Crossing Uneven Ground

Santorini Travel Tips

Fira Santorini

Some of the most beautiful and expensive hotels in the world are perched up on the cliffs of Santorini but there are ways to see these sights on a modest budget. The main town of Fira is a great base for exploring the island.

3500 years ago the island of Santorini blew up in a massive volcanic eruption. What remains today is a thin crescent of land that thrusts up out of the Aegean Sea forming a semicircular island that features a lot of cliffs. This makes for a spectacular setting for mansions and posh hotels which cling to the cliffs and provide some of the best sea views in the world. So how can a budget traveler mingle with the rich and enjoy this spectacular setting without blowing up your budget? Let me give you some Santorini travel tips to keep your trip under $100 per day per person (sharing a room).

First, gird your loins; there will be lots of tourists. This place is spectacular and it draws throngs. Although you can find quiet out of the way beaches and the like on Santorini, if that’s what you’re after you’d be better off on a less famous island. See my blog on Ikaria – Greek Island of Long Life.

Try to arrive by ferry to Santorini. This is less expensive than flying and you can get a great view of the island as you sail in. After arriving in the main port grab a green bus marked “Fira.” The bus will climb up some switchbacks and drop you at the main transportation hub for the island in Fira. From here regular bus service is available for all major points of interest.

Note: The Greeks have a branding issue. They often have multiple names for places and multiple spellings of those names: Here, Fira is sometimes called Thira and, confusingly, Santorini is also sometimes called Thira.

Bus Info Stand

Buses come and go all day in the town of Fira. The information stand is helpful for determining your day’s journeys.

Boarding bus

Ask around and before boarding be sure make certain you’re getting on the right bus.

Next, find a good budget accommodation. If you’re like Joanne and me you don’t spend a lot of time in your hotel. You need it as a base for exploration and a few hours rest. It needs to be clean and comfortable but not your total environment. You’re here to explore not languish poolside. (If you are here to languish poolside you can easily spend as much money as you want on a luxury resort or once again see my blog on Ikaria for budget languishing.)

There are a number of hotels close by. These are not on the cliffs but they also don’t have the cliff price tag. After consulting Trip Advisor we chose the Markakis Studios. It is an easy five to ten minute walk from the bus station. The staff at the Markakis is knowledgeable and friendly so can help you figure out island travel. The rooms are adequate and ours had a kitchen so we could buy provisions from the local markets and prepare our own food. If you are eating on the go there are usually a places that are grilling up delicious gyros and souvlaki for a few bucks.

Now you have four big hurdles crossed: you know how to get to and from the island, you know how to find the bus station that gives you access to all of the major sites on the island, you have a hotel, and you can eat cheap. Reconnoitering complete you now have time to drink in the sights.

Joanne with washed socks

You can save money by doing your own laundry. The dry windy Greek Islands dry out your clothes quickly. Wash and hang them out in the morning and they are ready to go the next day. We carry a traveler’s wash line and a few packets of detergent.

Greek Market

Mini markets are a great way to stock up on provisions for bus rides around the island. This one was just a few steps from our hotel.

Souvlaki

The budget traveler’s staple, souvlaki or grilled chicken, pork or lamb. This along with giant-sized gyro sandwiches can keep you fueled up on the cheap.

Kataifi

Don’t forget to splurge. Greek Kataifi pastry laden with nuts and honey sauce is a treat worth searching out.

Travel costs for non-peak travel times like April – May can be modest:

Ferry: Piraeus (Athens) to Thira (Santorini) $94
Budget Hotel per night: $65
Bus Rides: most for less than $2.50 one way
Food: Gyro joint – $3.00 per, A nicer taverna (restaurant) – $15 per

For more on Santorini see my post: The Brides of Beautiful Santorini

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