If there is one thing I know it is how to go to Greece and survive on little money. Not that I do it very often anymore now that I am a responsible family man. But back in my youth, which lasted about 40 years, I used to come to Greece with about a thousand dollars and stay all summer. Times have changed and so has the economy and getting by for a whole summer on a thousand bucks is not that easy though some people can do it through a combination of finding
a job that either pays you, feeds you, or gives you somewhere to stay for free or using your credit card and pretending that you are not really spending money.
I remember when I was a high school student going to the American
Community Schools of Athens, when summer vacation would come I would go to Mykonos
with about one thousand drachma in my pocket which was about $30 then. We would
sleep in caves or on the beach in those days when camping was free. Our meals
would be fried potatoes, macaroni with tomato sauce, Greek salads and lots of
bread dipped in olive oil. A meal would cost us fifteen drachma, about
fifty cents and would include a bottle or carafe of wine, usually retsina. We
would go to Mykonos town every night for Souflaki dinner at Alexis or one of
the inexpensive tavernas by the windmills, hang out outside the popular bars
which even then were beyond our means, and all chip in for a taxi back to Paradise
beach. My 1000 drachma would last me about two weeks. (You could take a bus from Amsterdam to India for about $100 back then.)
Times have changed and now people as poor as we were can't afford the plane, ferry,
train or bus to Greece. The book that was once called Greece on $5 A Day
is probably up to about $50 or $100. But it is still a popular destination for
backpackers and you can still get by cheaply. OK, not thirty dollars for two
weeks and maybe not even thirty dollars a day. But keep in mind that back in
the old days we did not have credit cards and chances are that you do, so no
matter what, you won't starve and you won't be stuck begging on the streets
of Athens for plane-fare home. At least I hope not.
on a Budget
The less time you spend in Athens the less money you will spend. Athens hotels
are more expensive than most of the islands with the exception of Mykonos and Santorini. There are a few C-category hotels
that are reasonable, clean, friendly and located centrally and there are others
that are none of those things. I recommend The Hotel Attalos which should cost about
45 euro per person as long as there are at least two of you. This is where I stay when I am in Athens. The Hotel Cecil will
cost even less. Athens Urban Rooms is right in the midst of the Athens nightlife of Psiri. If you are lucky enough to find a room the Hotel Tempi is right in hip Agia Irini Square. The Hotel Exarchia is right in the neighborhood of
Exarchia, a hotbed of revolution and counter culture activity where there are clubs, live bands, and the police won't even go there. (Not recommended for families with small children or really straight people). There are also some youth hostels with rooms and dormitories like Athens Backpackers, Small Funny World, Bedbox Hostel, which are right downtown and Bed Station and Loft Hostel which are both in the entertainment rich neighborhood of Gazi.
If you are not a youth but still a backpacker you may be better off in a C-category hotel like those mentioned above or found
at www.hotelsofgreece.com or www.athensguide.com/hotels.html or by visiting Booking.com's Athens Pages which has all sorts of inexpensive hotels that you can find by adjusting the search parameters to your price range.
There are trains and buses that get you to
and from the airport. See Athens Airport Information
Taxis are cheap in Athens and if you have a 6am flight you might
think about getting one in advance so you don't miss it. This can
be arranged by the hotel concierge or you can go to the website of George the Famous Taxi Driver and if you are sharing the cost with others it won't be much more than taking public transport and a lot less of a hassle.
Eating and Drinking in Athens
For places to eat you can see the restaurant section of my Athens Survival
Guide because most of these are pretty affordable since I really don't go out to expensive restaurants unless somebody else is paying for me which does not happen very often. Check out H Nostimies tis Maries which is in the Kypseli section of that page. It is really cheap and you get big servings and lots of artists and struggling actors eat there. If you are on a super serious budget you can make a meal out of a souvlaki
or two which can be found just about anywhere. Tiropitas and spanakopitas (cheese
and spinach pies) are
my favorite meal when I want to fill up for less than 2 euros. Yogurt is cheap, filling
and healthy and unlike when I was young and came in one flavor (yogurt-flavor)
you can get almost any kind of fruit yogurt that you will find in
your home country. Of course now it has gone beyond healthy and
is just another sugar filled desert (with helpful bacteria). There are some
delicious fruit drinks you can find everywhere and they are delicious
and filling. I don't know how good they are for you but they sure
taste good. Try the peach and the pear, my favorites. Strawberry
is pretty good too.
The souvlaki shops down by Monastiraki are cheap and popular. The
restaurants like Epirus in the Athens Central Market are better and even cheaper.
The further you get from the tourist areas the less you will pay
for a beer or anything else. In cafes the fancier the chairs and
decor the more you will pay, but the good thing is that you can
hang out as long as you like because that is what everyone does.
The snack-bar ouzerie Kapni Kareas in
a little alleyway by the famous church is a great place to eat and
hear some good music at the same time. It's open only during the
day. If you stay away from
fancy bars and do your drinking in cafes and inexpensive restaurants, your money will
go a lot further too.
There are thousands of interesting fast food joints all over Athens. See Matt's Souvlaki Page and also see Matt's Guide to Greek Food because if you know how you can eat very cheaply in Greece.
You may as well look at my Athens Nightlife page because you will probably want to do something after you eat besides go back to your hotel and go on Instagram or Facebook.
You have to see the Acropolis no matter how
much it costs. You can buy a ticket and it is good for a couple days to see most of the archaeological sites nearby.
All the info you need about Athens can be
found at www.athensguide.com
If you are going to any of the Cyclades it
is not necessary to have a cabin. Economy class tickets are the cheapest, usually
no more than 30 euros to any of the Cyclades. You can buy them in
Pireaus on your way to the boat, unless you are traveling the last
Thursday or Friday of July, before everyone in Athens takes their
August holiday. Same goes for the Thursday and Friday before Easter.
Coming back the Monday-Wednesday after Easter and after the 15th
of August is also tricky and you will want to get your tickets
in advance. There is another holiday called Agios Pnevmatos which
is the saint day of the Holy Spirit and similar to Memorial Day
in the USA. It's a moveable feast that tales place sometime in June
and people leave the city in droves and come back the same way after
the three-day weekend so be forewarned. If you want a cabin or are
planning to take the high-speed it is a good idea to book in advance
through the agency that is booking your hotels. You can also try
one of the ticket agencies in Athens a day or so before you leave
but some of them will try to sell you packages you may not want
and even tell you that the boat is full so they can send you somewhere
else and book your hotels. The best thing to do, especially if you have booked hotels and know you have to be on a certain island on a specific date, is to find the schedules and book through Ferryhopper.com and you can pick your tickets up in the port. If you need step by step instructions
for getting on the metro to Pireaus and buying ferry tickets and
going to an island see Matt's How to Visit a Greek Island. Highspeeds cost about 30% more than the normal ferries so if you want to save money go slow. Anyway the ferries are more comfortable and you can go outside and walk around and they are less bouncy when the sea is rough.
Don't stay in Pireaus thinking you will save
time or money. If you stay
somewhere near the metro you can get to Pireaus to catch the ferry for about
a dollar and be there in less than 15 minutes. But in case you want to see my Pireaus Hotels page.
I am often asked about the little old ladies who come to meet the boats with rooms to rent ion their homes. People still do this but it has lost a lot of its innocence. Instead of little
old ladies greeting you at the ferry with crudely written signs for rooms there
are people waving photos, postcards and yelling. Some are hotel owners
or employees, others are professionals who get paid for every person they bring
back. It can be an intimidating experience and you can wind up paying more than
you planned, to be in a place you don't want to be. For this reason I think
it is better if you know which islands you want to visit, to book through a
travel agent in Athens and let them know what your budget is from the start.
They give you your hotel vouchers and ferry tickets and you have relatively
few hassles besides deciding where to eat and where to swim. With the emergence of hotel booking sites most people know where they are staying long before they get to the island and the more people who have booked in advance the fewer hotel owners are at the port begging for guests. Use Matt's Hotel Search and find a hotel you can afford and use the maps to make sure it is somewhere you want to be (like by the sea).
hotels can be found for almost any island at www.hotelsofgreece.com. You can also get them through any of the travel agencies on my website but by nature they will first offer you the more expensive ones so if you tell them you are looking for budget accommodations right
off the bat they won't waste their time or yours and let you know
what are the best hotels for the money. In the off-season you can
also get good deals at higher category hotels from the agencies,
especially if they have commitment for the rooms because they will
have paid for the rooms for the season and if it is empty they won't
make any money on it but they have still paid for it. When you know
which island you want to visit ask them which hotel they can give
the best deals. Try Fantasy Travel
who usually have several hotels on the popular islands. They also have a Special Offers Page where they sell packages at really low rates because if they don't get whatever they can for them the rooms will go empty. For example if you want to go to Santorini and stay in a luxury hotel overlooking the caldera for 80 euros a night per person see their Santorini 5
Also check www.hotelsofgreece.com for apartments, rooms, and houses which are available on many islands as well as Booking.com's Greece Page.
For those with sleeping bags and a tent here is a list of campsites in Greece
but how up to date it is I couldn't tell you. Most campsites in Greece and especially on the islands, are pretty
nice with shaded areas to set up your tent, a cafe, a shop that
they usually call a mini-market,
a restaurant or bar and some have a disco-nightclub. Almost all
of them are a few steps from the beach. (By the way if you are looking for The world famous Pink Palace in Corfu the most popular of the student hotel-camping-beach-party complexes Click Here)
Keep in mind that those islands you have heard
of are usually those that everyone has heard of and prices can be
higher. However there are more accommodations which means during
the off-season and slow summers you can find deals that are comparable
to the remote and inexpensive islands. Also keep in mind that just
because you have never head of an island that does not mean it will
be cheap. There are islands that few tourists visit that are holiday
destinations of Athenians and the prices reflect this.
Aegean Thesaurus Travel on the island of Sifnos works with a number of C-catagory hotels on different islands, Athens and on the mainland. You can visit their website or you can use this
to request their rates for hotels on whatever islands you want to visit. be sure to mention in the comments section that you are looking for budget hotels.
Most young people include Ios in their itineraries and also
Santorini which is right next door though Santorini is expensive unless you stay at the beach rather than in the caldera. If you want to go somewhere really inexpensive but just as beautiful and just as much fun as any of the popular islands go to Lesvos.
For more information on the Greek Islands
see Matt's Greek Island Synopsis
Most people who have traveled to Greece often or live in Greece will tell you that the mainland is the best part. It is also less developed and less expensive than the islands, at least the ones that you have probably heard of. And most of the important archaeological sites are on the mainland and the beaches are as good or better
than what you will find on the islands, with a lot less people on them. Visit my Guide to the Greek Mainland and read about the Peloponnesos, Ipiros, Pelion and other beautiful places in Greece. Also see my Guide to Trekking, Hiking, Adventure, Cultural and Alternative Travel in Greece.
There are buses in Athens that go pretty much
everywhere though in some cases you may have to change to a local
bus. You can even take buses to Corfu, Kefalonia, Zakynthos and
Lefkada. Buses are clean and well kept and usually privately owned.
Most have air-conditioning if not all of them. But if you really want to explore the mainland you should rent a car.
The trains go north to Thessaloniki with a
couple spurs that shoot off to Pelion and Meteora. The Peloponnesos
Train goes to Corinth, Kalamata,
Patras and a few places in between. Train fare is inexpensive and
you will find yourself accompanied by many Albanians, refugees,
Gypsies and poor villagers and even a few back-packing tourists.
The train stations for both the Peloponnesos and the train to Northern
Greece are easy to get to from Omonia. Walk down Agios Konstantinos
Street and when you get to Kariaskakis Square take a right and walk
a couple more blocks. The first station you will see is the Northern
Greece line and the Peloponnesos Line is behind it. You can also
get the Peloponessos train from Pireaus which is very helpful if
you are coming from or going to Patras and the Greece-Italy ferry
boats, because you can by-pass Athens if you like. The Pireaus station
is right next to the Metro Station across from the ferries.
Getting to the long distance buses is another story. There are two bus terminals, both in a part of Athens you would never go to if there was not a bus terminal there. You can find the bus routes to the terminals
at www.athensguide.com/schedules/terminals.html and schedules and other helpful info at www.athensguide.com/schedules as well as how to get to these terminals and which one you need to go to depending on where you are going. My advice is to splurge and take a taxi. The Greek National Bus System is actually a lot
of smaller private companies driving under the banner of KTEL. There is a KTEL Website with links to schedules and more info though the quality of the information varies place to place. Some are not even in English. But the buses are nice at least.
Travel agents offer tours to many popular
places on the mainland which are usually affordable, almost as cheap as going on your own, and include pick up from your hotel, transportation by luxury bus, tickets to the archaeological sites, the services of a licensed guide, and even meals. See Fantasy
Travel's Organized Land Tours for examples.
If you are traveling with three other people it is just
as cheap to hire a taxi. See www.greecetravel.com/taxi
See Matt's Greece Mainland Pages
If you travel light you will be a lot happier.
I use a small backpack that can fit in the overhead luggage on the
flight over and it has wheels too. You don't need a lot of clothes if you are going in the summer
because during the day you will be wearing shorts and a bathing
suit and if you rinse them at night they will be dry by morning.
The sun shines every day and you can wash your clothes and hang
them out and they will be dry in a couple hours. You don't need
a load of books because you are afraid you will be bored. Just bring
one or two and you can jettison them when you finish and find another
in the hotels because that is what everyone does. A good guidebook
is helpful. Lonely Planet is what I use but equally good
is Frommers, Fodors, or Rough Guide. You
can order them through my books
page along with other interesting books about Greece. Bring sunscreen. It is expensive in Greece.
Getting to Greece
See Kayak and Justfly.com
for inexpensive flights from the USA and keep trying and you should be able to find something affordable. From the UK look for deals
from Easyjet and Ryan-Air and check the travel ads for charter companies
that are trying to fill seats and are offering good deals through
bucket-shops. If you are coming from or through Europe by train just get
to Brindisi, Italy and go deck on the ferry to Patras. That's the
cheapest way to get to Greece. Then take the bus to Athens. It's
faster than the train, but the train will take you all the way to
Pireaus if you want to skip Athens and go straight to the islands.
All this information and more is covered
in my Athens Survival
Guide and at www.greecetravel.com
and you can e-mail
me for more info or specific questions.
Not to discourage you from striking out on your own and dealing with the ferries and buses and cheap hotels in search of an inexpensive holiday, but there are packages available which include hotels, ferries, transfers, tours and breakfast to some of the most popular islands in Greece for as low as 62 euro a day per person. For more info see www.greecetravel.com/budget-travel