Where to start:
When I first started planning our Europe trip, it obviously started with a budget. You can find lots of information on how to prepare for any trip HERE! So at this point, I’ll assume you’re all caught up, and we can move on with Europe specific planning.
First off, you’ll need to set your time frame and determine your locations. Then you’ll need to plan your route and decide what activities fit your budget and pique your interest. If I’m not familiar with an area I usually do a search for Top 10 (insert city here) and that typically gets you started. Then of course as you dive into a specific area the options are endless, literally, you will get so overwhelmed with tour overload, but I’ll give you some tips to avoid option fatigue. Simultaneously you should research flight options and lodging and keep plugging all this info into your spreadsheet.
Obviously, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out where we were going to stay. Typically down in Central America, it’s all about the hostel. But if you’ve read my budget travel tips, when you’re traveling as a group, hostels are not always the best value. Think about it, if the going rate for a bed in a mixed dorm is $10, you’ve already committed to spending $40 and you don’t even have your own bathroom. So it’s best to expand your search to everything from traditional hotels to renting private homes. We never stayed in a hostel during our European tour. Mostly we used Airbnb and Booking.com with a few random sites here and there. All the prices listed include taxes and fees.
Athens – Airbnb – $43 per night
When looking for lodging it’s all about location. Who doesn’t want to find the best location for the best price? Airbnb is a great resource when it comes to opening up budget areas that traditional hotels can’t access, but it comes with some risk. Reviews are critical when booking an Airbnb. For me, I won’t book on any type of Airbnb site without at least a handful of recent, relevant reviews.
For Athens, I wanted something close to the Acropolis. I suppose that goes without saying, but I wanted to be as close to the main attractions as possible. It can be a little tricky on Airbnb because they give you such a large circle of where the house is located but once I get my circle and I determine how close it is to the main sites, I then do a little research on Google Maps to determine what type of shopping is available and what kind of restaurants are around. I check reviews and I map walking directions from the center of the circle that is given on Airbnb. This will give you a pretty good idea of services, what type of neighborhood you’re in, and exactly what those walks are going to entail.
This Airbnb was great. We did use public transit but only for a few specific things, otherwise we easily walked from the neighborhood to the major sites around Athens in around 20 minutes. The hotels in the area are far more expensive and really the neighborhoods aren’t any better.
If there was ever a destination that came with cheap ready-made activities it’s Athens. What’s great about this city is proximity. It really doesn’t matter where you are as long as you’re near the Acropolis you have access to everything that Athens is famous for. Basically, one area feeds into the other. From the Acropolis, you run into Plaka. As you zig-zag through Plaka, you’ll then find yourself in Monastiraki, and from there you’ll wind your way into Syntagma Square. Athens is an easy city.
A few notes on activities. When you’re researching things to do in an area it’s really easy to get lost in the mix. And it seems as though it gets harder and harder to find Official Websites. There are so many skip-the-line websites and perhaps you decide that the increased fee is worth it, but first, you have to locate the base price on the official website to make that determination. You also need to pay close attention to high season vs. low season prices as these can vary quite a bit.
- Acropolis – $45 – The Acropolis is the large hill that the Parthenon among other buildings sits atop. You can walk around the entire base of the Acropolis for free. To get to the top of the hill and see the Parthenon and other sites you will need a ticket. CLICK HERE FOR CURRENT RATES AND HOURS OFFICIAL WEBSITE The entry fee listed is for 2 Adults and 2 Children during low season. Note that everyone receives the reduced rate during low season, so children and adults will pay the same. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE TICKETS ONLINE OFFICIAL WEBSITE You can also purchase tickets onsite and at a little digital kiosk at the base of the hill next to the lower entrance. We did not pay to get into the other monuments around the city, however if you are interested in entering these areas there is a comprehensive ticket that may save you money.
- Plaka – Free – Plaka is considered the old neighborhood. Basically, the Plaka area consists of shops, restaurants, and a few lesser-known ruins. The area sits at the base of the Acropolis and can be easily incorporated before or after a trip to the hill.
- Areopagus Hill – Free – If you follow the walkway and continue past the Acropolis Museum then eventually you will see a large hill on the left-hand side. It’s very easy to reach via the footpath and stairs. This is one of the best areas to view the city of Athens, and it’s completely free.
- The Acropolis Museum – $17 – Funny enough the British Museum has an incredible collection from the Acropolis, but with the entry to this museum you get to see the original statues from the Erecthyion as well as several reliefs, statues, and frescoes from the Parthenon and other sites. Due to the low price, I would say it’s a good deal. Plus you gain entry to the excavation below the museum. CLICK HERE FOR CURRENT RATES AND HOURS OFFICIAL WEBSITE The entry fee listed is for 2 Adults and 2 Children during low season.
- Monastiraki – Free – If you continue through Plaka you will come to the area of Monastiraki. Streets lined with shops, restaurants, and the Athens Flea Market.
- Syntagma Square – Free This is the center of Athens. You’ll find the main underground station, several major bus lines, as well as the tram system. It’s along the main road within a 5-minute walk from Monastiraki. You’ll also find the tomb of the unknown soldier here with the guards who protect the area. And every hour on the hour round the clock you can watch the changing of the guard in this center area.
So this has to be my favorite spot for food. I could eat gyros all day every day, seriously! I talked about finding the perfect location for lodging and our Airbnb happened to be next to an amazing little gyro shop. I’m telling you it was the most delicious food I’ve ever had. And so cheap! Plus all over the city, they have these amazing little bakeries with coffees and pastries. All at a great price!
Be sure to try pastries and a coffee for breakfast. Try PAX in Monastiraki for great burgers and fries, and top your day off at Filaraki for the best gyro of your life! And don’t forget to pick up some traditional Greek yogurt topped with honey and walnuts or greek donuts for a treat.
As I said we did quite a bit of walking while in Athens. For us, we try and save money whenever possible so if we can walk it, that’s our go-to. Often times in these bigger cities they offer some sort of travel card. Usually, they start at a 24-Hour pass and go to maybe 7 days or so. We have yet to purchase a pass like this, except for London, but that’s more of a daily pass with per day spending caps. In Athens they have the Athena Card, you can find lots of information on the different passes HERE.
- Airport Transfer ATH to Airbnb – Welcome Pickups – $45 – I actually used Welcome Pickups. I happened to find them online in search of Airport transfers. As you’ve heard me say before when we are getting to a new city, especially after dark, sometimes we like prepaid dedicated transportation. Then on the way back to the airport wee try and save a little money by taking a more DIY approach. I found Welcome Pickups to be reasonably priced and very easy. The driver was there waiting for us with a sign, had internet available in the vehicle, and waited until our Airbnb host confirmed our entry. Well worth the money.
- Local Transportation – The only local transportation wee used was the underground for a few stops to the tram line and back. We walked to Syntagma Square purchased an Athena Card good for 90 minutes for approximately $2 per person and used this for our underground and tram ride down the coast. Otherwise, we didn’t use any transit because everything was so close to walk to.
- Airport Transfer Syntagma Square to ATH – X95 Direct Bus – $25 – Because we had spent so much on our transfer from the airport we thought we would try and save by walking to the city center and then hopping on the direct bus. We pre-purchased our tickets at the metro station the day before, you can easily use the digital kiosks provided as they are quick, take cards or cash, and have language options. I don’t recommend using your credit card at these machines because they have been known to have card readers in them. We been forced to use our card on occasion for whatever reason or another and have never had any problems but we always try cash first. Yes, it meant walking for about 25 minutes with our bags through town, but it saved us almost half the cost of the fancy airport transfer.
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