How to have a Cheap Holiday or Backpacking Experience in Athens




The first thing you should know about Athens is that everyone has an opinion about everything - that is, everyone's a philosopher in Athens (or thinks they are :P)

In this post I will cover:
- How to get to Athens for cheap
- Cheap and free accomodation in Athens
- Eating Cheaply in Athens and cheap tourist memorabilia
- Seeing Athens Cheaply or FREE
- How to stay long term in Greece
- More ways to save money whilst travelling :)





Athens, as most people know, is the cradle of Western Civilisation. Unfortunately, this is not still the case today. Ever since the Christian Church ordered the destruction of Plato's Academy (the World's first University) and tried and executed those who preached freedom of thought, Greece has experienced a severe decline.

Even so, Greece still has a magical feeling about it :). I've been travelling for a year now, and there's a certain almost magical feeling I get when I'm in Greece. By that I don't just mean the beautiful islands, I mean Athens as well. There's something unique in the atmosphere of sitting in an outdoor restaurant on a warm day, enjoying an ouzo with a souvlaki, whilst listening to the laughter and street music of people walking by :). There's a strong feeling of connection there I have not got in any other city.

Follow my tips below and have an awesome, memorable, and importantly, affordable experience :)

Getting there cheaply

There are several options you may want to consider for getting to Athens. Each has their pros and cons, depending on what your circumstances are - ie are you travelling alone, where are you coming from, are you only interested in Athens or other parts of Greece? You should compare all options below and see which has the best bottom line for you.

Train
This can be cheap, depending on where you are coming from. If you are coming from Sofia in Bulgaria (a country definitely worth visiting) the train ticket for Athens is 50 euros when you first ask, because it includes a sleeper. However, if you are really looking for a cheap experience and are willing to rough it abit like a true backpacker, book a ticket to the Greek city of Thessaloniki instead - this will cost you only 15 euros and is about half way to Athens. Once at Thessaloniki train station, ask for the 15 euro ticket to Athens. You may be waiting a few hours or you may not have to wait at all, either way, it only costs another 15 euros. This means a total of 30 euros instead of 50.

If you are a student, or under 21, be sure to ask for a discount, especially EU students.

PROS: Cheap ! low on toxic emissions on our earth.
CONS: Takes forever (possibly all day) and can be very tiring.

Flying
There is one main international airport in Athens.

Using a decent website that has all the budget airlines,just write where you are, and where you want to go to, and it will tell you all the possible combinations of budget airlines to take you ther :).

PROS:
Fast, can be cheap, easy :)
CONS:
The cost to our earth in terms of carbon emissions.


By Car

If you are already in Europe, you may want to take the scenic tour (which can also be cheaper if there is more than one of you) and stop by real towns and meet the people, and get to see the vastly different cultures that exist outside of the big cities :)

PROS: I've found a company with up to 15% off car hire depending on what sort of car you want. Also more earth friendly than flying. Speaking of which, you may want to consider a Hybrid car which is not only cheaper to run because of fuel efficiency but also better for our earth :).

CONS: Takes longer than a flight. Good to get to Athens, but once there, you'll need to use the new public transport system because driving in central Athens is a nightmare.

Whatever you do, don't go to Greece and miss out on the Greek Islands. They are truly amazing.



Cheap and Free Accomodation





Prices keep going up and down depending on demand, so it is difficult/
pointless for me to list them. You will more likely benefit if you look at
Hostelbookers.com and compare the prices for yourself. The good thing about this booking site is that unlike its main competitor hostelworld, it doesn't charge a US$2 booking fee on top of the 10% deposit. A nice saving in itself :)

The other option of course is to join http://couchsurfing.org – a worldwide network for making connections between travellers and the communites they visit. People offering their couches for free! A worldwide phenomenon. Give it a go, but remember to read what people have already said about someone whose couch you are planning on staying on.

Cheap Food and Tourist memorabilia


In central Athens, catch the metro in and get off at Monastirion aka Monastiraki square.

As you walk straight out onto the square you will see this is tourist central, however don't be dismayed. Walk straight through the square towards a well known mega restaurant called Thanasis restaurant. Awesome atmosphere! but don't eat there! it costs a fortune ;) instead, there is a nice little place just behind there serving up delicious, filling souvlakia for only 2 euros :D this way you can enjoy the nice outdoor atmosphere and enjoy a cheap, hearty meal :)

For cheap tourist memorabilia, whatever you do, don't be foolish enough to buy it from Monastiraki square. Catch the metro to the Acropolis station (where you will need to get off anyway to visit the brand new world class museum that just opened) where you will find cheaper stores. As a general rule, the less popular the shops are, the cheaper they are. Also, be sure to bargain/haggle - they expect it!


Seeing Athens Cheaply


The cheapest, fastest and most efficient way to get around Athens is using the new metro system. Tickets are just 1 euro and you can go anywhere on the system including buses and trams for 90 minutes. Students are half price. Be careful and make sure you get a ticket because I got caught not having validated mine and ate a 60 euro fine - ouch!!

If you are an EU student, count your lucky stars :) The Greeks enjoy supporting education and will give you free entry to every Ancient sight and museum in Athens! Make sure you have your card with you tho :)

If you are not a student, you can buy a 12 euro pass from the Acropolis, which includes entry to large number of sites. Fairly cheap considering what you get to see. Alternatively, wait until Sunday and get in free to the Acropolis :)

The other sights I recommend are the brand new Acropolis museum and the Athens museum which takes hours to see all the most beautiful and best or Ancient Athens :)

The Acropolis museum costs just 1 euro (for the moment) and is free for EU students. The new museum was built to house the most precious of ancient relics - the Parthenon Marbles, which you may not know, where stolen many years ago by an Englishman who wanted to use them to decorate his house.

That Englishman was known as Lord Elgin, who then went bankrupt and sold the marbles to the British museum (even tho they were stolen), which then proceeded to damage them by trying to bleach them "to make them more white".

Despite that, there are 3 floors of amazing statues and other parts of the Acropolis well worth seeing :)


Want to stay here 6 months or longer?

If you have an EU ID card/passport and have fallen in love with the Greek islands, it will be easy for you to find work teaching English at a private school (called 'frontistiria') if you're a native English speaker.

If you dont have EU residency, you will need to register at the local "aliens" office at the local police station for a work permit.

Schools are more likely to take you seriously if you have a TEFL certificate, which you can do online now in days or over a weekend.