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Travel Tips for Santorini Greece for First-Timers

Travel Tips for Santorini Greece for First-Timers

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Are you planning a trip to Santorini, Greece for the first time and don’t know what to expect? Keep scrolling to check out my top travel tips for Santorini, Greece!
This list of travel tips for Santorini Greece was written by family travel expert Marcie Cheung and contains affiliate links which means if you purchase something from one of my affiliate links, I may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this blog.

Are you dreaming of whitewashed villas, unforgettable sunsets, and delicious island cuisine that can only be found on a trip to Santorini?

It’s no wonder this Greek Island it’s so popular with visitors! I remember how it took our breath away when we went.

Santorini is one of the Cyclades Islands in the Aegean Sea. Thanks to its unique architecture and instagrammable good looks, Santorini has become a summer vacation hotspot.

It’s an idyllic and beautiful island, for sure. But the crowds mean that planning a trip to Santorini requires a little forward-thinking.

That’s why you need to clue up on all the top travel tips for Santorini, Greece. 

This travel guide to Santorini covers everything you need to know before traveling to Santorini. It includes where to go in Santorini, how to get around, what to eat, and all the Santorini tips and tricks you would have never known otherwise.

Read on to learn how to plan a trip to Santorini so you have a magical and unforgettable vacation!

Super Travel Tips for Santorini Greece You Need To Know

Planning Your Santorini Visit

Any Santorini guide will tell you that the top things to see and do on the island are the beaches, watersports, exploring ancient ruins, and hiking.

If you love nature and being active on vacation, you must do the hike from Fira to Oia (or vice versa) along the coast. It’s around seven miles long but it’s an easy trek.

Oia Santorini Greece famous with romantic and beautiful sunsets
Don’t miss the gorgeous sunset from Oia in Santorini.

Despite the crowds, watching the sunset from Oia is non-negotiable as it’s just the most beautiful site. We sat at one of the cliffside restaurants that Rick Steves recommends and enjoyed fresh mussels while watching the incredible Santorini sunset.

If you’d prefer to watch it with fewer people, take a sunset cruise instead.

Enjoying a movie at the Open Air Cinema in Kamari is a perfect activity that the whole family can enjoy. They screen English-language films under the stars all summer and you can buy popcorn! 

Taking the Cable Car of Santorini is also a cool thing to do with kids.

Santorini doesn’t have many soft white sand beaches, but they’re still worth visiting. Perissa and Kamari are two black volcanic beaches and Perivolos, the Red Beach, and Vlychada are awesome too.

Skaros Rock and Akrotiri have cool ruins and Ammoudi Bay is a cute fishing village near Oia that’s nice to visit. It’s the best place to eat seafood on the island.

How Many Days in Santorini?

Around three to five days is the about right amount of days to spend in Santorini. It’s not the best Greek island for a relaxing beach break or resort vacation of one week or more due to the crowds. It’s an island for exploring! 

Santorini Greece Blue Domed Roofs
We seriously couldn’t get over how beautiful the island was!

You’ll want to stay a minimum of three days in Santorini to make sure you see some ruins, watch a sunset, enjoy the beaches, and check out other cool things to do in Santorini. But you can have even more fun with four days in Santorini!

How To Travel to Santorini

You have two options when figuring out how to get to Santorini, Greece: by plane or by ferry.

There are no direct flights from the US to the island, but there are flights from Athens to Santorini, Greece. Athens is easy to reach from the west coast of the US during the peak May – October travel season via Delta Airlines.

Santorini has a small but busy international airport. Many European countries like the UK and France also fly direct to Santorini during the summer so there are plenty of potential layover airports.

If you’re planning a Greek island-hopping trip, you might want to arrive by sea.

You can hop on a ferry to Santorini from lots of islands nearby like Naxos, Paros, Los, and Mykonos. Services are limited during the winter months but there are tons of services during the summer.

Some of the top ferry companies are AFerry, Ferryhopper, and Letsferry. 

How To Get Around Santorini

You will be able to walk around whichever town you’re staying in, whether it’s Oia, Fira, or another of the others, quite easily. But getting around Santorini will require transportation at some point, whether you choose one of the public or private options.

Greece Santorini the rise of bus on a winding road
We took a bus between Oia and Fira.

Santorini’s public bus system (KTEL) is inexpensive but not very reliable. Most of the bus routes start and end in Fira and head to most of the top tourist attractions around the island including Oia and Red Beach.

They’re supposed to run every half hour but they can get super full during peak seasons and are often late.

One of the best travel tips for Santorini, Greece is to rent an ATV for a day. They’re much easier to drive on Santorini’s narrow, winding roads and can be super fun.

Taxis, Ubers and Car Rentals

Uber arrived in Santorini in 2021 but they’re more expensive than regular taxis. For example, a trip from Oia to Fira (which is a 20-minute journey) is €36.

It’s expensive because €36 is the minimum fair of an Uber ride on Santorini no matter where you’re going. 

While saying that, there are only around 25 taxis that service the whole island in Santorini They can legally only carry four passengers so if you’re a family of five, you’ll have to take two taxis. They also only accept cash.

Regular taxis charge around €25 for a journey between Fira and Oia.

Book private transfers to and from the airport or ferry so you have peace of mind that you won’t be stuck waiting for a taxi carrying three suitcases!

Renting a car in Santorini is also an option if you want to explore sites all over the island. Rates start from around €15 per day. Santorini’s roads are not in amazing shape but it’s convenient as you can pick up a car from the airport. Check the latest rental car rates.

Most visitors either rent a car or an ATV for at least part of their trip.

Money in Santorini

Santorini is in Greece which uses the Euro currency. One of the best Santorini, Greece travel tips that will save your skin is to always carry cash. 

Euro money: closeup of banknotes and coins
It’s always helpful to get some Euros in cash.

Almost all hotels, big stores, and busy restaurants will accept credit cards but smaller vendors probably won’t. Some also claim their card machine is “broken” if they’d rather accept cash.

Luckily, there are ATMs everywhere. Most credit cards are accepted but if you have an American Express, bring backup cards. Some European countries don’t accept them.

Dining in Santorini Tips

When leaving tips for Santorini restaurants, you only need to leave a small, token amount. Tips of 5 – 10% of the bill are normal and anything that’s 15% or above is considered a huge tip. You’d only tip that much for an exceptional dining experience in a fancy restaurant!

Image of a seaside restaurant in Santorini Greece
It’s totally worth splurging on a seaside restaurant for the VIEW!

The Greeks, Santorini included, have a very Mediterranean eating schedule. Locals often don’t eat lunch until 2 pm and they may not eat a full dinner until 9 pm. 

However, Santorini is a very tourist-friendly destination and you’ll be able to find plenty of restaurants and other eateries open at earlier times. 

If you want a guide to Santorini cuisine, know that it mostly revolves around seafood. Saganaki (fried cheese), baklava cake, fava beans, tomato fritters, Greek salad, and iced coffee are all popular here. 

Santorini also makes its own wine, so be sure to taste some local produce while you’re there!

What To Wear in Santorini

Bring comfortable shoes you can walk for hours and hours in. You’ll need sandals or flip-flops to walk on the hot sandy beaches too.

Since you’re probably traveling to Santorini during the warmer months, pack light-colored and breathable fabrics. Blacks, dark purples, and dark reds are not only uncomfortable to wear during summer but you’ll stick out like a sore thumb against the white Santorini backdrop.

Don’t forget sunhats and sunglasses too! There is little shade on the hiking trails or coastlines.

And make sure your kids also have hats. We *may* have been scolded by shopkeepers for not putting a hat on our toddler. Oops!

Be an Early Bird

The phrase, “the early bird catches the worm” could not be more true in Santorini. It’s better to wake up early and explore the island in the morning and relax in the afternoon than the other way around.

Other tourists are more active in the afternoons plus the cruise ship passengers will be out in full force by then. You’ll also miss the most oppressively hot part of the day!

It’s worth being an early bird when it comes to finding good spots for sunset. Settle into a spot at least 45 minutes beforehand. If you have snacks and something to do, the time will fly by anyway.

Book a Family Photo Shoot

Whenever we travel, we almost always book a family photo shoot with Flytographer. They are super easy, affordable, AND it guarantees that I’ll be in some photos. You can get $25 off if you book through this link or use the code HAWAIITRAVEL.

Get a Travel Adapter

Greece uses both Type C and F electrical plugs. Type Cs are common types of plugs in Europe with two round prongs. Type F also has two round prongs as well as two earth clips on the side and they fit into the same sockets.

Bring an electrical adapter if you’re traveling from the US or somewhere that doesn’t use this plug. Make sure it converts voltage too, as Greece operates on a 230V supply voltage which is different from the US.

Safety and Awareness in Santorini

Numbeo lists Santorini as a 92.05 on its safety rating out of 100, which means it’s an incredibly safe destination. Anyone you speak to will agree that the locals are friendly and what’s even more surprising is that pickpocketing and travel scams are also uncommon.

That’s unheard of in such a popular vacation destination!

Of course, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Keep your valuables and money, hidden, safe, and within reach at all times.

One of the key awareness tips for Santorini you do need to know about is road safety. Many tourists hire quad bikes as a convenient way to get around the island. Give them a wide berth just in case the driver isn’t as skillful behind the wheel as they think they are.

With lots of scenic cliffsides, it’s also important to stay behind any barriers and not get too close to the edge. Instagram photos aren’t worth the risk!

Travel Tips for Santorini Greece FAQs

Where is the best place to stay in Santorini?

One of the best Santorini tips is to stay in one of the main towns. Fira is the capital of Santorini but Oia is the most popular and the one you’ve probably seen on social media the most. 

Both of these towns are on the west coast with Oia on the northern tip and Fira in the middle, close to Santorini Airport.

Imerovigli and Firostefani are also two great choices if you want to stay in quieter towns. They’re both slightly north of Fira so they’re in a great location. Plus, staying in these towns is usually cheaper than in Oia!

Is Santorini very crowded?

Yes, Santorini certainly can get very crowded during the peak summer months (June to August) and also around Christmas and New Year in December and January.

Many of the tourists traveling to Santorini, Greece are cruise ship passengers hopping from island to island. They are only around during the day, so the mornings and evenings are quieter. Most of the cruise ship passengers will stick around Oia.

Oia gets particularly crowded around sunset with everyone outdoors vying for the best viewpoints.

Can you do Santorini on a budget?

It’s possible to travel to Santorini on a budget if you have flexibility! Visiting Santorini during the peak summer and festive seasons is when the prices in Santorini for accommodation and travel are at their highest.

Avoid traveling to Santorini during these months for cheaper rates.

However, Santorini has a seasonal tourist industry. Unlike Athens or other big European cities, if you show up in February you will find that all the restaurants are closed.

Travel during the months around the peak seasons like May or September. Santorini’s weather during these months will also be really warm but not oppressively hot!

Book as far in advance as possible and take advantage of Black Friday sales. Use the public bus system instead of private transportation. Stay in Fira instead of Oia and fill up on delicious Greek gyros and other street food instead of eating in restaurants.

Travel Tips for Santorini Greece Wrap Up

So is it worth visiting Santorini? Absolutely! It will seriously take your breath away!

With this Santorini travel guide, you’ll be able to avoid many of the pitfalls and mistakes most first-time travelers make when they visit Santorini, Greece.

These Santorini travel tips will help you discover all the best experiences so you will the beauty behind the crowds and know why travel in Santorini is so awesome!

Looking for more Greece travel resources? Check out my Athens travel tips, 15 Best Santorini Hotels for Families Worth Booking, how to plan a trip to Greece, 7 Best Athens Hotels for Families Worth Booking, and the best things to do in Greece with kids!

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