How to Visit the Greek Islands on a Budget (2016 Edition)

The Budget Guide to the Greek Islands

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’s both difficult and expensive to visit the Greek islands. I’m here to tell you that it’s neither.

As a matter of fact right now is the best time to visit the Greek islands due to the economy and ease of travel from the U.S and Europe.

Budget Travel Guide to the Greek Islands

Greek Islands: Know Before You Go

When preparing for a trip to Greece and the Greek Islands your first priority should be to make sure you make a small investment towards your health and well being by purchasing a flexible and super affordable travel insurance policy for your trip.

Not only will this travel insurance policy cover you if your bags are lost/stolen and if your flight is delayed/cancelled, but you’ll also be covered for all medical and injury related issues as well.

Let’s face it. No parents, family or friends want to have to cover the cost of you getting Medevaced home from the Greek Islands. Bad things do happen. Especially when you least expect it.

Do yourself a favor and get your travel insurance coverage now so you can rest assured that you’ll be taken care of in the event of a serious emergency in Greece.

Note: You won’t believe how reasonably priced this travel insurance is!

CLICK HERE TO GET A TRAVEL INSURANCE QUOTE NOW →

Getting to Greece

Flying from the United States:

Getting to Greece is easy although it can be quite pricey depending on where you are flying from and which month you plan on traveling.

For those of you flying from the United States, one of the best tips for finding cheap flights to Greece is to look for flights departing out of some of the biggest U.S. hubs.

Example: LAX, JFK, ATL, BOS, IAD, MIA.

All of the above airports are examples of major flight hubs in the United States and are usually great starting points when looking for the best deals on flights to Greece.

Here are the two websites I use to plan all of my travels. My best advice is to use both to compare prices and find the best deal.

SEARCH SKYSCANNER NOW → SEARCH GOOGLE FLIGHTS NOW →

Getting to the Greek Islands

Flying is the most convenient and efficient way to reach the Greek Islands. Already in Europe? If so, you’re already more than halfway there.

Flights from Athens to some of the most popular Greek Islands only take about 50-70 minutes while ferries take anywhere from 5 to 10+ hours. In other words, always start by searching for flights to the Greek islands before looking into ferries.

As I mentioned above, I recommend that you use both Skyscanner and Google Flights in conjunction with each other to begin your flight search and to find the cheapest flights to the Greek Islands.

Depending on the season and the latest promotions, flights from Athens to these islands mentioned above can be found for as low as €40 round-trip.

The best flight deals to the Greek Islands are always found when searching for flights leaving from major European hubs and by using budget airlines such as Aegean, Olympic and RyanAir.

Example: ATH, LON, LHR, MUC, BCN, and FCO are just a few of the major hubs in Europe.

Greek Islands with Airports

Not all of the Greek 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.

  • 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)

Notes:

  • Finding flights to some of the smaller islands can be quite tough due to intermittent flight schedules.
  • 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 seasons.

Ferries to the Greek Islands

As I mentioned earlier, 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 Greek Island of your choice is your next best bet.

One of the better greek ferry booking systems is powered by a company called FerriesinGreece, a major greek ferry booking hub that helps more than 35,000 passengers get to and from the Greek isles each year.

I’ve used Ferries in Greece to book ferry tickets in the past and I highly recommend you use them for your next Greek Island trip.

Notes:

  • Ferry tickets sell out so don’t be surprised to find out your ferry is sold out if you leave it to the last minute.
  • Athens’ Port of Piraeus is hectic and very spread out. Be sure to figure out which part of the port that your ferry is leaving from prior to taking a taxi to the port.
  • The best way to get to Piraeus is to use the app called TaxiBeat. It’s the most reliable and trustworthy way to find a reputable taxi in the Athens.

Finding a Place to Stay in the Greek Islands

When it comes to finding accommodations on the Greek islands, your options are just about endless. From hostels to cliff side hotels, resorts, short term apartments rentals and more, the Greek Islands have it all.

Here are three different approaches when it comes to finding accommodations on the Greek Islands.

Rent an Airbnb in the Greek Islands

Renting apartments in the Greek Islands can be surprisingly affordable and the first place I look when it comes to finding accommodations on the islands is on airbnb.

In my opinion, renting airbnb apartments in the Greek islands is always the best bet and is also usually the best bang for your buck considering most airbnb rentals have very comfortable living situations which include en-suite bedroom/bathrooms, full kitchens, living areas and balconies. Some even come equipped with balconies overlooking the sea. Generally speaking, most airbnb apartments are usually centrally located and situated in some of the best parts of the islands.

Why stay in a box of a hotel room with minimal amenities when you can have a fully equipped private apartment of your own for much less than it would cost for a night in a hotel?

START YOUR APARTMENT SEARCH ON AIRBNB NOW →

Hotels in the Greek Islands

If for some reason I don’t find anything on airbnb (which is highly unlikely), my next resort would be to take a look on Booking.com. Booking offers a wide variety of accommodations from budget to 5-star hotels on the Greek Islands for you to choose from.

Booking hotels in the Greek islands will surely be more expensive than most airbnb apartment rentals in the islands but if you’re more comfortable in a hotel, do yourself a favor and reserve your room through Booking.com.

Fun Fact: There are currently more than 22,000+ property listings in Greece alone and the list is growing daily.

CHECK PRICES ON BOOKING.COM NOW →

Hostels in the Greek Islands

For the budget minded traveler, my last and final recommendation would be to take a look at what HostelWorld has to offer. HW has some nice advanced search features which will help in your search for cheap hostels in the Greek Islands.

Fortunately, there are many hostels and other budget accommodations available on the Greek Islands for your choosing. At the end of the day it’s really about what type of traveler you are and how comfortable you feel when it comes to staying in a hostel or guesthouse.

CHECK PRICES ON HOSTELWORLD NOW →

No Reservations

The most adventurous way to find accommodations on the Greek islands is to simply show up with no reservations at all.

Note: This option isn’t for everyone.

Those of you who like to plan, research and coordinate every little detail of your trip ahead of time should skip this section now.

Alright, so you’re prepared to show up to the Greek Islands without reservations?

Well, if you’re spontaneous enough and you’re not concerned with making reservations prior to arriving to the islands then a good way to find deals on accommodations in the Greek islands is to simply show up.

I know it sounds a little crazy but when you disembark your ferry on some of the larger islands, you’ll notice groups of hotel owners and family operated guesthouses lined up awaiting your business and trying to fill up their accommodations.

Start by speaking with some of the hotel and guesthouse owners and find out what they have to offer you. If you have any inclination and you’re not 100% sold on the first one simply move on to the next guy. If you don’t, you’ll quickly realize that all the other owners will have headed back to their properties with other tourists from your ferry.

Tip: Whatever you do, don’t forget to come prepared with your best haggling skills!

Another great thing about showing up to an island without reservations is that you can usually negotiate the cost of your accommodations based on how much time you are interested in spending on the island.

If you visit the islands during high season you might be surprised to see 25 or 30 different hotel and apartment and hotel owners approaching you from all angles wanting your business.

Santorini - Greek Islands - Greece

Which Greek Islands Should I Visit?

Most tourists struggle with deciding on which island best fits their wants and needs when it comes to a Greek island vacation.

Today I’m going to give you a quick breakdown on some of the top Greek Islands. You know, because there are just too many Greek isles to choose from!

The most popular Greek islands islands are Santorini, Mykonos, Ios, Corfu, and Crete with Santorini and Mykonos being the most popular with tourists from around the world.

Let’s start off with the most popular islands first and move along to some of my personal and lesser known favorites.

– Santorini

If you’re looking for a romantic stay or just want to witness some of the most famous sunsets on planet Earth, Santorini is an absolute must.

Santorini offers cliff side accommodations with mind boggling views of the caldera but doesn’t offer up too much when it comes to beaches as much of the island is built high up on the cliffs.

Santorini does have a few decent beaches (Red Beach & Black Beach) but they’re not world renowned like some of the other Greek islands.

Firostefani Caldera View Santorini
Santorini Sunset from Oia
Red Beach - Akrotiri Santorini

In reality, Santorini is more about the views, sunsets and romantic vibes.

If you’re really eager to see the beautiful beaches but don’t want to miss out on Santorini, I highly recommend you add the Greek Island of Milos to your itinerary and split your time between both islands.

Santorini Budget Hotel Recommendation:

Katefiani Villas – For around €30 per night (approx. $33 USD/night) you can score yourself a cozy room at Katefiani Villas, a small family owned hotel located in the village of Perissa.

This hotel is very clean, quiet and is located just steps from Santorini’s black sand beach, also known as Perissa Beach. The owner, Jacob, provides free transfers from the ferry port to the hotel when organized ahead of time.

Splurge Recommendation:

Dimitrios Cave House – Incredible cliff side cave home turned airbnb property located on the edge of the cliffs in Firostefani. If you’re going to splurge on one thing on your next trip to the Greek Islands, this is it.

WARNING: it’s expensive and not budget friendly by any means but to be honest I wouldn’t bother recommending this place if it wasn’t worth every penny. I surprised my mother with a 3-night stay at Dimitrios Cave House last September and she still can’t stop talking about it.

Newlyweds will love this place!

Scooter & ATV Rentals in Santorini:

Scooter rentals go for 10-15 Euro/day. ATV’s are slightly more but a heck of a lot more comfortable if you’ve got someone on the back.

Recommended Santorini Tours:

If you’re not comfortable with traveling to and from the Greek islands independently, I recommend you take a look at these very reasonably priced 2 and 3-night tours to Santorini.

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.

The 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.

– Mykonos

If you’re looking for great day parties, wild nightlife, white sand beaches and beach clubs with bumping music, Mykonos is your best bet.

Food, drinks and accommodations can be very expensive on the island but that’s the price you pay if you want to spend your vacation on the best party island in Greece.

Mykonos is known for its beautiful beaches, non-stop parties and is one of the most popular islands when it comes to the LGBTQ crowd.

– Milos

Milos is my favorite Greek island mostly due to the wide variety and uniqueness of its beaches. I’ve visited nearly 15 Greek islands at this point and none of them compare to the island of Milos. In my opinion, it’s the best Greek island to visit and it’s a place that I would revisit time and time again.

Fun Fact: There are more than 72 different beaches on Milos!

My advice to you would be to pair this island with a visit to Santorini that way you get the chance to experience the best of both worlds when it comes to the cliffs of Santorini and the incredible beaches of Milos.

Budget Accommodation Recommendation:

Mimoza Apartments: During my last trip to Milos, I stayed at Mimoza, a very centrally located apartment set back a few blocks from the port of Adamas. I highly recommend this apartment due to the location and the affordability factor.

Transportation:

Scooter, ATV and car rentals are very affordable and are a must if you want to truly explore the lesser visited parts of the island.

Another perk about visiting Milos is that you can take a short 15 minute ferry ride to a tiny little traditional Greek island known as Kimolos and check another island off your list.

– Rhodes

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.

Tip: If you’d like to knock Turkey off your bucketlist during your trip to Greece then Rhodes is a great island to visit as the round-trip ferry from Rhodes to Marmaris, Turkey can be done in a day and is relatively affordable.

Getting Around the Greek Islands

Renting a motorbike, ATV or car is the recommended way to explore the islands and is far more efficient than using public transportation on the islands.

There are public buses and other forms of transportation available on select islands although you should be warned that they can be extremely slow and quite intermittent.

Scooters, ATV’s and car rentals are plentiful on the islands but please be sure to research rental agencies before arriving on the island of your choice as some agencies are more reputable than others.

Average Costs:

  • Scooter rentals: €10-20 Euro/day depending on the shop and the engine size (110, 125, 200cc).
  • ATV’s: €25-45 euro/day
  • Rental cars: €40-50 euros/day and are usually equipped with a manual transmission.

Tips for Saving Money in 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 that will help you save money on the Greek islands.

  • Find yourself an airbnb apartment equipped with a stove top burner or full kitchen. You can save a lot of money by simply taking a trip to the grocery store with a few meals in mind. Save the leftovers for later and pack them for lunch before you head to the beach.
  • Small talk the local shop owners and try to get friendly with them. After a few minutes chat, you might be lucky enough to score some insiders information on local places to eat, drink and more which will in turn save you money.
  • Rent a scooter or car to make the most of your stay. Be sure to ask your airbnb host or 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.
  • Ask a local for restaurant recommendations. Sometimes, all it takes is a quick chat with a local to find a hidden gem on the island.
  • 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.

Greek Island Wrap Up

A visit to the Greek Islands doesn’t need to break the bank.

Now that you’re well equipped with the knowledge necessary to enjoy a trip to the Greek Islands on a budget, go ahead and start planning your trip today.

Did you find this article helpful? If so, leave a comment below letting me know your thoughts. Also, please do me a favor and share this with your family and friends.

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About the Author

Ryan Gargiulo is a location independent blogger, digital influencer and world traveler with a serious passion for the sun, the sea and adventure. When he's not out wandering the world, you can likely find him instagrammin' from a paradisiacal location or hunched over my laptop, working away, somewhere along the coast of the Caribbean Sea.

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46 Comments

    1. That's very true Corinne. Thanks for mentioning that. Turkey is very accessible from the Greek Islands, especially Rhodes. We did not get to Rhodes, only Santorini and Milos. Thanks for the tip!

  1. We've gotten a bit behind on your travels, but are looking forward to catching up. Glad to hear you're having a great time in Greece! We haven't been to the islands yet, but we really really enjoyed Athens.

    We'll be reading your posts about Egypt closely too. There's a possibility we may head there for 3 weeks this fall. But we're still deciding between Egypt and a few other places. So many places to choose from!

    Happy travels, guys!
    My recent post <a href="http://www.hedgehogswithoutborders.com/blog/entry/where+do+we+go+from+here">Where Do We Go From Here

    1. Hey Jess,

      Yeah we enjoyed Athens as well. Pretty cool city and it was around 35C every day so if you like the sun, it's the place to be!

      As for Egypt, it's an amazing place to visit. The only thing I would recommend is to make sure you stay there for at least 2-3 weeks because I don't think you can really immerse yourself in the culture and every day life without being there for a decent amount of time. One week in Cairo is a joke! There is so much to see other than the Pyramids and the Egyptian Museum. Walk the back streets, eat where the locals eat, take the black (private) taxis but make sure you're ready to haggle, befriend the amazing locals, and learn to cross the roads on your own without having the tourist police assist you.

  2. Great information especially as I have been dying to make it to the Greek islands but can never seem to find a cost effective way of doing so.

  3. This is an awesome post with great advice. I am gonna have to come back to this for when I get to Greece on my RTW trip! Oh & the pictures are amazing. They make me wanna go right now!!!

    Thanks for the info!

  4. This is certainly great advice for anyone traveling to the Greek Islands. I wrote a post specifically about Mykonos, let me know what you think!

  5. Rhodes is an easy daytrip from Turkey, or longer of course! The Greek islands are marvellous, but can be expensive to visit, so articles like this are invaluable!

    1. Thanks Liv! Glad you enjoyed the article. Be sure to share it with your readers as I think they would probably be interested in this.

  6. When you go to Santorini you should visit the wineries… you can see the way the prodice wine, the pales with the old wooden barels and of course wine testing….

  7. In Greece , everybody says that Milos is a wonderful island.. but… if you go there as a couple.. after the end of the holidays you will break up… ;) or if you go alone you will find your soulmate… Anyway this islands has wonderful beaches and very quiet places to relax.

  8. Hum, quite happy to read this today:) We’re heading to greece in May, I’m bookmarking this! Great tips!

  9. Wow, I love this article! I’m from Poland and I’m going to plan my vacation trip on 2014 with your helpful information. Wish me luck!

  10. Ferries can be great and rather cheap in Greece but due to the economic crisis, the companies often halt operations – strikes are frequent. And getting stranded on an expensive island like Santorini for several days might not be the best experience for a budget traveler.

  11. Hi Ryan,
    I was thinking of booking into Jacobs hotel for 14 days and traveling from there to see the other islands perhaps by air, to save time but I have to watch the cost also, what would be your advise on that please, do you think its not a good idea to stay in one place for so long ??

  12. hi! can you tell me what ferry you used to get to Milos?? I can’t find tickets for less than 50 euros!! would it be cheaper to go from Athens to Santorini first, then Milos? or a then semi lost Santorini?

  13. Would you say your article holds true 5 years later? I want to go to Greece but I find it difficult to start organizing.

  14. Great Post… Stunning! So much more than just white-sand beaches. I’d love to visit the baths, it looks like such a cool experience.

  15. Hey!

    I have to distribute 10 full days between Athens and the islands. What is your recommendation on getting the most out of my days there?

    1. I would recommend spending 2 days in Athens and the rest in the Greek Islands. In Athens, be sure not to miss the Acropolis and the Acropolis Museum. Walk from Syntagma Square to Monastiraki Square on the shopping street. Take a hop-on hop-off bus to maximize your day in Athens.

  16. hello! I plan on visiting Greece in late September with a friend. first off, is september a good time to go? we will stay there for about 15days. plan on doing hostels for the most part. What is the best way to get around from island to island? mykonos, naxos, paros, antiparos.. ? and cheapest/safest way? would really appreciate your help:) thank you.

    1. Hi Lianna. Yes, September is a great month to visit Greece! You’ll avoid all the high season/summer crowds. Best way from island to island is to book flights ahead of time. You can sometimes find roundtrip flights from Athens to the islands for less than a ferry ticket. Oh, and most flights are only 1 hour or less. If you want to avoid flying you could always check the ferries. Both options are safe and affordable when booked in advance. Hope this helps.

  17. Hello Ryan, what time of the year do the ferries NOT run? Trying to book for November but it just says no available dates?

    1. Hi Konstanze. Which island(s) are you wanting to visit? Let me know what your departure/arrival destination would be and I’ll do some digging for you. FYI: Greek Island ferries have somewhat limited schedules during the fall/winter months (aka low season) so some routes which are normally daily during high season might drop to 1-3 times/week in the off months. Some routes stop completely in the low season. It really comes down to which islands you’re trying to visit during these months. Let me know in a reply below and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible with an answer.

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