A Budget Travel Guide to Greece
So you’re heading to Greece, or dreaming of planning a trip to Greece. Greece is generally considered one of the cheaper countries in Europe to travel to. Having been there more than 20 times, and counting, these are my top budget travel tips for Greece.
Greece is generally cheap, however, getting there isn’t always the case, especially depending on where you are traveling from. If you want to visit Greece without breaking the bank, the first step is to plan your trip well in advance, as in at least 6 months to a year before your travel date.
Best Time of The Year to Visit Greece
The best way to save money is to avoid peak travel season, which is July and August. If you can, the ideal time to visit Greece would be in September. The weather is still very warm, however, you are less likely to have 40 oC scorching heat waves to make walking around unbearable. Also, the sea will be perfect for swimming, as it will have had all of the summer to warm up.
This will be obvious for any regular traveler, but the prices of flights and hotels will be significantly lower than during the peak months. You could save up to 50% or more on your accommodations and flights, depending on where you go and for how long.
Getting The Cheapest Flights
If your travel dates aren’t flexible and you have to travel during the peak July and August months, you should be searching for flights before the Christmas holidays. Most people usually wait until after the chaos of the holidays to starting thinking and planning their trip, and prices seem to rise in January/February and slowly creep up every month from then on. By booking your flight before most people are even thinking about planning their trip, you could save up to 50% off our flight for the same travel dates.
From Toronto to Athens, in the summer, flights are typically in the range of $1000-$1500 CAN. I booked my flight to Greece during the summer months for under $700 CAN by booking in November. If you haven’t, you can check out my blog post on how to get the cheapest flights.
Where to Stay in Greece
So now that you’ve scored yourself a flight deal to get to Greece, where are you going to stay once you get there? Hostels are generally going to be your cheapest option; however, you can still save money without having to stay in a hostel. I’ll be honest, I’ve never stayed in a hostel. As a germaphobe, the thought of having to squat over a shared toilet doesn’t sound all that enjoyable.
Last year, I stayed exclusively in Airbnbs, as they were consistently the cheapest accommodations available in every place I visited. This year I have mostly booked hotels, so be sure to check both and see what your options are. If you are staying a week or more in one place, most Airbnbs usually have some type of weekly or monthly discount for long stays.
Transportation in Athens
If you’re in Athens, be sure to stay somewhere close to the center, along the subway line. I don’t ever recommend taking taxis anywhere where there is a metro system, as it will cost you much more. The biggest unnecessary cab ride many travelers take is from the airport in to the city. A cab ride will cost you 40 or more euros, compared to just 6 euros a person if you take the X95 bus that is just outside the arrivals doors.
Getting to The Islands
Almost everyone heading to Greece will undoubtedly end up on one of Greece’s islands. Let’s face it, Greece is famous for its 1000s of islands that dot the sea, so a visit to Greece without a stop on an island just wouldn’t be complete. Most people head to the port of Piraeus without a second thought, assuming that taking a ferry to the islands will be cheaper than a flight, which isn’t always the case.
Surprisingly, taking a ferry to an island could end up costing you twice as much. It’s important to compare flight and ferry prices before booking. If you book early, many ferry companies offer up to 20% off for early bookings. Booking your return ferry or flight will also be cheaper than booking a one-way ticket.
Which Islands to Visit
So you’ve seen pictures of Santorini and Mykonos and you just have to go there. Unfortunately, those are the two most expensive islands. They are absolutely beautiful but if your budget is tight and you don’t like staying in hostels, there are many other beautiful islands that are much cheaper, where accommodations can be found from $50-$100CAN for two (or even less if you book early or travel during the off season), as opposed to $150-$200+ CAN in Santorini and Mykonos. Crete, Rhodes, Skiathos, Syros, Milos, Zakynthos, Kefalonia and Corfu are just a few of the islands worth visiting that won't break the bank.
Where to Eat
One of the biggest expenses aside from airfare and accommodations, for me, always ends up being food. Maybe I’m just a glutton, but half the day always seems to be spent eating. What’s the point of traveling if not to try the great local cuisine of the places you visit? You cannot visit Greece without sitting down for a meal like a local and trying a bunch of different mezes (appetizers), at least once or twice.
If you’re on a budget however, you’ll want to opt for a Gyro(pronounced YEE-RO) or Souvlaki on the go, for at least a few of your meals. A gyro or souvlaki in a pita, is meat, usually chicken or pork with tzatziki, tomatoes, onions and fries wrapped in a pita. They will usually cost anywhere from 1.50-2.50 euros, much cheaper than a meal at a restaurant that will cost you anywhere from 6-15 euros a person depending on what and where you eat.
Generally, you should avoid the main tourist strip when choosing where to eat, as the prices are normally higher and the quality lower than if you walk down the side streets. If you are staying in an Airbnb with a kitchen, you will also have the option of cooking some of your meals, which will also save you money.
Where to Get Your Caffeine Fix
As a coffee lover, I cannot fathom not having my daily coffee. If you look at the price of a frappe, which is a Greek iced coffee that all the locals drink, you might be shocked to see prices of 3-4 euros at cafes (more than the cost of a Gyro). Unless you are choosing to have coffee somewhere because the place offers an unbelievable view, thus making 4 euros for a coffee worthwhile, I’d opt for a much cheaper coffee at the Greek chain Gregorys. Here you can get a coffee for around 1-1.5 euros or an espresso for .40 cents. You can’t walk more than a few blocks without seeing one. Just look for their big green sign.
Transportation on The Mainland
If you opt to not visit the islands, or choose to explore the mainland as well, and you aren’t renting a car, you will end up taking the KTEL, which is the national bus line that travels throughout the country. Certain regions are also connected by train and the train will generally be cheaper, up to 50% off or more compared to the KTEL for certain routes, and it is quite comfortable. Be sure to compare the times and prices for both before deciding.
If you're a student under the age of 26, make sure to bring your student card, as some places (like the Acropolis) offer student discounts, so be sure to ask before purchasing your tickets.
Now that you know how to travel Greece like a budget-savvy pro, you can get started on planning your trip. If you have any budget travel tips of your own, comment them below!