Santorini and budget – somehow they don’t go together. At least that’s what I always thought. Until I came across a few ways to save a few euros when planning our trip.
#1 Travel outside the high season
The best tip for any kind of vacation is, of course, to travel outside the high season. If you avoid the months of June to September in the case of Santorini, you will get the best bargains.
However, as these months offer the best weather, switching to the low season is not necessarily the best option to fully enjoy the beauty of this island. But luckily you can also travel cheaply in the high season.
#2 No direct flight to Santorini
Direct flights to Santorini are rare and therefore rarely a bargain. If only expensive flights are available on your desired date (approx. €300 upwards), then take a look at cheap flights to Crete, more specifically Heraklion. The nearby island is served much more frequently by flights from Germany, so you are more likely to find a really cheap flight.
And how do I get to Santorini? Quite simply: by ferry.
#3 Combination of flight and ferry
There are several ferries to Santorini every day. A return ticket is available from around €70 per person. The crossing takes between 2 and 6 hours – depending on which type of ferry you take; the faster ones are correspondingly more expensive (from around €120).
I opted for the medium-speed ferry from Golden Star Ferries, which took us to Santorini in just over 3 hours. I paid €78 per person for the tickets. The flight to Crete cost each of us €150. This resulted in a total price of €228 per person.
This way we could not only see Santorini, but also explore Crete – and all at a really good price. The combination of flight and ferry can not only save you money; you can also make a varied island hopping trip out of it.
I booked the ferry tickets here. I can definitely recommend Golden Star Ferries. The ferry looked very high quality and there was plenty of comfortable seating.
Of course, Santorini can also be reached from other islands, such as Kos, Rhodes or Mykonos. With a little initiative, you can put together an exciting and individual trip that doesn’t have to cost that much.
#4 Flexible hotel search
Are you looking for a hotel for 7 nights? Logically, this is the usual procedure. But why actually? Why not simply change hotels more often and get the best price?
I went looking for a hotel a good 4 weeks before departure – quite late – and there was hardly a nice and affordable hotel available for 3 consecutive nights. Out of necessity, I then looked for hotels for one night at a time. And wonder what I found. I not only found inexpensive accommodation, but also really outstanding! Jackpot, in other words.
We ended up spending 3 nights on Santorini and stayed in 3 different, but all great hotels. All were in Fira, the island’s capital, and within walking distance of each other. This made the move quick and stress-free.
On average, we paid €120 per night, which is relatively cheap for nice hotels in the center of Santorini in high season. You can find details about the hotels in this article. The accommodation was so great that I simply have to recommend it. The flexible hotel search creates variety and offers the opportunity to discover a real gem; or if you don’t like a hotel – forget it, you won’t be there long.
If you spend 7 nights or more on the island, you can spread your overnight stays over several places and explore different areas, such as Oia in the north of the island or Perissa in the south.
#5 Avoid restaurants at the caldera
It is widely known that restaurants and cafés with impressive views always charge more than comparable establishments without a view. It’s no different on Santorini.
Even if the view is great, it’s not worth the hefty surcharge. My well-intentioned advice: avoid these places and go easy on your wallet. Instead, go a few streets inland, eat well and cheaply, and then stroll along the caldera with a delicious ice cream or crêpes in your hand.
Satisfying snacks such as gyros, souvlaki or falafel are available for just €3-€5. A crêpe, ice cream or the deep-fried dough balls loukoumades for dessert, and the meal is perfect. Added to this is the satisfying feeling of not being ripped off – simply priceless!
Snorkeling in private bays and enjoying the sunset
#6 Excursions on your own
Whether volcano, bus or boat tour – there is a wide range of excursions on Santorini. Prices start from around €50 upwards per person. The better and cheaper alternative: rent a scooter or quad bike and discover the small island on your own.
The costs amount to €20-€40 per day, depending on the size and performance of the vehicle. The additional expenses for fuel are hardly worth mentioning. This way, you can travel as a couple at a reasonable price, organize your day individually and explore the island’s interesting spots at your own pace.
There are providers on almost every corner – at least in Fira. I can recommend the rental of Tony’s. Very friendly and transparent service and the quad was also flawless.
#7 Traveling by bus or on foot
The bus system on Santorini is not the most advanced, but the network is sufficiently developed to reach all parts of the island. The buses also run at regular intervals and a trip is very cheap at around €1.80.
So you can easily do without expensive transfers and cab rides. You can find an overview of the current departure times and prices here.
Are you using the ferry and want to travel to or from the port of Athinios? The departure times of the buses are not fixed, but depend on the times of the ferries.
When you arrive at the port, the buses will already be waiting to take you to Fira. If you want to return to the port, you can find out about the planned departure times at the bus station or ask your hotel for the relevant information. They will be happy to help you.
#8 Use your feet
You can get around Santorini completely free of charge by foot. No seriously – there’s just so much to discover on foot.
For example, a hike from Fira to Oia is highly recommended. The views on offer are a dream! The three- to four-hour hike is somewhat strenuous in high summer, but the path is not very busy, so you can actually enjoy some solitude on this popular island.
For the way back, take the 20-minute bus ride back to Fira. However, it should be mentioned that the bus route between Fira and Oia is extremely popular and the buses are correspondingly full. Waiting times must therefore be expected, especially in the high season.
Hopefully my tips and tricks have shown you that you can travel to and enjoy Santorini on a smaller budget. It doesn’t always have to be the most exclusive hotel or restaurant. The small Greek island manages to enchant even in this way.
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