It has been nearly two years since the last ferry ran from Bodrum to Kos before closing indefinitely due to pandemic precautions. I know this because my mom and a group of her friends were on the last boat that made the trip and they even had to quarantine afterward because of it. For those who live along Turkey’s southern coast, taking a day trip to a Greek island is just par for the course.
The ferries with routes from Bodrum to Kos, Çeşme to Chios, Fethiye to Rhodes and Ayvalık to Lesbos are all relatively quick, organized and extremely pleasant. Most ferries, if not all, have services that leave in the morning and return the same afternoon, making a quick day trip to Greece both feasible and fun.
While the short time span of four to six hours between the boats’ arrival and departures does not allow for a thorough discovery of the islands, it is certainly enough time to get lunch, wander around the port area of each town and do some shopping. Of course, you can stay at any of these destinations overnight and simply return on the day of your choosing.
After a brief hiatus in services, luckily for us expats down south and anyone else that fancies a quick jaunt to Greece, ferry services between Turkey and Greece have officially resumed. Hopefully, we can now expect increased destination options and days trips are offered in the months to come.
Fethiye to Rhodes
The first ferry from Turkey to Greece appears to be a voyage that set off on Saturday, Feb. 26. While it was scheduled for the day prior, weather conditions necessitated a delay of one day. Keep in mind that during the off-season months, ferries must cancel services when the weather conditions do not present safe passage. However, as in the case with last weekend’s voyage, the ferry service is usually quickly rescheduled to the closest day the storm watch will allow.
Nonetheless, the hour and 45-minute catamaran voyage is scheduled to sail from Fethiye to Rhodes every Friday and Sunday departing at 8:30 a.m. for Rhodes and then leaving to Fethiye at 5:30 p.m. The cost for the voyage is 50 euros ($56) for a return trip on the same day, 60 euros for a return trip on different days and 45 euros for a one-way ticket. The travel agency arranging the trips from Fethiye is Tilos Travel and they will also be servicing the route from Kuşadası to Samos starting towards the end of March. While the Fethiye to Rhodes trip is admittedly one of the longest, at nearly two-hours duration each way, the ferry ride from Kuşadası to Samos is much more digestible at just 40 minutes.
At the moment the Fethiye to Rhodes trip is the only route currently operating. However, come the end of March and into April, many more additional services are scheduled to operate between Turkey and the Greek isles. That said, Rhodes is the largest of the Dodecanese islands and is well worth spending a few days exploring.
Çeşme to Chios
On March 1, the route from Çeşme to the North Aegean island of Chios will resume with vehicle-transporting ferries taking off at 2 p.m. from Çeşme with a return service leaving Chios at 5 p.m. The route takes just half an hour and will be offered on Tuesdays and Thursdays. On the weekends, there will be even more services with a ferry departing Çeşme on Fridays, starting March 5, at 7:30 p.m., and at 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Saturdays.
Ayvalık to Lesbos
One of my personal favorite islands to visit from Turkey has to be the North Aegean island of Lesbos, which will be reachable via car-transporting ferries from Ayvalik. The ferry lands in Mytilene, and the wonderful island offers many regions and beaches steeped in history and natural beauty to explore. It may just be worth your while to pay a visit, especially as ferry services are planned to be resumed within the next two weeks. Serviced by Turyol, the trip takes an hour-and-a-half but is well worth it, so check out their website for the soon-to-be-determined schedule of ferries between Ayvalık and Lesbos.
Bodrum to Kos
In April, services between Bodrum and the neighboring Dodecanese island of Kos will resume, although the days and timing of the routes have yet to be determined. Speaking with Bodrum Feribot, I was told that it is likely the 20-minute voyage will be serviced by catamaran rather than by ferryboat for the time being. While the ferry boat ride from Bodrum to Kos takes approximately 45 minutes, it does allow for the option of boarding with a car.
Things to consider…
While in the past there have been periods in which Turks were allowed to visit the Greek islands on day trips, at the moment a Schengen Visa is required for Turks to set foot on Greek soil. There are also pandemic precautions in place, so it is important to be aware of the requirements before boarding, which at the present include submitting a COVID PDF form and a vaccination certificate. The travel agency you purchase a ticket from can assist in both obtaining visas and providing updates on the latest pandemic measures in regard to maritime travel. It is forbidden to bring dairy or meat products into Turkey and such items may be confiscated at customs. Each passenger is allowed to bring in one bottle of hard alcohol and one bottle with lower alcohol content such as wine. Products such as these can also be purchased from duty-free shops, which are open on the Greek port side.