Travelling to Greece on a Budget in 2021: Money-Saving Tips from a Local

Travelling to Greece on a budget
Travelling to Greece on a budget

Travelling to Greece on a budget is certainly feasible. There are, of course, basic tricks and travel hacks that you can try that may seem like common knowledge. For instance, travelling out of season and going off the beaten path.

However, what may be less obvious, is that you can sail around the Greek islands even in the middle of July and August and still not break the bank. You do not have to massively compromise on your dream Greek island hopping trip to be able to explore this Mediterranean paradise.

Travelling to Greece on a Budget:
Ways to Save Money on Your Trip

Greece on a budget: Alonissos, Greece
Greece on a budget: Alonissos, Greece

You can easily dedicate weeks or months to a Greece travel itinerary and not break the bank. A handful of the most useful money-saving tips and tricks are summarised below.

Greece Budget Travel Tips

Budget Travel in Greece: Glossa, Skopelos
Budget Travel in Greece: Glossa, Skopelos
  • Travel out of season where you can

  • Choose lesser-known alternatives to popular islands

  • Book boats and flights in advance

  • Organise accommodation in advance if travelling during July and August

  • Book accommodation at the last minute if travelling out of season

  • Be informed about loyalty schemes offered by booking platforms

  • Negotiate on the prices of Airbnb and short term rentals

  • Reassess your trip duration

  • Couchsurf

  • Free camp among nature

  • Stay in self-catered accommodation

  • Shop at local markets

  • Research where to eat

  • Buy transportation passes for the Athens metro

  • Download “BEAT” taxi app

  • Conquer long distances with KTEL buses

  • Rent a moped rather than a car

  • Walk everywhere or ride a bicycle

  • Opt to pay in cash

  • Eat street food

  • Search for free activities

  • Pack a lunch!

  • Always ask to take your food home

Travel Out of Season

Travelling to the Sporades during the shoulder season

Travel prices across the board soar phenomenally during the summer months. Between June and September, millions of tourists flock to Greece to marvel at its sun-bleached ruins and laze on the pristine beaches of its islands.

During this time, the prices of flights, car rentals, hotels, and tours are at an all-time high. Even lesser-known islands like Paxos see hotel prices double from July to August then drop back down again in September.

Do not underestimate precisely how much you can save by travelling out of season. It is also worth knowing that Greece’s warm Mediterranean climate means that weather conditions are very pleasant during the shoulder season. You may even prefer them!

More Bearable Temperatures in the Off Season!

During Spring and Autumn in Greece, you can expect temperatures of around 25-28 degrees celsius. That’s still warm enough to visit beaches and go swimming.

Southern Europe sees warm climates that extend all the way into October. July and August can see temperatures that exceed 36 degrees celsius.

This can be almost unbearable for walking around, and even sitting outside on the beach for too long is unpleasant. No lobster tan for the off-peak travellers!

Off season travellers will note a substantial reduction in prices as well as crowds. Not to mention, you can still enjoy paradisiacal weather.

Consider Alternatives to Popular Destinations

Nikiti, Halkidiki
Nikiti, Halkidiki

Mention travelling to Greece to anyone and no doubt their mind conjures up images of the blue and whitewashed buildings of Mykonos and Santorini that are so quintessentially Greek. While these islands are every bit as charming as you’ve heard, they are also among the most expensive places to travel in Greece.

If you are looking for an island paradise, consider a lesser-known alternative. After all, there are over 6000 islands in Greece. There are more than just a handful to choose from!

In the Cyclades for example, Paros and Naxos are beautiful alternatives to Santorini and Mykonos. The Sporades islands of Skopelos, Skiathos, and Alonissos are also often frequently overlooked.

Plan Your Transportation in Advance

Travelling to Greece on a budget
On Hydra island, locals use donkeys and horses instead of cars

If you plan on using public transport to get around during your Greek adventure, keep in mind that you can save up to 20% of the costs if you book your train, ferry, and bus tickets online in advance. Tickets are always more expensive if bought at the last moment on the day of travel.

Consider Overnight Ferries

This is especially the case where ferry tickets during the summer season are concerned. To save money on transport AND have your transport double as your accommodation for the night, you can consider taking overnight trains or ferries.

Blue star ferries operate night services between Piraeus and the islands. Though the trips take longer, they are also cheaper and enable you to cut out your accommodation costs for the night.

Assess the Specific Transport Schedules

You may be surprised by how much ferry ticket prices differ throughout the day. Ferries departing at mid-morning can be half the price of those departing very early in the day.

Greece is very much a night owl so arriving at your next destination later does not have a detrimental affect on your trip. Being flexible with your itinerary in this manner can save you a fair amount of money.

Download BEAT Taxi App

BEAT is your passport to not getting ripped off by Greek cab drivers
BEAT is your passport to not getting ripped off by Greek cab drivers

Unfortunately, Uber is no longer permitted in Greece. Only licensed cabs are allowed to operate here.

Taxi BEAT is a useful app that works in the same way as Uber. You can immediately order a taxi directly to your location.

The fare is displayed before you get into the cab. As such, there is no way that the taxi driver can rip you off.

BEAT is common in Athens, Thessaloniki, Ioannina, and many large Greek towns and cities. However it is not in use in the smaller islands.

Cab drivers in Greece (like cab drivers in many places) will often try to trick you. They will take you on a roundabout route through Athens, or they will lie and not turn the meter on. It is always preferable to use the app and avoid any of this.

Buy an Athens Metro Ticket Pass

Panathenaic Stadium tunnels
Panathenaic Stadium tunnels

The Athens tram and metro network is both affordable and extensive. It even runs out into the neighbouring districts of Piraeus, Kifissia, and the Athens Riviera.

Single Use Tickets

One-way tickets cost just €1.20 and are valid from the point of departure. It is important to note that tickets should be validated prior to boarding the train.

A one-way Athens and Airport metro ticket costs €10. Meanwhile, a one-way Athens to airport bus ticket costs €6.

Multi-Day Passes

Athens multi-day tickets are worth looking into if you plan on spending at least a couple of days in the Greek capital. Tourists can purchase Athena tickets that allow you to use all buses, trams, and trains in the city for a one to five-day period.

Alternatively, if you are considering moving to Greece either long or short term, you can buy an Athena card. 30-day Athena tickets that do not include airport transfers are €27 per person.

30-day Athena tickets with airport transfers are €45 per person. You can buy all of the aforementioned Athena cards and tourist tickets at any transport office or automated ticket machine.

Play Smart with Accommodation Options

Travelling to Greece on a budget
Poros, Greece

Travel hacking with your accommodation options is a great way to save money wherever in the world that you travel. It is certainly one way to ensure that budget travel in Greece is feasible.

The trick is to either reserve your accommodation well in advance OR right at the last moment. The latter sounds pretty risky but it can be a good strategy. It all depends on when you are travelling.

Peak Season Travel:
Book Your Accommodation in Advance

Demands for hotel rooms, villas, and self-serviced accommodation options are high during the Greek summer season. Many people will book their trips as much as a year in advance.

If you do not act fast, you will find that the best options at a lot of destinations are taken. You should aim to book your accommodation no less than six months in advance if you want to achieve the best deals for July and August.

Off Season Travel:
Book Your Accommodation at the Last Minute

When travelling out of season, there are always more hotel rooms than people. On the day of or the day before travel, many hotels and B&Bs slash their prices by up to 60% in a last-ditch attempt to sell out the rooms.

Consider Couchsurfing and Free Camping

Travelling to Greece on a budget
Hiking in Vlychos, Hydra island

During the summer months, accommodation costs really are exorbitant. Whereas in the winter you can find an entire Airbnb apartment in Athens for $15, in the summer you will be paying that for a hostel dorm bed.

Stay with locals

Couchsurfing and free camping are two ways to omit accommodation expenses from your Greece travel budget. Couchsurfing is a great way to get to know the locals and experience true Greek culture. This means opting to stay in someone’s home.

Camp Among Nature

Free camping, on the other hand, enables you to immerse yourself in the beautiful scenery that makes so many people fall in love with Greece. From the rugged mountains to the stunning beaches.

There are also many designated camping grounds around the islands and the mainland. Some of them are completely free to use and have facilities nearby.

Look for Accommodation Travel Hacks

Longos, Paxos
Longos, Paxos

Many accommodation booking platforms offer loyalty schemes. Substantial discounts may be available if you make a certain number of bookings in a given period.

For instance, booking.com has a “Genius” loyalty scheme. Travellers that have made more than five bookings through the platform can enjoy discounts of between 10 and 20% on a number of applicable properties.

Genius members are also eligible for additional perks such as free upgrades, complimentary breakfasts and welcome drinks, and late check-outs. Other platforms also have similar offers. For instance, make 9 bookings and get the 10th free or similar.

Sometimes you may be able to receive a discount if you contact the hotel directly instead of using a booking platform. Airbnb owners may be willing to negotiate on their listed price, particularly out of season. It does not hurt to ask.

Reassess How Long You Will Spend in Each Location

Volos Coastline
Volos Coastline

Many self-catered accommodation rentals offer discounts if you stay for a certain number of days. For instance, many Airbnb owners offer weekly and monthly price reductions.

Reductions can be anywhere between 5% to 60% depending on your trip duration. Consequently, it is worth planning your trip accordingly.

If you are planning on staying somewhere for 5 days, 7 days may actually work out only slightly more expensive. Similarly, if you were planning on exploring a specific region for a month, you may find that it is significantly cheaper to base yourself in one place and take day trips out from there instead of ‘hopping’ from one location to another.

Travelling to Greece on a Budget:
Opt for Self-Catered Accommodation

Patitiri village
Patitiri village

If you stay in a popular tourist destination, your daily expenditure can quickly mount up if you find yourself dining out at restaurants a lot. This can be especially annoying since you will more than likely find that you pay a premium to eat at tourist trap places where the food is not such good quality.

In a homely Greek taverna in residential areas, you can pay 6 euros for a generous slice of moussaka and just a couple of euros for a carafe of wine. However, in touristy areas you will find yourself paying upwards of 15 euros.

Combat this by opting to stay self-catered and preparing some of your own meals. When you drop by the supermarket to buy food for cooking, stock up on a few snacks like cereal bars and bottles of water.

This way you minimise the amount you pay on these things while you are out exploring. You can also pack a picnic if you know you are going to be out all day hiking or at the beach.

Shop at Local Markets

Travelling to Greece on a budget: Modiano Market, Thessaloniki
Travelling to Greece on a budget: Modiano Market, Thessaloniki

Athens and other Greek cities and towns have weekly farmers’ markets (“laiki”). These pop-up markets are held in various neighbourhoods on specific days of the week.

Here, you can pick up lots of excellent quality fruits and vegetables, as well as some delectable homemade treats like jams, cakes, and pastries. You can buy huge portions of sweet fresh tomatoes or kilos of oranges for less than a euro.

Shopping at the local markets is a great cultural experience as well as a money-saving opportunity. Check with your accommodation host as to where your nearest market is and when it is held.

Do a Little Research on Where to Eat

Ladadika, Thessaloniki
Ladadika, Thessaloniki

When travelling to Greece on a budget, ask your host or hotel receptionist to recommend some good, cheap places that locals like to eat. Have them mark them on your map.

You can also do some research online before you go. Simply search online for “the best places to eat in X”.

Greece is generally an affordable place to live and travel. Most of the best restaurants in Athens and the top eateries in Thessaloniki do not have extortionate prices.

If you have an idea of good places to eat before you arrive in Greece, there is less chance that you will fall pray to a tourist trap restaurant and wind up spending $20 on a sloppy piece of pasticcio.

Rent a Moped Instead of a Car

Cape Amarandos
Cape Amarandos

Renting a car in Greece is a great way to get around. That said, while car rentals provide a lot more freedom and flexibility than exploring by public transport, they can also be fairly pricey.

Daily car rentals tend to start from around €30 euros a day. This is higher in the summer months (more in the region of €50).

Mopeds, bicycles, and ATVs are widely available on most Greek islands. They are much cheaper than car rentals.

Walk Everywhere or Rent a Bicycle

Greece on a budgetL opt to walk everywhere

Opting to walk everywhere, or as much as possible, completely mitigates any of your transportation costs when you are in a Greek city or on an island. In doing so, you will also have the opportunity to discover districts and places that you may never have found otherwise.

Most Greek towns and cities are easy enough to navigate on foot. You can also rent a bicycle to cover distances faster.

Bicycle rentals are relatively inexpensive. Automatic scooters for rent can be found in Athens and Thessaloniki.

Download Offline Maps and Go Hiking

Even walking long distances in Greece can be very pleasant. For instance, you can hike the entirety of small Greek islands like Paxos, Spetses, Hydra, etc.

Download an offline map to discover pedestrian trails and the best routes to follow. Hiking long distances on Greek islands and around seaside towns will reward you with discovering woodland churches, hidden beaches, and secluded waterfalls.

Opt to Pay in Cash

Volos, Eastern Greece
Volos, Eastern Greece

If you are travelling to Greece on a budget, every penny saved helps. Opting to pay in cash instead of by card does make a difference.

Depending on your bank, you may find that you are charged as much as $3 in “foreign transaction fees” every time you charge something to your card. This is on top of the conversions.

Try to bring an amount of cash to Greece with you. If you run out, withdraw a few hundred euros from ATMs. Try to minimise how much you pay by card in restaurants, stores, etc.

Greece is very much a cash-based society anyway. Unofficially, you may also be able to negotiate the prices on things more if you pay by cash.

Engage in Free Activities

Peraia, Thessaloniki
Peraia, Thessaloniki

You could easily spend several days in Athens and spend absolutely nothing on sightseeing. On certain days and public holidays, major city attractions like the Acropolis and various Athenian museums are completely free to enter.

Exploring the city on foot is free of course. There are also many hikes in Athens that take you to gorgeous Orthodox monasteries and churches, abandoned palaces, and crystal clear lakes. These are all days out that will not cost you a cent.

Athens is the example here. However, the same rings true for destinations all over Greece. There are also numerous companies in Athens and other Greek towns/cities that offer free (tip-based) walking tours.

Eat Street Food

Budget Greece travel
Hydra, Greece

Street food is a huge part of Greek food culture and an excellent way to save money while travelling to Greece on a budget. A pitta gyro or souvlaki can be found for $2-3 in most takeout places. Furthermore, the portions are pretty generous and filling.

Pastries and baked goods are also good breakfast options for your wallet (albeit maybe not for your waistline!) In Greece, there are bakeries on practically every street corner.

You can get a huge slice of freshly cooked spanakopita (spinach and cheese filo pastry) for just $1.20, or a koulouri (Greek pretzel) for $1. A great lunch idea is to pick up some homemade pastries from a bakery, then pick up some yoghurt, tzatziki, and fresh vegetables for a salad from a nearby supermarket.

Always Ask for a “Packet”

Greek bougatsa
Greek bougatsa

Portions at Greek restaurants and tavernas are often extraordinarly generous. Never hesitate to ask the waiter for a packet to take your food home in.

Not only does this save wastage, but it also gives you something delicious and traditional to enjoy for your next meal back at your accommodation. Greeks do this all the time.

Budget Travel in Greece:
How Much Can I Expect to Spend?

Budget travel in Greece
Agistri, Greece

Considering all of the above, I strongly believe that a real budget backpacker can get away with spending only $15-$20 a day in Greece. That is assuming that they travel out of season, opt to couch surf and stay in hostels, and eat mostly street food or food that they have prepared themselves.

If you like a little more comfort when you travel, but still like to travel for as low a cost as possible, I would say that a budget of $50 per day is more realistic. Again, this assumes that you are travelling during the offseason, but incorporates a $25-30 nightly budget for hotels, plus occasional dinners out.  

Parting Words

Northern Skopelos, The Sporades
Northern Skopelos, The Sporades

Do you have any further questions about travelling to Greece on a budget? I live in Athens and will be happy to assist with any concerns that you may have. Simply pop me a comment below or send me an email. Safe travels! Melissa xo


Melissa Douglas

Melissa Douglas is a British Travel Writer and Blogger based in Athens, Greece. She writes for numerous high profile travel publications across the globe - including Forbes Travel Guide, Matador Network, The Times of Israel and The Huffington Post.

1 thought on “Travelling to Greece on a Budget in 2021: Money-Saving Tips from a Local”

  1. Hi, Melissa, I am looking at travel to Greece on the shoulder-season the budget guide for $50 per day is that in NZ dollars or euro, please.

    Reply

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