Santorini Travel Guide & Tourist Scams That You Should Know

Santorini (Thira), a beautiful volcanic island haven located just 200 kilometres off the coast of Athens, Greece sits high on the bucket list of most people. The dreamy combination of bright blues skies, breathtaking views of the sea-drowned caldera and the crystal clear Aegean Sea, stunning sunsets, captivating strange beaches, picturesque white-washed Cycladic buildings with striking blue domes, mouth-watering Greek food and super friendly inhabitants make this island the perfect destination for a getaway, wedding or honeymoon. 😉


The Best Time To Visit Santorini (Thira)

Santorini enjoys a moderate Mediterranean climate all year long, with relatively warm and dry summers (April-October) and mild and rainy winters (November-March). The peak season where tourists mostly from the European countries flock to the island is from May-September. The low season (October-November) sees tourists mostly from Asia and Indo-China visiting the island.

Do take note that most of the hotels, restaurants and tour operators on the island will be closed during the off-season which starts from December-March. Ideal times to visit Santorini for milder weather, lower prices and lesser crowds are from April-June and September-October. 😀

 

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Aerial view of the Cyclades Islands, Greece

Getting To The Island

The island is accessible by sea or air. There are regular flights from Athens (ATH) to Santorini (JTR) by Olympic Air, Aegean Airlines, Ryanair Airlines and Volotea. The scenic flight from Athens to Santorini takes about 40 minutes. 😉

The journey by sea via a ferry begins from the port of Piraeus, Athens to the port of Athinios, Santorini. The trip takes about 5 hours on a high speed ferry, longer hours (about 9-10 hours) on a regular ferry. High-speed catamarans are also available for those who wish to travel in style although the price would not be cheap.

Among the available ferry companies are Blue Star Ferries, SeaJet Catamaran, Hellenic Seaways, and GA Ferries. During the high season, there is a daily connection between Heraklion (Crete) and Santorini. A word of advice, those who suffer from seasickness should avoid taking the ferry and opt for a flight instead as the journey on sea could get rather bumpy.

Some cruise ships are known to make a stop in the caldera near the Old Port (Skala Pier) of Fira. From there, visitors have 3 options to reach the top of the cliff and Fira town that lies 260 metres above sea level. Those options are:

  • By cable car (Daily, 6.30am-10pm, departs every 20 mins, €5 per person; takes about 5-10 minutes to reach the top),
  • By donkey/mule ride (€8 per person; there’s a weight limit and it’ll take longer than the cable car)
  • By a tough hike up 580 steps (Free of charge; following the same path as the donkeys/mules)

 

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A helpful map of the island, places of interests and the local/public buses routes on Santorini (Thira), Greece

Getting Around The Island

There is a well-organised public bus service on the island, connecting the airport to Fira (where the central bus station is located) and various destinations on the island. Do take note that all destinations depart from Fira. For example, to get to Oia from Santorini National Airport, one would have to take the bus to Fira first, then take another bus to Oia, vice versa. 😀

The fixed bus fares are priced at €1.80, €2.00 or €2.30 per person, per way, depending on the destination. Buses run between every 30 minutes to every other hour. The timetables are available online at http://www.ktel-santorini.gr. Fyi, the bus tickets are purchased on the bus (issued by the bus conductor), and not from the information counter. The bus tickets cannot be booked or purchased online.

Private shuttle transfers are also available from the airport or port to various destinations on the island. In addition, there are “hop on, hop off” private bus services operated by tour companies. Boats or water taxis also run between major coastal towns on the island, and in between neighbouring islands as well.

Cars can be rented from as low as €25 up to 55 a day, depending on the vehicle model (auto/manual) and visiting seasons, while scooters/motorbikes and ATVs rentals are available from €15 up to €150,000 a day, again depending on the vehicle model/cc and visiting seasons. An international driver’s license is required.

Fyi, it takes about 50 minutes to drive from one end (Vlichada) to the other end (Oia) of the island. Besides buses, taxis are also available on the island. Do take note that the taxi drivers on the Cyclades Islands (Santorini, Mykonos, etc) are known to pick up other passengers along the way with the fares being shared between the passengers.

 

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The local/public buses timetables, fixed fares and places of interests on display at the notice board of the central bus station in Fira, Santorini (Thira)
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The timetables and fixed fares for local/public buses departing and arriving from Fira – Oia, Fira – Perissa and Fira – Kamari, Santorini (Thira)
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The timetables and fixed fares for local/public buses departing and arriving from Fira – Santorini Airport, Fira – Akrotiri and Fira – Athinios Port, Santorini (Thira)
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A sample of the local/public bus tickets for the journey from Fira to Perissa, Santorini. The man standing in the background is the bus conductor who issues the bus tickets to the passengers on board the bus

Towns & Places of Interests in Santorini (Thira)

  • Fira – The capital of Santorini with views comparable to Oia
  • Karterados – A traditional village with cave houses, cobbled streets and the “Steps of Galaios”
  • Kamari – Black pebble beach and fun water sports
  • Firostefani – Offers unique views of the volcano and sunset
  • Imerovigli – A small resort town perched on the cliff that has stunning views of the sunset overlooking the island and Oia
  • Oia – The most beautiful place on the island and the best place for unforgettable sunsets
  • Pyrgos – A settlement at the highest point on the island with stunning views of picturesque Byzantine monasteries, a Venetian castle and old streets
  • Perissa – The famous black sand beach and good Greek fish taverns
  • Megalochori – A traditional village with Cycladic churches, Neo-Classical buildings, vineyards and volcano views
  • Akrotiri – Red sand beach and an important archaeological site on the island (ruins from the Minoan period; €5 entrance fee per person)
  • Mesaria – Visit the fish market and the Argyros Estate Winery (one of the oldest vineyards on the island)
  • Monolithos – A shallow beach with several good fish taverns, and the old tomato factory. It is a suitable leisure site for families with children
  • Vlychada – A topless or nudist beach
  • Vothonas – A village built on a picturesque ravine with traditional houses carved out of rocks. It is also the site of St. Ann church built in 1827
  • A helpful map of Santorini and its places of interests on the island can be viewed here: http://www.santorini-web.com/map.pdf

 

Tourist Scams That You Should Know

Wherever we are, there will always be greedy, irresponsible and unscrupulous individuals trying to cheat unsuspecting victims off their hard-earned cash, especially in popular tourist destinations. It is sad to know that the beautiful island of Santorini has its own tourist scams too. One of it is the scooters/motorbikes and ATVs rental scam.

Their modus operandi is to offer faulty motorbikes or ATVs at a lower price, but in the case of an accident or vehicle damage, they will demand that the customer pay for the whole cost of the damage. 🙁

Besides that, there is the scam where basic insurance coverage is presented to customers disguised as full insurance coverage, thus denying customers of a full insurance claim when accidents happen due to the faulty condition of the vehicle. Be sure to read the details and ask questions before agreeing or signing an agreement with any vehicle rental companies to protect yourself and your loved ones.

The other scam is the unpriced items in shops or food/drinks in cafes, taverns or restaurants. Certain shops and restaurants in Santorini are known to not display the price of their items (either no price tag or price is not listed in the menu). Unsuspecting victims will find themselves being charged exorbitantly when the bill comes. To avoid being a victim, only shop at shops or dine at cafes, taverns or restaurants that clearly display the price of their items.

Apart from the above, Santorini as well as the other islands in the Cyclades are generally a safe, relaxing and romantic travel destination. With unforgettable breathtaking views, good food, friendly people, and a laid-back romantic ambience, many will find themselves in blissful paradise. 😉

 

Up next: Taking the public bus from Syntagma Square to Athens International Airport and our Ryanair night flight from Athens (ATH) to Santorini (JTR)

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8 Comment

  1. I just wanted to say thank you so much for writing such a wonderful and detailed series about Santorini. Seeing pictures of what it was like to land and then take the bus and explain all the little details throughout the whole series was greatly appreciated! My wife and I planning on going to this beautiful place next year, but wanted to do some research ahead of time, and you have made it so much easier for us Erika.

  2. Hi Vincent,

    Thank you very much for your kind words, it made my day. I am happy that the information and travel experiences shared on my travel blog help people to plan ahead and have a good trip abroad.

    Nothing makes me happier than to see people having a good time and enjoying their trip as much as I did. With the knowledge and information you acquired through your research, I am sure you and your wife will have a wonderful time in dreamy Santorini. Safe and happy travels to the both of you. Take lots of photos for memories. 🙂

  3. Hi Erika, thank you so much for the info and advise..it's really helpful 🙂

  4. Hi Nana,

    You're most welcome. Likewise, thank you for the kind words of encouragement. I appreciate it much. 🙂

  5. Cindy says: Reply

    HI there, thank you for the article as i was researching for my santorini trip. Would like to ask if you make a stop at Mykonos island? and is it worth visiting or staying the night in Mykonos or Santorini can fully fulfilled all my beautiful view wishes?

    thanks
    Cindy

    1. Hi Cindy,

      Thank you for kind words, I appreciate it much. I am delighted to know the information shared is beneficial.

      With regards to your question, I wanted to visit Mykonos island, but like Santorini, the islands are partially closed during winter (off peak season). Therefore, I decided to visit Mykonos another time (a reason to visit Greece again!) and focus my stay in Santorini island instead. 😉

      I would highly recommend for you to visit Mykonos for it offers a different kind of atmosphere from Santorini. It is popularly known as a summer party island that has a vibrant night scene. If you’re looking to have a fun night out, Mykonos is the destination to be.

      Santorini island is a popular dreamy honeymoon and relaxation destination. Both islands offer magnificent views of the Aegean Sea, with beautiful sandy beaches and attractions. If you can afford it, do visit both islands to fully experience the beauty of the Greek islands. You will not be disappointed by it.

      Hope that helps. Happy travels to you and enjoy your trip to Greece and the Greek islands. It is by far our favourite destination. =)

  6. what is the next you will share ?

    1. Hi Fitria,

      Simply bookmark my travel blog/website and stay tune for the updates. It can be anything from travel tips to accommodation reviews and/or places or events I’ve been, both in local or international destinations. Thanks for your support. 😉

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