Once upon a time, Greece was considered a budget destination. Then the Americans and the travel influencers showed up and told everyone about Santorini and Mykonos.
And while that’s not automatically a bad thing (outside of the fact that I do wish some of my fellow countrymen would be a bit more considerate visitors), like many destinations that now deal with overtourism, it can make for a less enjoyable trip.
Not to mention that the more popular and trendy a destination, the more expensive it becomes.
Luckily, there are still ways to visit this lovely destination for an affordable price!
I’ve had the privilege to travel throughout Greece twice in my life. Once as a student and research assistant and once as a recent college grad.
Needless to say, on neither trip was I in any place to splurge on a luxury vacation.
However, I still immensely enjoyed traveling to this beautiful country, thanks to the following steps I took to ensure my wallet didn’t suffer too much!
1. Avoid Tourist Hotspots
The aforementioned islands of Santorini and Mykonos are the most well-known and thus most popular destinations in Greece. They’re also the most expensive and the most crowded.
These are the two main reasons I’ve never visited, despite having traveled twice to Greece. Honestly, the “party island” of Mykonos doesn’t exactly pique my interests, and while I’d love to visit Santorini, I think I need to go during the off-season to really enjoy it (more on that in a minute.)
You can still visit one or both of those islands if they are on your “must-do” list, but if you want to save money, I recommend visiting less-visited islands like Hydra, Agistri, Zakynthos, and Sifnos — just to name a few.
Also, Greece is more than islands, don’t forget about the mainland!
The Greek mainland is full of amazing places to visit — many of which won’t break the budget. From the cities like Athens and Thessaloniki to the mountains and monasteries of Meteora or Delphi and the Peloponesse and Mani Peninsulas, there are plenty of options!
2. Hit Up Supermarkets, Bakeries, and Kiosks
Restaurants and bars are lovely to wine and dine at and aren’t too expensive. However, cooking for yourself will always be the cheaper option if you’re trying to save money.
Cooking for yourself is actually a fantastic option in Greece where the supermarket products are fresh and top quality — especially produce, cheese, and pastries.
If you aren’t staying somewhere with a kitchen or just want a simpler and quicker remedy to a hungry stomach, bakeries and kiosks are common solutions.
Greek bakeries serve up delicious pastries, coffee, and bread from early morning to the afternoon. Kiosks, sort of like Greek bodegas, have a variety of snacks and drinks on offer — including beer and wine!
3. Skip the Fast Ferries
There are many different options for water transport in Greece, but the main way you’ll travel to and between islands is, of course, the iconic Greek ferries.
What they don’t tell you is how complicated it can be to figure out the ferry system. There isn’t really a centralized government website where you can purchase tickets online. If you prefer to purchase online, I recommend Ferryhopper or Ferries.gr. You can also book tickets to and from Albania, Croatia, and Italy on these sites.
Booking ahead of time can sometimes save money, but it is really only necessary during high season (June-August).
Otherwise, you can typically wander down to the port and find the office where you can purchase tickets. There are big, slow ferries (more akin to cruise ships) and smaller, speed-boat-like options which will often be more expensive.
So, if you have a choice and time, opt for the slower (and IMHO — more comfortable) ferries.
4. Visit in the Off-Season
The high season, like much of Southern Europe, is June through August, when most European and international vacationers go on holiday.
If you visit anytime outside of this period you will notice significant savings — particularly in the low, low winter season of November – March. However, this is when the weather is the least desirable (although still warmer than much of the continent) and many services close.
If you’re flexible and don’t mind unswimmable weather, November-March is a very affordable time to visit without the crowds!
5. Choose Activities Carefully
There are so many free or nearly-free activities to choose from in Greece. From hiking to swimming to random ruin viewing in cities and villages, if you don’t want to splurge on activities, you won’t have to.
But, if you dream of driving a 4Wheeler around the islands, bungee jumping off the Corinth Canal, or horseback riding the countryside, be prepared to factor that into the budget.
5½. Choose Beaches Carefully, Too
Paying for chairs on the beach is common practice across the Mediterranean. However, don’t just sit at the first one you come across.
Do a bit of shopping around for the best deal.
In Greece, you can sometimes bypass the fee by ordering from the beach bar. Alternatively, bring your own chair or towel and set up your own free hangout area.
Greece may be more of a hot spot these days, but it can still be done on a budget if you put forth a little effort!
Have you traveled to Greece? What’s your experience?
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