Santorini, one of the most picturesque islands in the Aegean Sea, is a magnet for tourists from around the world. Amidst the breathtaking sunsets, white-washed buildings, and crystal-clear waters, an (almost) efficient and (almost) reliable public transportation system operated by KTEL Santorini plays a vital role in connecting various parts of the island. Whether you’re a budget traveler or someone who prefers to explore at your own pace, understanding the ins and outs of Santorini’s bus system is crucial. This extensive guide will cover everything you need to know about KTEL Santorini, including some of the history, how to buy tickets, major routes, schedules, tips for travelers, and more. Let’s dive into the history, development, and current operations of KTEL Santorini!

Some history of KTEL Santorini

KTEL Santorini is part of the larger KTEL (“Koino Tamio Eispraxeon Leoforon”, “Common Funds of Bus Proceeds”) network, which operates regional bus services throughout Greece. The concept of KTEL was established in 1952, aiming to create a unified public transport system in the country. KTEL Santorini as a company was founded as part of this initiative to cater to the unique needs of Santorini’s residents and tourists, so it is the main public transportation provider on the island.

In its early years, company of KTEL Santorini faced several challenges typical of post-war Greece, including limited infrastructure and resources. The initial fleet consisted of a few buses that operated on basic routes connecting key towns and villages. Despite these challenges, the company laid the foundation for what would become a vital transport service on the island.

As tourism in Santorini began to boom in the latter half of the 20th century, KTEL Santorini expanded its services to meet the growing demand. The company invested in a more extensive fleet of buses, introduced new routes, and improved the frequency of services. By the 1980s, KTEL Santorini had established itself as the primary mode of public transportation on the island.

The 1990s and early 2000s saw further modernization efforts, including the introduction of more comfortable and efficient buses and enhanced scheduling systems. These developments were crucial in managing the increasing influx of tourists and ensuring that both residents and visitors had access to reliable transportation.

Since the beginning it has grown to… 23 public buses

Santorinika Travel Agency, from personal experience of living on the island

KTEL Santorini operates as a cooperative, a common structure for KTEL companies across Greece. This means that the company is collectively owned by its members, who are typically the bus owners, drivers and operators. There’s something cosy about it.

The company is headquartered in Fira, the capital of Santorini, which also serves as the central hub with a main bus station for its bus network. From this hub, KTEL Santorini coordinates its various routes and manages scheduling.

Fleet, technologies and services in 2024

KTEL Santorini boasts both old and modern fleet of buses that cater to the diverse needs of its passengers. The fleet includes standard city buses, mini-buses for less crowded routes, and larger coaches for popular destinations. These buses are equipped with modern amenities such as air conditioning, comfortable seating and large tinted windows – in Santorini, it’s all very important.

Volvo Irizar, some of the modern buses used for public transport in Santorini, Greece
Volvo Irizar, some of the modern buses used for public transport in Santorini, Greece

But if you are lucky, you might also have a look at these buses:

Santorini is also home to vintage vehicles, like these beautiful Mercedes-Benz buses
Santorini is also home to vintage vehicles, like these beautiful Mercedes-Benz buses

Bus system in Santorini: routes and connectivity

KTEL Santorini operates an extensive network of routes that connect key towns, villages, beaches, and tourist attractions. The central bus station in Fira is the starting point for most routes, making it easy for passengers to transfer between buses and reach their destinations efficiently.

Key routes include:

  • Fira to Oia is one of the most popular routes, especially for tourists heading to Oia for its famous sunsets. During the peak season (June to September), buses run approximately every 30 minutes from early morning until late evening. In the off-season, buses may run every hour. Check the route timetable here;
  • Fira to Kamari – this route connect Fira with some of the island’s most famous black sand beaches, and this route is frequently used by beachgoers. Buses run every 20-30 minutes in the peak season, with reduced frequency in the off-season. Check the route timetable here;
  • Fira to Perissa – another popular beach destination, Perissa offers a range of water sports and beach activities. The frequency of buses is similar to the Fira-Kamari route. Check the route timetable here;
  • Fira to Akrotiri – this route serves the village, the archaeological site of Akrotiri and the nearby Red Beach. Buses run less frequently compared to beach routes but are still regular, especially during tourist season. Check the route timetable here;
  • Fira to the Airport of Santorini – essential route for travelers. Buses align with flight schedules, running more frequently during peak arrival and departure times. Check the route timetable here.

You can find all the information about buses and timetables on this page and here are the regularly updated fares.

The frequency of buses varies by route and season, with more frequent services during the peak tourist months (June to September). KTEL Santorini adjusts its schedules to accommodate the seasonal influx of visitors, ensuring that transportation remains smooth and efficient even during the busiest times.

KTEL Santorini timeliness and schedule reliability

Wel… Let’s face it, it depends 🙂 For the sake of argument, let’s just say that there are three periods that are worthy of separate discussion.

  • Peak season: buses tend to run on time, but popular routes can experience delays due to heavy traffic and high passenger volumes. Heavy traffic – high delays;
  • Off-season: schedules are more relaxed, with fewer buses running, which might require more planning. Delays are still possible;
  • Night buses both during the summer and winter: night-time services are limited or non-existent.

We like to say, that…

Public buses in Santorini run on GMT – Greek Maybe Time

Santorinika Travel Agency, from personal experience of living on the island

That’s all you really need to know. We’re kidding. Or are we?

Local tips and considerations

Quite a lot, actually. So please read the general information and our comprehensive guide to using the bus network in Santorini. Let’s list some of the key things about KTEL Santorini.

  • Peak season crowds: buses can become extremely crowded during the summer months, especially on popular routes like Fira to Oia. Arriving early at the bus stop can help secure a seat;
  • Have cash and change: since tickets are often purchased on the bus (see “How and where to buy bus tickets“), having small denominations of cash can make transactions smoother;
  • Bus stops: honestly speaking, bus stops are usually not well-marked. In some areas yes, in some no. In more remote areas, stops might be less obvious, so asking locals or the bus driver for assistance can be helpfull;
  • Accessibility: buses are generally not equipped for passengers with mobility issues. Travelers requiring special assistance may need to consider alternative transport options (so book a taxi or private transfer in advance);
  • Language: English is widely spoken by bus drivers, conductors and staff, which eases communication for international tourists.

Customer Experience: KTEL Santorini is good!

KTEL Santorini is committed to providing a positive customer experience. They really try to do their best. The coaches are maintained to high standards of cleanliness and safety. Regular maintenance checks and inspections ensure that the fleet remains in top condition, minimising breakdowns and delays. No worries here. Buses are always clean, air conditioning is on and so on. In addition, clear signage in several languages and the availability of information at bus stops and on the buses themselves help non-Greek-speaking passengers to navigate the system more easily. And…

Always remember – the bus ride costs you just like 2 euro!

Santorinika Travel Agency, from personal experience of living on the island

In Santorini such prices are nothing.

Customer Experience: where KTEL Santorini could do better

Despite its many strengths, KTEL Santorini faces several challenges. The island’s geography, characterized by steep hills and narrow roads, can make driving difficult, particularly during the peak tourist season when traffic is heavy. Additionally, the seasonal nature of tourism means that the company must balance resources and staffing levels to handle fluctuations in demand. One area where they can improve – is a schedule, or, more accurately, following a schedule.

It’s important to note that not all buses (and bus stops) are fully equipped for passengers with disabilities, but efforts are being made to improve accessibility where possible.

Another thing is the bus stops. Sometimes it is really, really hard to find one because the sign is… in the bushes or just has fallen victim to the inexorable march of time. Either way, look for these signs:

A bus stop sign in Santorini..... when you can see it clearly
A bus stop sign in Santorini….. when you can see it clearly

Wrapping up

KTEL Santorini provides good services for locals and tourists alike, offering an affordable way to explore the island. From its humble beginnings to its current status as a modern transport provider, KTEL Santorini has always adapted and evolved to meet the needs of its passengers. With a commitment to safety, customer service and continuous improvement, KTEL Santorini ensures that travelling around our beautiful island can be an enjoyable and hassle-free experience most of the time.

With its comprehensive network centered around Fira, you can easily reach key destinations such as Oia, Kamari, Perissa, Akrotiri, the airport, and the seaport port of Athinios. Understanding the ticketing system, key routes, and schedules can significantly enhance your experience on Santorini. Whether you’re heading to a secluded beach, an archaeological site or simply exploring the island, KTEL Santorini can be your transport partner (especially if you have some free time and a flexible schedule – otherwise it’s better to book a taxi or private transfer).

What can be useful for holidays in Santorini

Are you planning a holiday in Santorini? Or are you already on the island? We are happy to help you organise your vacation! Check out tips, services and offers:

Airplane tickets

If you try SkyScanner or Aviasales, you can find low-cost tickets to Santorini in advance.

Hotels and villas

If you check accomodation in advance, you’ll be pleased with the number of great hotels in Santorini. We also recommend you to pay attention to the selection of our favorite hotels. We stay in many of them ourselves

Transfers

If driving is not your thing, it’s best to arrange a way to get around the island beforehand. Check the bus timetables, compare taxi offers from Kiwitaxi and our transfer options.

Book a car

There are not many cars in the car hire companies, so once again the aggregator service comes in handy: all the options in one place.

Tours and guides

In our online store you can choose and book group or private tours in Santorini in advance.


Santorinika

Santorini Travel Agency: group excursions and boat trips, private guides and individual itineraries, helicopter aerial excursions, yacht and catamaran rentals - everything you may need for your vacation in Santorini!