If your talk to anyone –even local Greeks- about visiting Santorini on a low budget, you’ll most likely be met with laughter, confusion, and sometimes even pity.
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Yes, the rule in Santorini is that visitors of the island come upon outrageously expensive prices in regard to accommodation, food, and entertainment, with the most beautiful view of the world being translate into inflated price lists; if a sun lounge costs close to a tenner, then I better get the most exotic tan the world has ever seen!
Fortunately, there are always exceptions to the rules, and when it comes to Santorini, despite being very well hidden, these exceptions not only exist but are more worth the effort of finding them.
What’s the cheapest way to reach Santorini?
Ammmoudi bay, Santorini - credits: Tyler L./Shutterstock.com
To begin with, in order to enjoy the magical island of Santorini, you first need to reach it. Unfortunately, one price you cannot negotiate is the price of the tickets. There are two price points for tickets depending on the time you’re willing to sacrifice for your journey, but other than that, the prices are pretty much fixed, with no real fluctuation ever taking place.
If you don’t have the patience to stay in the ferry for too long and are willing to pay a little extra in order for your journey to be the shortest possible, high-speed ferries take almost half the time in comparison to regular ferries and cost twice as much. Specifically, a trip to Santorini with a Hellenic Seaways ferry will last 4.5 hours and will set you back a whopping 123 €.
Similarly, if you take a Sea Jets ferry, your transportation will last again 4.5 hours but will set you back 112 €. On the other hand, if you have all the time in the world and are in no rush to reach your destination, traveling with a Ventouris ferry will last 9 hours (!) but will only cost you 66 €, while traveling with Blue Star Ferries will set you back 61 € and 8 hours.
Keep in mind that all prices are refundable, so if an emergency comes up, you’ll have no reason to panic whatsoever.
Where to Swim in Santorini
Vlychada Beach - credits: IndustryAndTravel/Shutterstock.com
Shouldn’t swimming cost absolutely nothing? Ultimately, all it requires is the sea and your body. Unfortunately, that’s not quite the case, as, despite the waters being offered freely by Mother Nature, the sea lounges you want to relax on and enjoy the warm sunshine are anything but.
Especially in the most popular organized beaches of the island, prices can climb up to 10 € for a sun lounge, a price that is so ridiculous, just hearing about it makes my skin crawl. Thankfully, apart from the world-acclaimed beaches that are favored by thousands of tourists every year, there are some hidden gems that only a few people know about.
This means that first and foremost, they remain unspoiled from mass tourism, and then that they are not organized and therefore require no fee for your visit.
Next to the touristy beaches of Kamari and Perissa, you will find the also organized and popular beach of Perivolos, where you will have the opportunity to sunbathe in the comfortable –and most significantly completely free of charge- sun loungers and swim in clear, crystal clear waters against the backdrop of the black volcanic sand, a trademark element of Santorini that cannot be found in any other part of the world.
Another incredibly affordable and also quiet beach on the island is the beach of Vlychada, located in the southernmost part of Santorini. There, you can find only one beach bar that despite offering a few sunbeds, it’s not loud and avoids disrupting the calm setting of the beach. The rest of the beach is free for people to lie wherever they feel like it, with dark sand and lunar rock formations in the background. The beach of Vlychada happens to also be one of the last nudist shelters in Santorini.
If you feel like branching out to a more alternative side of Santorini for your swimming adventures, I’d highly suggest you try the beach of Ammoudi, which is essentially a small harbor at the base of Oia, the beauty of which only a few people know about. Apart from incredible deep blue water, Ammoudi offers the ultimate sunset view and is therefore perfect for those enjoying their honeymoon in Santorini.
Low budget Santorini Accommodation
Oia, Santorini - credits: Mila Atkovska/Shutterstock.com
Probably the most daunting task when it comes to budget-control, affordable accommodation in Santorini often sounds like an oxymoron. It seems impossible for people to understand that being on a low budget in Santorini doesn’t mean staying in a dark, cockroach-filled hole in the middle of nowhere and eating just souvlaki once a day.
If it seems impossible for you too, I’m here to prove you wrong. See, from a private Jacuzzi to a filthy shack there is a long road filled with decent options; all you need to know is where to look for them and maybe compromise your desire to have caldera at your feet.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice having a lovely view, it only means that Caldera is often used as an excuse for overcharging goods and services, everything from accommodation to restaurants, bar, and cafés.
An excellent example of low-budget accommodation where the low prices don’t expense quality is Onar Rooms and Studios in the region of Perissa, only a few minutes’ walk from the homonymous beach. Chic, large rooms, a clean environment, and good Wi-Fi make sure that your stay in Santorini is enjoyable without breaking the bank. Specifically, prices start from 38€ for the double room in July and 55€ in August.
What’s more, Dream Villa, Cape, located very close to the Red Beach, displays an authentic Cycladic aesthetic, featuring a setting of whitewashed, flowery courtyards where the deep blue details accentuate the starkness of white. The spacious balcony the rooms come with often overlooks the sea, yet the prices for a double room with breakfast do not exceed 35€ in July and 58€ in August!
One of the best bargains you can find on Santorini is a room at Agia Irini hotel in Imerovigli. Offering not only a prime location, stunning sea views but also a large swimming pool where you can unwind for hours while sipping a delicious cocktail, the fact that it will only cost you 45€ for a double room in July is mind-boggling. Unfortunately, the prices increase dramatically in the month of August, reaching nearly double the amount, with € 72€ for a double room with breakfast, so please keep that in mind before booking your stay.
As its name suggests, Caldera Romantica in Cape offers the ultimate romantic setting who those who are traveling to Santorini as couples ready to celebrate their love! Its elegant rooms, large pool, and private balconies overlooking either the caldera or the pool will only set you back 49€ for the double in July, reaching 71€ for the same room in August.
Another option for the romantic hearts of the world is Villa Romantic in downtown Fira; yes, even right in the center of the always busy and bustling Fira you can find a deal if you look hard enough! With 50€ for a double room with breakfast in July and 85€ in August, you can enjoy comfortable beds, private balconies, satellite TV, and the fact that you’ll be right where the hearts of Santorini beats!
For all dedicated wine lovers on a budget out there, there is a special option for you: the Rapsody Traditional Apartments in Imerovigli. Located in the middle of a wonderful vineyard, with large verandas overlooking the Caldera, Cycladic decor, and facilities including a little kitchen and satellite TV, it is an absolute steal with prices starting at 50€ for a double room in July, and reaching 75€ in August.
Last but not least, comes Galini Oia Pansion, the cheapest option you can possibly find in Oia. There, its clean rooms with balconies and rich breakfast will set you 53€ for the double room with breakfast in July, and 64€ in August; talk about a bargain!
Where to eat in Santorini on a budget
Dinner in Santorini Santorines/Shutterstock.com
Santorini is known for its luxurious lifestyle, especially among its visitors, and gourmet restaurants charging an arm and a leg for dishes that rediscover Greek cuisine and push its limits while nodding to tradition, are not only common but very sought after. Thankfully, as I’ve suggested time and time again, Santorini has a lot of layers.
Therefore, apart from the high-class restaurant that will cost you a month’s salary, there are more than a few cozy, traditional taverns that remind us of the value of simple flavors by offering mouth-watering cult-classic Greek dishes made of fresh ingredients from the land of Santorini.
Such exquisite tavern is Nikolas in Fira, where you’ll savor dishes of local cuisine that celebrate the minimalist nature of Mediterranean and Greek gastronomy. Despite being extremely popular and having made a name for itself that has passed the Greek borders, Nikolas’ fame is not reflected in its price list that comes up to 15€ per person.
Counting 90 (!) years of success, Aktain in Firostefani is a gorgeous tavern offering well-cooked dishes of Greek cuisine at a reasonable price of € 20 per person, which means that you can go for a refill time and time again- isn’t that the perfect excuse?
Another affordable tavern option I located in the region of Pyrgos and is called Kallisti. There, in addition to incredible home-cooked meals, you’ll find a selection of meats and fish on the grill that will make the 18€ per person you’re going to spend seem laughable.
Keeping it both low budget and local, Lava in the popular region of Perissa counts 25 years of tradition and offers delicacies made strictly from local products; ethical, delicious, and dirt cheap at 15€ per person; what more could you possibly want? If you’re a fan of fava beans –how could you not be?- then a trip to Ammoudi in order to taste allegedly the ‘best fava in Santorini’ in Katina is a must. Along with fava, Katina offers fresh fish and homemade meals for a maximum of 20€ per person.
A bit unconventional, as it serves dishes from the cuisine of another Greek island, the tavern of Metaxi mas, located in the village of Exo Gonia, is the place where Crete meets Santorini. Enjoy a shot of rakomelo alongside scrumptious meze dishes and think about how great life can be, especially if you pay around 15-20€ per person for such a great experience!
Following the same philosophy, Raki in Megalochori offers a wide variety of delicious snacks accompanied by local wine at only around 15€ per person. Last but not list, a fairly new addition to the food scene of Santorini, Nixta sto Kamari is the most gourmet-like option on the list without the superb quality and style of the dishes affecting their price that does not exceed 20-25 € per person. The combination of deliciousness and cheapness is one of my personal favorites!
Don’t deprive yourself the joy of marveling at the beautifully wild landscape of Santorini and reveling in its magical ambiance; follow the advice above, and you’ll even manage to leave some money still in the pocket!
They say that in life everything is possible, and I have to agree! Even visiting Santorini on a low budget during the summer, which seems lunatic as a concept, can happen if you remain focused and dedicated to your goal. Much like traveling on a low budget in any other part of the world, doing so in Santorini requires a lot of research and planning.
Yes, spontaneity is a great ally to having fun, but it is also the shortcut to being broke. Resist the urge to follow the crowds of tourists that go for the most obvious choice in regard to accommodation, food, and entertainment, and dig deeper to find the alternative choices that have been proved to be not only cheaper but a lot more original and authentic, revealing Santorini’s true identity.