The Athens International Airport at Spata is the gateway airport for most of Greece. If you're flying to or around Greece, chances are you will be going through Athens Airport at one point or another. Athens International Airport is often abbreviated AIA but the actual airport code is ATH. Use ATH if you are searching for flights into or out of Athens.
Athens International Airport Tips:
Like all airports around the world, the Athens International Airport is set up for a pair of purposes - to get departing passengers onto their planes, and to get arriving passengers out of the airport and into Athens.
However, if you are making a connection to somewhere else in Greece, you have to be alert to the signs guiding you to domestic departures. Otherwise, you'll be swept along with the crowd to the street to connect with various transportation options. If you have luggage, you'll need to go to the baggage area, get your bags, and then retrace your steps to get into the right area of the Athens International airport for your connecting flight.
Find Your Line at the Athens AirportIf you are traveling from the United States, or any non-E.U. nation, you may be directed to "E.U." lines for entry. Most travelers in Greece are from the E.U., so this is a natural mistake though it may cause some confusion. You want the "non-E.U." line. And if you're from the United States, you are not from a "Schengen" nation which you may also see as a line option.
Airport Elevator Signage - huh? Some travelers have also reported being confused by the elevator signs at the Athens International Airport - an inverted box with an image of a man and a woman, with arrows over their heads. This symbol is not repeated at the area actually holding the elevators, and the elevators are not visible from the doors. There, the idea is conveyed by a symbol showing a piece of luggage on a cart.
Athens Airport Essentials - Luggage Carts and Toilets You'll need one Euro for a luggage cart - but the dispensing machine will give change for a 2 Euro coin. If you haven't exchanged a small amount of money ahead of time - which I recommend - there are machines nearby which will convert various currencies into Euros.
Also, for a huge, modern airport, toilets are in curiously short supply. If you hate using airplane toilets during the last hours of a long flight, this is one time you may want to make an exception before you land. They are also scarce in the Athens Internatoinal Airport shopping area and at the gates for departing flights.
Long Layovers at Athens Could be Expensive
The Athens International airport Departure lounge shopping area is beautiful, with a wide variety of Greek goods, newsstands, pharmacies, and specialty food shops in addition to clothing stores and food-court type restaurants. The sole enclosed sit-down restaurant is located upstairs, next to the McDonald's, and is usually empty. There are often coupon booklets being handed out with a discount coupon for the food court, which will save you a few Euros.
In the shops, keep an eye open for the extensive wine collection though bottles will need to be placed in checked luggage.
In the Arrivals lounge, the Greek National Tourist Organization booth is also worth a stop to pick up free maps and travel brochures in several languages. The City of Athens operates a similar booth during the high season, staffed with friendly and helpful local Greeks.
Flight DelaysStuck at the airport? Here are some of my suggestions to fill the time.
Didn't get enough Greek culture yet?
Hit the Athens Airport Museum. There are also some nice pieces displayed just outside the airport terminal doors.
Fun Tests for Tired Travelers
If you don't travel frequently, two items at the Athens airport may be confusing. First, the luggage cart won't move unless you press down firmly on the handle.
And no, there hasn't been a power outage - that escalator standing still will start up as you approach, a somewhat disconcerting energy-saving device!
Where to Stay near the Athens Airport
So close to the Athens International Airport it could be mistaken for an adminstration building, the Sofitel airport hotel offers extremely easy access by foot from the airport. The official website is listed above, but try discounters and compilers such as Kayak to potentially get a better rate at this 4-star facility. Otherwise, expect to pay Euro 184 and up.
One problem facing travelers is that other hotel facilities in the airport area are limited, and the next closest full hotels are about a half an hour away at Vouliagmeni. Here is a list of hotels relatively near the Athens Airport. Savvy travelers are also taking advantage of the hotels at nearby Brauron (Vravrona), a pretty area boasting an excellent temple of Artemis, wineries, and spas.Stuck with a layover that is too short to warrant a hotel, but too long to go without sleep? You may be in luck - sort of. Read my own experiences and tips for Sleeping at the Athens International Airport.
The suburban railway directly serves the airport, and Metro Line 3 also goes to and from the airport. When it is operating, the Metro costs 8 Euro; two or three persons traveling together can get a single "family" ticket for 7 Euro each. Be aware that the Metro does not operate from the airport between approximately 11pm and 6am. In the meantime, I suggest a taxi if you are traveling with a lot of luggage, which can be difficult to manage on the suburban railway (many stations have lots of steps, and elevators are not always accessible) or on the regular buses.
Alternate Names for the Athens International Airport
The Athens International Airport at Spata is also known as the Eleftherios Venizelos Airport. It also is sometimes just called Spata or Spada.
The Athens International Airport code is ATH.
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