Santorini is not your typical backpacker’s destination. With expensive accommodation, honeymooners everywhere and romantic couples wandering the beaches, it would not be many budget travelers first picks. Though, when doing some research you will quickly learn that it is possible to be backpacking Santorini on a budget.
In this backpacking Santorini travel guide, I will let you in on all the top things to do in Santorini, the best attractions, where to sleep, eat and more!
Santorini is a gorgeous island off the coast of Greece in the Aegean Sea. Formed from a volcanic eruption, which has been recorded as one of the largest in history, it is part of a circular archipelago. Famous for its beautiful whitewashed buildings Santorini was put on the map as one of the worlds most romantic destinations, attracting hundreds of thousands of tourists each year. Of course, us backpackers cannot be left out of the loop with visiting bucket list destinations such as Santorini. You can spend thousands of dollars here per night, but you can also explore Santorini on a budget, making it an accessible place to explore for backpackers. Santorini is certainly a place where research pays off, literally, and since you are reading this backpacking Santorini guide you are certainly on the right track so let’s get into it!
Backpacking Santorini On A Budget- Everything You Need To Know!
How Many Days To Spend In Santorini?
Santorini is a small island so do not expect to spend weeks here. Also, your budget will likely prevent you from spending months here as it is a pricey Greek Islands. Santorini is quite small and you can truly do quite a lot in a short amount of time. It is a popular cruise port. That means there are numerous day tours made to get the most out of a visit, therefore it is perfect if you are short on time.
Therefore I recommend spending anywhere from three days to 5 days exploring Santorini.
Cost Per Day For Budget Travel In Santorini
It’s difficult to know exactly how much money you will need when traveling Santorini as it will differ greatly depending on your travel style. Where you stay, eat and explore will largely effect it. Though you can get a lot for your euro when traveling Greece. Overall, it is a surprisingly affordable country.
Overall, I spent $123.00 / €108.00 per day when backpacking Santorini. Though, this could have been A LOT cheaper. Our first mistake was hiring a car. This ended up costing $176.00 / €156.00 for the two and a half days we were in Santorini. In all honesty, the only times we used the car was to get to and from the airport. The roads in Santorini are crazy, but more on this later down in the backpacking Santorini on a budget guide.
If we were smart and decided not to hire the car, the individual cost per day would have been $78.00 / €69.00 per day. This amount includes a stay at a 4-star hotel as well. Though, make sure to book in advance to get the best rates. I stayed at Nautilus Dome in a private room. They have a pool, lovely staff and breakfast is included which has a beautiful view over the caldera. Also if you explore Santorini in winter this is the low season which means accommodation will be a lot cheaper.
Half our meals were eaten at a bakery costing less than $4.50 / €4.00 and the other half of meals were at restaurants, each time spending approximately $28.30 / €25.00. Backpackers Wanderlust was also hosted on a few tours while in Santorini such as hiking Fira to Oia, volcano sailboat tour and a private taxi tour. If you can forgo the benefits of having a guide you can fairly easy do the hiking Fira to Oia and Private Taxi Tour yourself (though obviously, you will need some sort of transport).
Apart from those, I do recommend the sailboat tour, even though it may cost. It allows you to see another side of Santorini and is a lovely evening with other travelers from around the world. There are many different types of these sailboat tours which range in price accordingly, most seem to start at around $45.00 / €40.00, which is reasonable for a 6+ hour tour.
Now, let’s go into more detail on how to explore Santorini on a budget so you can save as much money as possible, allowing you to travel longer!
Budget Accommodation In Santorini
You might not be staying in the gram-worthy Oia, but you can still find affordable hotels in Santorini. Even though it may be a relatively small place, but there are many different villages you could stay in. If you are looking to spend large then you can stay in the famously romantic Oia. The second best area to stay in is Fira. Here you will find a variety of expensive and affordable accommodation, plenty of restaurants and numerous stores.
If you are strictly on a hostel budget then expect to stay in Perissa Village. It may be on the other side of the island from Oia, but this is where the majority of backpacker dorm room styled accommodation is located. In my opinion, it was more of a family friendly and budget-friendly area of the island with roomy beaches and plenty of watersports on offer. Next time I end up in Santorini the first pick of the village I would stay in is Perissa. I enjoy the more laid back atmosphere compared with the overly touristic Oia and Fira.
Here are my top picks for the backpacking Santorini travel guide:
One of the few hostels in Santorini with a pool. From $12.00 per night in a dorm room.
Minutes from the beach offering air-conditioned dorm rooms from $15.00 per night.
My favorite hotel option in Santorini. From $70.00 per night including breakfast.
A stylish and modern hotel in the village of Fira. From $60.00 per night in a twin bedroom.
Getting Around Santorini On A Budget
Getting From Santorini National Airport into town
Santorini International Airport certainly is a busy one and is likely where you will be beginning your adventures in Santorini. Servicing both commercial and military planes you will constantly be seeing air traffic arrive and depart this airport throughout both the day and night. It is actually one of the few islands in Greece with a major airport.
Located north in the island in the village of Kamari, this is likely not where you will be beginning your holiday in the beautiful Santorini. Therefore you will need some sort of way to travel to your accommodation.
Many hotels will be able to offer a transfer service, though rates will vary depending on the village you stay in. For example, I stayed in Fira and was offered $23.00 / €20.00 for the airport transfer. This may be a good option if you are traveling in a large group where you can split the cost. But if you are solo or with a friend this is not the most cost-efficient option.
A more affordable option will be to take the bus. This bus service operates between Santorini National Airport and the town of Fira, though in Fira there are a larger variety of operating buses which can take you to other corners of the island.
Lastly, you have the option of taking a taxi. These are often cheaper than a pre-booked airport transfer from your accommodation. Though these prices can surge depending on how many people on your flight are needing a ride, it is all supply and demand. Overall expect to pay somewhere between $11.30-$15.90 / €10.00-€14.00.
Traveling Within Santorini
You will definitely want to explore the many beautiful villages within Santorini, but you are going to need to figure out some sort of way to get around. The roads here are pretty crazy, with straight drops on some sides and tiny little streets where tourists notoriously get their cars squished between buildings (yes, that does actually happen).
So let’s get into all transport options so you can figure out how to actually get around the island while backpacking Santorini on a budget.
Let’s start where I went wrong; deciding to hire a car. Our first mistake was this is the first time where we would be driving a manual while driving on the right-hand side of the road. We are used to driving on the left side and in a car which is completely the other way around. A manual may be the cheaper option, but in a place like Santorini, I do not recommend hiring one, no matter your experience on the road. Streets here are notoriously hilly, windy and narrow, things which are not fun in an automatic car, let alone a manual car.
If you do decide to hire a car there are plenty of places which do it on the island so no need to prebook. Also, one day in a car would be enough. Use the car to travel larger distances and check out some more of the difficult to reach places. Plan your day according to this to get the most out of your time.
In peak times of the year, many road rules of Santorini are changed to assist with handling all the traffic. The are MANY unmarked one way streets and there is a high chance that you will end up going the wrong way up one. The locals know the roads here, but you will not. Downloading a map such as Maps.Me can assist with navigating your way around and prevent going up one-way streets. Though, speaking from experience, it also took us up crazy back roads which were near impossible to navigate.
Don’t want to drive? Check out my experience having a private taxi driver in Santorini!
Santorini may be an island, but do not expect to be able to walk around it. The roads here are crazy and you would not want to be following them around the cliffside.
There are a couple of places where you can walk through, such as the hike between Fira and Oia. Though, this hike would not be a regular walking path between these two villages. It is not easy to do with hilly terrain under the hot sun so if you decide to give it a go, head off early.
There are not many taxis in Santorini and certainly not enough to cater for all the tourists which visit during the high season. It is considered normal if your driver picks up more people along the way, so do not be alarmed.
If you wish to use taxis while in Santorini it is recommended you download the Aegean Taxi App on your phone. Through that, you can book rides at your desired times to any destination around this beautiful island.
ATV’s are one of the most popular forms of transport in Santorini, especially with backpackers. You will find plenty of ATV rental shops all around the island providing a cost-efficient option and freedom to travel where you want.
Just be aware, that like any rental place, there are certain shops which can be know to scam. Ask your accommodation for the most trusted shop owner who you can hire through. Many places in Santorini can also organize the hire for you which can take away some of the stress.
If you have driven an ATV before, it will be a much different terrain here in Santorini. You will be driving along paved roads, sharing the streets with cars and buses. Therefore it’s best if you are confident at driving on the roads and know some basic road rules. Either way, many people know its tourists driving the ATV’s and seem to take extra care around them, most of the time at least.
If you are not comfortable navigating the roads by yourself taking the bus is the next best option for backpacking Santorini on a budget. Depending on your route the public bus will cost either $1.80 / € 1.60, $2.00 / € 1.80 and $2.50 / € 2.20. Though be aware there are no weekly or daily passes available, so these costs can quickly add up. Make sure to plan your route accordingly to avoid any double ups and extra costs.
Buses run every 30 minutes to every other hour. Find out the latest timetables for the bus service in Santorini. Be aware that if you are traveling during the high season it might be difficult to find space on the next available bus and you may be waiting around a while.
Where To Eat & Drink In Santorini On A Budget
From high-end restaurants, bakeries and eateries with never-ending views there are so many options when eating in Santorini. Though unfortunately for us many of them are not budget-friendly, especially in some of the caldera overlooking foodie spots.
These are my top picks, all tested and tried, for the backpacking Santorini on a budget guide:
Cheap Food In Santorini
Now it is not the easiest to find cheap food in one of the worlds most romantic places, though it can be done. Keep away from those gorgeous cliffside restaurants when on a budget, as well as basically everything in Oia.
To keep food costs down try book accommodation with breakfast included, that means one less meal to purchase during the day. Staying at Nautilus Dome we would very often visit the bakery next door. They had fresh sandwiches and everything delicious, a bonus is that they were open 24 hours a day. This certainly helped keep our food budget down in Santorini.
Another option is to stick to the notoriously cheap dishes. Find places which specialize in the backpacker staple food, the Gyro. For just a couple of euros you can get a meal that will keep you going. Also a famously cheap eat in Santorini is Falafeland. With massive falafel wraps, you cannot go wrong!
Greek Dishes You Must Try
If you are interested in taking your taste buds on a culinary journey nothing is better than Greek food. You can stick with the food staples of a Greek salad, yogurt or Gyro, or explore a little bit more.
Santorini is famous for its wineries and the unique way the grapes are grown. Find a good winery and spend an afternoon trying some of the local wines and testing out a few nibbles. There is no better way to relax!
Safety In Santorini
Santorini is a generally safe place with minimal crime. Though, there are some things you should be aware of before backpacking Santorini on a budget.
The first major is the rental scams, as mentioned earlier. This is notorious with shops specializing in motorbikes and ATVs. They will offer bad quality vehicles and get the customer to pay for the damage on return. Make sure to check what type of insurance they are offering as well, or make sure you are covered by your travel insurance. They will oftentimes try to sell you basic insurance by presenting it as full insurance.
Do not eat at restaurants or shop at stores where the prices are out advertised, this is always a bad sign. Lastly, just be aware of the cliffs around Santorini which oftentimes drop straight down into the sea. It is not safe to stand on the edge due to unstable rocks.
Things To Do In Santorini On A Budget
Santorini is full of amazing activities and landscapes which will keep you busy. Whether you enjoy a spot of shopping, experiencing some history and want to experience some volcanic sights, Santorini has something for everyone.
Sunset in Oia
One of the must do things in Santorini is to watch the sunset at Oia Village. When I say this is a must do, it literally is and you will be amongst crowds of thousands all looking to get that perfect sunset shot. It may not be the most tranquil way to end a day, but it is certainly worth dealing with the crowds for one night.
Be aware that the crowds will start lining up and saving their seats in the prime sunset-watching positions from as early as 4pm. Though, if you aren’t worried about watching the sunset in Oia, but still want to watch the sunset over the ocean I highly recommend you go to the lighthouse. This is on the complete opposite side of the island to Oia and is so much quieter in comparison. Just remember to bring a jacket because as soon as the sun disappears it gets quite cold.
Volcano Sail Boat Trip
An awesome way to see a different side of Santorini is to take one of the sailboat trips across to the nearby Nea Kamei. There are a variety of different price points for this type of tour. From the backpacker friendly sailboats, the luxury catamarans or beautiful yachts, no matter your budget you will be able to find an opinion for you.
Prepare yourself for an afternoon of exploring a volcanic island, swimming in hot springs and enjoying a traditional Greek dinner underneath the lesser known Thirasia Island. Honestly, this is one tour I highly recommend doing in Santorini to learn more about the history of the island.
You can check out my sailboat experience with Santorini Best Tours.
Hike Fira To Oia
Hiking Fira to Oia is an excellent way to explore a different part of the island away from the beautiful blue domed villages. It is a rather long walk over 10 kilometers and taking a few hours to complete, so make sure you dress accordingly. Sunscreen is a must, as well as making sure you bring plenty of water.
There are a couple stops along the way to purchase water, though there is a rather long section before Oia which is desolate landscapes. It is a super interesting hike and afterward, you will see Santorini from a whole new perspective.
You can either do the hike yourself or book a tour as I did. A tour gives you more information and allows you to discover the history behind the island, though you will have to go at the same pace as the group.
Read about hiking from Fira to Oia with Santorini Experts.
Santorini is known for its wines and this is certainly one thing you need to do while exploring the island. There are plenty of wineries dotted around so you should have no problem finding one!
The interesting thing about Santorini wines is the way the grapes are grown. As the sun is so strong here the grapevine circles on top of itself. It forms a basket like space for the grapes to grow in the middle. Do not expect to see never-ending grape vines here like in other countries, instead of its little shrubs. I didn’t even know they were grapes until a tour guide told us!
Swim at the Beaches
I am going to be honest, Santorini beaches are certainly not the best in the world, though they are something special in themselves. Do not expect to find white sandy beaches, instead, there are colorfully volcanic rocks, slowly being washed into the sand from the friction of the waves.
Head to the black sand beach of Perissa. Here is where you can find plenty of water activities such as jet skis, so if you are interested in some water fun this is certainly the place for you. There is also Red Beach, famous for the steep red cliffs which raise high above the beach itself. This is one of the more famous beaches in Santorini, but due to landslides, it is oftentimes not the safest.
On the highest point of Santorini is where you will find The Monastery of Prophet Elias. You will certainly need your own transport to get up there. Also, I do not recommend walking as it is quite steep. Prepare yourself for the most amazing views over the landscapes at the top.
At the Monastery they have a variety of wines, oils and snacks available. This locally made produce would make an excellent souvenir to take back home.
Any Questions? Let me know in the comments!
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