Which Greek Islands to choose when on a budget, plus money saving tips!
So recently I spent a month in Greece and wow wasn’t it amazing!! It has been my dream for YEARS to travel to Greece (Mamma Mia may have had some influence on this haha) and this year I finally made it there.
Now Greece (or just Europe in general) is not cheap. Especially if you happen to be from NZ like me and the euro is nearly double our dollar ha ha… Anyway point is, have a bit of money to spend here cause your money definitely doesn’t go as far as it does in countries like Bali or Thailand. I would’ve loved to just disappear for a month on one of the lesser known islands and spend my days exploring hidden beaches but the one big problem with the smaller islands is…there’s no hostels. So really you haven’t got a lot of choice but to book a hotel or airbnb. You could get lucky and find yourself a good deal if you book well in advance but was I this organised? No. Also I’m a solo traveller so when I do book an Airbnb or hotel room, there is no second person for me to split the cost with. Therefore I resorted to hostels, and let me tell you, some of these weren’t even that cheap! I spent one night in a hostel that cost me $120 NZD (I know crazy right?!). It was pretty great though, I mean this was the view from the pool:
Anyway, into the whole point of this post! Which Greek Islands should you choose when you are on a budget? Well, my three picks would be Mykonos, Santorini and Paros. I’d probably throw Ios in there as well if you want a party island - I had plans to make it here but ended up changing them due to not feeling well.
Well let’s be honest, it’s Mykonos. Can you really travel all the way to Greece and not go here? This is the island that I flew into and actually spent most of my time in Greece. I will warn you though, this is going to be the most expensive out of the lot. Also it’s touristy, very touristy. But it does have a special feel to it, and it also has great nightlife, it gets some pretty big names playing at places like Cavo Paradiso.
Would I go back here? I’m not sure - probably only if I become rich and can afford to stay in an expensive hotel with a gorgeous view of the ocean (Cave Tagoo anyone?!). But am I glad I went here? 100% and it can be done on a budget, there are hostels you can stay in here but it is going to be pricier than the likes of Santorini, Paros and Ios due to the islands popularity.
If you do decide to include Mykonos in your itinerary I would only stay here for a few nights, three is plenty. It gives you time to chill at the beach clubs, have an awesome night out, explore the beaches and see the dreamy Mykonos town.
Where to stay in Mykonos
Paraga Beach Hostel
A bit out of the way, the hostel will pick you up from the ferry though. This is the cheaper option out of the two and right by Tropicana and Paradise which are some of the good beach clubs to hit. If you want to party, I would stay here.
More expensive but right in Mykonos town where all the action is. The hostel environment itself isn’t too social so not the best place if you are looking to meet other travellers.
Similar story to Mykonos, you can’t travel to Greece for the first time and not go to Santorini, you just can’t. When I sat there, with thousands of other people (not exaggerating here) watching the sun go down behind the gorgeous white buildings, it took my breath away. Also believe it or not, it’s actually cheaper than Mykonos! Food and drink is more reasonably priced and the buses are cheap making it fairly easy to get around. I would recommend hiring a quad for a day though if you can!
There is so many fun things to do on this island and exploring Oia town just feels like a dream. Would be even dreamier minus all the people but you just have to get up early in the morning for that! Or pay thousands for a crazy expensive hotel with a stunning view you’ll probably never forget…
The beaches such as Red beach and Perissa beach are also a must. There is also White beach which you can only access by boat, although it’s not the most stunning white beach you’ll ever see so easy to give that a miss (yes New Zealand beaches, I’m thinking of you!).
Where to stay in Santorini
Youth Hostel Anna
This is located down on Perissa beach which is the famous black sand beach on the island. This hostel is a great budget option, just keep in mind that you get what you pay for.
Personally I didn't stay here but this is the place to be if you want to stay in Fira town. Honestly I would probably choose to stay somewhere on Perissa beach over this. The only benefit of staying in Fira is that it is easier to get to Oia (where you want to be for sunset). Instead of catching two buses from Perissa, you catch one.
Oh I’m so in love with Paros. It was my favourite island out of the lot! I’ll definitely write a more in depth blog post about why you have to go here because it really is a place that should be on everyone’s list.
Why did I love it? Well it reminded me of Mykonos but without the craziness of all the people, plus it was way cheaper. It’s a win win! There is talk about this island becoming the next Mykonos though so I would try get there asap before this happens.
This island has so much to offer, from the gorgeous beaches, to the cute towns and fun nightlife. If you don’t travel here on your next trip to Greece trust me, you are missing out!
Where to stay in Paros
I was lucky enough to stay with family friends while I was here so I didn’t have to worry about booking accomodation here but there is a hostel you can stay at called Paros Backpackers.
And if you want to visit Ios…
As mentioned earlier, unfortunately I didn’t make it here. I hadn’t been feeling well for a couple weeks and just wasn’t getting better so decided to extend my time on Santorini and cut out Ios for some much needed chill time. I was planning on staying at Far Out Beach Camping which is a well known beach club there and I knew if I went, I certainly wasn’t going to get any better. As you can probably tell from the photos it certainly goes off!
The accomodation itself was very cheap (by Greece standards) and I heard great things about it from other travellers I met while in Greece so if you have the time to add this place into your itinerary, do it! This island will definitely be on the top of my list to visit when I’m next back in Greece.
Tips to save money in Greece:
Probably the most important, avoid travelling in high season. Especially August. You’ve probably heard it a million times but prices are so. much. higher.
Don’t forget to look at flying directly into Mykonos or Santorini. It could be the same price or maybe even a little bit cheaper, but even if it is that little bit more expensive it could be worth booking the flight. Ferries from Athens out to the islands are not cheap, expect to pay about 50 euro. Also they take foreeeever. One of the ferry's I was on was supposed to take 4 hours, it took 6…fun times.
BE ORGANISED. This one you definitely want to take note of. If you’re on a budget and you want to stay in hostels make sure you book these well in advance. I got caught out in Mykonos where all the hostels sold out and I had to end up paying a looot more than if I’d been more organised. One of the instances where ‘winging it’ came back and bit me in the bum.
The bakeries are your new best friend - spinach pie for 2 euro, hello!
Couchsurf for a few nights. I did this while in Mykonos and it was an interesting experience that’s for sure, but a great way to see the island from a local’s point of view.
There are still soo many islands I want to visit in Greece (have you seen pics of Milos?!) but next time I go back, I want to be able to afford to stay on the islands that don’t have hostels. So whether that’s in a couple years or for my 30th birthday who knows!
Or I could do as the locals do (if I’m brave enough) and just show up at one of the islands, go and grab a drink or a bite to eat at one of the nearest restaurants and starting talking to the owners asking if they have any rooms or villas available. I’m not joking…this is actually a thing - as I was told by my walking tour guide in Athens. A lot of accomodation owners don’t have their properties listed on places like airbnb because they just go off word of mouth. You can bet they’ll be a lot cheaper than anything else you’ll find on airbnb too!
If do decide to try this one day, I’ll definitely report back!