Top 10 things you need to know before visiting Santorini (2019)
Things to do, Travel Tips and Prices (2/2)
Of all the trips I have taken in my life, Santorini was the one I was most excited about, and boy did Santorini deliver! I already wrote a blog sharing my experience traveling to Santorini, but in this post, I am going to discuss important things you must know before stepping foot on the island.
The Santorini airport – Lower your expectations
The Santorini airport (Thira JTR) is tiny and not at all equipped to handle the tens of thousands of tourists that visit Santorini every day. Be prepared to stand a lot waiting for your flight, lug your belongings up and downstairs and expect no personal space. The Airport is small, with only a few fixed budget airlines flying in and out of the island. The airport staff is overburdened, extremely rude, and unwelcoming.
Check-in online and travel light – the budget airline scam
We booked a pretty cheap flight from Ryan Air between Athens (ATH) and Santorini (JTR). Even after several days of booking, I kept second-guessing that the price was too good to be true. We paid around €90 (₹7000 approx) as return fare for two adults, which did not include baggage. My husband and I travel extremely light to save time waiting around for luggage. However, this time around, my partner in crime was returning from a work trip and was supposed to meet me in Istanbul, Turkey, for our vacation, so he did have a cabin suitcase and a laptop bag.
Being the proactive person I am, I planned to book extra baggage in advance. To my surprise, the Ryan air website did not allow me to book baggage for one passenger, and I had to book luggage for both of us for both the flights, which cost me another €60 (₹4700 approx). I didn’t mind given that the flight was so darn cheap, and the extra baggage purchase gave us both a priority boarding (which by the way is just a lure, and no such thing exists, all passengers board at the same time).
While boarding our flight from Athens, I had our boarding passes printed out in advance, little did we know a bitter incident was awaiting us at return. After enjoying our wonderful vacation, we reached the airport 3 hours earlier to take our midnight flight back to Athens. Since the airport is so small, the airline counters are shared between all the low-cost carriers flying out of Santorini, and our flight check-in was only to open 2 hours before the flight. Upon reaching the counter, we found out that airport check-in is not allowed, and only online check-in is accepted for Ryan Air. A rule that is the same for Voltea, Ryan Air, Olympic (the three major carriers flying out of Santorini). We proceeded to check-in online, but the option wasn’t there, not to mention that the website was convoluted and unnavigable. To our surprise, rather bewilderment, we were charged a whopping €150 (₹11000 approx) just to print our boarding passes – a price higher than the original price of our ticket. It was no consolation that we were not alone, and many passengers shared the same experience with us. I later found out that this widespread scam is heavily discussed on travel forums. It’s all there in the fine print, but who reads all that when you are on vacation. So, no matter what airline you take - try to travel light, book your luggage in advance, and check-in/get your boarding passes online. I have a newfound respect for Indian budget airlines since then. We are lucky to have Indigo, you guys! ;)
Visit the volcano – Santorini is not all blue domes and white houses
No matter what you see on Instagram, Santorini has much more to offer. Hiking up still active Nea Kameni volcano was a life-changing experience. It is a perfect example of harmony between nature and mankind. If you know how to swim, you can also enjoy the hot springs at the foothills of the volcano.
Cruising in Santorini – buy when you get there
The best part of vacationing on an island is exploring the ocean. Since Oia gets pretty crowded around sunset, we took a sunset cruise, which included ferrying to and from the volcano. A ton of our co-passengers bought the cruise online and paid almost double the price we paid, so we strongly recommend purchasing the cruise trip from one of the many travel agencies at Fira bus station. We chose the Dakoutros Sunset cruise, which cost us about €35 (₹2700 approx) per person. It was totally worth it! You can also choose from luxury boats and catamaran cruises that offer food and alcohol, but we decided to take the sailboat and buy our own food and drinks, which are allowed onboard. The unhindered view of the sunset is breathtaking.
Choosing where to stay – Consider Akrotiri
While Oia is the most popular destination, it is extremely crowded, noisy, and invasive. You risk being peeped onto by picture takers and street gazers. Not to mention that Oia is also the most expensive of all the places to stay. Even a small, decent AirBnB in Oia can cost up to ₹15000-₹25000 per night. Even if you don’t mind shelling out the money beware that if you are going to Santorini for a romantic getaway, you won’t have the best of it. Fira is much reasonable but again very crowded and bustling with tourists. Akrotiri, on the other hand, is a much quieter place only 20 mins and a €1.80 bus ride away from Fira that runs every 30 mins. We booked a cozy and secluded AirBnB here, with a large terrace and hot tub facing the ocean. For three nights, the Airbnb cost us €340 (₹27000 approx), and it was absolutely worth it.
Getting around – Do not take cabs
The bus network in Santorini is very well organized and efficient. Bus rides cost you €1-€2 between all major places, and the buses are extremely clean and well kept. The bus stations are walkable from almost everywhere. Cabs are unreasonably expensive with a similar one-way ride costing about €50. Protip – eating or drinking on the bus is not allowed.
Get your cash – don't rely on electronic payments
Most of you must have heard about the Greek economic crisis a few years back, and that happened for a reason. Almost all local businesses insist that you pay cash (assuming it is to evade tax). But, there's an ATM at almost every corner, and with an international debit card, you are good to go.
Get frozen Greek yogurt – Chill in a box
You will find numerous restaurants with amazing Greek food, but one must have food item is the Natural frozen yogurt from a chain outlet called Chill in a box. For about €5 you can enjoy a big cup of frozen yogurt which is sugar-free and heavenly.
Store your luggage – the only locker service on the island
On our last day in Santorini, we checked out from our Airbnb at 11 am and had the whole day of cruising planned before our late-night flight. Lucky for us, just walking distance from the Fira bus stand was a luggage storage service that keeps your luggage safe for a nominal charge. You can even leave your valuables laptops, cameras, etc. here, and they will keep them safe for you.
Greeks can be rough around the edges don't take it personally
I don't know the reason behind it, but Greeks are not the most polite and friendly people I have met. It is surprising, cause since tourists run the whole island, you would think the natives would be nice to them, but that's not the case. A good friend forewarned me that Greeks are the most arrogant Europeans, and the Germans are the best, and by the time my trip was over, I ended up agreeing with him. So, if a shopkeeper is rude or a restaurant worker doesn't show utmost hospitality, don't take it personally. Being brown, I am used to facing some sort of racism in all my travels, and Greece wasn't any different.
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