Greece is not only beautiful with its ocean landscapes, distinct architecture, and delectable food, but it’s also incredibly affordable. Things cost half what they do in other parts of Europe. As one of the continent’s most popular destinations during the summer times, people from around the world flock to its famous islands for the sun, and to the cities for the history. I love Greece. It’s warm, it’s cheap, it has delicious food, rugged, windswept but relaxing islands, and lively and friendly locals. It’s the perfect summer destination. Everything you have ever seen or heard about Greece is true and I highly recommend you spend some extended time here. Also, try to get off the islands and into the interior as it’s mostly free of crowds!
Accommodation – Depending on the area of Greece you are traveling to, hostels will cost 10-35 EUR for dorms and 25-40 EUR for private rooms per night (less in Athens, more on expensive islands like Mykonos). A room in a budget hotel that sleeps two can be found for 25-45 EUR (expect much higher prices – up to 50% higher – during the busy season). Amenities at these hotels typically include free WiFi, a private bathroom, air-conditioning, a television, a mini-fridge, and sometimes breakfast is included as well. On Airbnb, you can find shared rooms for as low as 10 EUR in many cities and entire homes (including studio apartments) can be rented on the low-end for 25-50 EUR.
Food – Greece is known for its food. Think fresh vegetables (like olives), seafood, grilled meats, bread, feta cheese, yogurt – all the staples of a fresh Mediterranean diet. Restaurants will cost about 20 EUR for a nice dinner, even in the tourist area. If you add wine, expect to pay about 30 EUR. A meal at a very luxurious restaurant will begin at 30 EUR. A whole fish is about 18 EUR. If you really want to eat cheap, eat gyros (like kebabs). A Gyro is around 3 EUR and will easily fill you up. Most cafes will cost you around 11 EUR for a meal. If you cook your meals, expect to pay 35-45 EUR per week for groceries that will include pasta, vegetables, chicken, and other basic foods. It’s easy to eat on the cheap in Greece.
Transportation – Because Greece has a lot of islands, you will be dealing with lots ferries and boats. Expect to spend an average of 36 EUR per a trip, though you could spend as little as 12 EUR if the islands are really close together. If you book the ferries around two months in advance, you can save up to 25% off the cost of your ticket. From Athens, most ferries to the islands cost around 60 EUR. Greece’s inter-island ferries can get quite expensive if you are visiting a lot of them. Taking the overnight ferries can save you up to half off the normal price plus save you a night of accommodation. Slow, overnight island ferries begin at 13 EUR. Buses and trains around the mainland are around 20 EUR. It’s less than 2 EUR for a single ride on the Athens train system and most bus tickets cost about the same. For cities without public transportation, there are usually scooter, moped, or ATV rentals (they average around 20-40 EUR per day).
Activities – Visiting the ancient sites around the country will cost between 12-24 EUR for a ticket. Island activities (kayaking, parasailing, banana boats) will cost between 22-45 EUR. You can rent ATVs for a day for around 20 EUR and diving trips begin around 55 EUR.
Suggested daily budget – 40-60 EUR / 42-63 USD (Note: This is a suggested budget assuming you’re staying in a hostel, eating out a little, cooking most of your meals, and using local transportation. Using the budget tips below, you can always lower this number. However, if you stay in fancier accommodation or eat out more often, expect this to be higher!)
Money Saving Tips
- Eat super cheap – Gyros and other street snacks only cost a few Euros and can keep you full for less than 10 EUR per day.
- Rent a moped – When you can’t ride the train, rent a moped. It’s cheaper than a car and a fun way to see the various towns and cities. You can usually rent a moped for around 14 EUR per day.
- Get off the beaten path – Greece is a cheap country and even cheaper when you get out of the touristy Greek islands or popular destinations. Head off the beaten path and you will usually see prices drop by 30% or more.
- Book overnight ferries – Greece’s inter-island ferries can get quite expensive if you are visiting a lot of them. Taking the overnight ferries can save you up to half off the normal price plus save you a night of accommodation. Moreover, if you book the ferries around two months in advance, you can save up to 25% off the cost of your ticket.
- Avoid Mykonos – Mykonos gets a lot of hype. It’s a cool island and deserves it but it is also Greece’s most expensive with hardly any budget accommodation, 12 EUR drinks, and 40 EUR meals (don’t even try ordering the fish!). The island caters to upscale honeymooners so if you are on a tight budget, I would avoid this island.
- Visit in the off-season – August is the most expensive month, so if you can arrange for a visit before June which would really cut down your accommodation and flight costs by up to half.
- Couchsurf – Couchsurfing is a great way to get a free place to stay and meet locals. There are a ton of hosts throughout the country (I stayed with one in Athens) and it’s my favorite way to get to know the “real” Greece.
- Rideshare – If you’re flexible in your schedule, use the ridesharing service BlaBlaCar and catch rides with locals between cities (or countries). Drivers are verified and it’s perfectly safe (though sometimes rides don’t show up, which is why you need to be flexible).
Top Things to See and Do in Greece
- Visit the Acropolis – Located in Athens, this magnificent temple is a great place to learn about Athen’s history while you get a expansive view of the city and the nearby ruins. During the summer, the place is swarming with tourists and sadly, the Parthenon is always under construction, but the views are incredible! Admission is 12 EUR and it’s open daily from 8am-7:30pm except on Mondays when it opens at 11am.
- Explore the past – Greece is where western civilization began and everywhere you turn, you will find ruins that are thousands of years old. Start in Athens with the museums, the Acropolis and surrounding ruins (the Agora is wonderful), and then set off to explore the ruins of Delphi, Sparta, and Crete. If you love history, you’ll love Greece.
- Remember the Spartans – Sparta was the ancient rival of Athens and known for her fierce warriors. The city has a long history and ruins to explore. There is no shortage of things to do, excursions to take, and places to eat when you visit the city. It’s an often overlooked city, but you can get all the history of Greece without the tourists of Athens if you visit. I wouldn’t suggest skipping Sparta!
- Explore the beaches – From Crete to Santorini to Corfu, the Greek islands are some of the best in the world. Soak in the sun, admire the white sand and blue-roofed houses and just relax. Santorini is famous for couples, while Ios is great for parties and meeting other young travelers. Some off the beaten path islands include Rhodes, Kos, or the ones in the far east. During the summer, most of the islands are full so book early.
- Attend the Hellenic Festival – Every summer, the Hellenic Festival in Athens has concerts and performance theater, including reenactments of Greek tragedy. It’s one of the country’s top cultural events and if it coincides with your visit, you’ll see just how proud the Greeks are of their past.
- Go to Meteora – Located mid-way through Greece, Meteora is famous for its monasteries that sit atop sheer rock mountains. They are a stunning sight to see and worth the steep trek up to the top. Although more than twenty monasteries used to perch on the steep rocks, only six remain today. They were a highlight of my visit to Greece.
- Take in the sun in Corfu – The Greek Islands may get all the press but sunny Corfu on Greece’s west coast is also a good place to enjoy the beach too. It’s a popular destination for young backpackers, but once you get out of the main town, you avoid them and their partying ways and get the island to yourself!
- Visit historic Crete – The island of Crete in Greece has a long, long history. It was once home to the ancient Minoan civilization (which predates Greek civilization). The capital of Knossos has some impressive ruins. Crete has beautiful beaches, hiking, quaint towns, delicious food and wine, and friendly, welcoming locals. I love the island!
- Explore the Delphi Ruins – Delphi has always been a place of historic and spiritual significance. This is where the omniscient Oracle would contact Apollo and give advice to those seeking good fortune. Although the eternal flame no longer burns inside, a visit to the Temple of Apollo is obligatory.
- Go into Melissani Cave – A boat tour will take you into these caves, where you can admire the magical quality of ultramarine water and monumental walls that surround you.
- Walk up Mount Olympus – Mount Olympus is the home of ancient gods. From here the gods would control the lives of mortal men. Any climb to Mount Olympus starts from the town of Litochoro. A walk up this mountain will be strenuous and mystical and you’ll see why Greeks thought it was this mountain from which the gods ruled.
- Hike the Samaria Gorge – For the outdoor enthusiasts out there, this is considered one of the best hiking experiences in Greece. While it isn’t the shortest or easiest trek, the Samaria Gorge does promise beautiful landscapes, fantastic photo opportunities, and a great workout.
- Experience the Patra Carnival – Every year in mid-January, the city of Patra is host to what is basically a month-and-a-half-long party. There’s a slew of events, both major and minor; increasingly crazy weekends; and various costume parades, which even feature floats. It’s usually a good idea to make hotel reservations well in advance.
- Visit the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion – The number one attraction on Crete, this museum also happens to be Greece’s second largest archaeological museum next to the museum in Athens. There is a stunning collection here, which highlights the Cretan civilization (dating back from Neolithic times, through to the Roman empire). It’s open daily 8:30am-5pm, except Mondays when it opens at 12pm. It does have abbreviated hours December-February. Admission is 6 EUR.
- Go to Santorini – Although it but one of the numerous Greek islands, many consider it to be the most spectacular. Aside from the beautiful landscape and volcanic presence, it is an amazing place for beachside camping, winery tours, scuba diving, and more. The ruins on the southern part of the island were some of the best I saw.
- Party on the island of Ios – Ios has the wildest nightlife out of all the Greek islands. It is the summer party island where days are spent hungover on the beach while nights are spent eating cheap food and drinking. If you don’t want to do that but still want to see Ios, it’s best to go to the eastern part of the island where it’s quieter. Don’t let Ios’ party reputation deter you from visiting, it’s a beautiful, rugged island (and home to the grave of Homer) and only busy June-August!
- Temple of Olympian Zeus – While you are walking about Athens, this is a incredible archaeological site to stop at. This temple is massive and took over 700 years to construct (dating back to the sixth century). There are a number of Corinthian columns still standing, though many have fallen. It’s quite an impressive sight. Admission is 2 EUR (it’s free if you already have admission to the Acropolis). It’s open daily from 8am-8pm with abbreviated hours in the winter.