Budget Guide to Athens, Greece
Athens is a great city to discover Greek history. It will also most likely be your stop if you are flying into Greece from another country. There is more to Athens than meets the eye. The only thing you need is time to discover it. I wish they would give this city more credit, since a lot of people use it only as a stop over to the more popular Greek islands like Santorini and Mykonos. If you have plenty of time, I would recommend at least 2-3 days to discover Athens. Below is our guide on what not to miss in this historical city:
VISIT THE ACROPOLIS
If you do anything in Athens, make sure it is this! The Acropolis is known worldwide as one of the wonders of the ancient world. Even if you are not a history buff, this site is not to be missed. If you visit the Acropolis with out a tour, it might be hard to know and understand the structures you have in front of you. Lucky for you, we have done the hard work. Forget paying the hefty fee for a tour guide and forget battling with the tour group for that nice picture you want to take in front of the Acropolis. Go at your own pace and truly enjoy this ancient wonder. If you’ve never heard of Rick Steeves before, let’s just say we will be thanking him for years to come. Thanks to him our experience of visiting Athens was beyond what we expected. He has tons of great information on Greece to keep you busy for weeks! We found a thorough podcast tour of the Acropolis. Download the map and the podcast to your phone before heading out. Be prepared for a thorough tour of this ancient site. The best part is that he keeps the tour interesting so you don’t get bored. The tour takes about 2 hours. Find the links to download the podcast and map below. Thanks to Rick we were able to visit Athens on a budget and still get the full history of the sites!
Be prepared: pack enough water, hats, sunscreen and proper shoes. You will be doing a lot of walking and it gets really hot. There is almost no shade up there!
TICKETS TO THE ACROPOLIS & OTHER ANCIENT SITES
So how do the tickets work? Super simple, there are 2 types of tickets you can get.
1) One-day entrance €20 ($23.26 USD)
valid only for the Acropolis
€10 ($11.63 USD) for:
People over 65
University students with valid ID
2) Combo Ticket valid for 5 consecutive days €30 ($34.89 USD)
valid for multiple sites including: The Acropolis, North & South Slopes of the Acropolis, Ancient Agora (includes the Museum of Ancient Agora), Hadrian’s Library, Roman Agora, Kerameikos, Olympieion (you can find the Temple of Zeus here), the Archaeological Site of Lykeion
€15 ($17.45 USD) for:
People over 65
University students with valid ID
Tickets can be purchased at any of the site entrances.
Standing at the highest point of the Acropolis is the Parthenon. The Parthenon is the iconic symbol of Athens. A complete explanation of the Parthenon is given with the Rick Steeve’s podcast tour of the Athens Acropolis. You can not enter the Parthenon due to restoration work going on, but you can take incredible pictures from the exterior.
This was the social and commercial center of ancient Greece. Here you will be able to walk though history, see and feel what it was like to live back then. There is also the Museum of Ancient Agora which is included in your ticket, totally worth a look. Don’t miss the Rick Steeve’s Podcast Tour of the Ancient Agora to get a better idea of the structures you are visiting. The podcast tour takes about an hour. (Entrance to the Ancient Agora is included if you buy the combo ticket).
TEMPLE OF ZEUS
If you love Hercules (me), you can not miss seeing this pretty cool temple. Still standing tall, you’ll be able to admire the remains of the largest temple in ancient Greece. (Entrance to the Temple of Zeus is included if you buy the combo ticket. It is also included in the Athens City Walk, more details on City Walk below).
NATIONAL ARCHAEOLOGICAL MUSEUM OF ATHENS
One of the best museums in the world, due to the the amount of antiquities it holds. Since we were in Athens for 2 days, we unfortunately missed this museum due to being closed on the Monday we visited. Entrance fee is only €10 ($11.63 USD). Check the museum website for hours of operation since it may vary depending on the season.
ATHENS CITY WALK
After visiting the Acropolis and Ancient Agora, grab your headset and do the Rick Steeve’s Athens City Walk. The Athens City Walk will cover other important sites that are included in your multi-day ticket. The tour is 1.5 hrs. Download the map to check all the places you will be visiting so you can better plan your days.
One of the oldest neighborhoods in Athens is Plaka. It’s a super cute place to walk around and enjoy the scenery. Most of the streets are closed off to cars so it is very walkable. The streets are filled with cute cafes, restaurants and taverns. We didn’t have time to visit, but it was VERY highly recommended.
This is a very lively square with a flea market and a very colorful neighborhood . Perfect place to shop, hang out at and people watch. You will also find many shops here that make handmade sandals starting as low as €20 ($23.26). (The Monastikari Square is covered in the Athens City Walk Podcast Tour).
OTHER BUDGET TIPS:
Athens has A LOT of history! Don’t overload yourself and choose the top things you would be really interested in seeing.
Walking around the city saved us lots of money on taxis and buses.
Be prepared with snacks, water, SPF and comfortable shoes. All the places we visited allowed us to go in with our small backpack.
As budget travelers, we skipped the fancy restaurants and opted for quick eats on the street. Follow the locals, tasty gyros for €2 ($2.33 USD).
Take your student ID’s! We saved almost 50% off on entrance tickets. (Yay!!!)
The train system is very easy to use and inexpensive. We used it to get from the airport to our Airbnb for a total cost of around €10 ($11.63 USD)/person. Check this website out for useful info on using public transportation to get from the airport to the center of Athens.
PLAN VISITS TO OTHER ISLANDS
To take advantage of your trip to Greece and plan a visit to other nearby islands. The most popular ones are of course Santorini and Mykonos. (They are famous for a reason!) There are two transportation options to get to other islands. Flying and taking a ferry. Click the links to check out more on Top Things To Do In Santorini and Top Things To Do In Mykonos.
In Athens you will find many locals that speak English.
Download the XE Currency App to get live exchange rate info anytime, anywhere!
CREDIT CARDS AND BANKS
Cash is best for buying at small shops or street food as these do not accept credit cards.
ATMs are readily available. We preferred EuroNet ATM (blue/yellow) since no fees were charged from our bank or EuroNet. We also always took our banks conversion vs the ATM’s since the exchange rate from our bank was very good.
VISA REQUIRED FOR US CITIZENS:
Greece is part of the Schengen Agreement. This means that U.S. citizens may enter Greece without a visa for stays of up to 90 days for tourism or business purposes. For more details on the Schengen Area click here.
(Make sure to check with your local embassy for visa updates.)
We found Greece to be very safe, but take extra precautions in Athens specially in crowded places like buses or other public transportation.
In order to save money we recommend taking public transportation like buses or the train. It is way cheaper than taxis. We only used the train to get from the airport to our airbnb. We walked everywhere else since you get to know the city better this way.
If you decide to island hop (which you should!), there are only two choices for transportation . 1) Take a ferry 2) Fly.
Ferry: These run frequently between islands and many ferries are available throughout the day. We recommend to purchase your ticket in advance. We used Golden Star Ferries. The ferry is very comfortable and comes with an assigned seat. There are also snacks and drinks you can purchase.
Flying: Use Skyscanner.net to check for flight tickets in advance for inexpensive options.