When most people imagine the picturesque white houses on the cliffs of Santorini, and the crystal clear waters down below, there is often one other thought that comes to mind- expensive! However, a Santorini holiday does not have to be a budget-breaker! We recently spent a fantastic week on the sun-filled island, and managed to do so without breaking the bank. In this article you will find our list of tips for how to have a cheap holiday in Santorini- without sacrificing on sightseeing, food, and fun!
Tip #1- Time of Year
Early May was the perfect time of year to visit- the weather was beautiful (~25 degrees and sunny every day), the hotels were affordable, and the popular tourist destinations were not over-crowded! We were initially worried it would be a bit too cold to enjoy the beach, ocean, and hotel pool, but we were pleasantly surprised when we found ourselves swimming every day! We were told that in the peak of the summer it could easily get to 35 degrees, so to us the weather we experienced was much more desirable (and less sweaty). It was also only the beginning of the tourist season (low season/shoulder season), so it was super easy to find a spot on the beach, we never had to wait to be seated at a restaurant, and were able to enjoy a much more laid-back vacation without crowds.
Tip #2- Location
Location plays a HUGE factor in hotel prices, in addition to the time of year to visit. We found an incredible hotel in the beach area of Perissa, on the southeast side of the island. This area was perfect for us, since we wanted a mix of relaxing on the beach and sightseeing at the tourist hotspots. The beach was lined with dozens of Greek Tavernas, beach bars, and watersport rental shops- this made for a great selection of good options and cocktail specials for when we were ready to lounge on the beach. One of the best things about the restaurants here was that if you bought a drink or lunch, you could use their beach chairs, umbrellas, and wifi all day. Some even had music playing which made for a great beach vibe. Just be careful when walking barefoot on the black sand- it can really burn your feet when you’re heading for the water!
Tip #3- Hotel facilities
Samson’s Village hotel in Perissa was honestly one of the best hotels we have stayed at (see our review here). The location was right across the road from the beach, the service was incredible, there was a pool, the room was extremely affordable, and we had a full kitchen in our little apartment. The area of Perissa is generally one of the more inexpensive areas of the island, but where we saved on costs we definitely did not lose in quality! The hotel was beautiful! We definitely suggest searching for a hotel room that has a kitchen to save on the costs of eating out. At the start of our trip we headed to the grocery store to stock up on breakfast food, and actually brought instant coffee and pancake mix with us in our suitcases. Eating breakfast at home every morning certainly saves money on expensive breakfasts, but also allowed us to have a more relaxing start to the day by eating on our balcony overlooking the pool.
Tip #4- Gyros, Gyros, Gyros
One of the most famous Greek foods is Gyros- shaved meat (either pork or chicken), served either on a plate or in a pita- and is it ever delicious (seriously still have a bit of a gyros obsession)! The best thing about the gyros pita is that it’s bursting with flavor, but not only that- it usually only costs 2-3 euro!! Most days, regardless of whether we were chilling at the beach or getting lost while exploring the alley ways of Fira and Oia, we ate gyros for lunch. For us, sampling the local cuisine is part of getting the full experience of the location, so by eating cheaply for lunch (and eating at home for breakfast) we were able to save a lot of money and still enjoy a nice dinner together at a restaurant.
Tip #5- Renting a four-wheeler (and the best timing)
As you’ve probably heard, renting a four-wheeler/quad/ATV is one of the easiest and fastest ways to get around the island. It is relatively inexpensive to do, and only cost us 25 euro for 24 hours and 10 euro for gas! We chose to start our rental at 15:00 the first day, and therefore would have it until 15:00 the next day. This ended up being the PERFECT timing- the first afternoon we started by heading to Fira, exploring all it has to offer, and then heading to Oia in time to see the sunset! Scooting around on the ATV was very fun and much more efficient than taking the bus, but the dark, windy roads certainly make for an interesting experience at night, so make sure to be extra cautious!
The bus is also quite affordable, however it is is not the most efficient and if you’re using it to travel from Perissa to Oia or Kamari, it would work out to be about the same price as renting a quad. For example, to get from Perissa to Oia, you must change busses in Fira; the first bus will cost 1.80 per person, and the second 2.40 per person- so about 4 euro per person per way (~16 euro per day, and that’s just to travel to one town).
Tip #6- Local Wine
For those of you, like us, who enjoy a glass of wine in the afternoon or evening, be sure to head to the local grocery store or market and pick up some local wine! It is tasty but extremely inexpensive and therefore also saved us a lot of money on pricey restaurant drinks. At the shop, you take a plastic 1.5 liter bottle from the shelf and fill it yourself from the barrel of wine. For only 2.50 euro you have delicious, local wine for at least a couple of days!
Tip #7- Dinner Specials
As we previously mentioned, we absolutely love sampling local, traditional cuisine wherever we visit! This however can quickly become expensive if you don’t have a look to see what some of the dinner deals and specials are in the area around you. Lucky for us, the restaurants at Perissa beach were full of fabulous specials, including some of the most delicious Santorini dishes! One night for dinner we went to a restaurant called Acropolis right at the beach- the staff were incredibly friendly and welcoming, there was nice Greek music playing in the background, and we had a beautiful view of the beach and full moon. We ordered the ‘Santorini Special’, which included a big fresh salad, friend tomato balls (tomato gefthedes) as an appetizer, half a liter of wine, and a HUGE platter with moussaka, stifado, rice, potatoes, and pita. It was AMAZING (and although meant for two people, it probably could have fed 4). They also had a delicious roast lamb special another night, which was also a lot of food and great value for two people!