How I Afforded Traveling The Greek Islands

I put off traveling to the Greek islands for one reason and one reason only. Travel to these pieces of paradise always seemed to cost the price of purchasing one of the islands. Flying all the way to the Greek islands was a charge that appeared as insurmountable as climbing Mount Olympus. Those accommodations with infinity pools to the sea on Santorini remained on Pinterest boards and stayed there due to the reality of what those would cost.

Finally in September, I made it to the Greek islands after years of resenting my wallet and bank account for holding me back. And while traveling the Greek islands was certainly not my most budget friendly trip, I did discover that you could afford traveling from island to island in Greece by following a few simple tips. If you want to travel the Greek islands, you can take it off the dream list relatively simply.

Crete Beach 

Part of the battle is getting there

I put off traveling to the Greek islands mostly due to the cost of the plane ticket. From Denver, to fly all the way to Santorini, I boarded three flights, Denver to Frankfurt, Frankfurt to Athens and Athens to Santorini. As we were traveling just at the end of the busy summer season, tickets were pricy, around $1500 a person. If you are trying to afford a trip to the Greek islands, part of your budget’s battle will be getting there. In hindsight, I wish we booked a cheaper ticket to another major European city, spent a few days there and then snagged a more affordable ticket to the islands.

 Flying To The Greek islands

Also, we didn’t technically have to fly right into Santorini. I was trying to avoid a long ferry ride to Santorini from Athens. Bottom line, if you are looking to afford a trip to the Greek islands and you are flying from several plane rides away, I recommend finding a more affordable connection between European airports. Also you can really save by flying into Athens and taking a ferry to the islands instead, especially if you pick a slower boat.

Take slower ferries to save big bucks and plan an island-hopping route that makes sense

The high-speed ferries between the different islands tend to cost almost 6 times what the slower boats do. We took both high-speed ferries and the slower ferries throughout the Greek islands. Our ticket from Paros to Crete on a high-speed ferry cost around 60 Euros. However our ticket from Folegandros to Paros on a slow boat cost 10 euros a person. The ride added on 3 hours to our journey compared to the faster ferry.

 Waiting on the Ferry in Greece

If you have the time, it is worth saving 50 euros here and there to take the slower ferries. And just because the ferry is high-speed, the boat won’t always be plush and comfortable. Our expensive, high-speed ferry from Naxos to Folegandros ended up being delayed three hours and felt like a glass coffin on board. If you want to go to several different islands, it is worth it to spend some extra time on the water to save some Euros. Also, we drew up an island-hopping route that didn’t really make sense in that we went up and down and down and up in the Cyclades island chain. In the end, we ended up spending more on ferries because our route didn’t make much sense. You should plan an island-hopping route that almost goes in order of the islands, rather than jumping from one all the way up to another and back down again. 

Don’t stay on the tourist islands too long

Santorini was beautiful, but it was also the most expensive island that I visited. Meals quickly added up in cost along with our accommodations. In Oia, we paid far too much for a sub-par branded “luxury hotel”. If you stay on the overly touristy islands for long periods of time, you will pay. While you can find cheaper accommodations and more reasonably priced food, even the best deals on islands like Santorini are much more than those on other islands. When our ferry would make stops on other islands and the masses weren’t getting off, I made a mental note of these locales to return to at a later date. When you are getting off your ferry on Santorini, pushing and shoving hundreds of people, you know the prices are rising as you set foot on land.

 IMG_3230

Pre-booking transportation and accommodations on the islands can cost you

As it was our honeymoon, I wanted set plans in terms of rentals cars and hotels on each island. We pre-booked all of our rental cars weeks in advance. Once I arrived on many of the islands, the wealth of rental cars and scooters available had me pondering just how much more we were paying for advanced rentals. More often than not, you can just walk up to a car rental or scooter outlet and rent on the spot for less. Also, while I don’t want to dissuade people from purchasing car rental insurance at the counter, I often found it wasn’t necessary. The condition of most of our vehicles was pretty dismal, often loaded with scratches and nicks. When we would return the vehicles, the companies were usually very laid back and would merely walk around the car and them smile and say, “Ok!”

 Rental Car in Greece

If you want to save some cash, try negotiating a better deal in person than you see for online bookings. In today’s digital world, we can get caught up with booking everything from our accommodations to our transportation in advance. In Greece, I found a slower pace to life in which there is always a vehicle or room available, usually for far less than you paid weeks in advance. 

Go digging for deals on small archaeological attractions

From ruined temples to 7th century B.C. statues along the side of the road, the Greek islands all seem to have some impressive ruins that come with no charge. For example, on the island of Naxos, there are dozens of different archaeological sites that you can visit without forking over a Euro. While the archeological sites on Santorini and Crete cost a few Euros, these attractions were far from budget breaking. Even if you have to spend a bit more for food or a place to stay on some islands, you will have the peace of mind that your daily archeological attractions won’t break the bank. 

This guy was free to visit on the island of Naxos.

This guy was free to visit on the island of Naxos.

Have you been to the Greek islands? Share your tips for affording visiting these slices of paradise.

Comments

  1. says

    Getting to Greece is relatively easy for me from the UK and the budget airlines like Jet2, easyJet and Ryanair fly to various islands which could mean the cheaper connection you mentioned with a stopover in a UK city for example. The other thing I’d say is think outside of the islands you know of. I’ve so far avoided Santorini and Mykonos in favour of other islands which are much cheaper. From Kos you can hop to Kalymnos and Rhodes for example. I’d also recommend Crete for somewhere not necessarily to hop from (though Santorini is doable) , but as a large island with much to explore in itself including the beach at Elafonisi which looks like something from a much more exotic paradise than Greece’s largest island.
    This year I’m going to Kefalonia, but Corfu with its UNESCO old town is another island worth visiting. And Thassos where I went last year is easily reached from Kavala on the mainland by ferry and is somewhere you can get a three course meal for 2 with wine for less than 30 euros.

    • Suzy Guese says

      I definitely envy you for living in the UK in terms of flight deals across Europe. Rhodes is also on my list. We went to Crete as well and found it much more affordable than the big name islands. You’ll have to let me know how Kefalonia is!

  2. says

    Visiting the Greek Islands is my dream too, but yes, I agree it’s way too expensive! I appreciate your valuable tips. It’s nice the way you planned your trip. It sounds practical. Thanks for sharing.

  3. says

    Great tips! I only visited on a cruise ship, so the cost of staying on or getting to the islands didn’t come into play for me. But, I think choosing the less touristy islands is key. Although I would definitely pay a little more for a Santorini infinity pool!

  4. says

    in the end, it was your hunnymoon – your meant to spend a pretty penny right? I found the same of Greece however, there are s many beautiful non touristy islands that are both better to experience culture and better for the budget. I think going in low season helps as well. You still get the sun but its not as pricey and less touristy

    • Suzy Guese says

      We were definitely looking to have a nice honeymoon, but I didn’t spend really much differently than I do on regular trips. I totally agree. We went to Naxos, Paros, Folegandros and Crete, all much cheaper than well known Santorini.

  5. says

    I’m pinning this for my future trip to the Greek Islands (no idea when that will be, but I’ve always wanted to go). Do you think that Santorini is worth visiting when considering how much more expensive it is than the other islands?

    • Suzy Guese says

      I hope you do make it to the Greek islands Jenna. I think you would love the archaeology and landscape. I do think Santorini is worth seeing. Oia is remarkably beautiful, but very touristy.I also really enjoyed seeing Ancient Thira. If you like wine, which I know you do, there are loads of vineyard on Santorini. I only had time to try two so I think you could easily visit for two days and see Santorini. Also, it might be more bearable outside of the summer season. It definitely doesn’t feel as Greek compared to the other islands. When a Greek woman on the island asked me where I was headed after Santorini, I replied Naxos. She said it would be completely different, much more “Greek” as she put it. All in all, I think Santorini warrants a few days but not much more.

  6. says

    Really love the breakdown of everything in this post! I have been wanting to go to Greece for FOREVER but it’s either a bad time (flight prices are way too high) or timing with something else, but I am determined to go within the next 2 years! I’m happy to see that even a place like Greece can be done on a budget :)

    • says

      I was the same way for so long too! I definitely think Greece can be done on a budget. Like I said, it is just a matter of finding that cheap flight and getting there.

  7. Michelle Brantley says

    I did a similar trip last year, only I took a private yacht charter. It was so much more affordable that I expected. If you can get a group together (4 or more people) the cost for a week can be less than $1,000 per person and this includes food and drink. It definitely helps that your transportation and accommodation is combined. It really was the trip of a lifetime. We used a company called Greek Seas. They were fantastic, but I’m sure there are other great charter companies as well.

  8. says

    This is really great advice Suzy! If you’re savy there’s often a way to save on the initial cost of getting to your dream destination. Flight combinations and slower modes of transport are often key to saving you money. I was just about to book car rental for our stay in Hawaii next month but after reading your tip about holding back I think I’ll do some more research and see how saturated the market is. We might get a last minute deal when we fly in!

  9. says

    I’ve been dreaming of Greece for the past year, and plotting out how to get there – definitely some good advice here! I’ll actually be flying into Dublin and doing some volunteering projects & odd jobs in order to have free accommodation while I backpack my way down to the islands. I’ll be taking the slow ferry over for sure! :)

  10. says

    Currently in Piraeus ready to go to Santorini for the first time. Again, we are lucky being in the UK and scored a cheap flight to Crete, with plans to visit the Cyclades . Plans changed and after 3 days in Heraklion which I can recommend we sailed overnight to Piraeus, for a day in Athens, which was very tiring as we went Deck Class, and paid €30 for an hotel here. Got a fantastic deal in Santorini, apartment for €104, for 2 nights, one a friend had recommended. Treating today’s ferry ride as a mini cruise. Most expensive ferry is the high speed to Heaklion from Santorini. Looking forward to my first visit there.

  11. says

    Hallo Suzy, I am glad you enjoyed your stay in my lovely home country. l love GREECE!

    Wish you luck and send you kisses from Vienna!

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