So,you’ve finally made it to Rhodes on your way to Symi as an independent traveller. You may have made the journey before on a package holiday, or it may be the first time. Let me help you through the airport, the transfer to Rhodes Town, and the ferry journey.
Rhodes airport is not large, though the terminal building doubled in size when the extension opened last year. In many ways it is a typical Mediterranean holiday airport – right on the coast, because that’s the only plece there was enough flat land to build it, and with no jetbridges to connect the planes to the terminal. There’s room for a couple of domestic flights to park in front of the terminal and allow their passengers to walk across to the arrivals doors, all other flights are parked too far away to walk, or where passengers would be at risk from moving planes or baggage trolleys, so you end up being taken a couple of hundred metres on a bus.As normal in Greece, if you arrive on a domestic flight or one from one of the Schengen Agreement countries you enter through the Schengen doors, otherwise use the Extra Schengen doors which will route you past Passport Control. A word of warning here, if two Extra Schengen flights arrive in quick succession, especially if one is from outside the EU, this will swamp the police manning the immigration desks and you’ll end up queueing out into the sunshine. Have a hat handy!
There’s no point rushing if you have baggage to reclaim as the baggage hall is one of the unmodernised bits of the airport. There are four conveyors/carousels, and this year there are nice new screens which tell you which one the bags from your flight will appear on, but they don’t say when…. Domestic flights get preferential treatment and 10-15 minute waits are normal for them. Because most international flights are charters, or have large blocks of seats sold to tour operators, planes from different regional airports in the same country are timed to arrive within a few minutes of each other. This makes it easy to organise reps and transfer coaches, but it plays havoc with the airport infrastructure. Three ground handling companies share the work of baggage handling on international flights – Goldair (who also deal with Aegean domestics), Olympic, and Swissport, but with so many flights at once they are at full stretch. I’ve known it take up to 2 hours for the last bag to appear from a flight in peak season.
While you’re waiting for your bags, there are toilets near where you enter the baggage hall, and an ATM (cash machine) on the opposite wall.
If you do have a problem with damaged or missing baggage, the airport information point and the handling agents offices are in the checkin area nearby – walk out of the baggage hall, turn left and go past the car rental desks . The information point is under the spiral staircase, and the handling agents are on the far end wall.
Hopefully all is well and you can therefore walk straight ahead out of the baggage hall, past the meeters and greeters and reps, into the open air. Right in front of you across the drop off area (take care, there’s lots of traffic, it all comes from the left) are the taxis. Normally there are plenty and the fare to Rhodes Town is fixed – currently its 20 euros, though there can be extras (here is the official price list). Occasionally if there is a taxi shortage the drivers, or sometimes even the police, will fill up seats in taxis with other people going in the same direction, When this happens each person (or group) pays the official fare, rather than it being split between them. This is quite legal.
There is also a bus service to Rhodes Town. Now as you come out of the terminal you’ll see signs pointing to a bus stop, which is actually in front of a small planted area between the old and new bits of the terminal building. What isn’t clear is whether this is the stop for buses towards Rhodes Town or towards Paradissi and the other west coast villages.However if you walk up the airport exit road to the main road a few metres away, you should see a bus stop across the main road. This definitely serves Rhodes-bound buses!. The bus timetable is here. If anyone finds out which buses use the stop outside the terminal, please let me know.
Now if you have booked accommodation on Symi through Symi Visitor Accommodation and you are worried by the thought of sorting out taxis or catching the bus, you can pre-book their VIP service and you will be met at the airport and taken to the right place in Rhodes Town to catch your ferry.
This brings me to the next part of the blog, which will be the ferry crossing to Symi.
Incidentally, if you think there’s too much text and not enough pictures in this blog, I agree, and we’re trying to recover the pictures that illustrated the old blog. As they surface, I’ll add them into the posts.