Santorini is probably Greece’s most renowned island. We all see posts of Santorini pop up on our feed, always looking so fabulous and giving us major FOMO. After all, this Greek island is what postcard dreams are made of. Who doesn’t dream of coming here and enjoying the good life? As you can imagine, gaining access to paradise comes at a price. Luckily, we found a few hacks to help you save some money and still have a great time in Santorini.
Timing is everything
This is true for most beautiful but touristic places. There’s always a sweet spot in the calendar to head out there. Summer months, from May to August, are the busiest in Santorini. It’s packed with tourists, cruise ships and the prices are sky-high.
So if you go during the shoulder seasons, in April, September and October, you’ll likely find cheaper accommodations and food. An added bonus is that you probably won’t have to fight the masses to see the best sites.
Location, location, location
Where you stay will greatly impact your budget in Santorini. Oia is probably the place that will set you back the most – it’s Santorini’s most famous town. If you want to stay in a good location, Fira, Firostefani and Imerovigli are super well-situated. They also offer amazing views of the sunset, but for a fraction of the price of Oia. If you want to pinch a few more pennies, you’ll find cheaper accommodations if you don’t have a caldera view in these towns. Plus, if you find a place that has breakfast included for a reasonable price, snag it quick.
If that’s still not enough and you want a bigger bargain, head to the east coast villages of Kamari and Perissa. They are beach locations, they offer views of the dramatic cliffs and you are close to the ruins of Ancient Thira. Plus, this island is so small that you can grab a bus to take you to the main station in Fira in 20 minutes or less.
Good eats for cheap
Greek food is probably one of our favourite cuisines… ok, we say that about all food! Don’t skimp out on eating your fair share of tzatziki, feta and local fruits and veggies. Food in Oia is going to be overpriced, so we recommend you not eat there. In Fira, Firostefani and Imerovigli, food is much more affordable, especially went you leave the main areas and find your typical gyro stands.
They have delicious local and fresh fare, for cheap. Tons of veggie options too, especially when it comes to salads and starters. Another good option is to get the sets for 2 people. They have a ton of variety so you can taste a bit of everything, and they are reasonably-priced. Bon appétit!
Free things to do
This is one of the first things we look up when we’re going to an expensive place. Why? Because there’s usually a bunch of fun things to do that don’t need to cost you a penny. We’re not big on partying, so this is our fun!
Hike between Fira and Oia
Our #1 recommendation is to hike the path between Fira and Oia. It’s a 12km coastal walk. It’s long. It’s sometimes tough. But it’s always beautiful. It’ll take you a good 3-4 hours (more if you want to snap pics around every corner like we did). It’s the perfect way to spend a morning. Just start early because the sun gets brutal. Wear good walking shoes, sunscreen and bring water. There are not too many spots that sell the liquid gold along the path.
Cliff jump at Amoudi Bay
Once you get to Oia, after your 3-hour hike, cool down by jumping into Amoudi Bay, located just below Oia. Be warned, there are about 300 steps to get down there. This is a local hotspot, and because most tourists don’t know about it, it won’t be too busy. This adorable fisherman’s village has some cliffs you can jump off and cool down in the warm Aegean sea. The ultimate reward after a long hike!
Santorini is not known for its beaches, but they are still pretty awesome to visit. Just be warned, they are often pebble beaches, so forget any ideas of lying on soft white sandy beaches. You can totally grab a beach chair, but that will set you back about €10-15.
Kamari beach is probably the most popular, with a dramatic cliff to the side, and black volcanic pebbles.
Perissa beach has black sand and is quite beautiful.
The Red Beach is small, but cool-looking, just be warned that it’s quite a hike to get to and it gets pretty crowded.
Watch a sunset or two
Ok, so everyone will tell you to watch the sunset at Oia Castle, but we’re not the type who follow what people say. We always to it our way. Truth is, sunsets in Oia are beautiful, but they’re HELLA-CROWDED. Like insane amounts of people who are fighting to get the exact same picture of the sunset, above everyone’s head. It gets loud and pushy. Apparently, people even clap when the sun sets… That’s really not our scene.
If you’re looking for an awesome spot to watch the sunset, we highly recommend Firostefani, Imerovigli or even Fira. Much smaller crowds, better views with Skaros Rock, and an overall more enjoyable experience.
Climb up Profitis Ilias
If you love hiking, this is another free 3-hour hike for you. Profitis Ilias is the tallest mountain on the island of Santorini, right between the villages of Perissa and Kamari. And as you can imagine, it offers some beautiful views of the island. Just like the other hike, wake up early, start in Kamari and finish in Perissa. There’s a beach reward waiting for you at the end.
On your way up, stop at the Zoodochos Pigi spring, the only site with fresh water on the entire island. Chill a bit there, take some pics, and keep going with your bad self.
Once you make it to the top, you can visit Ancient Thera (€2), a well-preserved excavation site of an antique city, abandoned in the 8th century.
Drink tap water… with a Lifestraw
Ok, so you can’t actually drink the tap water on Santorini straight up. That’s why our biggest recommendation will always be to have your own reusable bottle and filtration/sterilization device. There are a ton out there, but our favorite it still the Lifestraw. It’ll save you money on buying plastic bottles, and you’ll be saving the planet by reducing the amount of plastic you use.
We ran out of time to do this, but if you love ancient ruins and archeological sites, Akrotiri is the place for you. This ancient city was buried underneath volcanic ashes during the eruption of 1627 BC. A lot like its Italian cousin, Pompeii, its been well-preserved by the ashes.
Ok, this isn’t free but with an entrance fee of €5 (€3 for students), it’s pretty cheap and awesome! You can access Akrotiri by bus from Fira or by car. It’s actually right next to the infamous Red Beach, so you can make a whole trip out of it.
Get around like a local
The cheapest way to explore, and probably our favourite, is walking! The towns are small and accessible enough that you can do it well. It does however get really hot, so if you want to get out of the scorching heat, we recommend the bus. This is a great way to get from one town to the next… Unless you’re doing the hike!
The local bus system on Santorini is awesome and runs island-wide. Depending on where you’re staying, you may have to change at Fira for some journeys. This is why we recommend staying in Fira, or Firostefani, so you avoid any transfers. At around €2 per trip (€1.80 to be exact), it’s a really cost-effective way of seeing pretty much everything.
Taxis are also reasonably priced – except if you’re leaving the airport or port. They will charge you a hefty fee.
Finally, you can also rent a scooter or a quad. They go for as little as €20 for 24 hours. They’re a great way of getting around too, but seeing how certain people drive on the island, we gladly skipped out on this. Also, you know us, we’re eco-friendly, so we loved taking the bus.
Most buses pass every 20 minutes or half-hour, but the schedule changes with the high or low season. The first time you are at the main bus station, in Fira, make sure to snap a picture of the timetables. You should be set for the rest of your trip.
Extra tips for saving money
Bring your own sunscreen. It’s crazy expensive on the island… actually mostly every commodity is over-priced on most islands, so save yourself the trouble and bring your own. Even bring extra, in case you end up running out of it, especially if you head to the beaches or on a boat tour.
Skip the Fira Cable Car. No need to take it down to the port of Fira. There’s not much to see there, and like we mentioned, cruise ships crowds come in there so avoid it.
Do not ride the donkeys. We know it always looks like fun to ride animals… actually, we don’t know. Maybe it’s a lazy person cop-out. But these animals are usually tired, mistreated and over-worked. You have legs. Use them.
Drink on the cheap. If you like to drink, kind of like we do, it’s cheaper to drink at restaurants or go to backpacker bars with BOGO happy hours. Beer is pretty cheap in markets, but stronger alcohol is very expensive. Also, if you’re lucky, you may get a carafe of wine or alcohol at no additional charge at the restaurant. They sometimes offer dessert for free instead. Now this is a happy ending we can get used to!
Travel cheap from the airport. If you fly into Santorini, take the K-Tel bus for at most €2 to reach your accommodations. Taxis at the airport are super expensive and they don’t negotiate. They wanted to charge us €25 for a 10 minute ride. No thanks!
Pick a hotel with breakfast included. In most restaurants we found, a breakfast (an omelette with toast, no drink included) went for about €10. Fresh OJ set you back €5-6, as did coffee. It ends up costing about €25-30 for just an ok breakfast. Save yourself the trouble and either find a hotel with breakfast, or get a place with a kitchenette and make your own.
Extra tips for having a good time
Bring comfy walking shoes. Most of the streets are uphill, and cobblestone, so not the best place for your heels. Though we did see some brave ladies trying to look cute in heels… not their finest hour.
Dress in layers. It gets chilly and windy at night, so dress in layers, and maybe bring a windbreaker.
Wear sunscreen. Ok, it’s actually windy all the time, so you don’t feel the sun so much. But after seeing what it did to Derek after a few hours, we highly recommend you wear sunscreen. Like all the time!
If you want to explore the picturesque cliffs covered in white and blue homes. Or if you want to get “lost” in the alleyways, just because they’re the perfect backdrop for a photoshoot. Or even gaze over those perfect blue church domes overlooking immaculate blue waters, this is the place for you. Santorini has everything your Grecian dreams are made of. Hopefully, now you can enjoy the island without breaking your bank.
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