Understandably, visiting Santorini on a budget can seem like a bit of a pipe dream to most people.
But the truth is that, while it's become one of the world's most sought-after destinations (thanks a lot, Instagram), Santorini offers plenty of value for the budget traveler crowd.
With plenty of beaches, tons of awesome history, and incredible cheap eats like gyros and souvlaki, here are our top money-saving tips for visiting Santorini, Greece.
Santorini on a budget: Know before you go
Santorini isn't the party island
If you're looking for nightlife or hoping to rub elbows with the rich and famous, you'd be better off at a different Greek island like Mykonos or Zakynthos. Santorini is much more laid back, though you can have a solid night out in Fira or Kamari.
Walk or use the bus to get around
If you're traveling on a budget, you're probably not looking to spend money on a car service. Instead, you can take the bus. Aside from walking, the local bus is the cheapest way to get around Santorini. It stops at most of the island's major points of interest and costs about €1,80 - €2,50. Here's a helpful guide to getting around Santorini by bus.
Avoid peak season if possible
Santorini's high season – Late June to early September – doesn't just mean massive (seriously, MASSIVE) crowds. It also means the arrival of significantly higher prices throughout the island. Instead, visit during Santorini's shoulder seasons in April to May and September to October.
Free and cheap things to do in Santorini
Admire the beauty of Oia
Oia is the part of Santorini that you’ve probably seen on Instagram and tourism ads. Marble white homes, blue dome roofs, along soaring oceanside cliffs.
There’s not really one main landmark to see in Oia. Instead, just spend some time walking through this beautiful postcard-worthy village while taking in the sights. If you decide to snap a few pics for the ‘gram, just remember to be respectful of Oia locals and look out for any "no trespassing" signs posted.
You could stay for lunch or dinner but the prices will almost certainly put a dent in your wallet. But it’s definitely worth sticking around Oia for breathtaking sunset views. Just be sure to arrive early to get a spot.
See the famous Red Beach
Santorini’s Red Beach gets its own category due to its status as Santorini’s most iconic beach. It’s also Santorini’s most dangerous beach – more on that below.
Offering a stunning backdrop of crimson red cliffs alongside clear blue waters, the Red Beach is a sight to behold. It’s not particularly great for beach activities like sunbathing or swimming, but many feel it's at least worth seeing from above, especially if you’re already headed out to Akrotiri. If not, you can get a good look at red rock formations at Amoudi Bay.
NOTE: Due to the possibility of landslides, there are signs leading down to the beach warning tourists not to enter. Local hotels are even asked to discourage tourists from going. This still hasn’t stopped throngs of people from crowding its shores daily, but it’s important to do your research.
Enjoy Santorini's Best Beaches
When in Santorini, don't expect to find powdery smooth white sand beaches found on other Greek islands. Instead, Santorini’s beaches are a bit more rugged, made of pebbly black volcanic sand. Still, this doesn’t stop beachgoers from soaking up the sun on the beaches of Perissa and Kamari, where you’ll find plenty of water activities, as well as bars and restaurants.
Visit the prehistoric town of Akrotiri
The ancient city of Akrotiri is a bit like Santorini’s own mini Pompei. The ruins of this prehistoric village are remarkably well preserved due to a volcanic eruption that covered the area. Today, you can visit the enclosed archaeological site and get an up close view of artifacts that provide you with a glimpse into how the original Minoan inhabitants lived.
Some also say that Akrotiri was Plato’s inspiration for the Lost City of Atlantis.
Go cliff jumping at Amoudi Bay
Located right below Oia, Amoudi Bay is a charming fishing village. This stunning stretch of coastline is dotted with high red cliffs, waterfront restaurants, and even a prime cliff jumping spot.
To go cliff jumping, take a left when you get down to Amoudi Bay, past the restaurants. Keep walking around the bend and you’ll eventually see a small island (looks like a massive rock) about 75 yards from shore. Just swim out to the island, climb the stairs around back, and join the day’s group of cliff jumpers.
Hike from Fira to Oia
If you don’t mind breaking a bit of a swear, the hike from Fira to Oia is one of the best ways to see Santorini. This lengthy hike is a bit more than 10 km/6 miles and takes you along the edge of the Santorini caldera, allowing you to see different towns along the way, stopping whenever you like. The hike will take between 3-5 hours, depending on how long/often you stop.
Where to stay on a budget in Santorini
Located in an 18th-century winery, Caveland Hostel is actually a complex of cave houses and terraces, making for a highly unique experience. Room options include mixed dorms, female-only dorms, and private ensuite rooms, all with a free continental breakfast.
Situated in the heart of Fira, Bedspot Hostel is a new, highly rated hostel in Santorini. In fact, this sleek and sophisticated hostel has won awards and several 9.5+ rankings from the major hostel booking sites.
Stelios Place Perissa Beach
Set amongst a flower-filled garden and just a 2-minute walk from popular Perissa Beach, Stelios Place is a casual family-run spot that greatly exceeds expectations. There are no dorms here, just varying levels of private rooms. Still, there’s great value to be had at Stelios Place, especially for the incredible location.
Cheap flights to Santorini
Recently, Dollar Flight Club members have saved between 70-90% on cheap flights to Santorini. On average, our members spent $515 on their tickets and saved over $300 per ticket. Here are a few samples of cheap flight deals that Dollar Flight Club members have received recently.
New York City (JFK) to Santorini (JTR)
Price with Dollar Flight Club: $396
Average Price: $870
Houston (IAH) to Santorini (JTR)
Price with Dollar Flight Club: $589
Average Price: $1,150
Orlando (MCO) to Santorini (JTR)
Price with Dollar Flight Club: $689
Average Price: $1,050
Best cheap eats in Santorini
FalafeLAND is one of Santorini’s most popular spots for fast, fresh, and delicious cheap eats – especially amongst vegans and vegetarians. As the name suggests, the falafel is the star of the show here but the wraps, burgers, and salads aren’t far behind.
Gyros and Souvlaki are the name of the game when it comes to eating on a budget in Santorini. Fortunately for those who find themselves in Fira, Lucky’s Souvlakis is one of the most beloved spots for both on the whole island. You could spend as little as
If Lucky’s is the go to spot in Fira, Pitogyros is the budget eats haven in stunning Oia, some might say the gyros here are even better. Take your pick from delicious souvlaki, pitas, gyros, or salads and wash it down with a cold local beer.
Start planning your trip to Santorini
If you thought Santorini was only for travelers looking to spend a ton of money, think again! Santorini offers rich history, relaxing beaches, and mesmerizing views, all on a budget fit for any traveler.
So when you're ready to visit this incredible island, be sure to save this budget travel guide, sign up to receive cheap flight deals, and start planning your trip to Santorini today!
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BY: ZACH ANDERSON, CONTENT MARKETING & FLIGHT EXPERT
Zach is a digital marketer, copywriter, and flight deal expert at Dollar Flight Club where he helps 1 million people travel more. As a digital nomad, he is deeply passionate about location independence, Thai food, and helping others see the world affordably.