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Travel Hacks: Visiting the Greek Islands on a Budget

24th July 2019

 Ever since I was young I wanted to go to Greece. I could say it is because the classic white buildings glowing against the stark blue sea at sunset really captured my imagination, but that is only half true. If anything I attribute my desire to visit Greece’s Aegean shores on the fact that I watched Mamma Mia, Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants and My Big Fat Greek Wedding more times than I can count. Also, Greek food is the bomb. Chips INSIDE a wrap? Revolutionary.

Gyros and Santorini. Name a more iconic duo.

My dreams came true in the summer of 2019 when I visited Greece for two weeks. Whilst I am sad to report that the only Abba songs playing were in my mind as we climbed the many steps of Santorini, I was able to pick up some handy travel tips to pass on to you for your Greek adventure. 

The most popular islands visited by tourists in Greece are Santorini, Ios and Mykonos. All of these gorgeous cities come alive in the summer months of May to August as the streets hum with tourists intoxicated by gyros (pronounced yhi-ross not guy-ross), sea salt, saganaki and ouzo. 

It’s worth noting that Athens is extremely popular, especially because it holds Greece's biggest airport. It boasts some incredible history, food, and stories, however, if you are after a Greek island holiday it is not the best place to go. Athens is also known to be slightly more expensive due to how touristy it is.*Dancing Queen plays softly in the background.*

The Basics

Language in Greece

Greek, though most locals will speak English of varying levels in the tourist areas. 

Currency in Greece

The euro is used throughout the Greek Islands. I would recommend splitting your euros so that 60% are on a travel card like the Travel Money Oz Currency Pass and 40% are cash. Hotels, restaurants and tour operators will accept card. Be sure to have smaller notes on hand when buying souvenirs or purchasing food (probably gyros) from smaller vendors as they don’t often have a lot of change. If you are hiring a scooter or ATV it’s also worth taking a credit card for the bond/cash hold. You can do this on your Currency Pass however the funds can be held for up to 30 days after they are released by the hire company, which means you can’t access your hard-earned gyros money. 

Transport in Greece

Generally you will fly into Athens, Mykonos or Santorini. From here you can catch ferries to most of the hot spots. Ferries range in price depending on where you are going and the time of day. Make sure you purchase your tickets in advance and allow plenty of time before your ferry is due to arrive at the terminal, especially in Santorini. To give an example of pricing, I paid 30 euros for my trip from Santorini to Ios and only 7 euro for my trip from Ios to Santorini. Santorini town, Oia, in all of its glory.

Water in Greece

Don’t drink the tap water. Instead, buy bottles from supermarkets for 0.70 - 1.50 euro. 

Drinks in Greece

Supermarkets are the cheapest place to purchase alcohol. You can get a can of beer or cider for less than 2 euros, which is far cheaper than most of the clubs, restaurants and bars. Just be mindful that they are quite strict about you taking outside drinks into any establishment. At cafes and bars expect to pay 2 - 4 euros for a coffee, 3 - 5 euros for a beer and 7 - 9 euros for a cocktail. 

Food in Greece

Where do I start? Greek food is what dreams are made of. Here are some of the must-try dishes:

  • Seafood. Greece is made up of over 6000 islands in the Aegean sea, so you can imagine how fresh and delicious their seafood is. It’s certainly slightly more expensive though, so don’t expect to pay any less than 15 euros for a seafood dish. 
  • Cheese. I’m lactose intolerant but that fact seemed to fall out of my brain in Greece. Their feta and halloumi is incredible and often served quite liberally. You also NEED to try Saganaki, or deep-fried cheese often complimented with a sprinkle of herbs and a squirt of lemon. Talk about love at first bite. Saganaki will set you back between 5 and 8 euros, with the other cheeses varying in price depending on what you get them with.
  • Greek Salad. Tomato, red onion, olives, cucumber and plenty of feta tossed with a fresh dressing. Simple yet delicious (and probably wise after a plate of Saganaki). Most Greek salads are between 8 and 15 euros depending on how fancy the restaurant is. 
  • Gyros. I’m not gonna lie, I had gyros every day. Can you blame me though when they are only 2 or 3 euros each?! Picture either chicken, lamb, pork or falafel wrapped up nice and cosy in a pita with some tzatziki, tomato, red onion, occasional lettuce and, of course, fresh chips. My name is Abbie and I am a gyrosoholic. 
I ate all of this Gyros and had no regrets.
  • Moussaka. It’s like Greek lasagna, yummo. Served in most restaurants as a main meal, starting at 10 euros and going up from there. 
  • Baklava. Thin layers of pastry combined with nuts and held together by a sweet honey syrup. They generally price this by the kilo and whilst that sounds tempting I can assure you your body does not need 1kg of Baklava. I got a slice for about 2 euros. 
  • Pastries in general. Hit up the local bakery and go crazy. Their pastries are boundless, delicious and best of all, super cheap at 1 - 3 euros.
  • Loukoumades. These Greek Doughnuts are slightly harder to find which is surprising considering how delicious they are. Traditional versions are served with a honey syrup, however you can get heaps of other variations including ones stuffed with Nutella. Expect to pay between 5 and 10 euros for a serving. 
Honey honey how they thrilled me, uh huh, honey honey. 

I could go on about food all day. Long story short, most of your budget will probably go towards food and that isn’t a bad thing. This food fuelled the Greek Gods, so it’s good for you, right?

Greek Islands


This picture got me so many likes on Instagram. All hail the Santorini sunset. 

If you’re after the classic Greek sunset picture, Santorini is the place to go. The island is quite big, however most parts are easily accessible by buses that cost 1.80 euro per trip, or by hiring an ATV or bike. If you want to hire a vehicle just ensure you have an international license and it is covered on your insurance

The two most popular parts of Santorini are Thera and Oia. Both are worth a day of exploring as you can lose yourself in the maze of whitewashed streets. If you want to explore in peace I’d recommend doing it before midday or after 6pm, outside these times the streets are more crowded as the cruise ships roll in. 

View of Thera on the hiking trail from Oia. 

If you want to see a beach you can visit Kamari, Red Beach and Perissa. They are stunning and uniquely Greek. Word of warning though, don’t expect anything like what we have in Australia. 

Cheap things to do in Santorini:

  • Hike between Oia and Thera at sunset. This trail takes between 3 to 5 hours, is free and boasts some of the most incredible views on the island. Leave around 7:30pm for the best sunset views and to avoid the heat. Be sure to pack plenty of water. 
  • Swim at Amoudi Bay in Oia. Trek down the stairs (and try not to think of the walk back up) leading to the bay of Oia before making a left turn and heading around the coastline. Here you will find an incredible swimming area. I personally preferred this to the beaches.  
It's hard to be moody when swimming at Amoudi Bay. 
  • Eat at LukuMum Loukomades. Plates start at 7 euro, you won’t regret it. 
  • Hike to ancient Thera from Kamari Beach. The hike is pretty steep and definitely harder than the walk between Oia and Thera, however the top boasts some incredible views and a snapshot of history. Entry to the ruins is about 4 euros. 


An hour ferry from Santorini will bring you to the island of Ios. Ios is known for its nightlife and beautiful beaches, so if you don’t like to party I wouldn’t recommend more than two nights here. Walking around the town during the day is starkly different to walking around at night. 

Ios comes alive at midnight when the clubs and bars open and the streets fill with revellers ready to party. Most bars and clubs won’t shut until 8am, after which the city goes to sleep until mid-afternoon. If this sounds like your kinda thing, I highly recommend the following.

Best bars in Ios

  • Far Out Beach Club. A 1.80 euro bus or 30 minute walk from the main town takes you to this hostel beach club that starts pumping at 2pm and shuts at 10:30pm after sunset. Entry is generally free and the drinks range from 5 to 10 euros. 
  • Sally’s rooftop restaurant and bar. The food is delicious and the views of the city are great. A perfect place for a meal before the night heats up. 
  • Lost Boys Bar. A hidden, neverland themed bar perfect to get your night started
  • Shhh Silent Disco Bar. So. Much. Fun. 8 euros entry covers you for your headset, unlimited entry throughout the night and a shot on arrival. 

The rest of the bars and clubs are super fun, each with their own theme and idiosyncrasies. Most boast a ‘7 shot challenge’ for 25 euros that comes with a singlet, almost a right of passage in Ios. 

The beaches are much nicer in Ios than in Santorini and far less crowded. At most you can hire a sunbed for 3 - 5 euros and spend the day soaking up the sun and sea salt before heading out to town at night. If you’re into history, you can also visit Homer’s tomb on the other side of the island, however it can be quite tricky to get to. 

Rugged terrain in Ios leading to a sunset bar.

If you’re on a budget in Ios your best bet is to grab a gyros or two from the main part of town (Yummy’s is pretty good), before visiting the supermarket for your drinks. From there you can flitter between the clubs (most don’t have an entry fee) and dance the night away before recovering on a beach the next morning. 


Mykonos is Ios times 200. Mykonos mixes Santorini’s classic postcard views with Ios’ party culture. Known for their huge nightclubs, stunning views and archaeological ruins you can definitely fill up a few days in Mykonos. Just be mindful that it is quite a bit more expensive than other Greek cities. A sunbed on the beach in Ios or Santorini is 3 to 5 euros, in Mykonos they can be around 20 euros. 

Strolling the streets is free and oh so beautiful. 

Must do Mykonos:

  • If you’re ready to party, visit Paradise Beach Hotel and Tropicana. They are right next to each other, have free entry and are known to go off like a frog in a sock. Drinks and water are expensive though, so budget accordingly.
  • Stroll the streets. Like most of Greece, you can spend a day enjoying the unique architecture as you get lost in the streets. Try not to spend too much at all of the cute shops 
  • Your stroll will also allow you to see plenty of stunning churches, which are abundant in Mykonos. There are almost 800 in Mykonos, and about 60 can be spotted in the town. 
  • Take a boat tour to the island of Delos, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Mythology states it is where Apollo and Artemis were born, making it one of the key archaeological sites in Greece. Return boat tickets are 20 euros for adults and tickets to the archaeological site are 12 euros, though it is recommended to get a guide so you can get a better understanding of the site and its significance. 

As cheesy, or should I say as saganaki as it sounds, arriving in Greece and seeing the white cities perched on hills overlooking the stunningly blue Aegean was a real ‘pinch myself’ moment. Greece certainly isn’t the cheapest place to travel in Europe, however you can definitely have an incredible time there on any budget. After all, the views are free.

If you’re keen on visiting Greece you’re going to need some euros. Purchase them online or in store today at your local Travel Money Oz. Feel free to send us a postcard when you arrive in Santorini as well!

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