You can spend as much or as little as you want in Crete. At the budget end of the spectrum, you’re helped by the size and popularity of the island, which means the options are plentiful.
With a little planning and shopping, you can get great deals on transportation and accommodation. Once there, buses offer affordable transport, while the most interesting towns and beaches are best explored on foot. If you need a car, there are also ways to beat those high rental prices.
Eat like a local and buy the much-vaunted excellent Cretan produce and foods for self-prepared meals and picnics. And if you still need more inspiration, most of the ornate and historic churches are free.
Decide between the ferry and a plane to Crete
If you come to Crete from Athens, there are many fast ferries to Iraklio and Hania in the summer. From November to April, there is at best one boat per day on these routes. Trips last 9-12 hours and tickets can cost well under €50 – more if you want a cabin for an overnight trip.
Alternatively, you can fly from Athens for less than €100. How you get to Crete will ultimately be a decision between cost and time. Ferries are easier than flying, and some people like to lounge on the deck and linger over cafeteria-style meals.
Where the ferries offer a real advantage are the journeys between Crete and the other islands. From late April to October, a network of routes – mainly from Iraklio – radiates across the Aegean Sea. You can be in Santorini (Thira) in just two hours and for less than €70. Airfares for flights to other islands such as Rhodes are priced to reflect the convenience offered as opposed to the attractiveness of punters.
Find a cheap flight
Neither of Crete’s two airports at Iraklio and Hania is significantly cheaper for flights than the other. Instead, decide which one is right for you based on where you are going on the island.
Iraklio has more flights than Hania, especially those from all over Europe. Fares to Crete are cheapest in summer when options are plentiful. But be sure to book as early as possible as flights fill up, especially in July and August, the peak months for tourism. Conversely, the number of flights to the island drops in winter, so don’t expect to find any bargains at that time.
Travel in low season
Packages for traveling to Crete in high season are competitively priced compared to other sunny Mediterranean resorts. But given the volume of summer travel, there are few real bargains.
The best time to save money when traveling to Crete is the shoulder season, which runs from April to June, and from September to October. During these months the weather is warm and sunny and almost all tourism related businesses like hotels are open. Still, with fewer visitors than in July and August, prices are designed to draw people to the island.
It’s always worth shopping around for bargains during the shoulder season months.
Look beyond the obvious to save money on hosting
Crete is full of hotels and resorts with stunning ocean views, but you’ll pay for the fun. In beach resorts, look for apartments and small hotels set back from the beach. This 10-minute walk can save you a lot of euros every day. Popular towns like Hania and Rethymno have excellent hostels.
And think of offbeat destinations like mountain villages like Spili where lovely single double rooms can be had for €50. Look for off-the-beaten-track beaches such as fabulous Falasarna, where hotel prices still reflect its less-visited status.
Scroll past the obvious choices on sites like Airbnb and booking.com for small family accommodations. You will not only be rewarded with cheaper prices, but also with a warmer welcome.
Due to the scorching heat and scorching sun in summer, camping is not a popular option in Crete (and in winter it is windy, cold and rainy).
Take the bus
From April to October you can get almost everywhere in Crete with the public buses. Two websites provide information on timetables and fares: one is for western Crete, with service centered on the larger town of Hania, while the other covers central and eastern services of Crete, with a service centered on the capital of Iraklio.
On busy roads such as those linking the main towns on the north coast, there is frequent bus service all year round. Service in the mountains and more remote beaches can be infrequent, even in summer, so it’s worth spending some time checking timetables to plan your trips.
Buses are air-conditioned and most have free Wi-Fi – fares are usually around €10.
Consider your car rental strategies
Renting a car in Crete is a bit like renting a car anywhere else in the world these days: expensive. But if you’re strategic, you can still enjoy the freedom of your own wheels, without breaking your budget.
Look for packages that include a rental car with accommodation. These types of deals can offer the best savings for your combined room and car budget if you want your own wheels for your entire visit. If you book your car separately, start your search as far in advance as possible. Last minute deals are rare.
Consider sharing your rental car with as many people as possible. For example, the bus fare from Hania to the beautiful Elafonisi beach is €11 each way. For four people, it’s €88 for a day trip, which can rival the price of a cheap rental.
You can wait and only rent a car when the freedom really matters, like when exploring mountain villages or visiting the wine region of Iraklio. Ask your accommodation for local car rental sources. You may find that the owner has a cousin willing to cut a deal for a car that would otherwise sit empty for a day.
Eat like a Cretan
The easiest way to find good, inexpensive meals? Ask a local! People in low-paying summer jobs all need to eat, and are often happy to share their off-the-beaten-path souvlaki stands, fragrant bakeries, and budget cafes.
No matter how popular and touristy a town is, a stroll down the back streets away from the waterfront or flower-lined plazas will often yield excellent options for a meal.
DIY your meals
Each town has a market – often daily – where Cretan’s superb produce and prepared meals are sold. It’s the best way to enjoy the island’s famous local dishes (even the olive oil is divine) and just browsing the vendors’ stalls and offerings is a water-watering delight. stuffy.
Since some of the best value accommodation often includes self-catering kitchens, you are well equipped to prepare your Cretan treats. With or without kitchen equipment, fridges are common in rooms, so you can at least have some nice picnics before heading out for the day.
Be independent on the beach
It’s easy to hire a parasol and sun lounger on almost all of Crete’s beautiful beaches, but it can cost €10 or more per day. In summer, the busiest beaches are crowded with umbrellas and well-oiled bodies packed like sardines. Instead of joining all the other sun worshipers, bring a few beach towels – one for lying on, one for your head – and get away from the crowds. On almost every beach, just a 10 minute walk away, you will find plenty of sandy terrain to suit you.
Some beaches such as Vai and Preveli have native palm trees which not only provide shade but a unique tropical vibe.
Beach days are also the best time to enjoy a picnic. Sure, enjoying a platter of fresh seafood at a waterfront taverna is part of vacation dreams, but you’ll pay for the convenience.
Put on these walking shoes
Strolling through the evocative, charming and historic alleys and alleys of the old towns of Hania and Rethymno costs nothing and can be the highlight of your trip. The same goes for all the other villages, both on the coast and in the mountains.
Many beaches have walking and hiking trails that take you to secluded, uncrowded beaches or archaeological sites. Two examples are Falasama and Kato Zakros. In fact, you will find hiking trails almost everywhere you cross Crete.
Here are the prices of common goods and services in Crete:
– Hostel bed 12-15 €
– Basic room for two 45-60 €
– Independent apartment 50-150 €
– Bus ticket 2-15 €
– Coffee 2-4 €
– Souvlaki sandwich 6€
– Dinner for two 30-100 € or more
– Beer/pint at the bar 5€
– Tray of anthoi (stuffed zucchini flowers) from €10
– Umbrella and deckchair rental €10