Greece,  Travel

How to Survive Santorini on a Budget

Santorini is one of the most coveted tourist locations in Greece and for good reason. It’s beautiful, white-washed, architecture and famous blue domes attract visitors from all over the world. Santorini businesses know this and prices to stay, eat, and shop are pretty high. Because Santorini exudes luxury, prices follow suit. I’m always game for a luxury experience, but my budget was not luxurious. Read below for how I navigated the expensive, yet beautiful Santorini by keeping it simple while embracing the luxury.

I only stayed in Santorini for a full 2 days, the 3rd day we took a ferry to Naxos (see why Naxos made my favorites here). I think a shorter stay in Santorini is key to staying within budget. Staying in Santorini more than a few nights is not only expensive but unnecessary. Within the time we were there, we got to everything we wanted to see and do. If we were there for longer we probably would’ve just been relaxing. If your entire trip is planned to be in Greece, I would only spend a few days in Santorini then visit some of the other Cyclades on a quick ferry ride.

Getting There

If you are already in Europe before making it to Santorini flights directly into Santorini are usually a pretty fair price. If you are flying from the U.S. or anywhere outside of Europe I would suggest first flying to whatever country is cheapest then making your way there. You could also fly into Athens and take a ferry to Santorini but I’m not sure how much better the pricing would be.

We flew from Naples, Italy to Santorini for the great price of 91 euros (around 55 euros without upgrade that allowed a checked bag). Luckily, our fantastic apartment rental owners set up a car to pick us up from the airport. I read multiple blog posts about how the bus system from the airport could be a bit unreliable. Our flight had been delayed several times and we arrived very late so arranging for pick up was our best bet. I would suggest the same if you know you will be arriving late.

Where to Stay

I was convinced that in order to have a fulfilling time in Santorini that we MUST stay in Oia. This was a big misconception but our stay was very convenient and well-priced for it’s location. We ended up staying in Lotza studios in Finikia. Finikia is considered part of Oia but is about a half a mile walk to the main strip.

Our place at Lotza was a studio; it included our bed, a kitchenette, a full bathroom and a small but beautiful balcony where we ate our breakfast each morning. Breakfast was provided every morning. Every night we filled out a form with what we wanted for the following day. We were provided with a cleaning service and new towels each day so it was similar to a hotel stay. Our room had its own entryway with a gate and opened up to the shared pool between us and 2 other apartments. The service we received from the staff at Lotza was amazing. When we needed help or suggestions we could always stop by the office. When we arrived (super late), our bags were carried to our room. They went above and beyond to make sure we had a comfortable stay.

Our 3-night stay at Lotza ran us about 500 euros which may seem like a lot at first glance but in comparison to other stays, it was an absolute steal. To be walking distance from the city center would usually run between 850 euros on up to the multiple thousands. Saving money did not mean we had to sacrifice “luxury”. Our stay still had plenty of amenities that made it a great visit. With that being said, I could’ve saved a lot more money staying elsewhere on the island. I didn’t know how easy it was to navigate Santorini’s bus system. I now know if I want to truly save I could stay outside of Oia since it is so easy to make it there from other locations. Oia is beautiful but Fira and Perissa are great and had cheaper accommodations.

What/Where to Eat

Oia

For starters, I would definitely suggest choosing accommodations that have breakfast included because it made things very easy. We were able to start our days with satisfied stomachs and relaxation since it was brought right to our door. It also saved us a meal’s worth of money since it was included in the price of our stay.

Our first day, which we spent exploring Oia, we decided to eat at one of the restaurants on the main square in Oia. After walking up and down and comparing prices and menus we decided on one that had a nice outdoor seating option with a great view. I lost the name of it but most of the restaurants in that area had similar selections and prices. I got an order of Kabobs with pita and fries and Andrea got a shrimp dish.

Later on that night we went on a trek to find a good gyro restaurant. We found Pitogyro and we were definitely satisfied with our choice. It was more of a stand with outdoor seating rather than a big restaurant, which we liked. We were accompanied by a few cats in the outdoor seating which was interesting but fun. It was definitely a laid back atmosphere with really good gyros at a low price.

Fira

On our second day in Santorini, we spent a good amount of our day in Fira. Fira is toward the middle of the Island while oia is at the Northern tip. While in Fira we had both lunch and dinner. For lunch, we had more gyros because when in Greece, right? Right. They were great and I had actually seen the place we went in another blog so I wanted to try it. I’m not sure how to translate its name but it is “μπαγιατικο”. This was our cheapest meal as the gyros were a bit less than the ones in Oia. For dinner in Fira, we went to a Chineses restaurant because we thought it sounded pretty good. We both weren’t fans of our food and said we should’ve just got another gyro but win some lose some.

What We Did

Day 1

In order to maintain our budget while having a relaxing time in Santorini, most of our first day was spent walking and lounging around in Oia. After getting in really late the night before so we opted for a chill day. We woke up to our breakfast and ate it on our balcony then walked into Oia to get our first glance of paradise. We walked around and looked in some of the shops and grabbed lunch. Of course, we made sure to stop and view the famous blue domes. If you are confused about how to get to them keep a lookout for the Bulgari jewelry store. There is a path to the left of the store that takes you straight to a point where you can decide to go to the right for a closer view or left for a view from a further distance.

After walking and exploring Oia’s main square we headed back to our apartment to take a dip in the pool and relax for a bit. After showering following our pool time we headed back out for dinner, gelato, and the famous Santorini sunset.

Our laid back day came out with a grand total of $0 (excluding food) since we kept it simple. We did, however, want to take one of the sunset cruises that are offered but we were a bit late buying tickets. If I remember correctly the one we were looking at was around 50-60 euros for a cruise that included stops for swimming, amazing views, and food. To us, it seemed like something worth spending a bit more money on. The tickets were sold out by the time we decided on it so we had our chill day hanging in town.

Day 2

Our second day in Santorini was definitely more full. We wanted to get some good photos for the gram but also visit different parts of the island. I knew I wanted photos with the blue domes and that they would be crowded if we didn’t get to them first thing in the morning. We woke up pretty early (around 6/ 6:30 AM) so we could get ready and make it for sunrise. When we got there the lighting was not great. The sun was not hitting the domes or our faces but we seemed to be the first ones there. After a while, more tourists came and waited for us to finish up. We walked around and took other pictures and then returned for better lighting. At this point, there were full-blown wedding photos going on and lots of other people trying to get their photos as well.

After our little photoshoot, we went back to our apartment to change and then headed to the bus stop to make our way to Fira. The bus system in Santorini is very easy to navigate. Most buses are labeled for where they are headed and you only buy your ticket once seated on the bus. Luckily, the bus stop was the halfway point between our apartment and Oia’s main square, very convenient. The bus ride was only about 15 minutes and less than 2 euros. Once we arrived in Fira we went straight to grab lunch. After lunch, we walked around and stepped into a few of the boutiques. We had fun shopping around and found very unique handmade jewelry and accessories.

After walking around for a bit we passed an interesting spa that gave fish pedicures, Kissing Fish. It seemed interesting so we went in to ask some questions and ended up going for it. It was the weirdest experience ever; instead of sticking your feet into hot water you stick them into a fish tank full of fish that eat dead skin. It tickles and is hard to get used to but I will say that my feet definitely felt softer afterward. For a 15 minute dip in the fish tanks and gel toenail paint, we only paid between 30 and 35 euros. If you’ve ever gotten a pedicure in the U.S. you’ve probably paid a similar price but without the fish, so this was definitely worth it.

Visiting Perissa

After our pedicure and stroll around Fira, we decided to get on another bus to Perissa beach. We wanted to visit Perissa to see the black sand beach. This bus ride was a little longer, maybe around 20 minutes for under 3 euros. In Perissa we walked along the beach in the beautiful sand and lounged for about an hour. Since we had not brought our bathing suits we couldn’t get in the water. We sat a watched kids and families play while looking out at the clear water. It was very relaxing and a good way to spend a little of our day.

After our brief beach trip, we ventured back to Fira to grab some dinner and watch the sunset. The restaurant we chose did not have a great view of the sunset so we missed most of it. After dinner, we were debating staying in Fira for a couple of drinks. We decided against it when we were told we had to pay to use the public bathrooms. The ride back to Oia seemed longer than the one there but once we finally made it we made the trek back to our apartment. We decided to come back out that night for overpriced gelato then we called it a night.

Take-Aways

All in all, I think we had a fun and fulfilling time in Santorini. I would argue that although there were a lot of things we didn’t do, 2 days were sufficient. If we stayed another day we may have visited some other parts of the island or took one of the sunset cruises but I don’t think we missed out on anything. Since Santorini is a luxury vacation spot meant for relaxation we laid low which ultimately saved us money.

Lessons learned:

  • When in Greece, stick to Greek food
  • You DO NOT have to stay in Oia, you can stay much cheaper elsewhere and bus to Oia
  • Eat gyros for a cheap yet filling meal
  • Bring a bathing suit with you everywhere, you never know when you’ll visit a beach and want to take a dip
  • Wake up early to get pictures with the blue domes, or any pictures without people being everywhere

What did I miss? Are you going to Greece sometime soon? Comment below!

10 Comments

  • Emma

    I’d love to visit Greece, and especially Santorini. It just looks amazing. Great tips, glad to know it’s not all luxury and big spending here which is the impression I mostly get

  • Agea

    Thank you so much for the blog! We are planning on visiting Santorini this coming June and your blog answered most of my questions. We (family of 4) are traveling with another family of 4 (4 teens/pre-teens and 4 adults) any suggestions? Also do we need to make dinner reservations ahead of time?
    We are staying for five days in Santorini before heading to Athens and Madrid.

    Thank you again, I relay on people like you for all my travel inspirations.
    Agea

    • erica.everywhere

      Agea,

      Thank you for reading! For a family of four, I would suggest taking advantage of the beaches on the island. I like Perissa beach since it was different (the sand was black!). As far as dinner reservations, they won’t be necessary unless you all plan on eating at a really upscale place. Most of the restaurants in both Oia and Thira are come and go as you please due to the sheer number of restaurants there are available. Let me know if you have any more questions and be sure to check out my Madrid post under my Spain tab!

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