So you’ve set your sights on Europe and are dreaming of a magical trip to Greece, but you’ve got one problem: a holiday cruising the Greek islands sounds way over budget. Well, I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be! On the contrary, Greece can be extremely affordable if you know how to do it right. Stunning white beaches, spectacular mountain scenery and mouth watering Mediterranean cuisine are all within reach. So what are you waiting for? Count your pennies and get packing!
When to go
When planning a budget trip to Greece, your best bet is to travel outside the peak summer season between July and August. The favorable hot temperatures during this time attract huge numbers of tourists, causing price inflations. Greece’s summer school holidays also play a part in this busy season, taking place from the end of June to the beginning of September.
Traveling during the shoulder seasons of May/June and September/October will result in less crowds, lower prices, and cooler temperatures still resembling a summer vacation. If you aren’t fussed on the weather, a trip to Greece in the low season between October and April will save you even more. These months see minimal tourists, so as well as enjoying attractions and restaurants with plenty of elbow room, there is also a great deal of well-priced accommodation options.
If you’re beginning or ending your trip in Athens, be mindful that Uber doesn’t operate here. Instead, travelers can utilize the ridesharing app Beat Taxi to get around for less. The extremely reliable, safe, and cheap Metro system in Athens can also get you from the city, down to the port, and everywhere in between for as little as €1.20. For leaving the islands, many people believe ferries to be the most affordable option. While this is usually true (with overnight ferries further cutting down on costs) it also pays to check the budget airlines before embarking on your trip, as flights out to the islands can sometimes cost as little as €45 for a round-trip. Check out Aegean Airlines, Olympic Airlines, and RyanAir. If you’re booking far enough in advance, you’ll hopefully be able to snag yourself a deal, saving yourself a lot of time and money.
Another penny-pinching tip is to plan out your travels geographically. The Greek islands are split into groups, so in order to cut down on the travel costs of flitting from one region to the other, choose just one group of islands to visit. The most popular group of islands are the Cyclades, but you could also choose to island-hop your way between the Lonian Islands or cruise the Dodecanese Islands along the Turkish coast.
Once on the islands, hired scooters, ATV’s or cars are the most efficient vehicle options. If you’ve got a lot of time on your hands, local buses will run between the main towns, but depending on which island you’re on, these are not always reliable. In order to ensure you are saving as much money as possible, be sure to book your transportation well in advance.
Where to stay
In general, accommodation is cheapest in bigger cities such as Athens and Thessaloniki, where hostels and dorm rooms can be as cheap as €10 a night. Out on the islands, hostels are still reasonably cheap, offering shared rooms for around €10-20 and private rooms for €50-70. For those who prefer a little extra space and privacy, there are still plenty of other options to choose from. Airbnb is safe, reliable, and budget-friendly for groups, while family-run bed and breakfasts or guesthouses also provide great options for much less. If you’re looking to save even more – and consider yourself a bit of a social butterfly – you could even try Couchsurfing. An extremely affordable way of traveling (that literally won’t cost you a cent) this is a great way to get to know friendly locals for an authentic experience.
While the Greek islands like Mykonos or Santorini have become synonymous with vibrant party scenes, these tourist hotspots often boast exorbitant price tags. But, if done right, you only need a modest budget to encounter gorgeous scenery and picturesque beaches. Some of the lesser-known islands listed above will be kinder on your wallet, even if staying in the Cyclades: skip Mykonos and Santorini in favor of the enchanting Kimolos, the luscious mountains of Andros, or the quiet beaches of Amorgos instead. Meanwhile, Zakynthos and Corfu make great low-cost options if cruising the Ionian Islands, and a trip to Kos in the Dodecanese Islands is sure to fit a tighter budget.
Where to eat
On the whole, Greece is replete with deliciously cheap eats to fill your stomach without emptying your wallet. One of the most inexpensive street foods is the koulouri, a ring of crunchy bread sprinkled generously with sesame seeds. Baked fresh daily, you’ll find them on most busy street corners for as little as 60 euro cents each. Other treats to look out for at your local bakery are cheese or ham filled pies or custard-filled pastries called bougatsa. After taking to the local markets to add fresh fruit to your bounty, you could have a delicious picnic on your hands at the cost of just a few euros. For a value lunch or dinner, scout out a souvlaki or gyros bar, where you can order skewers of succulent meat served with pita, salad, and chips with tzatziki. You simply cannot go to Greece without sinking your teeth into a gyro, especially for prices as low as €3 depending on where you are. For sit-down dinners in tavernas, expect to pay premium prices at restaurants within tourist hubs. In order to avoid this, choose restaurants off the main strips and look to where the locals choose to dine — remembering that Greeks like to eat dinner as late as 9 or 10pm. Seek out family-owned establishments for low-cost home-cooked meals, or head to the mini-markets early in the morning to purchase fresh produce and whip up something at home yourself!