One of the questions that comes up the most in our Facebook Group is whether to books Hotels or Airbnbs in Greece.
For many people who are used to using Airbnb’s back home, especially in the USA, they seem like the best choice and there is a belief that they are cheaper, bigger and somehow, well, more special, but in Greece that is not necessarily the case.
We’ve travelled to Greece with our own three children, our parents, groups of friends and even solo and have tried both hotels and Airbnbs, dozens and dozens of them.
Here’s our Pros and Cons of both based on our experiences and the overwhelming feedback from our Facebook Group, family and friends and other internet forums.
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Kokona Hotel, Symi
While there are some big chain hotels in Greece, particularly on the busier islands like Rhodes, Corfu and Crete, most hotels in Greece are in fact small family-run establishments that have often been in the family for generations.
When we refer to hotels in this article we are generally referring to them.
Pros of staying in Hotels in Greece
1. Legendary Greek hospitality
Hosting guests is a deeply ingrained behaviour in Greeks that goes back to ancient times. When traders would come from far-away places locals would insist on them staying in the family home and showering them in home-cooked meals and delicacies.
There is also a virtue that all Greeks subscribe to called Filotimo, which loosely translates to ‘love of honour’ or for many people simply ‘doing the right thing’.
When you stay in a hotel in Greece you will constantly see examples of Filotimo. The service is legendary across the globe and, along with the Balinese and Filipinos, we think the Greeks are the best-suited people for hospitality anywhere.
We’ve had hotel owners drive us in their own cars when taxis cannot be found, store luggage for us for over a week while we left on a sailing trip, serve us their own family dinner when we bumped into old friends in the bar and let me use a more expensive room to shower and change 6 hours after I checked out! Just a few examples.
John and I with Chrys from Paliomylos Hotel, Paros
Many hotels, particularly on platforms like Booking.com offer rooms that have Free Cancellation, either at any time or within a generous time frame.
In uncertain times, such as a pandemic, was an essential feature for a lot of travellers and have saved millions of people thousands of dollars.
Airbnb no longer have free cancellation of any kind on all their stays. Their cancellation policy is determined by the host and can be strict, moderate or flexible but even the most generous cancellation option can still attracts the Airbnb service fee and/or the first nights tariff. See more below under Cons of Airbnbs.
2. The famous breakfasts
Some people say they would happily go to Greece just for the breakfasts. They really are amazing.
Every hotel prides itself on presenting a wonderful breakfast spread for their guests including a huge selection of fruit, pastries, various cooked dishes, bread, spreads and of course the amazing Greek yoghurt and honey.
Expect fresh figs and walnuts in season or perhaps peaches, cheeses, olives and grapes from the local farms. There will likely be someone to cook you eggs however you like them, perhaps some pancakes and fresh juice.
And best of all it is almost always included in the tariff. This can save a family of 5 upwards of 100Euro a night!
Sadly crime occurs all over the world and can be a very upsetting experience if it happens to you on vacation.
Greece has a low crime rate and thankfully has far less incidence of pickpocketing and petty crime than some of its European neighbors but it’s not totally exempt. Visitors need to be vigilant, especially when visiting crowded places such as Athens and when on public transport. Always use a cross-body bag and have your valuables zipped up and preferably locked. Don’t leave your phone or wallet on tables when dining out!
Now and then you do hear reports of theft that occurs in hotels but it is very rare and more likely to occur at an Airbnb. Places that have a 24/7 front desk and things like cameras are always going to be safer than independent properties that have security codes you can’t necessarily trust.
If something does go wrong in a hotel you are far more likely to get help and assistance than from an absent and often foreign Airbnb owner and sadly Airbnb’s record of responding well to reports of theft and crime is not good.
4. Transfers / Shuttle Bus
Almost every hotel will happily organise to pick you up from the ferry or airport. It may be with a local transfer company or simply in their family car.
Some hotels even run a free shuttle bus to and from the airport or port such as the one offered by Avra Hotel at Lavrion ( a great spot to overnight before your flight home from Athens).
A lot of people say they like to rent Airbnb’s or Vrbo’s so they have laundry facilities. As parents of 3 children and people who try and pack light, we know that being able to wash clothes while travelling can be very important.
What many people don’t know is that the cost of laundry in hotels in Greece is pretty reasonable! With the exception of some high-end 5-star hotels most places offer low prices and quick turnaround.
They usually send it out to one of the many local laundries and you can, in fact, do this yourself as well. Every town has a laundry, especially near the port. Most charge a wash and fold or wash and iron fee by the bag, and prices can be as low as 10euro a bag.
Check out EasyWash who have 62 laundromats across Greece, 35 in Athens alone!
I don’t know about you but when I am on vacation the last thing I feel like doing is cleaning up after people, making beds and certainly scrubbing toilets! This is in the same category as washing for me.
Coming back to a clean and tidy space after a long day of exploring is such a relief.
Who needs to worry about buying toilet paper and dishwashing detergent too!
There are bars all over Greece and the service again is world-renowned, but there’s something about being able to meet your group in the hotel bar before heading out for the night or regrouping there with them at the end of the night that is very satisfying.
Not all hotels have bars of course but many are able to serve you a drink on their terrace or by their pool, something that would be a licensing nightmare in many countries.
It’s also very handy if you want to grab a bottle of something to enjoy on your own terrace or balcony. Liquor stores are not as easy to come by as you may be used to at home.
8. Private Beach & sunbeds
Scattered across Greece are charming, small, beachfront hotels many with direct access to a beach and/or swimming area.
In some places like Mykonos, Halkidiki and Crete this may mean private access to rows of beach umbrellas and sunbeds with dedicated bar service, although some of them can attract hefty prices especially for non-guests.
There is also a surprising number that are affordable and may not charge for these sunbeds at all.
9. Day Spa
When we finally get our hard-earned annual break spa treatments are high on our wishlist. Whether it’s a simple in-room massage, a more indulgent spa treatment or the use of a steam room and/or indoor pool this is when you know you really are on holiday.
If your hotel has an in-house Spa they usually give priority to in-house guests and sometimes with a discount as well. Spas in Greece tend to be reasonably priced and are often open quite late too.
10. Gym & Fitness
Once upon a time when I was very fit my daily fitness routine was vital to me. I remember often choosing accommodation based on their fitness facilities and/or proximity to places where I could train or take a class.
These days I’m a lot more relaxed about these things but for many people it is still very important. Even anxiety inducing!
Sometimes you can find independent accommodation with an onsite gym or perhaps an arrangement with a local business but it is pretty rare in Greece.
Public gyms are rare on the islands and exercise is generally limited to the outdoor varieties in summer – hiking, running and watersports.
Some hotels now offer yoga classes as well and even yoga retreats have become quite popular!
11. Kids club and/or other kids!
Travelling with kids can be lots of fun and infinitely rewarding but it can also be exhausting.
Sometimes parents need a bit of grown-up time and the kids love to hang around other kids. Some bigger hotels have kids clubs with heaps of great activities. Sometimes it’s just great to know there will be other kids at the pool or beach and everyone’s needs are catered for.
Hotels can also usually organise trusted babysitters for you on the premises if you’d like to leave them behind for the night.
12. Tours and Transport
It’s quite possible to organise your own tours and transport in Greece and of course, we hope you use our links to book Terry for your tours and transfers in Athens and Welcome Pickups for your transfers elsewhere.
We also partner with Get Your Guide to offer you an amazing array of activities across Greece.
But perhaps you would like to be spontaneous, see how the weather is on the day or what mood you might be in?
This is where the tour desk, Concierge or even just the Manager, owner or helpful Receptionist can be invaluable with local knowledge about lesser-known local sites and activities and contacts to tap into in case things are heavily booked or cancelled due to weather.
13. Emergency Assistance
Accidents happen. Crazy drivers, ATV’s, heatstroke, hiking mishaps even theft and lost luggage can happen to the best of us.
Knowing you have a Greek-speaking person at your hotel to help you at any time can be a huge relief in a stressful situation.
We’ve seen hotels organise everything from consular assistance to an ambulance transfer, making their already stressed out guests lives much more bearable.
Cons of booking a hotel in Greece
These are the reasons most commonly cited as negatives for booking a hotel in Greece instead of a Vrbo or Airbnb:
1. Too small
While many hotels do have 2 and even 3 bedroom rooms they probably can’t accommodate more than 8 people .
Many groups and families choose to book adjoining one and two-bedroom rooms or even an entire small hotel but if you want complete privacy and independence for your group then a hotel may not be for you.
Further reading: Top Athens Hotels for Families and Groups
2. Too expensive
It is true that many Airbnb’s are cheaper and seem to be better value in terms of space and amenities. Or are they?
If you factor in the cost of breakfast alone – for a family of 5 this could easily be 100Euro+ per day, plus the cost of some of the others things listed above – gyms, sunbeds, transfers etc… you may well end up paying more!
3. Not private enough
We get it. If you are after a completely romantic vacation or just peace and isolation then perhaps a secluded villa, cave, boat or something really unique is more your style.
4. Ease of booking
Some small hotels are still very old school and do not even use secure on-line payment platforms. You may be asked to scan and print a form or even do a bank transfer which may make some people uncomfortable.
5. Lack of amenities
I often hear people say they have to get an Airbnb so they have cooking facilities and washing machine.
Hotels in Greece actually have some of the best amenities we’ve ever seen. Many hotel rooms have kitchenettes and some have washing facilities too.
Further to that sending the laundry out is often quite inexpensive ( compared to many countries) and you can even do it yourself by dropping a bag at the many local laundries found around the country that offer a wash and fold service, often same day.
You may, however, be able to find Aribnb’s or Vrbo’s that have additional things like firepits, sports equipment, bikes and toys.
Pros of renting Airbnbs in Greece
1. They can be a lot bigger
There is a much larger number of Airbnb’s that are houses or even multiple houses and/or places that can accommodate large groups.
2. They can sometimes be cheaper
We’ve covered this one above but sometimes Airbnb’s can be cheaper given the number of rooms you get. It does pay to compare closely especially for things like breakfast.
3. You’re able to self-cater
If you have people in your party with tricky dietary requirements or just want the ability to stay home and make yourself a snack or meal sometimes then an Airbnb may be better equipped to do this especially if you have a large group and/or want to entertain at home too.
4. You can have complete privacy
There are some very unique and often quirky places on Airbnb that are remote or very private. You can find listings in Greece for boats, cave houses, windmills, fishermans huts, tents and more ( although many of these are on Booking.com now as well).
5. Sometimes your host is a great local contact
If you are using Airbnb in Greece try and book one where the host is a local. They can be a great source of help and information and are often keen for you to enjoy the local hospitality, sometimes even in their own home.
6. Flexible check-in/out times
Unlike many hotels it is often possible to have a late or early check-in or out at an Airbnb especially if the previous or next day is not booked.
This can be especially important if you have a red-eye international flight as you don’t want to be walking the streets with your luggage at some strange hour.
Cons of renting Airbnbs in Greece
1. There are a lot of fake and dodgy listings
This has improved a lot but there was a time a few years back when a lot of listings were fake and there were scammers galore on the platform.
Always book a place that has numerous positive reviews and never engage in off-platform correspondence with anyone ( ie. they try and get you to communicate via Facebook or similar).
Look carefully at the photos and read up on the location. Often ‘acropolis view’ or ‘walk to Acropolis’ does not mean you are close to it.
Also be wary of the ‘bait and switch’. This is when they tell you just before arrival or even upon arrival that the property is double booked and take you to a ‘comparable one’ nearby. Often that original one did not exist and the photos were used to hook the customer in.
Also, be sure to take photos of any damage you come across as soon as you check in and send the photos to the hosts. There have sadly been cases when customers have been blamed for damage that was already there.
2. Hidden fees
In recent years both the service fees and the cleaning fees on Airbnb have increased a lot.
The host can decide what level of service fee is charged by them and sometimes they waive it altogether but there is always a service charge for Airbnb themselves and this is rarely waived even when cancelled within a ‘free’ cancellation period.
Some hosts also charge for extras including linen, towels, extra guests and even things like toiletries. It’s a shame as many of those things used to be included but the extra cleaning costs for Covid protocols has made some of it inevitable.
3. Limited Free Cancellation
Hosts get to choose the level of cancellation they are happy with – there are 6 levels to choose from ranging from Flexible to Super Strict 60 days.
Even Flexible will still attract the Airbnb service fee if there have been 3 or more cancellations in 12 months.
If the cancellation policy selected is ‘moderate’ which most in Greece are, then cancellation must occur more than 5 days in advance. After that a 50% charge applies and the Airbnb Fee is non-refundable.
It pays to read up on Airbnb’s cancellation policies.
4. Hosts can cancel at a moments notice
Sometimes hosts have to cancel and possibly at the last minute. They are humans too and things happen – personal emergencies, illness, damages, repairs etc…
Often this may just mean you get a refund and book a different place. Be aware however that refunds can take up to 60 days defending on how you paid. Google or Apple Pay refunds for example take up to 15 business days. This can be quite disastrous if you are on a tight budget and the cancellation occurs at the last minute.
It can also be horribly inconvenient. We have friends who booked a place in a popular town in peak period to attend a wedding and there simply wasn’t anything else available for miles.
It’s something to keep in mind if you need very firm plans.
5. Your host may be your neighbour
While this is usually a good thing in Greece ( see Pros) but sometimes having your landlord watching your comings and goings and dropping in constantly can be annoying. Make it clear how you want the relationship to go as soon as you arrive.
6. Your host may be completely absent
In many parts of the world, including Greece, the properties are foreign-owned and the hosts are ‘professional hosts’ hired by companies to service these places.
In Spain, one Airbnb ‘host’ manages over 200 apartments and it is common in Athens for this to happen too.
In some instances, the property may in fact be sub-let which is illegal in Greece. Be sure to ask.
7. Lack of support when things go wrong
Sadly there are reports of theft and crime that occur at Airbnbs, especially in our Facebook Group. They are usually properties that have few, or poor reviews and often in dodgy areas but sometimes they are long term listings too. Always check the location carefully and when in doubt – don’t!
Unfortunately Airbnb’s track record when things go wrong is not good and there are multiple media reports about this. They really don’t help guests nor hosts when a crime has been committed or even if something is dodgy and unexpected. There is a lot of evidence that suggests that crime increases where there are a lot of Airbnbs and I would think that is simply because there are too many transient visitors and not enough locals to keep an eye on things.
We were hosts with Airbnb for over 6 years. During that time we had dozens of great experiences just like we did as guests. Finally one day we had a terrible experience with a guest conducting criminal activity from our property – drugs and prostitution and Airbnb did absolutely nothing about it. It took hours to get someone to respond and then they had no advice nor solution.
Not long after that we had a host cancel a place on us at the last minute that created major stress and panic and again Airbnb did not try and help at all.
We now consider Airbnb to be like fair-weather friends -there for the good times but AWOL for the bad.
8. Lack of services, amenities and facilities
While this is covered in Pros as a positive sometimes it can be the opposite. If your promised washing machine is missing or the air-conditioning is broken you are probably entitled to a refund. At least at a hotel you will probably be moved to another room (hopefully an uprgade!).
Be sure you get what you were promised.
9. Having to make your own breakfast
Missing out on the famous Greek Hotels breakfasts is like missing the sunset, the ferry experience and not getting the complimentary glass of Ouzo at the end of your meal. This really is one of the major advantages of Greek hotels and sets them apart from so many others around the world.
10. Having to do your own cleaning
You’re on holiday!
11. Lack of storage facilities
This is a big one for us. While many Airbnb’s will enable a flexible check-in/out time ( see Pros above) if they cannot do it there is often nowhere for your bags to be stored. Dragging them around the streets of Athens at 6am (when nothing is opened) is not fun at all.
(there are places you can store your luggage at Athens airport and also in the city which can help).
12. Having to organise everything yourself
If you are lucky your host may be able to help you with transfers. It is highly likely that everything else – tours, activities, babysitting, even Covid testing, you will have to organise yourself.
13. Adding to the housing crisis
Like many places in the world, Airbnb has sadly contributed to significant housing issues for locals.
Many have been turned out of their rental properties which have been turned into Airbnbs ( or other platforms). Rents have gone up exponentially and many locals now have to live in outlying areas and commute a long way to work.
This is a big problem in places like Athens, Santorini and Mykonos, particularly in summer where workers on those islands have to live in hot, squalid shipping containers hidden in remote spots.
If you are someone who places highly importance on ethical and sustainable travel then booking direct with a small hotel is a better option. We would like to see companies like Fairbnb start operating in Greece for even more choices.
As you can see there is a lot to think about when weighing up what accommodation to book in Greece.
We have used Airbnbs in Greece and may again depending on our circumstances but are far more likely to book a small hotel.
In places like New York, Paris and London Airbnbs offer a genuine alternative to the very expensive and usually very small hotels. In places like Greece, they generally do not.