Travel Expenses: Greece

First foray to Europe, and was pleasantly surprised that I did not go over budget! Of course, the airfare was expensive, and the visa application also cost me a couple of thousand of pesos (I did not include them in this list of expenses), but the overall expenses during the trip was lower than expected.

It helped that I wasn’t traveling solo: I was with two friends, so some costs were divided between us three. Aside from that, according to my two companions who both have been to Europe before, Greece is cheaper than the countries in the western regions. Where a 500ml bottle of water can cost you €1 in Paris, you can buy a 1.5 liter bottle for €0.23 at a supermarket in Chania.

We also managed to save some on transportation costs by booking places right in the city center, which cost a little bit more, but it gave us the freedom to explore on foot and make more discoveries. We also saved by cooking and preparing some meals, specially in Mykonos. Only two of our hostels provide breakfast, so for the rest, we just ate packaged croissant (or fresh bread in Myokonos and home made panini in Santorini), fresh fruits, and juice or coffee. We ate out a maximum of two times in one day, but we have ice cream, gelato, or frozen yoghurt at least once a day.

Save for our tour to Gramvousa Island and Balos Lagoon, most of our activities centered around the ruins: the Acropolis, Knossos, Delos.

Overall, it’s not a bad deal for a two-week trip. It’s not super cheap, but not a complete splurge either – a good mix of budget and midrange options.
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Snapshot: Mykonos

I love Mykonos. No fancy words, no flowery sentences. I love this place.

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I didn’t really have any expectations for the place. It was Chris who added it to our itinerary, and apart from knowing it’s one of the most visited islands in Greece, I know nothing about Mykonos.

After nearly three hours at sea, we clambered down the gangplank and unto the old port of Hora. We were met by Paul, from Eleanna’s where we’re staying. He took us for a long walk through the town, giving us a great overview of Mykonos, and it was love at first sight.

Maybe not having expectations (or expecting to not like it) made Mykonos so much better in our eyes. There were no touts badgering us, the small streets were not brimming with people, and best of all, it’s not on top of a mountain, so walking isn’t as big of a struggle as in Santorini.

There are a lot of shops around, and we live within walking distance to Chanel and Louis Vuitton, and Ben & Jerry is just around the corner. Yet, it didn’t feel as commercial as Fira. There’s a greengrocer nearby where we can buy fresh produce, and a bakery where the locals stock up on bread.

One thing that keeps running through my mind as we walk around the old town is that I can stay here for a couple of days more.

Snapshot: Santorini

“Why would you go with him, he’s gay,” said one of the touts that met us when we docked into Santorini’s port. Suddenly, I was reminded of our time in Fez, where touts and scams followed us in the medina.

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Santorini, for us, did not give a good first impression. The white buildings and blue domed churches are few and far between, specially if you arrive by regular ferries, like we did. The landscape is dry and barren, and with the midday sun beating down on us, it seemed inhospitable.

Fira, where we’re staying, is the commercial center. It was packed with people, mostly tourists from cruise ships that docked for the day. Oia, where the scenes from Santorini postcards were all taken, is a lot more charming, with equally as many people, specially when the sun was starting to set.

I liked Santorini, not for The white and blue buildings, but for the gems we found around the island. Perissa beach, with its black volcanic sands and very deep waters, was very quiet, since summer was over. Imerovigli, a town near Fira, has the same views of the sunset, but with hardly any people around. Beautiful as Oia is, the place that most endeared us was Atlantis Books, a quaint book store that has tons of character and a couple of cats.

To each his own, as they say.

Snapshot: Heraklion

Heraklion was a bit of a letdown. After the beauty of Chania’s old town, and the breath taking views of the sea we saw during the nearly three-hour long bus ride, we were underwhelmed by Heraklion.

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Iraklio, as it is sometimes spelled, is the main reason why we’re in Greece in the first place. The Palace of Knossos, which was Cla’s dream destination, is only twenty minutes away, and the artifacts from the site was displayed at the city’s archaeological museum. It’s another favorite cruise ship stop, which results in a steady stream of tourists, even after summer has passed.

Still, it has that laid back vibe that makes you want to just sit in a cafe, drink coffee, eat bougatsa, and watch the world go by.

Snapshot: Chania

When people talk of Greece, Chania is hardly ever mentioned. People talk about Athens, Mykonos, and Santorini, but never this small town with a beautiful harbor.

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We wouldn’t have known about Chania, if it were’t for our original travel plans that included a short trip in Rome for some tennis. I don’t want to backtrack as much as possible, and I found a flight that goes from Rome to Hania (as it’s sometimes spelled), which can be our gateway to Heraklio, the main reason why we’re going to Crete.

It was a good decision to stay here for a couple of days, even if Rome is now out of the picture. The Old Town of Chania is very picturesque, with its small alleys, crawling vines, and colorful Venetian Harbor. There’s not a lot to do in the city, but that suits me just fine. I’m happy with Chania just the way it is.