How to do Santorini on a budget

Santorini has been on my wish list for years, but it’s one of those places where I’ve thought you needed to save for months on end to get there. How wrong was I? Uhh, very wrong. Lola from Leeds Love Affair shares her brilliant tips for a trip to Santorini on a budget.

Ah Santorini, billed as one of the most beautiful places in the world and renowned for those whitewashed village views over the cliffs of a fascinating volcano. So many people I know have said they’d love to go but can’t afford the hefty price tag.

Besieged by billionaires and tour groups alike, this jewel in the Greek Cyclades islands is the second most visited tourist attraction in the entire world, but has made its name as a destination for the elite and, thanks to the recent drop in the pound and Greece’s economy slump, even harder for ‘normal’ people to access.

Having just visited for a wedding anniversary holiday, I’m going to share some tips that should turn a trip to Santorini from a dream into a well-budgeted reality.

sunset view of Santorini field | this city life

SEE MORE: My hotel review of The Bucuti Aruba

Pick your time and journey

We decided to go to Santorini in September as we were visiting mainland Greece for a friend’s wedding then anyway and felt it was easier to just extend our stay. It turns out that September is an ideal time because the season is starting to slow and flight and accommodation prices are slightly cheaper. The weather is still beautiful and the sky still cloudless though, so it’s a winner all round.

It also turns out that flying direct to Santorini from the UK is incredibly expensive, so you can make a cost saving by being willing to change at Athens.

For example, a direct return trip from Manchester to Santorini in July is likely to set you back £340 per person. Flying in September with a flight to Athens, followed by a 45-minute flight to Santorini will cost around £200 per person.

white walls and bed in budget Santorini villa | this city life

Hotels in the main towns are going to hurt your pocket

We very rarely stay in hotels when we holiday because it’s one of the few times I actually get the time to enjoy cooking so I wanted something with a kitchen that would give us meal options, not a boring hotel meal every night. Santorini was built for weddings/honeymoons with a sunset to die for and luxury accommodation to match, but they come with a price as well as a pool.

For example, one pretty standard hotel in the centre of Oia charges upwards of £3,785 per week (!) for a double room in July with a view of the caldera and a private hot tub. Even hotels on the outskirts won’t do you any favours, with the highest rated on TripAdvisor that are near Kamari or Imerovigli costing at least £900/week for a double room.

We chose a villa with our own private balcony and a hot tub just 1km from Oia, and that set us back just £450 for the week. The room was beautiful with an ensuite, fully-equipped kitchenette, a bar, manicured gardens and sunbathing spot on a private beach for half the price of hotels that are more than 10km from the action.

It meant we could cook and eat when we wanted to and we were away from the swarming crowds of the main towns like Oia and Fira, while only being a short journey from them.

Thanks to the economy, eating is pricey

Before we went we’d heard terrible tales about how people actually living on Santorini find it hard to live there because the cost of living is so high. Sadly, that much is true. Every taxi driver we spoke to said they love the island but even basics like some food items are four times the price than in the UK.

Going self-catering is our usual holiday mode anyway and we reckon we spent £100 on food (and booze!) for the week for two of us with careful selections.

Supermarket brand basics in Greece are not like the rubbish you get in the UK, they actually taste nice, so don’t be afraid that going for cheaper options on things like meat and cheese is going to compromise quality. Also, local grown fruit and veg is so cheap and four times the size of produce in the UK so go nuts and cook from scratch.

We ate out once in Oia for an anniversary treat and it costs us around £75, so that puts it into perspective!

wine and red candle on a table | this city life

SEE MORE: How NOT to order coffee (and avoid annoying the Italians)

You don’t have to pay loads to see the good stuff

The island seems jam-packed with activities with everything from day cruises to jet skiing. You know what? You can see all the stuff and have fun without paying £45/person to do it.

A visit to Fira from Oia costs £5 on the bus and when you get there there’s loads to see by just walking around. You can walk down the steps to the Old Port in 30 minutes without paying £10 for a donkey to carry you – which is healthier for you and the donkeys too. If you want, you can climb back up or take the lift for £5. And if you fancy a spot of lunch, a gyro (delicious chip and kebab wrap!) is only £3. You can see olive oil soap being made and bring some home for less than £1.

Similarly, if you’re in Oia then going before 10am means you get those famous blue dome, whitewashed wall views almost entirely to yourself (bliss!) and you can walk down the cliff to Ammoudi Bay for nothing (just be prepared for crowds if you decide to go in the evening to see the sunset, it’s not a well-kept secret.)

On one of the days, we walked 30 minutes along the road to the marina and then Baxedes beach. We took our own lunch and towels and sat on the black sand beach all afternoon – and it cost us nothing extra. The water was warm, we were completely alone and it was a “money can’t buy” experience for me, so why pay?

So how does the price work out?

Based on our initial costing, we thought we’d never get to Santorini but by following our budget it was a thoroughly enjoyable holiday without having to default on the mortgage.

Original pricing (two adults sharing for a week)

Flights in June/July – £680
Staying in a suite with hot tub (including breakfast) – £3,785
Meals at restaurants/bars – £735
Spend budget of £100 per day – £700

Total: £5,900

Smart pricing (two adults sharing for a week)

Flights in September – £400
Staying in a villa with hot tub 1km from Oia – £450
Meal shopping at supermarket – £100
Spend budget of £75 per day – £525

Total: £1,475

You can’t argue with that! Thanks Lola for sharing your tips for Santorini on a budget. I guess all there is to do now is book myself some flights there in September 2018…

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