Traveling to Greece on a budget is certainly feasible. Greece is arguably one of the cheapest travel destinations in Europe. You just have to know where to look and when to travel.
- 1 Traveling to Greece on a Budget
- 2 Is Greece Expensive?
- 3 Traveling to Greece on a Budget
- 3.1 Greece Budget Travel Tips at a Glance
- 3.2 Travel Out of Season
- 3.3 Consider Alternatives to Popular Destinations
- 3.4 Don’t Overlook the Greek Mainland
- 3.5 Be Strategic When Booking Flights
- 3.6 Be Informed of Any Applicable Discounts and Concessions
- 3.7 Use Public Transport to Get Around
- 3.8 Be Smart About Ferry Travel
- 3.9 Download BEAT Taxi App
- 3.10 Buy an Athens Metro Ticket Pass
- 3.11 Play Smart with Accommodation Options
- 3.12 Consider Couchsurfing and Free Camping
- 3.13 Look for Accommodation Travel Hacks
- 3.14 Reassess How Long You Will Spend in Each Location
- 3.15 Opt for Self-Catered Accommodation
- 3.16 Shop at Local Markets
- 3.17 Do a Little Research on Where to Eat
- 3.18 Rent a Moped Instead of a Car
- 3.19 Walk Everywhere or Rent a Bicycle
- 3.20 Opt to Pay in Cash
- 3.21 Engage in Free Activities
- 3.22 Eat Street Food
- 3.23 Always Ask for a “Packet” When You Dine Out
- 4 Budget Travel in Greece:How Much Can I Expect to Spend?
Traveling to Greece on a Budget
Is Greece expensive? Generally speaking, no it is not.
Take it from someone that has lived and worked in Greece for four years. It is estimated that the cost of living in Greece is, on average, 30% lower than the cost of living in other European countries.
While the cost of living is obviously different from the costs that you will pay in touristic destinations, it certainly helps you put things in perspective. You can dine out and go out for drinks in Greece and only pay a fraction of what you pay back at home.
The only important thing in all of this? You need to be mindful of the season that you travel to Greece and the parts of the country you visit.
It may be shocking to hear that you can easily travel Greece on a budget, especially if you have been researching places like Santorini and Mykonos. But these islands are far from representatitve as Greece as a whole.
Yes, some of their restaurants, bars and hotels would almost rival what you can expect to pay in places like London and Paris. But that is because these are the most glamorous and popular places in Greece.
Is Greece Expensive?
Most people that travel to Greece for the first time follow similar itineraries. They usually fly into Athens, spend a day or two in the capital hanging out in Old Plaka and Psyri and then fly onwards to Santorini and Mykonos.
These are all incredible places to visit in Greece. Of course, there is nothing technically wrong with that route and you should travel to the Greek destinations that appeal to you the most.
The only issue? These are some of the most touristic and thus, expensive parts of the country.
This is especially true during the summer months of July and August when tourists disembark cruise ships at Oia in their thousands. Demand exceeds supply and prices soar.
Travel slightly out of season though, or venture somewhat off the beaten path and the situation changes completely. What many people do not realise is that you can sail around the Greek island groups even in the middle of July and August and still not break the bank.
You just have to be strategic about it all. You do not have to massively compromise on your dream Greek island hopping trip to be able to explore Greece on a budget.
Traveling to Greece on a Budget
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 at a Glance
Is Greece expensive? Not if you follow these tips.
- 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 traveling 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
- 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 public transport and 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
Travel prices across the board soar phenomenally during the Greek 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!
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
Mention traveling 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 to in Greece.
If you are looking for an island paradise, consider a lesser-known alternative. After all, there are over 6000 islands in Greece set across several Greek island groups.
The Sporades islands of Skopelos, Skiathos, and Alonissos are also often frequently overlooked. These places are just as beautiful as the major tourist sites and arguably, visiting a lesser known place that has not been gentrified by tourism is a more authentic travel experience.
Don’t Overlook the Greek Mainland
Sure, it may be the Greek islands that encourage millions of people to feature Greece high on their travel bucketlists. However, the Greek mainland is also a wonderful place to travel.
There are 18 UNESCO world heritage sites in Greece and the mainland is overflowing with archealogical sites, fascinating museums, and sunbleached ruins. A lot of areas are only really known to Greek domestic tourists.
The Lakonia region of the rugged Peloponnese is a nice alternative place to consider visiting. Here, you can explore the ancient Byzantine towns of Mystras, and Monemvasia, and learn the fascinating history of ancient Sparta.
Hotels here start from just €35 a night, and since the area has not experienced the same mass influx of tourism as say, Zakynthos, or even mainland places like Meteora, restaurants and bars are also affordable. You can get a good meal at a taverna here for €5-7.
Halkidiki is the coastal peninsula in Northeastern Greece that consists of three “prongs” of land that stick out into the sea like Poseidon’s trident. Many of the beach towns here are charming, boast blue flag beaches, excellent hiking trails, and exquisite eateries, and are just as worthy of your attention as the islands.
If you rent a car, you can hop between villages and find some very reasonable accommodation prices. You can also sail out to the breathtaking uninhabited island of Diaporos, and tour around the Mount Athos monasteries while you’re in the area.
Be Strategic When Booking Flights
A lot of people travel to Greece on package holidays, particularly when visiting popular islands such as Skiathos or Zakynthos. However, it is worth assessing the option of organising things independently, as this may save you a fair amount of money.
A good rule of thumb wherever you travel is to use aggregator flight search platforms like Skyscanner to search for flight tickets. You can search for flights to Greece by the month in order to establish which dates are cheapest.
You may be planning to travel on certain dates but you would be suprised by how significantly prices can vary from one day to the next! Ryanair, Wizzair, Scoot, Olympic Air, Aegean Airlines and EasyJet offer very competitive flight deals to Greece.
Try to book your flights in advance where possible as prices increase as you get closer to the departure date, particularly if you are travelling in the summer. Book your luggage at the time of purchasing your flight to avoid extra costs at the airport.
Be Informed of Any Applicable Discounts and Concessions
Certain travellers may be applicable for discounts and concessions in Greece. This is worth double checking as a couple of euros saved here and there can really add up if you are spending a week or two in the country.
Namely, students and those aged over 65 can receive discounted entry to a number of museums, archealogical sites, as well as reduced cost on public transportation. This includes the Athens to Airport metro and buses.
It is worth enquiring about this everywhere you go as there are a lot of discounts available. Some historic sites in Athens such as the Ancient Agora also offer reduced entry to those aged under 26.
Teenagers and children may also be eligible for reduced or free admission to certain sites. You should carry your proof of identity/age and your student card with you at all times just in case you are asked to present it.
Use Public Transport to Get Around
Public transport in Greece is excellent and is a good, low cost way to get around if you are traveling Greece on a budget. 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 often more expensive if bought at the last moment on the day of travel, particularly where ferries and trains are concerned.
Taking Buses in Greece
KTEL is the main bus provider in Greece. It is worth keeping in mind if you plan on travelling a lot on the mainland and between Greek cities.
Confusingly, there is not one centralised KTEL website for all buses in Greece, and each specific region has its own dedicated KTEL booking site. For example, the Athens area is KTEL Attikis, the Thessaloniki region is KTEL Macedonia, etc.
To find the one you need, you can general Google the name of the area and “KTEL”. You can also purchase tickets in person at the bus station.
However, it’s advisable to do so the night before to avoid any disappointment. Buses in Greece are reasonably priced. As an example, you can get from Athens to Thessaloniki for just €32.40.
Taking Trains in Greece
Unfortunately, the Greek rail network is not extensive. It only connects Athens with the cities of Larissa, Kalambaka (for Meteora) and Thessaloniki.
They are essentially no more expensive than taking the bus and thus are great for traveling to Greece on a budget. You can book your train tickets online in advance via Trainose.
A one way ticket from Athens to Kalambaka/Meteora costs €36.70 per person. From Athens to Thessaloniki, it is approximately €40 per person.
Be Smart About Ferry Travel
If you are planning on island hopping, you will no doubt be using a ferry or two during your time in Greece. Services run several times a day between major ports and popular islands.
However, even so, it is not unheard of for them to sell out completely. Use Ferryscanner to check the latest routes, timetables, and purchase your tickets online in advance.
Do not wait until the night before to book your ferry tickets. If you don’t mind roughing it a little and sleeping on a boat, you can also save on a night’s accommodation costs by taking a night ferry to some islands.
Blue star ferries operate night services between Piraeus and the islands close to Athens and beyond. 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 effect on your trip. Being flexible with your itinerary in this manner can save you a fair amount of money.
Download BEAT Taxi App
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.
Taxis 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
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.
Athens multi-day tickets are worth looking into if you plan on spending at least a couple of days in the Greek capital. You 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
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.
Book Your Accommodation in Advance for the peak season
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.
Book Your Accommodation at the Last Minute for the Off Season
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.
Use aggregator platforms to browse what is available in a city in the days before your trip. When you book at the last minute, many hotels often provide free room upgrades or complimentary breakfasts as an incentive to book.
You could even book a hotel that has a free cancellation policy, so you ensure that you have a place to stay. However at the same time, keep browsing to see if anything better becomes available.
Often, you may find better deals if you book directly through a hotel’s website. This is because the aggregator platforms take commission which can actually work out to be a relative additional amount.
Consider Couchsurfing and Free Camping
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.
Doing so may sound risky if you haven’t used the platform previously. However, you may be suprised to see that there is an entire global community of travel lovers that use it.
The concept is that you stay on someone’s couch or in their spare room as part of a cultural exchange. You create a profile to tell them about yourself, and you should always check their reviews before staying in the home of a stranger.
This is a great way to see Greece through the eyes of a local and make friends while doing so. Female travellers should be mindful when choosing a host as there are those that view this as a dating app.
Camp Among Nature
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.
It is possible to “free camp” in the wilderness in some areas. This has become relatively popular in rugged Cycladic islands like Folegandros.
Look for Accommodation Travel Hacks
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. The only thing that they can say is no. If you are staying for a longer period (i.e. a month or more), you should always try and negotiate on the cost.
Reassess How Long You Will Spend in Each Location
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.
Then, you can take day trips out from there instead of ‘hopping’ from one location to another. Spending a month in Greece is a great choice if you are a remote worker, or you have a flexible schedule and you enjoy slow travel.
Opt for Self-Catered Accommodation
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
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
When traveling 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”.
If you have an idea of good places to eat before you arrive in Greece, there is less chance that you will fall prey to a tourist trap restaurant and wind up spending $20 on a sloppy piece of pasticcio.
Rent a Moped Instead of a Car
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). Of course, there are also additional “hidden” costs such as insurance, gas prices, etc.
Mopeds, bicycles, and ATVs are widely available on most Greek islands. They are much cheaper than car rentals.
Walk Everywhere or Rent a Bicycle
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
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
If you are traveling 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
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.
Free admission dates for major Greek historical sites and museums are detailed below. You can check the specific details, opening times, etc, online prior to your trip.
- The first Sunday of the month from November to March
- 6 March (Melina Mercouri remembrance)
- 18 April (International Monuments Day)
- 18 May (International Museums Day)
- Last weekend of September (European Heritage Days)
- 28 October (Oxi Day)
Exploring the city on foot is free of course. There are also many hikes in Athens that take you to gorgeous Orthodox monasteries and Athens 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
Street food is a huge part of Greek food culture and an excellent way to save money while traveling to Greece on a budget. A gyro or souvlaki can be found for $2-3 in most takeout places. Better yet, the portions are pretty generous and filling.
Greek 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. Similarly, you can get a koulouri (Greek pretzel) for $1.
A great lunch idea is to pick up some homemade pastries from a local Greek bakery. Then, pick up some yoghurt, tzatziki, and fresh vegetables for a salad from a nearby supermarket.
Always Ask for a “Packet” When You Dine Out
Portions at Greek restaurants and tavernas are often extraordinarily 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 so rest assured, it is a normal thing to ask.
Budget Travel in Greece:
How Much Can I Expect to Spend?
Considering all of the above, a real budget backpacker can get away with spending only $15-$20 a day in Greece. That is assuming that you travel out of season, opt to couch surf and stay in hostels, and eat mostly street food or food that you prepare yourself.
It is worth keeping in mind, however, that if you plan on staying in hostels while traveling to Greece in a budget, you may not find these everywhere. You will find backpacker hostels and capsule hotels in major tourist destinations and cities like Athens, Thessaloniki, Patras, etc.
However, many islands and rural areas only have hotel accomodation. Some islands are more upscale than others and you may struggle to find budget accomodation in popular or “romantic” getaway destinations. Research in advance and plan accordingly.
If you like a little more comfort when you travel, but still like to travel for as low a cost as possible, 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.
Do you have any further questions about traveling 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