Saturday, 23 April 2016

Sunday Squares: Santorini


Hello from Crete, Greece! I'm currently at the airport waiting for my next flight out to Rome (I know, even I'm finding it hard to keep track nowadays). 

For a few days last week I was in Santorini, an island so beautiful it was surreal. But I'm not gonna lie, it was one of the most expensive stops I've made so far in terms of accomodation/food and living expenses. 


Lynette and I stayed at Ammoudi Bay, a little bay that has the best sunsets in Santorini (this one tested and proven) but it's a 400 step climb away from the main tourist village Oia (Greeks are very quick to point out that it's pronounced without the O, so it's EE-YAH). Twice the staff of the villa we stayed in drove us up to Oia, but on the last day Lynette and Inwalked up ourselves and my calves were REKT. Definitely not recommended for someone without at least a moderate level of fitness. 

My advice? Save up enough money to stay in a hotel/villa in Oia, or in Fira, the main town in Santorini and take the shuttle bus to Oia whenever you desire. Accomodation in Oia is ridiculously expensive and for good reason, imagine living in a postcard. See the square on the top left corner? That's Oia. In comparison, Lynette and I paid 150usd for 2 nights at Ammoudi Villas. It's still the most expensive accomodation we've stayed in so far and the little apartment was far from fancy, but we survived. Also,that view tho. See the square on the bottom right? I woke up to that every day. 

I would advise against renting an Airbnb in Santorini because they're usually located in non-touristy areas that are basically not Oia, and everyone basically goes to Santorini for Oia. Unless you are getting a private driver or are driving yourself (which I also advise against, you'll read why later), look for accomodation via booking.com and remember to key in Oia in the location field as well. If you can afford it, you may even get a villa with a pool overlooking the Aegean Sea! #futuregoals #bolui (that means no money in hokkien)

We got to Santorini via a 7 hour ferry ride from Athens for €20. A lot of time lost there, but the ride was far from torturous. Lynette and I were expecting some bintan style ferry but nope. This one was as large as a cruise. I highly recommend it - check out blue star ferries if you're intending to go to santorini from Athens.

Travel within the island isn't the most convenient, travel sites recommend renting a car and driving but please don't. Santorini roads are narrow, winding and steep. It's also right drive like the rest of Europe. What Lynette I did is that we booked a full day tour for €43 that brought us around the entire island and even included a wine tasting. This particular one was run by Notos Travel (or something along those lines), and you can search them up or book any tour through your hotel when you get there. They also do boat tours that take you to adjacent islands and include a meal, but considering I'm ridiculously seasick I didn't dare take the chance. 

Be prepared to spend on food in Santorini. There are lots of cafes and restaurants with views to DIE FOR in Oia, and their prices are suitably high. When I say high it's with reference to my sad student budget aka 10sgd per meal, but I'm aware that €12-15 really isn't THAT much if you're a working adult. Sometimes you can ask for takeaway and the price ends up 1 or 2 euros less per item, so do ask and check. Grab your food and sit at one of the many lookout points along the main shopping street. Budget and spend accordingly, but know that the only cheap meals in Santorini are gyros wraps or lame sandwiches from roadside stalls that treat you with less than respect than they would a white traveller. That's a whole other topic for another day.

Also, prices of accomodation and the number of restaurants open are highly dependent on the season. Go in spring because there's a healthy buzz of activity going on without the island being too crowded and many hotels charging off-season prices. It was already 25 degrees and above while I was there and the cloudless skies meant that I got back to my Singapore level tan within a day. If you go super off season, in winter let's say, you may find that bus timings are far more irregular, there a fewer tours to pick from and many shops won't be open.

It's almost time for boarding, see you guys soon in Rome! I update Instagram a lot more frequently than my blog because #convenience, so do follow if you'd like to keep up. My handle is @chloe.cale, you can find it in the sidebar of this blog. 

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