Last September, my best friends and I decided to explore the cyclades together. A few months before that, I wasn't even familiar with the term Island Hopping nor did I know how to prepare for it, but let me tell you, it's one of the best experiences I've ever made. That's why I want to tell you something about how I was able to afford such a huge trip and things you should know, before leaving home to explore Greece. As always, if you have any further questions regarding my trip to Greece, make sure to leave them in the comments!
1. it's totally affordable - if you give up on your comfort
Gigi Hadid, Shay Mitchell and many more visit the Greek Islands almost every year, so when I first thought about visiting the Cyclades, all I could think of where those beautiful white and blue cave houses with stunning views I've seen in so many posts. Sadly, that definitely wasn't in our price range. Greece is a pretty affordable country and the hostels we stayed in were super cheap and in great locations, the cave houses on the other hand do charge several hundred Euros per night and they are definitely not everything these islands have to offer. Therefore, I would recommend staying in a nice hostel close to a beach, because most of the hostels do offer shuttle services to cities or have a quad rental in their area. So if you wanna see the city you're just a short bus ride away. If not you can relax at the beach whenever you want. We stayed in some really cheap party hostels, which offer great opportunities to meet other people with quite interesting stories. If you really want to save some bucks, I've got a posts about Greece on a Budget here (post following) (including the hostels we stayed in).
2. quads are driven by almost everyone
Quads on the Greek islands are like bikes in Amsterdam. You can basically find a quad rental on every corner and they are actually really crucial for getting around the islands. There isn't a lot of infrastructure except for the streets and many of them are really rocky and narrow, so not even a car can get everywhere. A quad, on the other hand, comes in quite handy and you can enjoy some stunning views while driving. Please notice that wearing a helmet is mandatory! Even if the rental doesn't give you a helmet you are the one that pays the fine when driving without one, so make sure to always ask for it (it doesn't cost any extra money). Also, the first store (one on Paros) we rented a quad at actually gave us really bad ones, so make sure to read some reviews first. Lastly, how can you even borrow a quad? Borrowing a quad shouldn't be a problem if you have a valid drivers license. You usually don't need to worry about how long you've had it already, they just care about whether you have one or not. Furthermore, the only one that has to have a drivers license is the one borrowing it, they don't care about the passengers. Of course, driving the quad is only legal if you own a license, but I also drove quite a lot on my trip to Greece without owning one (nobody really checks you, but make sure to try it in a quiet area first).
3. how do I book a ferry?
Ferries are the name of the game when doing island hopping. Before taking off to explore Greece, we actually didn't really know whether we should get the tickets online or at the harbors. The answer: I would get them there. So the prices are basically the same if you get them there and it is a lot easier and more flexible to buy them right before departure. A lot of ferries are departing from the islands daily, so don't worry about them being sold out. If you use a lot of ferries, or visit more than four islands, then the "Inter Island Pass" would be a great deal for you. You can get it for 68€ or 100€ (depending on the amount of journeys you want to use it for). Just make sure the islands you visit are eligible for the pass. Another offer is by Interrail, who has a pass for 155€, but I don't really believe that one pays off to be honest. One last tip we got from a lot of other travelers was actually to buy a ticket to the first stop the ferry makes and not get off. That way you can save a lot of money. Anyways, we didn't do it (and I wouldn't really recommend doing it), because you can never be sure how often they control the tickets or if they do when you get off.
4. Free appetizers
This one may not be as important as the other things, but I think it's quite helpful when deciding what to eat. Whenever you go to a greek restaurant (a real one, not tourist attractions) you will very likely get free appetizers. Most of the time this means fresh bread (most of the bread there was so soft and light - it tasted amazing) and some olive oil. In some of the restaurants we also got olives and once even greek cheese. The best part is that they even refill the bread (also for free). This tip again works wonders for saving money, we didn't even need one full meal per person and most of the time shared different dishes we wanted to try when eating out.
5. there are some things you should take with you
Most of the time when I leave for vacation, the most important thing to have seems to be my book, to read when I'm bored at the beach. Well, that's not so much the case when going on a backpacker trip to the Greek Islands. Living on a budget requires some more luggage than just your bikini. The first thing you should always take with you when staying at a cheap hostel should be toilet paper. Prepared as we were, we already forgot this one, so we actually took some from the places we passed by. We got some at the airport, restaurants and the ferry to Mykonos. And thank god we thought of it, the toilets at the hostels were not really organized and toilet paper really comes in handy in a lot of moments. If you want to save some bucks, cutlery is a must, too. A lot of the restaurants close to the hostels are pretty over-priced, so if you do have cutlery you can get some greek yoghurt with fruits or bread with spread at the supermarket for cheap. If you want to know exactly what I packed for this trip make sure to read my Greece packing list (following soon).
6. stray cats are everywhere
You may already know that stray cats (and even sometimes dogs) are quite common in Greece. On the islands it felt like a whole other level. No matter where we went, we had some cats as company. I think I saw more kittens on this trip than in my life so far. The cats were always really cute and trustful and we even had a family of really young kittens at our hostel in Santorini. Sadly, this has also got a downside. A lot of the stray cats are being mistreated and hurt by people, because there are more of a problem than a domestic animal to many, as a woman living there told us. She took care of a bunch of kittens and their mother. She said that she already found them trapped in a wall once, because children tend to tease them. So make sure to treat the cats well and don't lure them into a restaurant with your leftover food. Also, stray cats carry different types of diseases, so please keep that in the back of your mind. I personally risked it and ruffled almost every cats fur. They were all so cute and loving and I surprisingly didn't even have an allergic reaction to the cats in Greece.
7. The water is clear blue
The beaches of the Cyclades were the most beautiful ones I've ever been to. The things that actually make them so stunning are the landscape and the fact that the water is super clear and blue. You may be wondering why this is a thing you should know before heading off? Well, the clear water makes it possible for you to see the seabed, so I would definitely advise you to take your diving goggles with you, they do pay off! Also, I was never able to open my eyes underwater (not even at the pool), but the sea in Greece is so clear that it didn't even sting a little. There are a lot of fish close to the beaches (especially the rocky ones), so make sure to take your goggles and explore.
That's all I have to say about my top things to know before you take off to Greece. If you have anything to add, make sure to leave a comment and talk about your experiences. Also, if you have any questions, I'd be happy to answer them below. If you want to find out more about my trip to Greece make sure to read the following posts and check out my Instagram (www.instagram.com/carriiena)
(following posts are not done yet)
Hope you have a beautiful day,