Dreaming of a Greek holiday but feeling like the Gods of the Economy are conspiring against you? Not only has the dollar fallen, but prices in Athens have risen dramatically since the introduction of the euro to Greece. But those two factors don’t have to squash your dream vacation. You can still plan a fantastic Greek holiday using the following money saving tips:
1. Be flexible on your travel dates. Remember that Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday are almost always the least expensive days to fly overseas. Use online search tools like kayak.com to search over a range of websites. Plan early if you are using miles to get your tickets, the free seats go fast! And remember, Athens is a major destination, so while the discounts are as great as they once were “off season”, airfare is generally still a better bargain in early spring and late fall.
2. Save $150 – $400 per day by opting for a self-catering apartment over a hotel. Vacation rentals are always more economical than a hotel particularly so when you find 2 or 3 bedroom properties where the cost will always be lower than booking a comparable hotel. Look for those that offer free internet and save even more. Full kitchens save an average family of 4 over $100 per day in restaurants bills in addition to the savings over hotels. And of course, staying in a furnished short term rental in Athens means staying outside of the tourist track, which often also means less expensive dining options when you do eat out (not to mention the priceless bonus of eating where the locals eat, in truly authentic Greek tavernas and grillhouses).
4. Visit a local farmers market, a cheese shop and a bakery and pack a lunch to enjoy al fresco!
5. Avoid overpriced coach tours. Why travel with 50 strangers to Delphi when you can go on your own? A typical tour costs 80 – 100 euro per person. A famiy of 4 can rent a car and drive for around 30 euro or book a private driver for the day for 250 euro. Both options will undoubtably save you money, but also get you to the site BEFORE the hourdes of coach tours arrive, meaning a more pleasant experience as you explore this magical site. Of course, you can save even more by catching the KTEL bus (9 euro per person) from the bus stop near the National Archeological Museum. You will want to leave Athens early (6:30 AM), but the bus does get you to the site with some time to explore before the coach tours arrive.
6. SKIP the three island cruise! Not only does the 3 island cruise cost much more than going on your own, it also leaves you very little time to explore any of the islands. Instead, use the metro to get to Pireaus (port) and take a flying dolphin or a slower ferry to Hydra or Aegina. Explore on your own, eat where you want, and if you get bored, catch a boat to another nearby island.
7. Find free events in Athens: Athens is a vibrant, cosmopolitan city filled with free and nearly free entertainment options. Since most of the programs are geared toward locals, you’ll have to look where the locals look: www.athinorama.gr, for continious English updates regarding events in Athens, you can also look here: http://www.true-athens.com/calendar-of-athens/
9. Plan your visits to coincide with free admission days: all Sundays from November to March are free admission days for most archeological sites (as are the first Sunday of April, May, September and October). Museums list their free admission days on their website, or for a comprehensive list visit here: http://www.true-athens.com/2007/11/16/free-museum-admission-days-in-greece.
10. Take it slow!! Greece is packed with things to see and do and experience, and it is, geographically, a tiny country – but, avoid the urge to see it all. I’ve been traveling to and living in Greece for 20 years, and I still have not seen it all! Itineraries that have you spending 2 nights here, 2 nights there and 2 nights somewhere else eat up valuable time (not to mention money!) and will leave you feeling like you spent much of your vacation packing and unpacking or waiting for a plane or ferry to depart.