Travelling to Greece on a Budget in 2020: Money-Saving Tips from a Local

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

After living in Athens for the past two years, I can confidently say that the Greek capital is a very affordable place to be, and that travelling to Greece on a budget is certainly feasible.

That said, the summer months sees a massive influx of tourists to this mediterranean paradisesand prices soar along with the demand for accommodation and flights. If you are smart about organising your trip to Greece, it does not have to cost you an arm and a leg.

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

Travel Out of Season

Travelling to Greece on a budget
Travelling to beautiful Spetses 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.

Do not underestimate precisely how much you can save by travelling out of season. I visited the islands of the Saronic Gulf during April and spent between $20-$25 on mid-range hotel rooms. In the summer, those same hotel rooms had more than doubled in price!

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!

During the shoulder season, you can expect temperatures of around 25-28 degrees celsius – that’s still pretty good for visiting the beaches, and means you don’t get fried as much as you do during the 36-degree heatwave of the summer months. No lobster tan for the off-peak travellers!

If you travel to Greece at the end of April, throughout May, and at the tail end of September, you will note a substantial reduction in prices as well as crowds, while still enjoying paradisiacal weather.

Consider Alternatives to Popular Destinations

Aegina: A popular weekend break destination among Athenians

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 so 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.

Instead of travelling to popular vacation destinations like Zante (Zakynthos) and Kos, venture instead to somewhere like Lefkada, the quaint little beach town of Parga, or the beautiful islands of Aegina, Hydra, and Agistri that are close to Athens. You will notice that the locals have been keeping some of the best places for themselves.

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, especially 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.

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, and 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 hear me out – even if you travel during the highest 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.

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 by opting to stay in someone’s home.

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.

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

Budget travel in Greece
Cape Sounion

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.

Whereas in an authentic Greek taverna you can pay 6 euros for a generous slice of moussaka and just a couple of euros for some wine, in touristy areas you’ll 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 so that you minimise the amount you pay on these things while you are out exploring.

Shop at Local Markets

Travelling to Greece on a budget:
Travelling to Greece on a budget: Sounion, Southern Greece

In Athens and other Greek towns and cities, we have “laiki” farmers markets. 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

Budget Travel in Athens
Athens, Greece

The likelihood of you wandering into a tourist trap restaurant and spending $20 on a sloppy piece of pasticcio is increased tenfold if you wait until you are really hungry on a day out sightseeing and walk into the first place you see.

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 and search for “the best places to eat in X”.

Rent a Moped Instead of a Car

Piraeus beach

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. On some of the Greek islands, mopeds, bicycles, and ATVs are widely available and are much cheaper than car rentals.

Opt to Pay in Cash

Budget Greece
Kifissia, Athens

If you are travelling to Greece on a budget, every little helps, and 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.

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

Budget travel in Athens
Poros, Greece

If I told you that you could spend several days in Athens and spend nothing on sightseeing, would you believe me? On certain days and public holidays, major city attractions like the Acropolis and various historical museums are completely free. 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 and 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, we have 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.

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.  

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 2020: 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.


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