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Backpack & Budget

Some New Athens Connections

March 15, 1998|LUCY IZON | Izon is a Toronto-based freelance writer

Looking for information about getting around Greece on a student-style budget? Kevin Banks, a South African who has worked at Hostel Aphrodite in Athens for four summers, has created a free newsletter for fellow travelers called Connecting With Athens. It offers brief, helpful information on reaching Athens by rail, bus and ship; what to see; what to avoid; and how to get to the Greek islands.

Banks says one popular and cheap way for travelers to get to Greece is by ship from Brindisi, Italy. It's a 19-hour trip and gives travelers a chance to stop over in Corfu. Those traveling on Eurailpasses get free "deck class" passage (no amenities), but must pay port taxes, which are about $10. An extra $15 is charged when traveling between June 10 and Sept. 30.

Athens, while crowded, noisy and polluted, is the heart of modern and ancient Greece. It is home to many of the country's most fascinating ancient ruins and archeological discoveries. It is worth a few days' stay even though the islands are also a lure. The "Lonely Planet: Greece" guidebook recommends the Hostel Aphrodite--"one of Athens' best hostels." The hostel (12 Einardou, near the Victoria tram station) has received good reviews in several budget travel guidebooks. Rooms have one to four beds and rates average $8 to $14 per person, per night.

This summer Internet services will be available to guests. The hostel also has a travel agency, which sells a summer Island Pass that allows travel among four islands for the price of a round-trip fare to one island.

Guests can get a copy of Connecting With Athens at the hostel or via e-mail at hostel-aphrodite@ath.forthnet.gr.

Also affiliated with Hostel Aphrodite is the Student Travelers Inn at 16 Kidathineon, Athens, in the popular Plaka area. It has rooms for two to four travelers for $11 to $20 per bed. "Let's Go: Europe" found it to be "pricey, but convenient, with a great staff." A 10% discount is available to travelers with the International Student Identity Card.

Athens also has a Hostelling International youth hostel, a former hotel at 16 Victor Hugo St. The International Youth Hostel (telephone 011-30-1-52-34-170) is $5.25 to $7 per night for a room shared by four travelers.

For an economical meal, you'll have to shop around and compare prices at the local tavernas. For a quick fix there are always Greek "fast food," stalls with souvlaki (chunks of meat and vegetables wrapped in pita bread).

Two major Athens sites are the Acropolis and the Acropolis Museum. If you are a student, carry an International Student Identity Card because you can get a 50% discount on admission.

Adjoining the Acropolis site is the Athenian Agora (the ancient marketplace of Athens), with its Temple of Hephaestus. Students with the ISID card are also eligible for a 50% discount here. The structure dates back to 440 BC and is known as the best-preserved temple in the country.

The National Archeological Museum at 44 Patission St., home to one of the world's premier collections of ancient Greek art, also offers students a 50% discount with the ISIC card. The museum and the Acropolis are free on Sundays.

Students should also inquire about reductions at theatrical performances. The annual summer-long Athens Festival (concerts, a ballet and plays) offers some tickets at student rates.

Izon is a Toronto-based freelance writer. She can be reached at http://www.izon.com.

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