Plan a trip to Greece with these travel tips and advice from a local. Includes when to visit Greece, travel costs, where to go in Greece and more to help you plan the perfect vacation in Greece.
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With so many choices of places to visit, deciding where to go in Greece can be overwhelming. There’s islands, UNESCO sites, beaches, ancient history and natural wonders all waiting to be discovered by you. Where on earth are you supposed to start?
The short answer, is right here! We’ve created this post on how to plan a trip to Greece in order to give you a helping hand before you book anything. If you follow a few simple steps, you can easily make the best Greece travel plan.
Step 1: Decide what you want out of your holiday
The first and most important step when planning a trip to Greece is to decide what you want out of your holiday.
As an example, you could ask yourselves these questions:
- Are we interested in history and culture, or do we prefer to relax and hang out by the beach?
- Do we want lots of nightlife and crowds, or do we prefer nature and quietness?
- Do we want to see the popular destinations, like Santorini and Mykonos, or do we prefer unspoilt places?
- Are we interested in visiting the bigger cities, like Athens and Thessaloniki, or is the idea of Greek island hopping more appealing?
- If we are going to islands, are we happy to take ferries or do we prefer to fly?
- Do we want to drive in Greece?
- Are we planning to travel around independently, or is it better use one of the numerous Greece tours?
Chances are that you will want a mix of the above. At the same time, there may be people who are not too interested in beaches, or people who can’t be bothered to spend time in the museums. Everyone is different, and there is no right or wrong preference.
Answering these questions, and any others you can think of, is crucial when you are planning a vacation to Greece. Your answers will determine how much of the country you can see during your trip.
Finally, if you are travelling with children or people with limited mobility, you will also need to take that into account.
Step 2 – Study a map of Greece
Thankfully, with Google maps, this is very easy these days. Bring up a map of Greece, and familiarize yourself with the different areas. If you are flying from overseas, chances are that you will be landing in Athens first, so have a look at the areas around our capital.
Your friends who have been to Greece will come up with different islands that they fell in love with. They may mention Santorini, Mykonos, Skiathos, Kefallonia, Sifnos, Crete and Rhodes. Check out all these places on the map, and you will find that they are all in different areas.
Not all places you may want to visit will have an airport, especially the islands, so getting there will only be by land or sea. Our country is small, but getting from A to B can take you a surprisingly long time.
Our best advice – Choose a combination of destinations in Greece that are relatively close to each other, or at least are not too far away.
Step 3 – Do you really want to go to Athens, Mykonos and Santorini?
It seems that the Athens – Mykonos – Santorini itinerary is the only one that first time visitors to Greece think of! It is really a very popular itinerary. In fact, many people who plan a trip to Greece through an agency might not even be presented with an alternative choice.
So what do we think to this combination?
We live in Athens and are probably biased, but we think you really must include Athens in a first time Greece itinerary. Apart from the world-famous Acropolis and Acropolis museum, Athens has a lot more to offer. You can discover some of its magic with our walking tours.
As for Mykonos and Santorini though, we’d suggest you think carefully about these destinations. We totally get that these two Greek islands have almost mythological status in people’s minds, and are on many bucket lists. But let’s be realistic – The original charm of these two islands is tainted somewhat by the high prices and huge numbers of other tourists.
The Greek island of Santorini is really a very unique place. The landscapes and the views to the volcano are stunning, and the famous Oia sunset is worth seeing once in your lifetime.
However, do bear in mind that Santorini currently receives about 2 million visitors a year. In our opinion, you might consider visiting Santorini in winter, when the majority of the crowds are gone.
If you are coming in summer, be prepared for crowds, high prices, and traffic. Here’s a fun guide on things to avoid when visiting Santorini.
As for Mykonos, we’ll be honest. If we had to choose any of the Greek islands in summer, it wouldn’t be Mykonos.
Sure, it’s a pretty island, but it gets extremely crowded and insanely expensive. We have Greek friends who swear by it, but we have also met foreign visitors who thought it was overrated.
If you are curious, by all means go, and let us know what you thought to it.
In any case, it is likely that your Athens – Mykonos – Santorini itinerary will be the first of many future trips to Greece!
Step 4 – Choose How long to spend in Greece
How much time you have is one of the most important factors when you are planning your independent travel to Greece – or anywhere for that matter.
As an example, if you only have one week in Greece, it’s unrealistic to plan trips to seven different areas of the country. You will end up seeing lots of airports, ports and highways, but you wouldn’t see much of the country.
How long to spend in Greece is really up to you. There are thousands of people who came for a short visit and ended up living here permanently. In a way, no period of time is too long for Greece, and the longer you stay the more addicted you are likely to get.
That said, few people have more than two weeks in Greece. Many visitors only have a week, and they try to squeeze in as much as they can. If this is your style of travel by all means do it, at the same time try to appreciate the “siga siga” Greek culture – slowly slowly.
Step 5 – Choose When to visit Greece
In most people’s heads, Greece is predominantly a summer destination. However, you could consider visiting during the off-season, especially if you are not interested in our wonderful beaches.
The busiest months in Greece are July and August, followed by June and September. With the exception of Santorini, most places will be reasonably quiet outside those months. Parts of Rhodes and Crete will also be fairly lively during the shoulder season.
Visiting Greece in spring or autumn might actually work in your favour, as hotels are generally cheaper, and you will meet fewer crowds.
You should know that the weather can be variable, with possibly a few showers, but it will be pleasant for the most part. This is the best time to visit the archaeological sites in Greece, as it won’t be as hot as in summer.
In our opinion, if you want to take full advantage of the beaches in Greece, you should come in September. The water temperature is warmer than the previous months, and it’s generally quieter.
Step 6 – Budget for your vacation in Greece
Another thing that is crucial when it comes to planning your Greece vacation is your budget. Don’t worry though, your Greece trip cost doesn’t have to be sky-high. We will break down the possible cost when travelling to Greece.
Cost of accommodation in Greece
Accommodation in Greece can be fairly inexpensive. Depending on where you go and what time of the year you travel, it is perfectly possible to find a room for a couple for around 30 euro.
Realistically, if your Greek trip is in summer, you might want to budget for about 50-60 euro for a decent room, though you will generally be able to find something more wallet-friendly.
If you are on a tight budget, you will notice that hostels are not as popular as in other countries. However, you will find a few in the bigger cities and the most popular islands.
If you want to splurge on the other hand, you will find plenty of opportunity, especially in places like Santorini and Mykonos. Santorini hotels with a view to the caldera can easily climb up to 500 euro a night.
Cost of transportation in Greece
Transportation in Greece is not necessarily wallet-friendly – certainly not for Greeks. In fact, if you decide to rent a car, transportation in Greece might actually turn out to be your highest cost.
If you are driving around Greece, you should know that while much of the road network in Greece is brand new and fantastic, there are also many toll stations. The price of gas is actually rather high, compared to other EU countries.
If you don’t want to drive, public buses and trains are pretty good. Prices vary a lot, so you will have to check the price for the trip you want to take. As an example, a bus ticket from Athens to Delphi is about 17 euro, and the train from Athens to Kalambaka costs 33 euro (2019 prices).
Ferries and flights in Greece
The cost of ferry tickets also varies a lot, depending on the distance and the type of boat you are using. Generally speaking, one-way tickets from Piraeus to most of the Cyclades islands start from around 30-35 euro, while there are many more expensive options.
Finally, when it comes to flying within Greece, you will be surprised at how costly the tickets can be. We suggest looking for domestic flights as early as possible, as last minute prices can get really high.
Note that, as a rule, you can’t fly directly from one island to another. You would either fly with a stop in Athens, or take a ferry, if the islands are close to each other.
Cost of meals in Greece
When it comes to food in Greece, most visitors find that it’s actually good value. Obviously it depends on where you are and what you are eating, but it’s very easy to eat at a nice taverna with 10-15 euro per person.
If you want to do Greece on a budget, you can always stick to street food or fast food, like souvlaki, gyros and bakery goodies. You can also do some shopping at a street market, and cook at the place you are staying.
On the other hand, if you are interested in fresh fish or gourmet cuisine, you will need to budget a lot more for a meal in Greece. Similarly, if you are visiting Mykonos and Santorini, be prepared for higher prices – not necessarily with equally higher quality.
Cost of sightseeing in Greece
The cost of sightseeing in Greece depends on the individual attraction. The most popular archaeological sites and museums are more expensive. As an example, the combined ticket for the Acropolis and the other sites in Athens costs 30 euro, while the individual prices decrease during the winter months.
You could also visit the sites and museums with a guide, who will help you understand more about life in Ancient Greece. If you are travelling with children, you could consider doing some sort of Greek Mythology travel itinerary.
At the same time, there are plenty of free activities, attractions and things to do all around the country. Here are some free things to do in Athens.
Step 7 – Prepare for occasional strikes in Greece
The strikes are often announced only a couple of days in advance, and there is no way to predict when a strike is going to happen. That said, the 1st of May is always a strike day for ferries and possibly other means of transport, so avoid travelling then.
The best advice we can give you is the following. If you are arriving to and leaving from Athens, it’s best to spend the last days of your trip in our capital. This way you won’t be stuck on an island if a last-minute ferry strike is announced. You could also consider getting travel insurance!
How to plan a trip to Greece
With all the above in mind, you will hopefully be a little closer to planning your dream Greek trip.
If you have a week in Greece, starting and ending in Athens, our suggestions are
- Visit one or two of the Greek islands and stay in Athens for the rest of the time
- Hire a car to tour around the Peloponnese, and allow for a couple of days in Athens
- Visit Delphi and Meteora either on a tour or by car / public transportation, and perhaps take a day trip to an island close to Athens
If you have two weeks in Greece, you can combine more areas, or go for a longer road trip including Western or Northern Greece.
Tips for planning a trip to Greece
We hope this guide has helped you think about your future Greece trips! If you have any specific questions, please ask them in the comments.