The ferries are the ideal way to get from Athens to any island – Rhodes included – if you are on a low budget or with your own car and have plenty of time on your hands. Can also be a great way to make friends: a guitar and some wine go a long way and make a lot of friendships on a ferry deck.
The port of Piraeus (or Pireàs as pronounced in Greek) is the main hub for the Greek islands. It is a large port covering an extended part of the city of Pireas and it can be rather confusing to find your way around. There is a map you can download from the Greek Ministry of Mercantile Marine. Notice that all ferries to Rhodes and the Dodecanese islands depart from Port Gate E1.
There are numerous sites that are offering online booking for ferry tickets to Rhodes or other Greek islands. We do recommend to use them for your bookings but notice that you can purchase tickets from these sites at most for two months in advance (remember that the port code for Rhodes is ROD). You can get tickets via a travel agent in your country but it must have a Greek Travel Agent permit. You can also buy tickets directly from the port of Piraeus. You don’t have to worry much about availability if you are not traveling in high season (July and August) if you remember to avoid the weekends. There is a ticketing office at the Port Gate E1, in front of the ferries dock. If you’re traveling through or from Italy, there is a shipping company that has ferries that connect both Italy to Greece and Piraeus to Rhodes so you can buy your tickets in Italy at port of Ancona or Bari. There should not be any variation in charges between online bookings and at travel agencies, but the ticket might be cheaper when you buy directly from the port (depending on availability).
The journey can be long, from 12 to 18 hours. This is because the ferries stop to a number of islands before arriving in Rhodes. Usually the departure is in the afternoon (6-7 p.m.), so during most of the travel you will have the time to sleep. There are also some daily schedules that can be tiring but you can consider it as a mini cruise. You will have the opportunity to enjoy the views and photograph some of the most beautiful Aegean islands. Currently there are not high speed ferries operating.
During the winter the ferry schedules are not very fit and there are cancelation due to bad weather. As the season opens (from mid April), schedules begin to increase in number and become more reliable. Usually companies release their schedules on a weekly basis, so be warned, schedules found online may not be very accurate.