Planning a Trip to Greece and the Greek islands

Planning a trip to Greece this year? 

Well, you’ve arrived at the right place.

I have spent the last 5 summers in Greece; using Athens as my home base while Greek island hopping and documenting all of my favorite things to see, do and experience in the country.

In other words, you’ve stumbled upon what I personally consider to be the most complete and up to date guide to traveling to Greece on a budget.

How Expensive is Greece?

The million dollar question that I receive from readers on an almost weekly basis is “Is Greece Cheap?” 

“The answer is an astounding yes.”

Many people who dream to visit Greece are under the impression that it’s both difficult and expensive destination to visit.

The truth is a trip to Greece can be extremely affordable, as long as you prepare ahead of time by doing your research and plan your Greece trip well in advance.

As a matter of fact right now is the best time to visit the Greek islands due to the current economic situation in Greece as well as the ease of travel from the United States and Europe.

Know Before You Go: Travel Insurance

When planning 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 considering an affordable travel insurance policy for your trip.

Not only will this budget friendly 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 Greece.

Unfortunate things do happen.

Especially when you least expect it.

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

P.S. You won’t believe how reasonably priced this travel insurance is.

🏥 Why wait? Get a Travel Insurance Quote for your trip today.

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 Athens.

There are two websites that I use to research flights and I recommend you use both in conjunction with each other in order to compare prices and find the best deals;  Skyscanner and Google Flights.

Use TaxiBeat in Athens

If you’ve used Uber in the past you would know that it’s hands down the most convenient and safe way to move around just about any city these days.

Unfortunately, Uber is no longer operating in Athens. Thankfully, there is a great alternative — meet Beat, also known as Taxibeat.

Download Beat:

Once downloaded, be sure to enter the following Beat Promo Code below to get your first Beat ride free and/or severely discounted.

Beat Promo Code: 2h92e7u6

TaxiBeat is not only the most reliable and safe way to take taxis in Athens, it’s also significantly cheaper than hailing a taxi from the street as a foreigner.

An added bonus to using an app like Beat is that you can set your pickup location and final destination in the app so even if there happens to be a language barrier between you and your driver, your driver knows exactly where you want to be picked up and dropped off.

Note: This Beat Promo Code can be applied worldwide, not just in Greece. Beat now operates in Mexico City, Peru, Chile and Colombia.

How to Get to the Greek Islands

Flying is hands down the most convenient and efficient way to reach the Greek islands.

Not only will you save hours of your time by flying,you’ll also be able to turn that would be wasted time into more quality time on the islands.

From Europe

While there are a variety of direct flights from some of the major hubs in Europe, most flights connect in Athens International Airport (Eleftherios Venizelos).

From Airports in Greece

There are two major airports located on mainland Greece:

  • Athens International Airport (Eleftherios Venizelos) – Airport Code: ATH
  • Thessaloniki Airport – Airport Code: SKG

Since the majority of you will be departing from Athens International Airport, you should know that direct flights from Athens to some of the most popular Greek islands take approximately between 50-70 minutes while ferries to these same islands can take anywhere from 5 to 10+ hours.

Flights to the Greek Islands

My recommendation is to always begin by researching flights using Skyscanner before looking into taking a ferry to the Greek Islands.

Depending on the airline, time of the year and the latest promotions, flights from Athens to the islands can be found for as low as €45 round-trip.

Budget Airlines in Greece:

In conclusion, while flying tends to be the more expensive option to get from mainland Greece to the islands, there are definitely deals to be found.

Tip: Begin your flight search by using the Skyscanner engine embedded below.

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.
Greek Island Ferry

Ferries to the Greek Islands

If for some reason flights are too expensive, I suggest that you resort to a more budget friendly method of transportation; take a ferry to the Greek Islands.

When it comes to booking Greek ferries, one of the most reliable and reasonably priced Greek ferry search engines is powered by a company called Ferries in Greece (highly recommended), a major greek ferry booking hub that helps more than 35,000 passengers get to and from the Greek islands each year.

Check Ferry Schedules & Prices:

Tips for Booking Ferries:

  • Greek ferry tickets tend to sell out quick in high season, especially on some of the more popular routes. Be sure to plan ahead.
  • If you’re planning on visiting Greece during the low season, be sure to double check the ferry schedules as ferries to the islands run on a very limited schedule.
  • Athens ferry port (Port of Piraeus) can be quite hectic and it’s very spread out. Be sure to figure out which part of the port that your ferry is leaving from prior to arriving otherwise be prepared to walk long distances with your luggage.
  • The best way to get to the port of Piraeus from just about anywhere in Athens is to use Taxibeat as mentioned above. Don’t forget to use promo code: 2h92e7u6 to get a discount on your ride.

⛴ If you’re planning on booking a ferry to the Greek islands, I recommend you use: Ferries In Greece

Transportation in the Greek Islands

Unfortunately, Uber is not available in the Greek Islands.

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

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.

Using GoogleMaps to find user reviews of rental agencies is recommended.

Average Rental 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.

Accommodations in the Greek Islands

When it comes to finding affordable accommodations on the Greek islands, your options are pretty much endless; from budget hostels to cliff side hotels, resorts, airbnb rentals and more, the Greek islands truly have it all.

Airbnb Rentals

Airbnb is my main preference when it comes to choosing accommodations, not just in the Greek islands but anywhere in the world.

Interestingly enough, renting airbnb apartments on the Greek islands can be surprisingly affordable.

Also, one of the many things I love about renting airbnbs is that they tend to be situated in the best locations on the islands.

At the end of the day, if I have the choice, I simply don’t see the point in staying in a basic hotel room with minimal amenities when I can have a fully-equipped, private apartment of my own for what is sometimes a fraction of the cost of a hotel.

🏠 If this is your first time using Airbnb, I recommend you check out my Insider’s Guide to Saving Money on Airbnb Apartments.

Hostels

If you’re on a tight budget and don’t mind roughing it a little bit, booking hostels will probably be your best bet.

Of course, every island will have a variety of hostels for you to choose from.

The amenities and styles of accommodation range from options such as dorm rooms with bunk beds to private rooms with ensuite bathrooms and more.

🏨 If your plan is to stay at hostels throughout your trip to the Greek Islands, I recommend you use: HostelWorld

Hotels in the Greek Islands

If for some reason I don’t find anything on airbnb my next recommendation would be to take a look on HotelsCombined.

HC offers a wide variety of accommodations (budget to 5-star) to choose from; over 30,000+ listings and counting.

Please note that booking hotels on the Greek islands will likely be more expensive than most airbnb apartment rentals on the islands.

🏨 If your plan is to stay at hotels throughout your trip to the Greek Islands, I suggest you use: HotelsCombined

No Reservations

Note: This option is not for everyone. Those of you who like to plan, research and coordinate every little detail of your trip ahead of time should go ahead and skip this section.

Are you prepared to show up to the Greek Islands with no 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 discounts on acommodations 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.

If you have any inclination and you’re not 100% sold on the first one simply move on to the next one quickly as the other owners will have likely already headed back to their properties with other tourists from your ferry.

Whatever you do, don’t forget to come prepared with your best haggling skills. You’ll need them if you want to score the best deal.

Another perk of 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.

Santorini - Greek Islands - Greece

Which Greek Islands Should You Visit?

Most tourists struggle with deciding on which island(s) best fit their wants and needs.

Deciding which islands to visit during your vacation to Greece will require you to prepare a travel budget ahead of time.

I’m on a tight budget.

If you’re on a really tight budget, you’ll probably want to avoid the most expensive Greek islands such as Santorini and Mykonos.

While there are definitely ways to visit Greece’s most popular islands (Santorini and Mykonos) on a budget, your options for accommodations, transportation and dining out will certainly be limited.

My recommendations for those who simply cannot imagine themselves visiting Greece without spending time in Santorini or Mykonos is to start by looking for accommodations in locations on the islands which are further from the center of all the action.

If you’re more interested in visiting some of the cheaper islands close to Athens, I suggest you check out a few of the following islands.

Cheap Greek Island Recommendations

Below, you’ll find a list of cheap Greek island recommendations within a short two hour ferry ride from Athens:

  • Aegina – (45 mins)
  • Agistri (1 hr)
  • Poros (1 hr)
  • Kythnos (1.5 hrs)
  • Hydra (1.5-2 hrs)

I’m on a budget, but it’s flexible.

Those who are traveling to Greece on a flexible budget will be happy to hear that there are a wide variety of islands for you to choose from.

Below, you’ll find a quick breakdown on some of the top Greek Islands.

Some of the most popular islands in Greece include Santorini, Mykonos, Ios, Corfu, and Crete.

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

Firostefani - Santorini, Greece

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.

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.

🔍Recommended read: Beginner’s Guide to Santorini, Greece

Thera

Recommended Airbnbs in Santorini, Greece

Recommended Hotels in Santorini

Scooter & ATV Rentals in Santorini

Scooter rentals in Santorini go for approximately 10 to 15 Euros/day.

ATV’s cost slightly more but are a heck of a lot more comfortable if you have someone riding on the back with you.

There are many rental companies to rent from on the islands so there is no real need to book cars, scooters or ATV’s in advance.

Mykonos

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.

Mykonos Suite

Recommended Airbnbs in Mykonos, Greece

Sarakiniko Beach - Milos, Greece

Milos

Milos is my favorite Greek island mostly due to the wide variety and uniqueness of its beaches.

I’ve visited 20+ 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 have visited multiple times.

Fun Fact: There are more than 72 different beaches on the island of 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.

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.

🔍Recommended read: Beginner’s Guide to Milos, Greece

Recommended Airbnbs in Milos, Greece

Recommended Hotels in Milos:

Transportation in Milos:

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.

Anthony Quinn's Beach - Rhodes, Greece

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 in-depth Beginner’s Guide to Rhodes that I think you’ll find to be really useful.

Note: 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.

Recommended Airbnbs in Rhodes

Rhodes Caslte

Recommended Hotels in Rhodes

🔍Recommended read: Beginner’s Guide to Rhodes, Greece

Hillside Homes in Symi, Greece

Symi

The Greek island of Symi is a small, quiet and lesser known island located in the group of Dodecanese islands just 41 km /25 mi northwest of Rhodes (fourth largest Greek island).

Symi is a great place to vacation if you’re looking for stunning views, a tranquil port, beautiful seaside hikes, shopping for hand-made leather goods and for those who are interested in getting a more traditional and genuine Greek island experience.

🔍Recommended read: Beginner’s Guide to Symi, Greece

Symi

Recommended Airbnbs in Symi

Symi

Recommended Hotels in Symi

Money Saving Tips for the Greek Islands

Below, you’ll find some useful tips for saving money during your trip to 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 the next day.
  • Chat with local shop owners. After a few minutes, you might be lucky enough to score some insider’s information on local places to eat, drink and more.
  • Rent a scooter, ATV or car in order to make the most of your stay. Ask your airbnb host or hotel concierge which rental agencies they recommend.
  • If joining tours is more your style of travel, 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 at much lower prices.

Conclusion

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.

Recommended Greek Island Travel Guides:

Interested in visiting more Greek islands? If so, be sure to check out my full collection of Greek Island Travel Guides.

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Budget Travel Guide to the Greek Islands