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How to get around Symi without a car

A complete guide to visiting the Greek island of Symi without a car. Learn how to get around Symi by public transport using buses and boats to explore its beaches, towns and historic monastery.

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How to get around Symi without a car

Symi is one of the gems of Greece’s Dodecanese islands, with its colourful harbour and clear turquoise waters making it a popular day trip from Rhodes, or the perfect place for a peaceful longer break. And although it’s not a car-free island like Hydra, its small size means it’s easy to explore Symi without a car using buses, boats and on foot.

Cars and scooters are available for hire in Gialos, the island’s main port. And if you want to visit some of the more remote parts of the island then they’re useful to have. But you can also see plenty of Symi by public transport – including remote beaches, traditional villages and the impressive Panormitis Monastery – and this guide will show you how.

Blue seas in Symi along the road to Nimborio
The road to Nimborio

Getting around Symi by bus

Symi has two bus routes, both starting from the bus terminal in Gialos harbour. The bus terminal is just a small parking area at the side of the road so it can be easy to miss when there isn’t a bus waiting there – you can find it on the south side of the harbour, in between the pier where the Sebeco ferries stop and Pantelis restaurant (see map).

The first route runs from Gialos to Chorio and Pedi. This is the most popular as it avoids having to climb the 500 steps of the Kali Strata to Chorio, Symi’s hilltop old town. The bus climbs up past the windmills, with great views down into the harbour, then turns off into Chorio. It then carries on down to Pedi, terminating next to the beach.

Looking down on Pedi bay from Chorio in Symi
Looking down to Pedi from Chorio

The journey takes 10 minutes to reach Chorio and 20 minutes to Pedi. The current timetables are posted up on boards at the bus terminal, but services normally run hourly from 8am (except at 3pm). The last bus is at midnight in high season but earlier in low season. Buses depart from Gialos on the hour and return from Pedi at half past.

A bus journey costs €2 one way, whether you’re going to Chorio or Pedi. You don’t need to buy tickets in advance, you just pay the driver on the bus using cash.

The buses are small minibuses rather than coaches and they can get busy, particularly for the mid-morning and late afternoon services, so get there early if you want a seat.

Buses at Symi's bus terminal – yellow for Chorio/Pedi, turquoise for Panormitis Monastery
Buses at Symi’s bus terminal – yellow for Chorio/Pedi, turquoise for Panormitis Monastery

The second Symi bus route runs between Gialos and Panormitis Monastery, located in the far south of the island. The monastery is one of Symi’s most famous sights, built in Venetian style in the 18th century and dedicated to the island’s patron saint.

The bus to the monastery runs much less often than the one to Chorio and Pedi, with three services in each direction per day in high season and two in low season. There’s normally a bus early in the morning, one mid-morning and one early afternoon – though the timings vary slightly at weekends so check the latest timetable at the bus terminal.

Panormitis Monastery in the south of Symi
Panormitis Monastery

The journey to Panormitis Monastery takes around 40 minutes and runs across the centre of the island along a winding mountain road with hairpin turns (take a travel sickness pill if you’re a sufferer!). Tickets cost €10 return and again you buy tickets on board.

As well as the local bus, there’s also a bookable minibus transfer* available from Gialos to Panormitis Monastery, which gives you an hour at the monastery. Or you can visit Toli Bay, a beach in northeastern Symi, without a car on a day trip* from Chorio or Pedi.

Pedi beach, one of the places to visit in Symi without a car
Pedi beach

Getting around Symi by taxi

You can also use taxis to get around Symi – though there’s a limited supply, so it’s worth booking in advance, particularly in the evenings. The taxi stand in Gialos is close to the bus terminal. Make sure to check the price in advance as they often don’t use meters.

The clock tower in the harbour of Gialos, Symi
The clock tower in the harbour

Getting around Symi by boat

Another way to get around Symi without a car is by boat. You get lots of scenic views along the way, and there are several beaches around the island which aren’t connected by road so you can only get there by sea. Though if you’re travelling during the low season, note that boat trips and taxi boats normally only run between May and mid-October.

Sailing into Gialos

From Gialos

Taxi boats leave from the centre of the harbour in Gialos (see map). These small boats run to a regular schedule and call at several different beaches along the east coast of Symi – Agia Marina, St Nicholas, St George’s Bay, Nanou and finally Marathounda.

The boats normally depart hourly until lunchtime (10am, 11am, 12pm, 1pm) and then return hourly in the afternoon (2pm, 4pm, 5pm, 6pm). Note that like the buses, there’s no service at 3pm. Return fares cost €11–€16, depending on how far you want to go.

Or if you’re short on time and want to visit see a lot of the island in one day, you can take a boat trip with Poseidon Excursions. Their tour itineraries vary slightly each day but usually include Seal Cove, St Nicholas beach and stops for a BBQ lunch on Seskli island.

Taxi boat stand in Gialos

From Pedi

As well as the boats from Gialos, there’s also a little taxi boat which runs from Pedi harbour (next to the Blue Corner Café) to nearby St Nicholas and Agia Marina beaches. It doesn’t have a set timetable departing from Pedi, but leaves up to every 20 minutes when there are enough customers. And the return times are hourly, like the Gialos boats.

The boat journey only takes 5 minutes to St Nicholas beach and 10 minutes to Agia Marina, and costs €7 return. You can also walk back to Pedi from St Nicholas if you don’t want to wait for the boat back – it takes 20 minutes along a well-marked coastal path.

Or if you want to be more flexible and discover Symi’s smaller, lesser-known beaches, you can rent a boat (with or without a skipper) from local owners through SamBoat.*

On board the boat from Pedi

Getting around Symi on foot

You can also explore a lot of Symi on foot. It’s an easy, fairly flat walk around the harbour at Gialos, taking around 20 minutes from the bus station on one side to Nos beach on the other. Along the way you pass Symi’s clock tower and get fantastic views of the island’s Neoclassical buildings. There are also plenty of cafés and restaurants to stop at.

A bit more challenging is the climb up the Kali Strata to Chorio. The Kali Strata is a flight of around 500 steps cut into the hillside. It takes around 20–30 minutes to get to the top – it’s a good idea to take water with you and avoid climbing at the hottest time of day.

The Kali Strata and Chorio

You can also walk to Pedi in around 45 minutes via Chorio, though the second part of the route does involve walking along the road. And from Pedi it’s a 20-minute walk to St Nicholas beach or a more difficult 45-minute rocky walk to Agia Marina.

You can also get to several other Symi beaches on foot. Nimborio to the west of Gialos is 3km along the coast road or 2.3km via the inland route, so makes a good circular walk. And if you are up for more of a challenge, you can hike to remote beaches like Nanou (12km/4 hours one way) or Agios Vasilios/Lapathos (4.8km/2 hours each way).

St Nicholas beach

If you’re planning on hiking in Symi, beware that the paths are not all that well-marked – usually just with lines painted on stones along the way. Up-to-date walking maps of the island aren’t widely available, but this walking guide and map* were useful.

Getting around Symi by bike

There are no cycle paths and a lot of hills on Symi so it’s not the most obvious place for cycling. But you can hire an ebike which gives you a boost on the hills and lets you cover more ground. Bikes can be hired by the hour or day, and start from €7.

Paths along the harbour in Gialos

Looking for somewhere to stay in Symi?*

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A complete guide to visiting the Greek island of Symi without a car. Learn how to get around Symi by public transport using buses and boats to explore its beaches, towns and historic monastery | Symi public transport | Symi by bus | How to get around Symi | Greek islands without a carA complete guide to visiting the Greek island of Symi without a car. Learn how to get around Symi by public transport using buses and boats to explore its beaches, towns and historic monastery | Symi public transport | Symi by bus | How to get around Symi | Greek islands without a car

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