THE GREEK ISLANDS
Last Updated: 9/22/2015
Everyone wants to visit the Greek Islands at some point in their lives, right? I mean, how could you resist the urge to want to watch one of Santorini’s famous sunsets and visit the beautiful beaches of the lesser known island of Milos?
Many people are under the impression that it is extremely difficult to visit the Greek islands on a budget. This may be true for those who lack the skills when it comes to planning and researching for a trip, but in reality those who arrive prepared will find that that are a variety of ways to visit the Greek Islands without breaking the bank.
GETTING TO GREECE
From the United States:
Getting to Greece is easy although it can be quite pricey depending on where you are flying from. For those of you flying from the United States, one of the best tips for finding cheap flights to Greece is to always look for flights departing out of major U.S. hubs. For example: LAX, JFK, ATL, BOS, IAD, MIA. All of those airports are major hubs in the United States and are usually great starting points when looking for the best deals on flights to Greece.
The best websites to use when searching for flights to Greece and the Greek Islands is Skyscanner and Google Flights. Use both of these sites in conjuction with each other to see what you can come up with for prices.
If you’re already in Europe then you’re more than halfway there. Simply log onto Skyscanner and Google Flights and begin your search. Again, the best deals are always found when searching for flights from major European hubs such as LON, LHR, MUC, BCN, FCO and those are just a few examples of the major hubs in Europe. You’ll likely find great deals on flights to Greece on airlines such as Aegean, Olympic and Ryanair.
YOU MIGHT ALSO ENJOY: HOW TO FIND CHEAP FLIGHTS USING TWITTER
GETTING TO THE GREEK ISLANDS
Flying to the Greek Islands
Flying is by far the quickest and most convenient way to reach the Greek Islands. The problem is that not all islands have airports, therefore some islands require you to take ferries in order to reach them.
Below you’ll find a short list of the Greek Islands that DO have airports although finding flights to some of the smaller ones islands can be quite tough due to intermittent flight schedules.
- Chios (JKH)
- Chania (CHQ)
- Corfu (CFU)
- Heraklion (HER)
- Ikaria (JIK)
- Ioannina (IOA)
- Kefalonia (EFL)
- Kos (KGS)
- Leros (LRS)
- Lesvos (MJT)
- Milos (MLO)
- Mykonos (JMK)
- Naxos (JNX)
- Paros (PAS)
- Rhodes (RHO)
- Samos (SMI)
- Santorini (JTR)
- Skiathos (JSI)
- Skyros (SKU)
- Syros (JSY)
- Zakynthos (ZTH)
Note: Flights to some of the more popular islands such as Chania (Crete), Heraklion (Crete), Mykonos, Rhodes, Santorini and Zakynthos are very easy to find during the spring, summer and early fall. Depending on the season and the current specials going on, flights from Athens to these islands mentioned above can be found for as low as €40 round-trip. Example: Ryanair offered multiple deals in summer 2015 with flights to and from Athens to Rhodes and Santorini for €23 each way.
Another thing to keep in mind is that flights from Athens to most of the Greek Islands only take about 50-70 minutes. In other words, always search for flights to the Greek islands before booking a ferry.
Ferries to the Greek Islands
As I mentioned in the ‘Flying to the Greek Islands’ section above, great deals on flights can be found if you keep your eyes peeled. That being said, sometimes flights to the islands are far too expensive. In this case, taking a ferry to the island of your choice is your next best bet.
The greek ferry booking form on the right is powered by FerriesinGreece, a major booking hub that sends more than 35,000 passengers to and from the Greek isles each year. They are a trusted site and I use them when I’m booking my Greek island ferry tickets.
If you would prefer booking your tickets in person, you can book your tickets for the Greek Island of your choice by going down to one of the many ticket offices at the Piraeus port in Athens. I should note that the Piraeus port is hectic and very spread out so if you do end up heading down there to buy tickets be prepared to do a lot of walking and shopping around.
Accommodations in the Greek Islands
When it comes to finding accommodations on the Greek islands, your options are just about endless. You have a choice of hostels, cliff side hotels, resorts, short term apartments rentals and more.
Hostels & Budget Accommodations
Hotels & Resorts
The best way to find great deals on hotels and resorts on the Greek islands is to book your stay through Booking.com. They are a very reputable company that have been around for a long time. Booking.com has nearly 18,000 property listings in Greece alone and they’re growing every day. Use them and save today!
In my opinion, renting an apartment on the Greek islands is your best bet. Trust me when I tell you that there’s nothing better than being able to check into your own private accommodations, some of which have full kitchens, balconies overlooking the sea and are located in some of the best locations on the islands. I’ve stayed at many apartment rentals during my travels and when I want to find a quality apartment to rent, I always start my search over at Airbnb.
If you decide to go the Airbnb route, do yourself a favor and Save $20 on your first Airbnb stay using this link.
Last but not least is the most adventurous way to find accommodations on the Greek islands. I should note that this option isn’t for everyone. Those of you who like to plan ahead can go ahead and skip this section. If you’re spontaneous and not worried about making reservations prior to arriving in the islands, a good way to find deals on accommodations in the Greek islands is to just show up with no reservations at all.
I know, it sounds a bit crazy but when you disembark your ferry at the port of the island of your choice you will notice many hotel owners lined up and awaiting your business (note: in high season only). It will likely be an overwhelming experience as they all tend to pounce on their prospective guests but if you stand your ground and haggle a bit, you will be sure to find a great deal on your accommodations.
Speak with some of the hotel and guesthouse owners and find out what they have to offer you. They need your business. The great thing about them needing your business is that you can usually negotiate the cost of your accommodations based on how long you are interested in spending on the island.
I’m not kidding when I say that there will be 25 or 30 hotel and apartment and hotel owners approaching you from all angles wanting your business. Best of luck!
Tip: Sometimes it’s good to know an area that you would prefer to stay on the island of your choice. This helps when a hotel owner approaches you and tells you that he would like to show you his place. The worst case is that you take the ride with him to see the hotel and you decide it’s not for you. The good thing is that you will now be able to stroll around the area in search of another hotel and you will have technically received a free taxi ride to your destination in exchange for taking a look at the hotel.
Which Greek Island Should You Visit?
Most people want to know which Greek island they should visit and that’s a tough question because there are so many Greek isles to choose from. That said, the most popular islands such as Mykonos and Santorini are usually at the top of most visitors lists. Both islands are great destinations depending on what you’re looking for. Below you’ll find a short blurb about some of my favorite Greek islands and hopefully this will help you decide which Greek island would suit you best.
If you’re looking for a romantic stay or just want to witness some of the best sunsets on Earth, Santorini is the place to be. Santorini offers cliff side accommodations with mind boggling views of the caldera.
I recently spent 3 nights in this Airbnb in Firostefani and trust me when I tell you that it was one of the most incredible Airbnb stays I’ve experienced to date.
Note: Click here if you want to save $20 off your first Airbnb stay of $75 or more.
Santorini has beaches but they’re not world renowned like some of the other Greek islands. While some of the beaches are quite unique (Red Beach & Black Beach), Santorini is one of the few Greek islands that is not known for it’s beaches. Santorini is more about the views, sunsets and romantic vibes.
If you’re looking for great day parties and wild nightlife, Mykonos would be your best bet. Mykonos is also known for its beautiful beaches and gay friendly party scene.
Milos is my favorite Greek island mostly due to the wide variety and uniqueness of its beaches. There are more than 72 different beaches on Milos and all of them are different in one way or another. Scooter, ATV and car rentals are affordable and are a must if you want to truly explore the lesser visited parts of the island. Once you’re finished exploring Milos, you can take a short ferry (15 mins) to a tiny little traditional Greek Island known as Kimolos.
Rhodes is the 4th largest Greek island and an island that I think everyone should visit on their trip to Greece. I wrote an entire Beginner’s Guide to Rhodes. If you’re headed here for the first time you’ll find my beginners guide to be a great resource.
GETTING AROUND THE GREEK ISLANDS
Scooters, ATV’s and car rentals are plentiful on the islands. Be sure to research rental agencies before arriving on the island of your choice as some agencies can be more reputable than others.
Typical scooter rental prices can be anywhere from 15-25 Euro/day depending on the shop and the engine size of the bike. ATV’s go for around 35-40 euro/day and rental cars can be rented for around 40-50 euros/day.
There is also public transportation (buses) available on select islands although you should be warned that it can be slow and quite intermittent. Renting a motorized vehicle is a much better way to explore the islands.
FEATURED GREEK ISLAND TOURS
If you’re the type of traveler who enjoys taking tours when you travel and you want to find an affordable package deal to Santorini, I highly recommend you look into taking one of these very reasonably priced 2 and 3-night tours by Viator. The beauty of these tours is that they cater to two different types of travelers; budget travelers and travelers that don’t mind spending a few extra bucks.
For example, Viator’s Santorini Tours include round-trip ferry transportation from Athens for the budget traveler (8 hours one-way) or a round-trip speedboat crossing (5.5 hours one-way) for those who want to enjoy more time on the island. You also have the option to choose from 2, 3, or 4-star accommodations on Santorini. It’s your trip. You choose!
More reasonably priced Greek island tours can be found HERE.
TIPS FOR SAVING MONEY ON THE GREEK ISLANDS
Depending on where you’re staying or where you’re heading to on the islands, it can be pretty pricey to shop, dine out and more. Here are some tips below that will help you save money on the Greek islands.
1. Find yourself a room or apartment equipped with a stove top or full kitchen. You will save lots of money by simply taking a trip to the grocery store with a meal in mind. Save the leftovers for later and pack them for lunch before you head to the beach!
2. Talk to local shop owners and try to get to know them a little bit. After a few minutes chat, you might be lucky enough to score a little discount on an item you’re interested in purchasing. Either way it’s good to be social, and you may even learn something interesting about the island from your new friend.
3. Rent a motor scooter or car to make the most of your stay. Be sure to ask your hotel which rental agencies they recommend. Some hotel owners work with different car rental shops or have a friend that owns one that may be able to give you a deal on your rental.
4. Ask a local where the best places to eat are. Sometimes, all it takes is a quick chat with a local to find a hidden gem. Follow the locals and deals are to be found.
5. If tours are your thing, don’t settle on the first tour you see. Shop around a bit and you’ll be surprised to find alternative tour companies that offer the same packages as the big name companies and much lower prices.
FEATURED BUDGET ACCOMMODATIONS IN SANTORINI
In Santorini, you can pay 30 Euro per night (approx. $33 USD/night) for a cozy room at Katefiani Villas, located in the village of Perissa. The hotel is very clean, quiet and is located just steps from Santorini’s black sand beach (Perissa Beach). The owner, Jacob, provides free transfer from the ferry port to the hotel if organized ahead of time.
My experience at Katefiani Villas
I arrived to Katefiani Villas to find my beautiful little room with a queen size bed, television, refrigerator, air conditioning, private bathroom, and beautiful balcony with table and chairs. Best of all, it was a two minute walk from Perissa beach. There was a mini market three buildings down, restaurants all over and a supermarket within 10 minutes walk.
The location was perfect, the beach was beautiful, the owners were very helpful, and the price was excellent. I highly recommend Katefiani Villas if you’re headed to Santorini.
Visiting the Greek Islands does not need to cost a great deal of money. What many people don’t realize is that there are always cheaper ways to do things when it comes to travel. Many tend to book the first thing they see instead of doing the proper research and really find themselves a deal. Now that you’re well equipped with the knowledge necessary to enjoy the Greek Islands on the cheap, go ahead and start planning your trip today.
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