Santorini is the most popular destination in Greece and one of the most iconic in the world. The famous caldera, cave houses, and sunset views are highly sought after for a reason and those premium vistas often come at premium prices. But it is possible to visit Santorini on a budget and still have a fantastic time, without spending a lot of money.
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When to visit Santorini
The best times to visit Santorini on a budget are April-June (but not Easter week, Orthodox or Catholic) and October. The weather is mild, the crowds and prices are much lower than in summer.
The high season is late June to early September, and prices will reflect that as will the crowds, the number of cruise ships and accommodation availability and prices.
Santorini is a bucket list destination for most people and for good reason.
Despite the cruise ships and the crowds, it remains one of those places that not only meets your expectations but probably exceeds it. The views truly are the stuff of legends and it is little wonder it is so popular with honeymooners. But, while it is a very romantic destination it is also surprisingly family friendly and there is a lot more to do and see on Santorini than people think.
Visiting Santorini on a budget can have its challenges. A lot of the accommodation can be expensive as can some of the activities like boat trips and private tours. But, it is perfectly possible to enjoy Santorini on a budget too, and thousands of people do it each year.
Quick tips for enjoying Santorini on a budget:
- Don’t stay in the most popular and most expensive towns, particularly Oia and Imerovigli. Even Fira can be more expensive than the lesser known villages on the island
- Don’t visit in peak periods – July and August or Easter
- Airbnb’s are not always the cheapest option. Factor in things like free breakfast, extra amenities and sometimes free transfers that small locally owned hotels often include. Plus having staff onhand 24/7 to guide you to the best value local places can be invaluable. And who wants to cook and clean on vacation!
- it is possible to stay in a hostel on Santorini and even camping is allowed in some areas
- Use the local bus service – it’s cheap and efficient
- Look at flights as well as ferries. Often they are the same price or cheaper, and are a lot faster
- stick to small local tavernas, Gyros shops and bakeries for meals out – there is so much fresh, affordable food in Greece and portions sizes are usually huge!
- stock up on supplies at the many local min-marts, which also sell wine, beer and spirits too
- head for drinks during Happy Hour – lots of places have them especially on the eastern beaches in Kamari and Perissa
How to get to Santorini
You can travel from Athens to Santorini by ferry or by plane. Return to Athens from Meteora either on your overnight tour, by driving or by train.
There are also many ferries each day, year round.
Most service either the Western or Eastern Cyclades Islands and on to Athens whilst some come from Crete. Book ferry tickets HERE.
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How to get around Santorini cheaply
There are several modes of transport on the island that aren’t really expensive (and one is free).
Overall avoid private transfers and taxis where possible as they are the most expensive options.
Using your legs is clearly a free option and in fact, we aren’t just referring to wandering around the towns and villages exploring.
There are lots (and lots!) of stairs in Santorini so extensive walking will probably require a reasonable level of fitness. The rewards are significant, however.
The local bus service in Santorini is cheap and effective. Routes cover almost the entire island and are frequent.
The main bus station is in the capital, Fira which is also where you may have to change buses to get from one end, or side, of the island to another. There are more frequent times between June and September.
Tickets are purchased on board, in cash, and start at €2.
For all the timetables and further information click HERE.
Scooters and ATV’s
Renting a scooter, buggy, or ATV on the Greek Islands is very popular and is an inexpensive way to get around.
There are plenty of places to hire from with prices starting at €30 a day. It pays to shop around as the prices can vary a fair bit and you usually don’t need to book in advance, unless in peak period.
Some places may ask for an International Drivers’ license and if you want a large ATV you will probably also need to hold a valid motorcycle license.
A small car is often the same price as an ATV or even cheaper. It will also have air conditioning, plenty of storage for your gear, protection from the sun and the wind, and won’t give you helmet hair. For many people, this is not only a safer option but practical too.
To keep the cost down consider hiring just for a single day or two rather than your whole stay. Use the car to access the most remote sites and attractions and spend the rest of your stay doing things closer to your accommodation or activities that will pick you up.
As tempting as it might be to get a photo riding a donkey it really isn’t going to get you anywhere fast and nor is it cheap to do.
There are also many other considerations to know about.
How much to budget per day for Santorini
This is a rough guide as to how much everything can cost with a bit of careful budgeting and discipline.
Prices start at €20 from Athens on the slow BlueStar ferry for a non-refundable deck/lounge ticket(general seating). This journey takes 7.5 hours.
During the tourist season ( Easter to November) there are flights available on budget carriers that usually start around €50 one way.
Hotels can cost as little as little as €60 a night or as much as €6000.
Prices for some popular items in 2022
Gyros – €6
Cheese Pie – €4
Pizza – €10-14
Fresh fruit – €1-3 bag of cherries or figs
Water – €1-2 a bottle
Beer – €3 -6
Wine – €4-6 per glass (house wine)
Local Bus – fares start at €2
Scooter – from €30
ATV – from €50
Car Hire – from €40
Taxis – €39 to €60 for taxis from the Airport
image credit @anemoessa villa
Affordable hotels in Santorini
There are a lot of very exclusive and expensive hotels and villas on Santorini and it is the main destination that many people decide to splurge on their visit to Greece. Having those stunning, postcard caldera views, magical sunsets and sugar-cube cave villas comes at a price.
However most of those places are located on the Caldera in Oia, Imerovigli and Fira. There are 12 other towns and villages that you can stay in and they have a lot of very affordable accommodation options.
If you really want to stay on the Caldera it is possible to do it without breaking the bank.
In Imerovigli, couples love Seven Suites which have big, modern suites with ocean views for around €200 per day outside peak periods, and great amenities too.
Pansion Zaharoula is another great budget option and is well located centrally in Fira.
Singles love to stay at Bedspot Hostel in Fira which has dormitory-style rooms for around €50 per day.
For families and groups, Doukas Caldera Suites are hard to beat ( with 2 sofa beds) or Altemar Suites have 1 and 2-bedroom suites that can sleep up to 4 and have jacuzzis on the terrace with great views, for a bit of a splurge.
Where to eat in Santorini on a budget
Breakfast: this will likely be included in your hotel tariff. Otherwise, Our Corner in Fira does amazing waffles and crepes and 3B’s All Day Restaurant in Oia is also a great choice. There are also great bakeries across the island that sell wonderful meals and snacks like pies, cakes and many other delicious things.
Coffee: There are lots of good coffee houses and cafes in Santorini so you don’t have to worry about making it yourself or missing out all together.
In Fira they take their coffee very seriously at CoffeeLab, Kaffiene and Aroma Cafe, while in Oia Vitrin has a bit of a cult following. At Passaris Bakery you can get cheap coffee and a delicious pie or pastry.
In Kamari Coffee Vibes are up with the early birds as is L’Unico in Perissa.
Lunch: Lefkes Taverna in Oia is hard to beat for food or service. It often books out well in advance. Lucky’s Souvlakis in Fira is an institution and have arguably the best Gyros on the island. Nick the Grill is equally excellent and very inexpensive.
Other spots we love are Aeolos Taverna in Akrotiri or Akro Beach Bar at Black Beach.
Dinner: While Santorini tends to be a place that a lot of people are happy to splurge on a dinner, especially couples looking for a truly memorable romantic spot, it is completely possible to find lots of cheap eats too.
There are numerous pizza places across the island. Sirocco in Thira, Il Forno in Kamari and Nocturna are all fantastic and the latter has great caldera views too.
In Oia check out Santorini Mou, not just for a cheap feed but free entertainment too as there is often live music. PitoGyros is another spot where you can get inexpensive, traditional food and beer and wine too.
In Imerovigli Anogi is a good choice for a nice night out without breaking the bank and is one of the few traditional tavernas in the area.
There are lots of places in Fira for a cheap night out. Theonis Kitchen and Nikolas Taverna are two excellent traditional tavernas and there is also places like Los Tres Amigos Mexican, The Family Pizza Restaurant, various Asian and Turkish places and, dare I say it, McDonalds.
Gelato: Who doesn’t love Gelato!? And what a great, inexpensive alternative to dessert in a restaurant. (that said many Greek tavernas give you a small free dessert after your meal and often a shot of liquor too).
If you are in Thira then Solo Gelato is the place to go. Sweet Cone and Zotos are also great. In Oia head to Lolita’s Gelato and in Kamari Angelato Santorini does amazing gelato in waffle cones.
Things to do in Santorini on a budget
Santorini has a reputation for being an expensive destination and many people assume there is not much to do there apart from expensive catamaran trips and fancy restaurants.
But you’d be surprised at how much you can do in Santorini on a budget. With a permanent population of over 15,000 people, locals need things to do too, especially in the off-season. And even some of the more popular summer activities are fairly easy on the wallet.
Top Free things to do in Santorini
- do the famous Fira to Oia Hike
- explore the maze of streets in Oia including Panagia Platsani Church.
- also, explore the authentic villages of Emporio and Pyrgos.
- visit famous Atlantis Books for a unique bookshop experience.
- walk down to Oia Castle or Skaros Rock ( these are short hikes but will require good supervision for children).
- While you’re in Akrotiri (see below) do the short hike out to the Akrotiri Lighthouse at the most westerly point of the south coast. The Lighthouse was built in 1892 and it is the oldest in Greece. It is usually closed to the public but is a fun short hike out to see it from outside, and it’s free.
- swim at Black Beach, Red Beach, and Kamari Beaches
- you can also swim at Lioyerma Public swimming pool
- see the famous sunset from anywhere high. You don’t need to stay in Oia to see it or jostle with the crowds at Oia Castle. There are high spots all over island such as Pyrgos village, or even head to the Caldera and find a quiet spot.
- you can also swim at Lioyerma Public swimming pool
- Head over to Thirassia Island – the other inhabited island of Santorini and how the big island used to be 20 years ago. You can catch the local ferry from Ammoudi Bay.
Low-cost things to do in Santorini
- attend a ‘traditional’ Greek wedding! This may not sound like such a cheap activity but there is so much food and wine included you won’t need to go out for dinner as well. And it really is a fantastic night!
- Kids love visiting the Lost Atlantis 9D Experience and tickets start at just €12.
- Take a boat cruise on the Caldera. This can often be an expensive activity with options for private tours costing thousands of dollars. The Pirate Ship, however, is very affordable and a lot of fun for people of all ages. Prices start at €26 and includes bus pickup from your town, audio commentary, a local guide, and swim stops.
- watch a movie at the open-air cinema in Kamari
- Visit Akrotiri Archaeology Site. This fascinating place is Greece’s Pompeii, only 4000 years older! Entry is only 12euro for adults and you really don’t need to do a tour or get a guide if you don’t want to.