Greece is the land of thousands of islands, friendly locals, and delicious food for less than you'll find elsewhere on the Euro.
Though some parts of Greece are mega-popular and practically overrun with tourists (I'm looking at you, Oia in Santorini), other islands are quieter, cheaper, and have baby blue water (like Lefkada). If you're looking to Greece for a summer adventure, consider some of the smaller islands in the popular chains for a similar experience without the crowds, and hefty prices.
When it comes to Greece, the perfect summer, Mediterranean experience is available in many different forms. It's enough to keep me wanting to return over and over.
Where in Greece?
- 'Hello' and 'Thank You' in Greek: “Geiá sou” and “efcharistó”.
- Currency: Euro (click here for current conversion rates).
- Visa: 90-day Schengen visa on arrival for most nationalities (click here for more info).
- Safety rating: Ranked 65 on the Global Peace Index with a score of 1.93 (USA is ranked 128 with a score of 2.4). There are some political internal conflicts in the country, but you are highly unlikely to encounter any in tourist areas.
- Solo Travel Friendliness: With friendly locals and a relaxing atmosphere, Greece is great for solo travelers. However, petty theft is on the rise due to the economic crisis, so be mindful of your belongings especially when traveling in the large cities.
- Climate: Peak season starts from June - September, with July and August being the hottest and busiest months. Winter (December - February) gets pretty cold and may not be pleasant for traveling. Shoulder seasons (April - June and September - October) see smaller crowds and reduced prices, though some islands shut down their tourism operations by October and don't reopen until May.
- Best SIM cards: Cosmote – cards can be purchased at the airport but only offer huge bundles. Bring your passport.
- Random Useful Tip: Greeks LOVE to hear how much you enjoy the food at their restaurants, so be sure to let them know!
Budget Solo Travelers ($10 - $18): In popular areas like Santorini, Athens and Crete, you can find hostels that cost about $10-$18 per night. For a bit more privacy on a budget, plan your trip way ahead and you could score a private room for as low as $16 per night.
Mid-Range Solo Travelers ($44 - $100): A night at a decent, 3-star hotel costs about $50 - $100. Airbnbs may be a much better alternative, with a private room averaging $44 a night, and an entire unit averaging at $106, both tend to be much more comfortable than a hotel room.
Street Food and Cooking Your Own Food ($5 - $10): Want to eat your way around Greece on the cheap? Look for gyros, which is very similar to a kebab, pies and breads. They shouldn’t cost more than $5 and can easily fill you up. If your accommodation comes with a kitchen, head down to the local market and you will find fresh produce and seafood at reasonable prices. Budget about $50 for a week’s worth of groceries.
Local Restaurants ($15 - $30): Fresh food like vegetables, seafood and bread can be easily found all over the islands, and I think that’s what makes the food in Greece so great! The Greeks love dining out and dinners typically start late. Many Greek foods are great for sharing, so if you are traveling solo, I recommend staying in a social hostel so you can make new friends and sample some amazing Greek food together. Expect to pay about $15 - $30 for a full meal.
Getting There: The main international airports are Athens International Airport and Heraklion International Airport, both of which receive many direct flights from all over central Europe. Scenic train and bus rides are available from neighboring countries including Albania and Bulgaria. You can also take a ferry if you are coming from eastern Italy.
Getting Around town: If you are in the major cities, the public transportation systems are affordable and convenient. You can easily get around on about $2 per ride. Outside of the major cities, or on the islands, you may consider renting a car (if traveling in a group) or a motorcycle (if traveling solo). That said, road safety isn’t exactly reputable in Greece, and roads are incredibly narrow in places, so only do so if you are a confident driver/rider, and make sure to get insured. You'll need an international driver's license.
Inter-city Traveling: You can take long distance buses, which are all under the KTEL network, pretty much all over Greece. On the other hand, most people would recommend against taking the trains in Greece. If you want to minimize travel time, domestic flights are affordable and frequent. To get from one island to another, your obvious choice is taking a ferry. Seats can sell out quickly especially in the busy months, so book your tickets way ahead of time, if possible!
Things to Do
Go on an Island Hopping Excursion: What better way to take in the blue waters and gorgeous islands than renting a private boat and go on an epic excursion?! It's inexpensive if shared with a group of people. Many boat rental companies come with a professional crew so all that's left to do is to enjoy your time on the boat. However, if you have a license, I think it'd be very cool to sail independently as well. Island hopping Greece is such a beautiful experience, it is a must-do when in Greece!
Buy Unique Souvenirs: From some of the best olive oil in the world to unique jewelry, Greece has some amazing souvenirs! Leave room in your bag for some goodies to bring home.
Explore the Ruins: From the Acropolis in Athens, to the ancient city of Kamiros, Greece is full of impressive sites that will help you gain a better understanding of the western civilization history and myths. They are all very popular and can get crowded during the day, so try getting to these sites early in the morning for a quieter experience.
Enjoy the Views at Santorini: Who hasn't seen the photos of Santorini, with beautiful sun rays beaming on the bluest water right below equally beautiful white washed buildings? The backdrop of Santorini is so iconic, you probably had it as your desktop wallpaper at some point! If you truly have your heart set on seeing the views, I recommend staying in one of the nice hotels in Oia, so you can enjoy the sunset peacefully.
See Myrtos Beach in Kefalonia: Myrtos Beach is deemed as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. The water is incredibly blue, and in the backdrop you will find dramatic cliffs and beautiful pine trees. There are also other stunning beaches in Kefalonia that are worth a visit.
Go to the birthplace of the Olympics: Did you know that to take part in the Olympics in ancient times, one had to be freeborn, Greek, a man, and naked? If you are a history buff, you probably already have this item on your list! It's a lot of fun walking through the Olympia, trying to picture what was it like back in the day.