Santorini on a budget – how to enjoy the island without breaking the bank

Santorini on a budget – how to enjoy the island without breaking the bank

If you’re thinking you’ll never be able to afford to go to Santorini, hold on a sec. It’s famously one of the most expensive Greek islands, flung out in the Aegean Sea, with its white-washed buildings and blue-domed churches attracting the rich and famous. But there are plenty of money-saving hacks to holiday here without blowing your budget. 

As well as more obvious tips, like finding free things to do to, where the best cheap hotels are and what to eat to keep costs down, we’ll let you in on a few of our secrets on how to do Santorini on a budget… 

Travel outside peak season 

This is the golden rule wherever you’re travelling to. June to August are always the peak months because of school holidays and hot summers. But the Greek weather is still really good a couple of months either side of this window, so make April, May, September or even October your pick. The temperatures tend to stay in the 20s in these months too. From summer onwards, the sea has also had the whole season to heat up, so you don’t need to brace yourself for a swim. 

By November time, business start to close up for the winter off-season right through until March, so there’s not much point coming then. Another date to keep in mind is Greek Easter, which falls in the spring period, as prices can spike around then with people travelling for the celebrations.   

Don’t stay in Oia 

Oia is Santorini’s poster child of a village, so of course it’s worth a visit, but you can bet the accommodation options will test a tight budget. Instead, the capital of Santorini, Thira, is much more affordable and is also the most accessible village for getting around. You can visit Oia for a full-day tour and then stay in the cheap hotels here, where many historical sites will be just a short walk away. You’ll spend less on accommodation and on transport, as the island’s major museums are also based here. Plus, there are buses to Oia, the airport and surrounding beaches. Pretty much all bus routes either start or pass through Thira, so you won’t need to make any changes and can get to the main attractions direct. A ride to the ancient city of Akrotiri, which is a must-visit, is only 20 minutes long.  

Pick the public bus 

The bus is by far the cheapest way to get around the island and buses are more regular with more routes over the peak season. For the more budget-friendly off-peak periods, they still run but just slightly less often. The service from the airport to Thira bus station is a good one to look out for – it only costs €1.80. In Thira bus station, timetables are pinned up on the wall so make sure you take a picture, as these will be much more accurate than any online info that might not have been updated. Other popular routes run to Oia, Akrotiri, Kamari, Imerovigli and Perissa and most ticket prices are around €2 – you need to pay the ticket collector onboard in cash. It’s always worth making sure you have a fair bit of loose change, as a lot of services can’t break big notes. 

Find free things to do 

Luckily, on a much sought-after Greek island holiday, you can always bank on a free beach. Santorini is known for its dramatic black-sand beauties, so be prepared to collapse on a sunlounger – for a small fee – perch in a café or snooze on the sand for a large portion of this trip. Red Beach, Kamari and Perissa are the favourites and they’ve got beach bars at the ready for when tanning time is over. 

If you’re after more of an adventure, there are also some decent hikes on offer. The views walking from Thira to Oia are priceless. Santorini’s volcanic landscape makes it super dramatic, and this is a great way to capture it at its best. Start from Thira, as it’s a bit less uphill this way and the sight of Oia as you approach is pretty special. It’s around six miles long, so be prepared to take lots of water with you.  Or, climb up to Profitis Ilias, the highest point in Santorini. It can take you a couple of hours to reach the top. 

And, of course, the sunsets don’t cost a thing. Imerovigli is known as the ‘Balcony of the Aegean’, so this spot and Oia are perfectly poised to get that golden glow with caldera views. 

Live off Gyros 

Gyros will be your belly’s best friend on this trip. They’re a Greek specialty and once you’ve had one, you’ll see why. Fresh pita bread is filled with Gyros meat – chicken, lamb, beef or a combo – tzatziki, salad and chips. It’s the ultimate holiday sandwich. They’re a great choice for a budget lunch or dinner as they only cost a few euros and you can take them to the beach or to a sunset point to have on the go. 

 Local bakeries are also a great shout for cheap eats. The pastries are always fresh and spanakopita – a cheese and spinach pastry – is another staple to try. 

Hunt down the happy hours 

When sunset is such an iconic moment on this Greek island, it would be silly for bars not to tempt tourists to sit on their terrace with a happy hour deal. Loads of local places will have signs with their deals on and not always just from your usual 5-7pm either. Some bars are happier than others with discounts lasting past 9pm. Thira is your best bet as the cheaper of the two main villages and you can find cocktails for around €5. The bars along Perissa Beach are also great for some chill vibes into the evening. 


 Feeling better about doing Santorini on a budget? Book your trip there now or browse our deals to find more cheap holidays. 

If you don’t want to splash out for a trip all at once, you can also pick the way you pay from different flexible payment options. 

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Author: Lily Owen
Last updated: 12/03/2024