You get what you pay for, don’t you? Budgeting for island hopping in Greece

I have just tallied up the costs of the recent trip to Greece. It seems that the quote I used in previous blogs is very true.

When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money.  Then take half the clothes and twice the money.  ~Susan Heller

I did well with the clothes, I think. Did I take half as much as usual? Possibly not? Yet I cut back on all the other bits that others deem to be absolutely essential. I didn’t take a hair brush, for example or loads of toiletries and make up. Two pairs of shoes, trainers to wear while travelling and and sandals for the day time were all I needed. And I packed really efficiently.

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I also think I got a good deal with the flights, when the price dropped by £40 per person. What I couldn’t plan for was the cost of the ferries. I also had no idea how much food and accommodation would cost for the week. so yes, there were a lot of variables to contend with, which is where the second half of the quotation, resonates. We really did need twice as much money.

Here is the breakdown, costs for two adults. Flights and other UK costs are in Sterling and everything else in Greece is in Euros.

Travel

Flights  £   175.38
Taxes  £     62.58
Baggage  £     96.00
Ferries Heraklion to Piraeus (overnight deck class) €         58.00
Piraeus to Santorini  €         75.00
Santorini to Heraklion (Flying Cat)  €      112.00

Our orignal plan was to go to Santorini from Crete and maybe island hop. As the Flying Cats were not operational until the 17 April we changed our plans, which I wrote about here.Delos, or ferry form Piraeus to Santorini

As it was we had a bonus day in Athens and the costs of the ferries were about the same as if we had got a return Flying Cat to Santorini. They did however take up a huge chunk of our budget.the Flying Cat from Santorini to HeraklionWe opted for Bed and Breakfast at all our accommodation. I think that this was money well spent, although in Piraeus there were lots of cheap coffee shops and bakeries to get a breakfast, yet as our ferry was at 7.30 am we took advantage of the 6 Euro supplement at our cheap 30 Euro per night hotel for a breakfast from 6am including a shuttle to the ferry.

Accomodation

 Hotel  per night  B&B
Kastro  €     45.00  €     45.00
Kronos  €     60.00  €   120.00
Argo  €     42.00  €     42.00
Nectarios  €     52.00  €   104.00

 

The cost of the Kronos Hotel on the Friday and Saturday in Heraklion reflects that it was the weekend running up to Easter. This was the most expensive accomodation we stayed in. We were not going to consider the Youth Hostel in Heraklion as it had such dreadful reviews.

Anita Argo in Piraeus at 30 euro without breakfast was the cheapest and had the smallest bathroom and no view. We were offered an upgrade at 10 Euro but as we were only there one night, with an early start, we just wanted a clean room to sleep in.

Nectarios Villa was the star accommodation. We paid extra as we had an apartment, a double room was c 45 Euros with breakfast but they were all booked. We would not hesitate to stay here again. Santorini has a reputation for being expensive yet this accommodation was well priced. And so welcoming.

All the places we stayed in were clean, with hairdryers and good showers. The Greeks must be the friendliest people on the planet, all the staff in all the hotels were helpful and genuinely lovely people. Even the man at Argo who was pretty grumpy at 8 am when we wanted to check in early, after a poor nights sleep on the overnight ferry, was lovely a bit later in the day (perhaps he just needed caffeine).

Food

Many years ago Greece was somewhere you could get food very cheaply. Not so much now. As a guide a beer was between 3 and 5 Euro, a Greek salad between 4 and 5 Euro and a main course  about 8 Euro. Some places were cheaper others more expensive.

Portions were generous and we could have saved money by having a salad at lunch time. We didn’t of course. The food was too good to miss. The only bad meals we had were in the centre of Heraklion. Corner Cafe Club SandwichRubbish Club sandwiches with horrid fries right in the middle of a fashionable square where all the students hung out and food poisoning from a back street taverna. Pantheon, that looked like the place locals would hang out.

It was deserted when every where else was packed and we really should have known better.

Kastella,  on the sea front we ate at twice, was very, very good and we regret not just sticking with it.

Food €   252.10

Drink  €   139.10

We averaged 36 Euros a day on food and we ate very well for that. We only had beer or soft drinks, wine would have cost more.

The absolute bargains of this trip however were visits to Knossos at 6 Euros and The Acropolis at 12 Euros. How can you miss these?

Have you been to Greece? Where would you recommend we visit next?

 

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Take twice as much money…. as plans often change

Our first night in Greece and hit gold with the hotel, booked via Booking.com. Exhausted after a four hour flight, landing at midnight, we really thought we would need a comfortable night as at the time we had no idea what our forward travel plans would be. We were pleasantly surprised to be put in to an only just finished fully refurbished room at Kastro Hotel.

Until we could see what ferries were running to Santorini we could not book ahead any further, and sadly we could only get one night here, when our plans to go to the Cyclades straight away were thwarted by the fact that there are no ferries there until the 17 April. We fly home at 1am on the 18th.

As the primary reason for this trip to Greece is to fulfil the wishes of my mom, which was to have her ashes scattered in Santorini, we knew we had to come up with a plan.

So far, everything about this trip had gone so well. The cost of the flights dropped by £80. We were first through passport control at Crete which has never happened ever. There were no queues at Birmingham airport check in or security. We had left before all the hold ups in traffic around the airport. My hand luggage was not searched and swabbed as it has been done on the last three times departing from a UKairport. And we score this hotel.20140411-195935.jpg

I knew there had to be a solution, as there was no way that the islands would be complete cut off from, and here is the lightbulb moment, from the mainland. Of course, Piraeus.

Long story, cut short, we are going to Santorini, via Athens. Which has had a huge impact on our budget. The upside, is we get to Athens and visit The Parthenon.

This trip is really turning into my 1979 holiday, re visited. More expensive of course, but totally worth it.

We have had to move hotel, not so lush but overlooking the sea and 10 minutes from the ferry terminal. We sail overnight on 13 April, to Piraeus, tourist class, just like I did in 1979. I have booked  one night in an hotel costing €30 and then we sail to Santorini on 14th, returning on the very first fast ferry to Heraklion on 17th at 8pm. I only hope it all goes to plan, as we have a plane to catch 5 hours later.

 

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More memories than photos

After I had published my last post about Greece, a number of other memories from that trip in 1979 popped into my head. Amazing that after 35 years I can recall so much. some of the photos jog the memory, like this one that reminds me that the van broke down a lot.The VW, more repairs

As my travel companion commented on my Facebook Page, it was indeed a great holiday. We travelled with a company called Consolas Travel who amazingly are still in business. I say amazingly because I am surprised any of their drivers survived more than one trip, their driving was so atrocious.

They got lost, a lot. Most memorably in Paris. They had no business being in Paris as we were heading for Boulogne sur Mer for the ferry back to Dover. They were following road signs for Bois de Boulogne. We spent an hour driving around Paris looking for the port.

Eventually they decided to ask for directions. Greek drivers in Paris asking for directions. Words that never belong together on one page. They were of the belief that if they shouted in Greek, Parisians would understand them. Arms were waved, by both the French and the Greeks. One passenger made the attempt to interrupt but they were having nothing of it, until she pushed her way off the bus, and asked for directions in perfect French.

She then directed the Greek drivers out of Paris and to the port. Where our ferry was departing.

We were just grateful to be alive never mind in the right Boulogne, as these particular drivers didn’t stop the coach when they switched over. Yup, one guy kept his foot on the pedal, the other took the steering wheel and as one slid out of the drivers seat, the other slipped in.

When we had left Athens we spent all our last Drachma on food and drink for the journey home. We bought bread and tinned sardines. The reason I remember this was because we shared our food around the coach, as many of our fellow travellers had no money left at all. We didn’t quite feed the 500, but our loaves and fishes sure went a long way around that bus.

When we stopped in Venice we were penniless. Beautiful city, and everyone was diving into ice cream except for us. Yet generosity has a habit of being paid forward, and one of the passengers bought us an ice cream each.

Before departing from Omonia Square we spent a last day in Athens. The bus left early in the morning so we needed somewhere close by that was cheap to stay the night. John the Kiwi was travelling back with us, so it made sense to get a room for the three of us to cut costs. Five of us had spent many nights in one room, on one beach, in one VW,  so we thought nothing of it. It was cheap, but not very clean. It was for one night and all we could afford. Sara in Athens

It was only after checking in, and hearing rats scuttling around the room did we realise how dirty the place was. What we also didn’t realise, till much later, was that most people rented the rooms by the hour. We were slap bang in a red light district and most of the rooms were occupied by prostitutes and their clients. We had no guide book or internet, we had no idea. We did emerge unscathed, if unwashed and itchy. Think hovering over the loo, careful not to let anything touch you anywhere.Cathy, Sara and John hanging out by the van

Despite sleeping with prostitutes and rats, that trip to Greece is so memorable. I can still see the sun setting in the middle of the bay, in Matala Crete. That night we slept without a tent, with the Milky Way as our roof. I have no photos of that, indeed much of the holiday is not recorded on film. I have 38 photographs from a trip that lasted about three weeks. I can take that many in a day now, but then film was expensive to buy and develop, when the film ran out so did the photos.Agios Nikolaos Harbour

Another memory was of the time we spent in Athens on a camp site we didn’t pay for. The banks were on strike and non of us had any cash. We couldn’t put fuel in the van and had no money for food. rob drove on the camp site, and we were told it was full, so we told them we would just turn around and leave. Instead we kept on until we found a spot that we could squeeze into. It was right on a beach and we spent the day swimming and sunning.

Ellie and Coral

Back in those pre recycling days, you got money back on empty bottles. We needed cash and people had left empty bottles on the beach. So we collected them and exchanged them for a few Drachma.  And that is how we survived for a couple of days until the banks re opened. Dropping of Ellie to stay with her ex in Athens, we had already lost Cathy to a holiday romance, the four of us decided to visit Crete.KnossosI don’t think I will be visiting Knossos or seeing much of Crete this time. Strikes and weather permitting, I will be going to some islands I have never been to before, The Cyclades. Can you tell I am looking forward to it?