” and had not realised he’d scooped up two extra passengers from a completely different holiday company in the process!
If no transfer is offered by your yacht provider, or you’re on a tight budget, there are often airport buses and/or trains that will get you at least close to your destination for much less than the cab fare. There are some exceptions, where the airport serves mainly Charter flights and so it is assumed most passengers will have transfers laid on by their tour operator, so it pays to check ahead.
For example, if you’re flying to Rhodes, there is a good service from the airport in to town, whereas if you are heading to Bodrum the only buses are laid on by the local airlines to serve internal flights, which can mean a wait of half a day for the next one! Details for each base are in the Sailing Areas section, or if not I’ll supply them on request if you book through me.
The other option of course is to take a taxi off the airport rank. This is getting a less fraught process as in many places the authorities have realised that tourists take exception to airport fares extortion that some cab drivers previously considered their inalienable right! So look out for boards advising prices from the airport to common destinations.
Do be aware though that many taxis are only licensed for 4 passengers (and with luggage even that may be a squeeze). Drivers are usually reluctant to bend on this, possibly due to the large police presence at many airports these days. So if you are a party of five, or a party of four with plenty of luggage, you may need two cabs.
If your holiday starts or ends on an island you may well need to take a ferry. You may have heard that in places like the Greek islands, the locals hop on and off ferries like Londoners used to hop on and off buses (in the days of Routemasters for convenience, since the arrival of bendy buses to dodge the ticket inspectors)! But there are some limitations to bear in mind.
You may find that services are not that frequent, that is if you can find out times at all. Even in places where the same company has been covering the same destinations for years, timetables are often still not issued until just before the start of the summer season. Outside the main season, services can be dramatically reduced or may stop altogether, something to bear in mind if you are travelling very early or late in the season.
This is where a good agent can help. I may not be able to devine the exact times, but I might be able to give you a fair idea, which could avoid you taking a flight that arrives too late for the last ferry of the day.
The other consideration applies particularly to the return trip. Ferries are a bit more prone to weather interruptions than trains or buses. In Greece for eample, the port authorities can stop ferries running if conditions are poor, which can be a blow if you have a plane to catch. This isn’t just an issue in areas of strong winds such as the Cyclades – I found all the ferries between Athens and Poros were stopped when I visited last summer, despite the fact that it’s only an hour across usually tranquil seas. The weather simply has no respect for ones travel plans!
So if you need to use a ferry, you may need to take a reasonably early flight to catch one before they stop for the night, and coming back, you might want to delay your flight home by a day, and plan on some sight seeing near the airport, to give youself some contingency against bad weather. Alternatively, buy open flight tickets, or pick somewhere that offers an alternative to the ferry, even if it isn’t such a pleasant ride!