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Compared to other European destinations, Greece is a pretty affordable country to visit – unless you plan on visiting certain Greek Islands.
While some Greek islands offer a little slice of Mediterranean paradise at a surprisingly affordable price, others have prices that will make your eyes water.
Yes, I’m looking at you, Mykonos and Santorini!
Island hopping in Greece on a budget
– is it even possible?
Thanks to their Instagrammable streets and picture perfect views, islands like Mykonos and Santorini have become SUPER popular. They may just be two of the most popular islands in the world – and the prices have skyrocketed with the number of people visiting each year.
If you have your heart set on a Greek island getaway but don’t want to splash a fortune, don’t worry yet.
Island hopping Greece on a budget is far from impossible. It’ll just take a little more planning, but that’s what this post is for!
How to travel the Greek Islands on a budget
Getting to the Greek Islands
There are thousands of islands in Greece (literally!) and that means there are plenty of airports and ports.
Unless you’re coming overland, you’ll probably be flying in. Skip Athens if you can, and fly directly to one of the islands you plan to visit. You’ll save a load of time and stress, as well as a little bit of money!
Most of the larger Greek Islands have airports with regular or semi-regular flights. This includes Santorini (Thira), Milos, Mykonos and Paros, as well as many of the lesser known islands.
If you’re island hopping on a very tight budget, you might want to choose your first and last island based on flight prices and build an itinerary around that.
Getting around the Greek Islands
The easiest – and cheapest – way to get around the Greek Islands is by taking the Greek ferries, which can cost as little as 7 Euros.
There are multiple ferry companies offering passenger services around the Greek Islands. They all vary slightly in price, as does the style of ferry, facilities on board and the time of the journey.
RELATED READ: Before taking the Greek Island ferries, check out this bumper post of tips and other things you need to know first.
If you want to travel the Greek Islands on a budget, there are plenty of affordable ferries to choose from. Just keep in mind that the lower the price, the longer the journey will probably take. It’s all about weighing up the cost versus the time of the journey to find the best deal.
Some islands have more than one port, so make sure you know which one you need to stop at. If not, a bus or taxi ride at the other end could quickly make that cheaper ferry ticket twice the price!
Planning a Greek Island itinerary
The Greek Island ferries make it easier to island hop to your heart’s content. But you’ll want to have some sort of strategy if you want to stick to a budget!
Most people who visit the Greek Islands have an island or two they really want to visit, so I’d recommend using this as a starting point. Prices on the islands vary a lot, so make sure you can find accommodation within your budget.
Once you have an ideas of which island(s) you want to visit, take a look at the ferry routes. We used this site to plan all of our trips and it’s pretty easy to use.
Travel tip: Many of the ferry routes include stops at multiple islands, even if they’re listed as direct. That means you can end up wasting time and going back on yourself if you’re not careful when planning your route!
As a rule of thumb, the ferry will stop at most islands between your starting port and destination, so schedule any stops you want to make along the way.
If you’re on a super strict budget, I would skip Mykonos and Santorini altogether. They’re simply hard to enjoy without a lot of cash and you’ll spend the whole time worrying about money. Plus there are SO many amazing Greek Islands islands to visit and, if I’m honest, Mykonos and Santorini were two of my least favourites.
Budgeting for a Greek Island hopping trip
Unlike other destinations, where you can just rock up and wing it, you’ll want to be prepared for this one. A little planning will go a long way when it comes to island hopping the Greek Islands on a budget!
There are four main things you’ll need to budget for when planning your trip: ferries, accommodation, food and drink, and any other activities you want to do. Let’s take a look at each…
The Greek Island ferries
We’ve already looked at how to find the best ferry tickets, but how much should you set aside in your budget?
The Greek Island ferries can range from less than 10 Euros to around 100 Euros per person for a round trip. If you’re only going one way each time, this will cut your costs in half, but book a round trip if you’re only visiting two islands.
An average ferry will probably set you back around 50 Euros. This includes one piece of luggage, which you store in the luggage area, and an assigned seat in the main seating area.
If you’re tempted to splash out on an upgraded ticket, I wouldn’t bother. The seats are pretty much the same and the price is usually way higher. Save your pennies for the islands.
The other thing to think about on the ferries is food and drink. The prices tend to be higher on the faster ferries, where a slice of pizza and a bottle can you back into the double digits! It’s always best to come prepared with your own food and drink, if you can.
If you want to get the best value for money without roughing it, I’d look straight to Airbnb for accommodation. There are plenty of budget-friendly Airbnb options in the Greek Islands, especially as the main season comes to an end.
When we living in Crete, our studio apartment halved in price as soon as September hit! That meant it cost a mere 200 Euros per month, and was located right in the centre of Heraklion, the capital.
If you’d rather stick to a hotel, book as far ahead as possible. Hotels in the Greek Islands fill up quickly and the budget-friendly ones won’t be around for long!
Just be careful when looking at the location. Some of the more affordable hotels are affordable for a reason, and that’s usually because they’re far away from the action. It’s better to spend a little more, if you can, and be closer to the main town.
TRAVEL TIP: Check out my travel resources page to find the hotel booking sites I use and trust.
Food and drink
Food and drink is priced pretty similarly on most of the Greek Islands. The only places where you’ll need a slightly bigger budget are – you guessed it! – Santorini and Mykonos.
Even though the islands are the perfect place to try seafood, it’s not as cheap as you might expect. Squid and white fish tend to be the most affordable, so don’t skip over the seafood section entirely.
If you drink alcohol, most places offer a happy hour.
A budget of around 30-50 Euros per day should cover food and drink, as long as you stick to soft drinks most of the time.
There’s a lot to do in the Greek Islands, and some of the best activities are free! I’m sure that’s very welcome news for budget travellers who still want to enjoy a Greek Island hopping adventure!
The Greek Islands have some of the best beaches in the world. Whichever island you end up on, there will be plenty of beautiful beaches to enjoy and nearby rocky formations to explore.
If you’re into hiking, many of the islands have some beautiful hiking trails you can enjoy under the Mediterranean sun. Just make sure you pack water and a bottle of sunscreen in your hiking bag!
My favourite thing to do on every island, though, was to simply wander around the streets.
Greece’s streets are some of the most Instagrammed in the world for a reason. Think white walls and bright pink flowers against the backdrop of a perfect blue sky. Every town has endless alleyways to explore, each packed with adorable stores, dreamy homes and countless nooks and crannies.
Have you got insurance?
Even though you hope you’ll never need to use it, travelling with insurance will make sure you’re covered if anything goes wrong. I use World Nomads because it’s the most comprehensive cover I’ve found – they even cover the more adventurous activities that other insurers won’t. Find out more about them in this post or get a quote right here:
Tips for island hopping Greece on a budget
If you want to make your island hopping budget go as far as possible, here are a few extra things to keep in mind.
Avoid the peak season: The Greek Islands can be expensive all year around, but the prices skyrocket during the summer months. May to September is peak season, so visit outside of these months if you want to make your money go further. The ferries slow down, but it’s still possible to enjoy most of the islands with a little planning.
Visit the lesser known islands: Just like the most popular months, the most popular islands tend to be the most expensive. That’s okay, though, because the smaller islands are just as beautiful. In fact, my favourite islands were the smallest ones I visited: Naxos and Syros.
Eat inland: The restaurants with the best views come with the highest price tags. If you want to save some pennies, head a few streets inland for dinner and then enjoy the view from a free viewpoint.
Ask for take away: Most restaurants are more than happy to put any leftovers in a takeaway box. Don’t waste uneaten food or force it down – just ask for a bag to go and save it for the next day!
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