When my hubby and I traveled through Milos, Folegandros and Santorini for 2 weeks, there were a lot of things that we discovered on the fly (no pun intended, haha!). I’m a big planner, to say the least, and I really do like to have everything planned out ahead of time. I don’t usually fill our schedule with activities from day to night, but I always make sure we have a place to stay and transportation logistics are in order. Some of it was harder to do while doing my research in Greece. For example: their ferry system! That system makes absolutely no sense to me! The fact that they don’t have a pre-set schedule well ahead of time doesn’t compute in my head. Like, at all. More on that later.
I’d like to share a few tips that I picked up and learned while planning for this trip. I hope this helps you guys out whenever you decide to visit Greece!
1. You don’t always have to book your accommodations ahead of time
When we arrived at the port in Folegandros, we found our way to the van who was supposed to drive us to our hotel. While we did book our hotel ahead of time, it’s totally not necessary to do so if you’re traveling outside of peak season (July-August).
What I’ve noticed is that once you disembark from your ferry, you walk over to a marked off area where there are a bunch of vans with people standing there, holding booklets with pictures of their hotel grounds and rooms. Feel free to peruse each of the booklets to see where you would like to stay. This is a great way for you to get a discounted rate because owners want to fill their vacant rooms. If you find something you like, the drivers will take you back to the hotel.
Just know that even though they gave you a ride to the hotel, you are still not obligated to stay there. Take this time to look around the grounds. Talk to some guests if you see any. This happened to us while we were lounging in our hotel – a lovely Canadian couple were looking around and asked us what we thought. Good thing we liked where we were staying! If you don’t like what you see, you can walk around the surrounding area and pop into all the other establishments to see if they have any available rooms too.
This seems to be common practice in the islands. If you plan on finding a hotel this way, do some research ahead of time and at least try to figure out the general area where you’d like to stay. If I was more daring and less of a Type A personality, I can see this being a great way to save money while vacationing. But in my head, I picture that there are 0 available rooms, we have to sleep outside at night, we have no access to any bathrooms, our entire vacation is ruined…and that to me is a complete nightmare! While I know this not to be true, I can’t get myself to be this laissez-faire with our trips. Yet. Maybe someday if I relax a bit. Or maybe never! Either way, I got us where we needed to be in Folegandros!
2. Book your ferry tickets
Figuring out any sort of itinerary or schedule for Greek ferries was almost a full-time job in itself! Know that schedules are only released about 2 months before the departure date. If you’re an
OCD…I mean, advanced planner like I am, I can’t wait until 8 weeks before our trip to know if our ferry will take us to our next destination or not!
What’s a girl to do?
Well, what I had to do was look through websites such as www.greekferries.gr, www.ferries.gr or www.greeceferries.com and scroll through their calendar all the way back to September 2015 to see when their ferries sailed last year in order to estimate when ours would sail in 2016. This is how I found out that ferries leaving from Milos to Folegandros only did so 3 times a week. Had I not done my research ahead of time, we would’ve been stuck in Milos for an extra night since we had only planned on staying there 3 nights. Knowing this, we extended our stay in Milos for a fourth night.
Definitely do your research when it comes to ferries. This was one of the more difficult things to plan for because if you don’t know what the ferry schedule is like, it will change the amount of days that you have to book a room for. We eventually bought our tickets on www.FerriesInGreece.com and called it a day.
Another option for you to purchase your tickets is to go to the local travel agency located by the ports and buy in person. I get too nervous leaving things like that until the last minute though! This method should work fine if you’re not traveling during the peak season.
As you can see, I haven’t yet mastered the art of “winging it” on vacation yet, not when it comes to sleeping somewhere. Once you learn how to read the ferry schedules and routes, the better off you’ll be with planning out the rest of your vacation. I learned a LOT from reading this How-To Guide.
3. Pack efficiently
Here’s a fun, little story for you. My brother and sister-in-law live in London, so before flying out to Greece, we spent a few days with them. While my brother-in-law only lives 45 minutes away from Heathrow Airport, it just so happened that anything that could’ve gone wrong on the way to our flight did indeed go wrong. What could’ve been so bad, you ask? Well, I’ll tell you:
The taxi that we called for a 4am pickup didn’t show up until 30 minutes later. Strike one.
As we pull in the airport, we hear on the radio that British Airways has a “glitch” in their system and that travelers were to expect a significant delay. Strike two.
Luckily, we traveled with only our backpacks so we didn’t have to check any bags in. Otherwise that would’ve been a 3rd strike and we would’ve definitely missed our flight. As we made our way to the security checkpoint, we removed our liquids and got our bags scanned. Of course…OF COURSE…our bags were pushed to the side for further screening because of the Black Cloud. (Black Cloud = my hubby’s bad luck every time we travel. Seriously. Every time.)
At this point, there is only 30 minutes before our flight leaves with out us. 5 minutes later, we’re still waiting. 10 minutes later and that’s when we really had to test our deodorants’ strength, if you know what I mean.
We finally convinced a TSA agent to examine our bags before others, chucked out some liquids that fit in our bags (buhbye Victoria’s Secret Heavenly perfume!) and off we went, à la Amazing Race style. We literally made it to our gate within 5 minutes of it closing! No Strike Three this time, thank God!
A few lessons that we learned here:
- If traveling throughout Europe, do make sure that ALL of our liquids (and I really mean all of them) fit inside a 1L Ziploc bag. The bag must be able to close as well because if it doesn’t, your bags will get flagged and you’ll have to make some tough decisions on whether you want to smell good for the rest of your trip or if you want to brush your teeth while on vacation.
- Unless you’re really good at running in heels, which I’m not, always wear comfortable shoes where you can make a sprint for it. Just in case!
- If traveling with a backpack or even a rolling suitcase, I always pack as much as I can lift. If I can’t lift over my heart, then I’ve packed too much.
4. Learn basic Greek words
Between having French as my native language and taking Spanish classes way back when, I have a pretty good base for Romance languages. When we went to Italy on our honeymoon, I easily picked up on words and expressions because they sounded like French and Spanish.
I do always try to learn popular sayings before traveling abroad, but the way that it worked out last year, I was so busy with work and fixing up our house that vacation almost came out of nowhere! Needless to say, I was totally unprepared when we got to Greece. I quickly realized that NONE of the words sounded familiar at all!
Try and avoid our mistake here. If you at least know some of these words, you’ll get around just fine. It always helps to be a polite tourist :).
- Thank you: Efharisto
- Please and You’re Welcome: Parakalo
- Good morning: Kalimera
- No: Ohee
- Yes: Ne
- Excuse me: Signomi
- Beer: Birra
- Wine: Kras-si
5. Know how to drive a manual car
This one is pretty straightforward. I’m not sure if you can even rent automatic cars in Greece and if you can, it would probably cost more money than renting a manual car. If you’re looking to see more off-the-beaten paths, you’ll need a car to get there. Make sure to always stay vigilant because you’ll be sharing the road with pedestrians, buses, ATVs and scooters. I don’t think I could ever do it, but I’m pretty sure that my husband had a great time driving around the different islands in Greece! Sure, it raises your blood pressure up and gives you sweaty hands, but I’m convinced he felt exhilarated maneuvering in and out of tight spots. And they drive on the right side of the road in Greece, so that’s a plus!
And there you have it, folks! What other advice would you share with others who are looking to travel in the Greek islands?
Thank you for stopping by!