Have you been dreaming of the perfect Greek Isles adventure but wondering how to go Island-hopping in Greece on a budget? Then, look no further.
If there is one thing that Greece is most well-known for, it’s undoubtedly the idyllic Greek isles with their white-washed villages, dreamy turquoise waters, historic Greek landmarks, hospitality, and not to mention delicious Greek cuisine. No wonder so many has been inspired to write about it, through the many alluring quotes about Greece that exist today.
It’s all this picture-perfect ideal that drew us to plan our very own thrilling Greek Island hopping adventure. Whilst the excitement of a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Greece was exhilarating, it was also quite overwhelming to decide exactly where to go, especially since Greece consists of around 227 islands that you can choose to visit!
Add to this the fact that many Greek Islands, especially the popular ones such as Santorini, and party island Mykonos, are renowned for being some of the most expensive, we really didn’t know where to get started.
Making sure our South African Rands (at the time) would stretch as far as possible when converted to Euros, we really wanted to ensure that we could go island hopping in Greece on a budget, for real!
Despite all our fears and trepidation of blowing our annual travel budget, we still somehow managed to have a truly unforgettable holiday, one I cannot wait to revisit again in the future. And, could even afford some treasured Greek souvenirs that still remind us of this fantastic holiday to this day.
Knowing how daunting this task of budgeting for a Greek island hopping vacation can be, we’ve decided to put together this post outlining exactly how to go Greek island hopping on a budget. Including top tips to achieve just that!
Regardless of whether you are planning the perfect Greek Honeymoon, looking to spend an unforgettable 5 days in Greece, or want to lounge on the best beaches in Rhodes, or Kefalonia we’ve got you covered for your Greek island hopping on a budget adventure!
Tip: Don’t miss our handy guide that outlines the 50 most common and useful Greek phrases and words, and get ready to impress your local hosts!
- Is Greek Island Hopping Expensive?
- Tips For Greek Island Hopping On A Budget
- The Cheapest Greek Islands To Visit
Before you go, be sure to plan & book your Greece Travel Essentials:
- Search & Book flights here on Skyscanner
- Book your car rental through AutoEurope
- For Ferry tickets, book here on FerryHopper
- Search hotels here on Booking.com, or on VRBO for apartment-style stays
- Click here to browse & book bus and train tickets
- Lastly, don’t forget about travel insurance for your trip!
Pssst…Before you jet off to idyllic Greece, be sure you have all your essentials packed by reading our European packing guide.
What Is Greek Island Hopping?
First things first, let’s start off with a quick definition of what Greek island hopping is. Essentially, this means travelling between several different island groups and also overnighting on various islands along the way.
On our trip to Greece, we travelled from Athens to Mykonos where we spent 4 nights before hopping over to Naxos for a 5 night stay, and then ended our journey in Santorini for our last 3 days.
Is Greek Island Hopping Expensive?
Greece can either be a costly travel destination, or it can be an affordable dream. It all depends on how you travel. Big-ticket tourist attractions will cost a chunk of change, of course. And if you’re staying in luxury hotels and eating out at fancy restaurants, you’re going to burn through money quickly.
However, there are cheaper ways of visiting the many Greek islands (including the largest Greek islands) as well, and as far as the best cheap Islands to visit go, Greece should certainly not be overlooked!
Budget hotels and backpackers’ hostels provide comfortable accommodation at low prices. Local tavernas serve affordable Greek dishes that will keep your wallet and your stomach happy. And there are plenty of fun things to do on the islands that won’t cost too much either!
So, buckle up and get ready as we explore these top tips to help you plan your journey to go island hopping in Greece on a budget with ease!
11 Top Tips For Greek Island Hopping On A Budget
Here are some of our most helpful tips and tricks for enjoying a fantastic Greek island vacation without it costing an excessive amount of money, or requiring you to remortgage your home!
1. Start Your Journey Close By
Many will fly into the mainland and then make their way to their island of choice, this is exactly what we ended up doing. We decided to spend 3 nights in Athens in order to take in and enjoy all the historic sights of this ancient city!
Naturally speaking, this does result in some extra travel costs, even if you’re tempted to stop off for a short Athens’ sightseeing stop and perhaps a meal. This can increase your travel expenses quite dramatically.
Having said this, many of the islands have international airports, so you can certainly fly directly to your first stop, without a detour and as such bypass Athens completely.
In doing so, your ferry costs will be cut by at least one trip, you don’t have the added travel, accommodation, or sightseeing costs of staying over in Athens, and you’ll have loads more time to enjoy the islands.
Some of the best islands to fly into are:
2. Stick To Visiting The Same Group Of Islands
With around 170 inhabited islands scattered throughout the Aegean, it may be hard to choose which islands to visit on your trip to Greece.
Our advice would be to hone in and settle for a particular island group. This makes travelling between these far easier as they are usually located closer compared to islands on other groups.
Popular island groups in Greece include the Cyclades, Ionian Islands, Dodecanese Islands, the Sporades, the Saronic Islands, and the North Aegean Islands to name but a few.
3. Use Greek Island Ferries
Ferries between the Greek islands are usually quite affordable, but it depends on your route. Trips that are longer and further apart will cost you more than those that are closer. So, picking islands that are within short distances of each other, and planning your routes wisely, will keep transportation costs at a minimum.
You’ll find options for faster ferries, which will save you time but won’t spare you much cash. These are more expensive options, so if you’re on a tight budget, rather plan for slower travel times and enjoy the journey.
Top tip: Food and drinks on the ferries come at relatively high prices, so try not to order anything until you’ve reached your destination.
4. Don’t Rule Out Air Travel
Travelling by air is a great way to avoid long, arduous ferry trips between islands. A ferry from Athens to Santorini for instance would take just under 5 hours on the fastest ferry, compared to just 50 minutes by air.
Be sure to book well in advance to get the best flight deals as these routes sell out fast, especially during the busier summer months.
During the off-peak periods, most airlines also operate reduced schedules.
Airlines that operate on these routes include Aegean Airlines, Ryanair, Volotea, and Sky Express. We flew on Aegean Airlines and found the service and flight to be great!
5. Travel During Shoulder Season
With Greece being such a popular destination, the warm summer months are understandably the most expensive months to visit. But the shoulder seasons (autumn and spring) offer fewer crowds, pleasant weather, and, best of all, discounted prices on accommodation and activities.
It’s a good idea to try to visit Greece in October, or between April and June. It’ll still be warm enough to enjoy an island escape, but you’ll find bargains on all of your expenses. You’ll also be more likely to find attractive prices on flights during the shoulder season.
6. Pick Quality Over Quantity
You may be tempted to see all of the best islands Greece has to offer, but unless you have time and money, this isn’t going to be easy. Instead, I’d suggest you select your desired group of islands and see just a few of them.
If you decide on a group of islands to explore, you’ll be able to enjoy your time on each island without rushing. You’ll also spend less on ferry trips, and you won’t miss out on any of the island highlights.
7. Island Hopping Greece on a Budget – Eat Local
You don’t need to dish out your entire budget on a few nights’ meals. While tourist-centred restaurants have high prices, the local tavernas are where you’ll find great tasting, affordable meals, and Greek drinks.
Whilst on Naxos we dined at a rustic roadside taverna that had tables lined on the sidewalk. It was not only cheap and one of the best meals, but we also experienced one of the best sunsets we encountered throughout our journey. A very happy accident indeed.
Regardless, the Greek people are very proud of their cuisine and you’ll struggle to find a bad restaurant in Greece. I dare say we didn’t have even one bad meal throughout our stay!
8. Rent Your Car Online
To properly explore many of the islands in Greece, you’ll often need a car. The bus routes don’t service all the secret hideaways and beach escapes. But car rentals can add quite a bit to your travel expenses.
It’s often cheaper to book a car online before you leave and pick it up at the airport. Greece car rentals in person have a reputation for being more expensive.
9. Find Other Ways To Get Around And Make Use Of Public Transport
If a rental car isn’t in your budget, then consider renting a bicycle or even a scooter. These are generally cheaper than cars, and they’re tons of fun to use when exploring the Greek landscapes.
If you’re mostly sightseeing around bigger towns and villages, you’ll find you can often walk from your accommodation to the beaches and town centres. If you are walking, remember it gets hot so take water with you.
Alternatively, you can use the bus services on the islands. These won’t always take you to the more off-the-beaten-track places, and they can be slow, but they’ll be affordable.
10. Choose A Self-Catering Stay
Accommodation with kitchen facilities can save you money. You’re definitely going to want to get out and try some authentic Greek cuisine. But it’s also handy to be able to cook a lot of your own food.
Hostels will often have shared kitchens, and some guesthouses will offer a private kitchenette in your room. Alternatively, consider one of our recommended Santorini Airbnbs, or Airbnbs in Mykonos if visiting these islands!
11. Avoid The Tourist Hubs
Islands like Santorini and Mykonos are undoubtedly beautiful, and they’re extremely popular for that reason. But this also makes them expensive places to visit, with pricey accommodation, food, and activities.
The truth is that there are plenty of smaller, less popular islands that offer the same beauty – at a lower cost. If you’re on a budget, these quieter and often more authentic islands can provide you with a splendid time in Greece, without financial worries.
Read our post that outlines all the useful Greek phrases and words you may need before your visit, especially when visiting lesser-known islands, these may come in rather handy!
The Cheapest Greek Islands To Visit
So which islands should you be setting your sights on when looking for a budget-friendly Greece vacation? Here are just a handful of the cheapest Greek isles.
Milos is essentially an undiscovered gem, offering numerous quiet beaches, plenty of scenic views, and a real island vibe. The island has many picturesque villages to explore and provides a tranquil place to relax and soak up the Greek sun.
Where To Stay on a Budget in Milos
- Avras Studios in Zefiria Village is close to the airport and beaches. It offers rooms with a kitchenette, barbeque facilities and a terrace overlooking the Milos mountains.
- Traditionally-styled Korina’s Rooms in Pollonia has a stunning studio with sea views, a kitchenette and free WiFi.
- You can rent a fully-equipped apartment at Giannis Hotel Apartments, at impressive rates. The hotel is within walking distance to the centre of Adamas. You’ll also be offered a free hotel shuttle to and from the port.
Cheapest Greek Island to visit – Paros
Paros is one of the cheaper islands in the Cyclades region, making it a great place to stop on your island-hopping Greece excursion. The island is packed with fascinating landmarks, shopping streets, and vineyards.
Where To Stay on a Budget in Paros
- Located in the main town, Parikia, Bella Vista Studios is near to the bus stops, the port, and a few gorgeous beaches. Book the studio with a sea view and enjoy cooking meals in your kitchenette.
- Deep Blue Studios in Logaras offers either a studio flat or a family apartment. It’s located within walking distance to mini markets and taverns and offers free parking for guests.
- All of the units at Nefeli include kitchen facilities, and guests can enjoy freshly picked vegetables picked from the garden, too.
This is Greece’s northernmost island and is a stunning place to experience magnificent hiking opportunities.
Where To Stay on a Budget in Thassos
- Spend some time in Limenaria Village and book into a homely De Sol A small kitchen, free WiFi and shared pool are all on offer here.
- There’s a supermarket right next to Villa Anna apartments in Limenas, so you can save a penny or two by cooking dinner, or having a barbeque in the garden.
- Dolphins House in Kinira boasts comfy, affordable studios with either sea or mountain views. All units have a cooking hob and fridge.
Andros is a great place to check out if you’re an eager diver or snorkeller. There are also gorgeous hiking trails to enjoy while on the island.
Where To Stay on a Budget in Andros
- Only select rooms at Aiolos Hotel in Menites Village have cooking amenities, but they all come with free breakfast that can be enjoyed at the hotel pool.
- A great place to stay for snorkelling and hiking is Nora Norita in Batsi. Each unit is comfortably furnished with a fully equipped kitchenette, and boasting a balcony with breathtaking sea views.
- Another great Batsi accommodation, Amorani Studios are fully equipped and stylishly furnished. Enjoy free parking, central location, and stunning views of the village and sea.
Frequently Asked Questions – Island Hopping Greece On A Budget
To help answer any additional questions you may have, we have compiled this list of commonly asked questions pertaining to island hopping in Greece.
Should you fly or catch a ferry when island hopping?
Choosing to travel by ferry is no doubt a great adventure and a fun way to hop between these gorgeous and idyllic islands in Greece. Depending of course which islands you plan to visit, you shouldn’t however discount flying either!
Many of the larger islands have airports and allow you to fly in from Athens.
When we went island hopping in Greece we flew into Athens, stayed a few nights and then travelled by ferry from Athens to all the islands we visited until we ended our journey in Santorini. On our return back, it made more sense for us to fly directly from Santorini on Aegean Airlines back to Athens, a non-stop flight lasting around 50 mins.
Do note that flights do fill up pretty quick and prices can skyrocket. We got really good deals booking well in advance on the Aegean Airlines website.
You may also consider other airlines such as Volotea, Sky Express, and Ryanair.
What is the best way to book a ferry in Greece?
Personally, I always recommend booking through a site such as Ferryhopper. They allow you to search for all the available ferries and book directly from one portal, meaning you don’t have to jump between multiple sites.
I also find them one of the easiest sites to use and offer a really user-friendly interface.
Click here to book your ferry tickets today!
Which ferry is best to book if you suffer from seasickness?
If you are prone to suffering from seasickness, then I would highly recommend that you consider booking the slower ferry options. The fast ferries do travel at quite a speed which often results in a lot more movement and motion which isn’t great if you already suffer from motion sickness.
Alternatively, if you want to avoid the chance of this happening, you could consider flying instead.
Should I consider the Eurail Greek Island Pass?
We often get asked whether the Eurail Greek Island Pass offers the best bang for your buck. Personally, we found it far cheaper to purchase our tickets separately and not use the pass.
Don’t get me wrong, it may well end up working out far cheaper if you compare your particular route. The pass is also limited to certain ferry providers and offers either a 4 day or a 6 day travel pass (meaning you can travel either 4 days or 6 days within a 1 month period).
I would recommend that you compare the price of the pass and also make use of the FerryHopper “Island Hopping” search tool. Here you will be able to enter your route and view the full route comparison, so you may see which option will work most economical based on your Greek island-hopping itinerary!
Which islands are closest to Athens?
If you’re arriving in Athens and don’t fancy a long ferry journey, then also keep in mind that there are many great islands, all of which can be reached by ferry from Athens in under 2 hours.
These islands include:
- Aegina – fastest ferry at 1 hour 15 mins from Athens
- Agistri – fastest ferry at 1 hour 35 mins from Athens
- Hydra – fastest ferry at 1 hour 20 mins from Athens
- Poros – fastest ferry at 55 mins from Athens
- Kea (Tzia) – fastest ferry at 1 hour from Athens
- Kythnos – fastest ferry at 1 hour 50 mins from Athens
Can you bypass Athens altogether?
I have to best honest, we were very happy to spend a few nights in Athens to admire the sights and history of the city, but, if it’s not your first visit to Greece and you prefer to bypass the capital altogether, then you can certainly do so.
Many airports including Mykonos, Santorini, Crete (Chania and Heraklion), and many others offer not only domestic flights between the islands and Athens, but also connections between other regional European destinations too.