There’s a reason Santorini attracts more than two million tourists each year — the white-and-blue washed island in the Greek Cyclades is basically heaven on earth. But it’s also about twice as expensive as Athens, with hotel prices in the summer climbing to $250, on average, per night. Never fear — it is possible to stay here on a budget; just follow these five key pieces of money-saving advice.
Don’t Go in the Summer.
The months of June, July, and August are the busiest and most expensive in Santorini, not to mention the hottest.
Instead: The off-season and shoulder season months of March, April, and early May and October and November see the mildest temperatures and the lowest prices. Flights from Athens to Santorini on a budget airline such as Ryanair reach 123 euros (or about $139 USD) in July but are only 53 euros (or $60 USD) in October.
Don’t Stay in Oia.
The most popular town on Santorini — with iconic blue and white churches and the best sunset perches on the island — is the most expensive (and crowded). Bottom line: If you want a room with a view, you’re going to pay big for it. An average price in Oia could top $289 per night in the off-season (think sweeping views of the volcano and infinity pool at Nostos Apartments in October, for example).
Instead: Stay in the central, less commercialized capital town of Fira, where you can easily take a 25-minute bus ride over to Oia to catch the sun set before heading back for the town’s lively nightlife scene. We recommend Kykladonisia (about $50 per night for a single ensuite room in October), where you still get sweeping views at the outdoor eating area. Or, stay on the opposite end of the island in the southern town of Perissa, where you can access a black sand beach and plenty of budget hotel and hostel options as little as 25 dollars per night (three-star Anny Studios Perissa Beach, for example, is $28 per night in October; plus it has a pool and gets you close to the beach).
Don’t Take Taxis.
A cab is a hassle-free option for getting around, yes, but it’ll cost you more than 27 euros (around $30 USD) for a single ride to the opposite end of the island. Take a few, and that can add up in several days.
Instead: Take the affordable public bus, (it’s just two euro for a one-way ticket), which is safe and will drop you anywhere on the island. Those who’d rather not wait on the bus can rent a scooter or ATV, which you can drive on the main roads — for around 28 euros (around $31 USD) per day in the high season.
Avoid Cliffside Restaurants.
Sure, the most jaw-dropping views are from the cliffs, but the restaurants here will charge you about 30 percent more than inland restaurants. By all means, splurge at a picture-perfect restaurant overlooking the caldera, say Ambrosia Restaurant in Oia, but be aware that it’s going to be pricey.
Instead: For a more authentic and less expensive meal, head inland. The family-run Tzanakis Tavern, in Megalochori for example, has traditional Greek moussaka, grape leaves, and fresh-caught fish at reasonable prices; Falafeland in Fira is good for Mediterranean fast food, such as gyros, on the go. When in doubt, go where the locals go.
Skip the Tours and DIY.
If you want to save money, we recommend only paying for private tours that would otherwise be difficult to organize yourself: A half-day tour of the island’s wineries (around $113 USD with Santorini Day Tours), for example, or a three-hour excursion to the caldera with a dip in the hot springs (still relatively inexpensive at $22 USD per person through Santorini Excursions).
Instead: Do it yourself. A two-euro bus ride is all it takes to access the island's Black Beach in Perissa, the Red Beach, and neighboring Minoan ruins of Akrotiri, and the sun-kissed village of Oia and explore at your own pace.