Monday, May 10, 2010

Athens on a Shoestring

After 2 amazing months in Southeast Asia we were headed for Europe, first stop Greece.  We really wanted to hit one of the Greek Islands for some more fun in the sun but, still reeling from our Australian spendfest, we decided not to splurge on the extra travel costs and instead hang out in Athens.  We had a week in Greece and two main goals: (1) spend as little money as possible, (2) see and do as much as we could.  Now, these two goals may seem at odds with one another but through some effort and a little bit of luck we did pretty well.  And so, we bring you our guide to Athens on a Shoestring:

Ride the Metro (or the bus, tram, or trolley).  The Athens Metro is pretty snazzy, no doubt due to the piles of money that was used to upgrade it for the 2000 Olympics.  We purchased 7-day travel passes for only 10 euros each that allowed to travel anywhere in Athens on the Metro or on any bus, tram or trolley.  It even got us out of town to the beaches along the southern coast.  Compare that to London where you’ll pay 4 pounds to go one stop!

Stay at Hotel Neos Olympos.  We found this place after reading some favourable reviews on TripAdvisor.  It’s located pretty close to the Larissa Train Station so getting to and from the major attractions in Athens is really easy.  We decided to get a private room but with a shared bathroom which saved us about 5 euros a night.  The room was nice and comfortable, if a little basic.  Also, as we were staying for 6 nights we were able to negotiate a 10 percent discount on the room.  Where this place really paid off for us budget travellers though was the free breakfast.  Each morning we filled up on cereal, boiled eggs, crusty bread, ham, cheese, and tea and coffee.  They also had these huge oranges which was great as we ended up sneaking a few extra oranges into our bag each day so that we didn’t have to spend money on lunch! Oh, and they had free internet.  Check ‘em out:

Visit the Acropolis on the first Sunday of the month.  We found out through TripAdvisor (again) that the Acropolis is free on the first Sunday of every month (that might not be accurate so if you’re going check beforehand.  It was definitely free on the first Sunday in May though).  The normal price of admission is around 12 euros so it was a huge savings.  Of course, as it was free the place was completely crawling with tourists but then the Acropolis is generally quite busy.  If you really want to beat the crowds the best time to go is probably early morning.  We just went at midday as we’re too lazy to get up that early.  If you’re not lucky enough to be in Athens on the first Sunday of the month and don’t want to pay to see the big ruins you could always just hike up Filopappos Hill.  It’s free, there’s a nice view of the Acropolis, and you can even have some fun with cameras as evidenced by this piece of photographic wizardry.

View the Temple of Olympian Zeus from afar.  These ruins are pretty cool and definitely worth seeing but do they really look that different whether you’re looking at them from 5 feet or 500 feet?  We decided to enjoy the Temple from outside the fence and save ourselves 2 euros a pop.

 Looks just as old from here

Walk around the famous Plaka.  That’s right, walk.  Don’t buy anything, that’ll cost money.  Just walk.  It’s quite a nice area and you might find yourself enjoying watching other people spending their own cash while yours stays safely tucked away in your pocket.

Watching these guys do their thing (whatever that is) was free too

Eat gyros.  They’re traditional, delicious, cheap, and fat free (well, maybe not the last one).  Throw in a Greek Salad to share and you’ve got a tasty meal that won’t break the bank.  This was our dinner every night, we couldn’t afford anything else.  Stupid Euro.


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