The question on everyone’s lips, ‘is Santorini expensive’? Well… the answer is yes, it is one of the most romantic islands in the world after all. However, please don’t give up on visiting, it certainly is possible to visit Santorini on a budget.
How to get to Santorini
Flying to Santorini
Despite being a small island in the middle of the Aegean Sea, Santorini offers its own international airport. The direct flights to Santorini are usually cheaper and more efficient than travelling via Athens and then paying for a ferry.
London to Santorini flights take 3 hours and 45 minutes, departing from Stansted, Luton, Gatwick and Heathrow. Prices in the shoulder season (September for example) are around £200 return, less if you are lucky or don’t take luggage.
Taking the ferry to Santorini
Santorini is often added into a wider Greek Island hopping holiday. Because of this, there are regular ferry crossing to nearby islands such as Mykonos (1 hr 50), Milos (2+ hours), Paros (1 hr 30), Naxos (1 hr 15), and more. There are also daily ferries from Athens, taking approximately five hours. Many people choose to spend a few nights in Athens before moving onto the islands.
How to get around Santorini on a budget
Taking the bus in Santorini
The cheapest way to get around Santorini is by bus. The buses are air conditioned and pretty nice, so a great way to travel. A standard adult bus fare costs between €1.80 to €2.50, depending on the destination.
I do recommend the bus service in Santorini, it is reliable, safe, although sometimes delayed.
Bus tickets are paid at the point of departure as you are boarding, buses must be paid for in cash and cannot be pre-booked. Tickets are one way only so you need to purchase one with each bus journey.
The main bus station in Santorini is in Fira, this is the start or end point fo all buses. The bus timetable is seasonal (low season, shoulder season, and high season). If you are taking the bus to Santorini ferry port you will need to check the bus timetable as it changes each day depending on the ferry times.
Hiring a car in Santorini
I would recommend a car hire in Santorini if you really want to explore the island. If you are just wanting to jump between the main towns or relax by the pool, then save your money and take the bus/a taxi instead.
Santorini Airport has a great car rental service with many of the large car hire brands as well as some smaller Greek ones.
Please be aware that most cars on Santorini are manual, if you are uncomfortable with this then please book your car as far in advance as possible. In Greece, all cars drive on the right hand side of the road.
It is possible to pick up a car hire from Santorini ferry port but there is a hair raising drive to get to the top of the cliff. The port can get a little manic so if you aren’t hugely confident, then take the bus or a taxi up to the top and hire one from Fira or Oia instead.
Taking taxis in Santorini
It is hard to completely avoid taking a taxi in Santorini, the buses stop around 9-10pm so if you are having a night out in one town, and staying in another, you will need to get a taxi home.
However, compared to some European countries, I actually found the taxi service here reasonable, and very reliable. there seemed to be a blanket fare of around €40 no matter where we went. Airport-Imerovigli, Imerovigli to Oia, Fira to Oia, these were all €40 despite being different durations. The taxis felt extremely safe and drivers were great.
I used Aegean Taxi to pre-book all my taxis and they never let me down. The taxi was always confirmed within a few minutes.
When is the best time to go to Santorini?
If you want to get the best out of Santorini but don’t want to pay peak prices, travel in the shoulder season.
The tourist season starts in May and finishes in late September/early October. The peak season is mid-June to mid-September. To save money but still have a great time, I would always recommend late May/early June. Late September is often beautiful but as you enter into October, the weather becomes more unpredictable.
Not only will you save money in these months, but the island will be quieter and exploring will be more pleasant out of the hot summer’s heat.
Where to stay in Santorini
I have been lucky enough to visit Santorini four times, and each time the island has developed a little more. Most recently, I was really pleasantly taken aback by Fira, the capital.
If you are visiting Santorini on a budget then start looking at accommodation in Fira. A somewhat cheaper alternative to Oia, Fira has a more lively nightlife with beautiful cliffside restaurants and bars. I absolutely love it here and really regretted not spending a night or two in the town.
Affordable hotels in Fira
San Giorgio Hotel
With prices starting at £79 a night and high ratings online, you can’t really go wrong with the San Giorgio Hotel in Fira. The newly built complex is located in the heart of town amongst cobblestone streets and traditional Cycladic houses.
Rooms, suites and apartments are available along with a reception desk, swimming pool, free Wi-Fi and free airport transfers for those staying over 2 nights.
A traditional Greek hotel with just 10 rooms and studios, the £47 per night price tag of the Galatia Villas can be hard to resist.
Located in a quiet corner of Fira, the family run property offers a peaceful garden and swimming pool too.
Kalisti Hotel & Suites
Kalisti Hotel & Suites is located in the heat of Fira town, just minutes away from the beautiful caldera. Starting at £133 per night, the hotel isn’t as budget as the ones above, but it is much less than what you would usually pay for a hotel of its calibre.
An oasis in the centre of town, the Kalisti offers understated luxury, built around an inviting swimming pool complete with sun beds, umbrellas, and a pool bar.
Madame Kalitsi Cozy Suites
Enjoying a quiet location on the periphery of Fira, Madame Kalitsi Cozy Suites is a 15 minute drive or a 50 minute walk from the town centre.
The hotel offers a charming blend of traditional Cycladic architecture and Mediterranean lifestyle. The large swimming pool is perfect for a refresh on a hot summer’s day, whilst the guest rooms offer a spacious and relaxing space to sleep at night.
Affordable hotels in Imerovigli
A picturesque town nestled between Fira and Oia, Imerovigli is often missed off many Santorini itineraries, which is criminal (in my opinion). I recommend spending atleast 2 nights here for the relaxation and peace, beautiful sea views and gorgeous sunsets.
Casa Bianca Santorini offers elegant lodgings in the heart of Imerovigli village. Reflecting the traditional architecture of the Cyclades, Casa Bianca offers affordable apartments in Santorini that you just can’t find elsewhere on the island.
Prices start at just over £100 per night and features newly refurbished accommodation that are charming yet modern in style.
Perched on the highest point of the Santorini caldera, Veranda View Hotel in Imerovigli offers incredible views of the island and Aegean Sea starting from £73 per night.
The hotel is built into the rock, offering peace and romance to whomever steps through their doors.
Veranda View Imerovigli offers double rooms and suites, all with breathtaking caldera views. You won’t find a pool here but the views more than make up for it!
Affordable hotels in Oia
Oia is the most recognisable and famous town in Santorini. Adorning the front of thousands of travel brochures, Oia is one of the most beautiful places in the world.
A victim of its own success, Oia is also the busiest town in Santorini, and the most expensive. It doesn’t mean you can’t find anything afforable though, you just need to be savvy about where you stay, and when.
Located around 25 minutes from the island’s airport, Oia in Santorini is located on the northern end of the island. They say the sunset in Oia is one of the most beautiful in the world, and I would agree. I have been four times, and no matter what, there has always been a spectacular night time display.
Caldera Premium Villas
An exceptional setting and breathtaking views, Caldera Premium Villas is one of the best affordable hotels in Oia.
The property boasts twenty-seven rooms, studios and Suites alongside a swimming pool with unforgettable views.
Guests can experience the iconic cave style rooms, some with their own beautiful plunge pools.
Oia Lucky Sapphire Residence
There are many air Bnbs in Oia, thanks to the amount of individual houses in the village.
Oia Lucky Sapphire Residence is a beautiful Santorini home with two bedrooms and two bathrooms as well as a cosy living area.
Located within a traditional Captain’s House, guests can enjoy spectacular caldera views from the private patio from just £86 per night.
Affordable beach holidays in Santorini
Whilst I think Santorini is brilliant for exploring, watching the sunset, and wandering around its beautiful towns and villages, you absolutely can enjoy a beach holiday.
Santorini is a volcanic island which means its beaches are made of black sand.
Perissa has a great range of restaurants, bars, and beachfront tavernas, meaning its a good place to stay without having to get a taxi everywhere when you are looking to relax and save your money.
Budget accommodation in Perissa
Clean, spacious, and just 2 minutes from Perissa Beach, Samson’s Village offers holiday apartments starting from just £40 per night.
Built in 2000 but renovated in 2012, Samson’s Village offers 15 traditionally styled studios and apartments with their own kitchenettes so guests can cook their own food. The apartments feature balconies with views out to the Aegean Sea or overlooking pool.
Alloro Perissa is a family-run hotel, perfect for a beach holiday in Santorini.
Guest rooms are spotlessly clean with balconies that overlook the pool. Double rooms and suites are available, the hosts are always around to help with anything you may need and to make local recommendations.
The hotel is within easy walking distance from restaurants, tavernas, shops, and all the amenities within Perissa itself.
Free things to do in Santorini
Explore the beaches: Thanks to Santoini’s Mediterranean climate, the beach is always a good idea when visiting the island. Santorini is renowned for its unique and picturesque beaches that offer visitors a diverse range of coastal experiences
Travellers marvel at the incredible volcanic landscapes with sprawling black sand dotted red or white pebbles.
Perissa and Kamari boast crystal-cear waters, making them two of the best beaches in Santorini for relaxing and swimming.
Red Beach features striking crimson sands and steep cliffs, providing a surreal backdrop for sun worshippers.
Watch the sunset in Oia: Oia is one of the most famous places in the world to enjoy the sunset. Because of this, it gets busy! The best place to watch from is the old castle, make sure you get here early to claim your spot. From the castle you can watch the sun set behind the famous windmill that sits atop the caldera.
Hike the Caldera: Hiking the caldera in Santorini is a rewarding and beautiful experience, and one of the best ways to appreciate the landscapes.
If you are visiting over summer, make sure you set off early, the temperatures in July and August can reach over 40 degrees!
The most iconic route is the hike from Fira to Oia. The walk takes you through pretty villages such as Imerovigli, above blue domed churches, and along the cliff’s edge, make sure you wear suitable walking shoes! This route stretches along 10km (6 miles) and can take anywhere between 2.5 and 5 hours depending on how confident you are in walking and how often you stop along the way.
Explore the towns and villages: Santorini is more than just Fira and Oia. There are other towns and villages to get lost in. I absolutely loved wandering around the picturesque hilltop town of Pyrgos for example.
Pyrgos is one of the most well-preserved traditional villages in Santorini, offering a more peaceful Greek experience. It is a great spot for lunch thanks to the number of tavernas and cafes in the town.
Emporio is another traditional village dating back to the medieval times. It features a Venetian castle, old windmills, and a distinctive Kasteli district with stone-built houses.
Visit Akrotiri Lighthouse: Located at the southwestern tip of the Santorini island, the Akrotiri Lighthouse is perched atop a rocky headland overlooking the sea. The lighthouse faces west so is a brilliant place to watch the sunset without the typical crowds.