It’s a myth that a high-end vacation in Greece has to be expensive. There are many creative ways to cut costs and travel in comfort without spending a ton of money. Get out those bucket lists and start planning while bearing the following tried and tested tips in mind:
1. TIMING IS EVERYTHING
May and September are the best times to visit Greece as visitors can enjoy the sunny weather while also cutting down on costs. Greece is also less crowded during these months as schools start on September 11 and everyone is back at work leaving the travel field free for the budget conscious traveller.
So if you want to visit Greece to feel the summer heat without the soaring prices, NOW is the time.
2. CHOOSE ISOLATED REGIONS
Escape the madding crowds of Mykonos, Santorini and Crete and head to other island destinations that are just as beautiful but unspoilt by the effects of mass tourism. There are still plenty of unsophisticated backwaters to be found for those willing to dare testing the lesser-known enchanting islands for an authentic taste of Greece. Try Astypalaia, Koufonisia or Milos before these get too popular and out-of-reach for budget travellers.
3. COUPONS AND PACKAGES
There are a number of coupon travel sites that offer cheap travel, dining, accommodation and any other deals that your heart desires. Check them out with the help of a friend who speaks Greek or the aid of Google translate. Some of these are Happy Deals, reGroup and Bonus Deals amongst others. Opt for package deals as these are cheaper.
4. KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR FREEBIES
Here’s the good news. The best things to see and do in Athens can be done for free. Even museums and sites have free days and offer opportunities for visitors to attend guided tours or events without having to pay a dime.
Check out the programme of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation’s Cultural Centre (SNFCC) Greece’s recent entry that is serving to revolutionise the cultural scene with a bevy of free events. The Eugenides Foundation, the Onassis Cultural Center and many more cultural institutions also present cultural programmes offering free events to the wider public. Attend Greek dancing lessons at a Workers Club around Greece (Ergatiki Leshi) or keep abreast of events being offered to local audiences that will give you an authentic taste of the local scene.
Alternatively, you can win tickets during premier shows by sending an SMS to Athinorama magazine that announces new opportunities every Wednesday as well as filling your details out on forms at Monopoli, Music City and Culture Now.
5. SAVE MONEY AND THE WORLD
Greece is home to several endangered species, in the middle of an economic crisis that has crippled the nation, and – add to all of the above – a passageway for refugees, including unaccompanied minors, seeking asylum in Europe. For this reason, there are causes galore for those who are interested in helping out the local community while experiencing travel through a different perspective. Apart from the obvious humanitarian benefits, participating in such a problem offers visitors to Greece a chance for cheap travel, free accommodation and work experience. If you want to make your trip more purposeful, look into some of these NGOs: ELIX (volunteer packages from every spectre + free food and accommodation), MOm (Hellenic Society for the Study and Protection of the Mediterranean Monk Seal), Archelon (Programmes in Crete, Zakynthos and other areas for the protection of Caretta Caretta sea turtles), EKPAZ (Hellenic Wildlife Hospital, an NGO nursing wild animals on the isle of Aegina), Arcturos (a sanctuary seeking to protect mountainous regions and protect the bear habitat).
6. COUCH SURFING AND HOME SWAPS
Couchsurfing and home swaps help people become immersed in new cultures. All you need to do is set up a profile on the site, chat with other couch surfers and home sharers. It is important to be cautious and read the sites warnings as there have been tales of crime and rape.
Alternatively, the Winston Club, promises guests a luxury stay at the best hotels for half the price, but there’s just one catch – they have to share a room with complete strangers. The site of the club claims to offer a safe, reliable and better travel experience than hostels or couchsurfing.
7. CUT COSTS ON CAR TRAVEL
Cars are helpful in getting around, but the ferry costs make it wiser to leave it at home and consider renting. It is best to rent a car before arrival because rentals in Greece are in euros, causing non-EU residents to pay a premium both on the rate and on the dollar conversion. For best rates, choose manual cars rather than automatic.
Carpooling is a cheap option with ecological benefits, and ideal for travellers headed in the same direction. Of course, hooking up with strangers carries all the dangers and benefits of couchsurfing.
8. ISLAND-HOPPING PASS
The allure of the Greek islands is more accessible for travellers thanks to the Greek Islands Pass offered in collaboration with Eurail/Interrail. Travellers enjoying the affordable train service have the opportunity to discover the Greek islands as they hop from one island to the next. All up, 27 Aegean destinations are offerred using Superfast Ferries (Anafi, Amorgos, Astypalaia, Chios, Crete, Donoussa, Ios, Iraklia, Kalymnos, Kastellorizo, Kos, Koufonissi, Leros, Lesvos (Mytilene), Lipsi, Mykonos, Naxos, Nisyros, Patmos, Paros, Rhodes, Santorini, Schinoussa, Symi, Syros, Tilos and Tinos). Six ferry trips can be made within a 1-month period, allowing users to create a tailor-made programme according to their needs. Pass holders who want to explore more than six islands get a 30 percent discount on new purchases. The popular pass gives holders two international ferry trips between Italy (Ancona, Bari, Venice) and Greece (Corfu, Patras, Igoumenitsa). Furthermore, it allows for free train or bus travel from Patras to Piraeus and back. Pass prices range from 140 euros to 245 euros according to the class you choose, whereas children under 11 years travel for free. Call (+30) 210.891.9700 or (+30) 210.891.9130, or e-mail Attica Group and Superfast Ferries.
Alternatively, check Pame Krouaziera for cruise deals on Celestyal Cruises.
9. HOW TO BOOK CHEAP FLIGHTS
10. HOW TO GET AN UPGRADE TO FIRST CLASS