Backpacking Greece: How to Travel Effectively

Journeying through Greece is like traveling through the shifting sands of time.  One step to the left and you’re deep in historical sites that created our modern civilization.  Foreign and unknown, the past calls to us from a distant land even as you stand mere inches away from ancient artifacts.  One step to the right and you’re surrounded by a vacation paradise that is indistinguishable from any modern resort.  The warmth of the beach sands are rivaled only by the local residents who welcome you to their homeland.

Trekking through such a unique country brings a wealth of opportunity to experience the past, present, and the future all while enjoying the hospitality of small friendly Mediterranean villages and from world class resorts contending with any international stage.  Greece is rare in its charming  offerings from the far past while maintaining status as a jet-setter’s destination.

Exploring Greece by way of a fully planned out itinerary is certainly one traveler’s way of seeing the country.  And there is plenty enough to see that you will get your fill of Greece by motor coach and organized tours.  However, if you truly want to experience Greek culture and get a feel for the land beyond the tourist locations, consider seeing the country by way of an unattached and improvisational agenda by way of backpacking the country.

Backpacking Greece is Less Expensive

Backpacking through a country offers many rewards and there are plenty of reasons one may want to engage in a fast-and-loose trip across the land with a backpack and a soft plan in mind.  One of the first reasons that come to mind is the cost.  Vacationing in a foreign land can build up some expenses if you’re not financially disposed toward international travel.  Flights, food, lodging, etc can pile up and could prove discouraging to the beginning traveler, or even the seasoned traveler on a budget.

Don’t let those costs frighten you away from seeing the world, just choose to see the world in a different way.  Rather than springing for five-star hotels, pack your backpack and explore the sites with the locals.  Rather than eating in fine dining restaurants, pack cooking utensils, or dine at smaller neighborhood venues.  Backpacking can save you lots of money, enough that you don’t need to be intimidated out of the journey simply by the cost.

Backpacking Greece Helps You Avoid Crowds

Once you decide to pack the bag and sling it on your back, you will feel like a different traveler when you go out into the new world ready to explore.  You will feel ready to venture out into unknown lands, seeking the unseen and less traveled.  There is certainly nothing wrong with organized tours, and we recommend them for some attractions as a well-informed host can make the difference between a bust and a great experience.

But there is something to be said for venturing out on your own, away from the throngs of tourists seeing the same sites, taking the same pictures, experiencing the same things in the exact same way.  While backpacking you are on your own, making your own plans, and seeing things at your own pace.

Immerse Yourself In Incredible Culture and History

All this exploration off the beaten path will bring you into closer contact with the local population and the passionate culture of the Greeks.  One can travel the world, visit all the exotic lands and still miss the reason for travel.  To experience foreign lands, connect with the people who live there, smell the air, taste their food.  To travel in pampered luxury is a mighty fine thing and by no means “wrong” in any capacity other than the possibility that you would miss out on the experience, the culture just waiting for you outside the fancy hotel door.  While backpacking, you’ll encounter this culture in the many small steps you take among the local residents and you will be richer for the trip.

Enjoying the Experience

Backpacking also forces you to lighten your load.  If you’re not having bellhops pick up your bags, and having your dinners served to you on fine linens, you’ll be more focused on what you have and how you enjoy it.  Traveling light is a sure way to enjoy the moment, to focus on what is happening before you “in the now”.  Too many times we’ve saved up for a dream vacation and planned it down to the minute, documenting everything through the viewfinder of a videocamera or the screen of your smartphone, only to realize we missed the experience by trying to capture it.  Pack light, enjoy the time as it happens to you, backpacking will force you to keep your mind on the immediate surroundings and allow you to focus on what is important in the moment.

Backpacking through any country is a romantic idea that may sway in your mind between wildly spontaneous to dangerously impulsive.  Neither has to be true.  You can trek through the world with your belongings on your back without fitting into any of the predisposed stereotypes.  You’re neither hobo nor hipster, you don’t have to be rich or broke, all you have to have is a healthy spirit of adventure and a willingness to try new things.

The Backpacker Lifestyle Is Incredible

The backpacking travel lifestyle gained notoriety with the beatnik days of the 1950’s into the freestyle hippies of the 1960’s, and the gloriously unfettered lifestyle never died out in popularity, it only changed its external looks.  While backpacking in the remote regions of Greece, you may still run into plenty of the self-proclaimed “old hippies” that ventured across the land and fell so in love with Greece that they simply never left.  These old-school freedom children are a welcome wealth of knowledge as the “new hippies” run into them on their trips.

Fresh young faces gather a few of their belongings in their backpack and embark on the first of many journeys of a lifetime bump into the aged travelers who blend their sage wisdom with the exuberance of youth.  The love of travel and the chance to immerse yourself in a new culture bind us together and whether young or old, backpacking culture is truly rewarding in its benefits.

Practicing Safety While Backpacking is a Must

The world has changed from the days of hopping a steamer and hitchhiking down the highway.  Statistics show us that these changes have been for the better.  We may hear of the dastardly deeds of ill-minded people out there in the world, but don’t let that discourage you from seeing the world for yourself.  The truth is that crime rates have been dropping across the board and we’re simply hearing more about them due to our instantaneous worldwide communication network.

Backpacking through Europe, backpacking through Greece is as safe as travel anywhere else.  Danger lurks everywhere, every day.  But that is true in your hometown as well as in St. Louis, Missouri and Athens, Greece.  If you use common sense and basic situational awareness, you can enjoy the trip without incident.  Safety while backpacking is a matter of remembering you are responsible for yourself.

Time Has Allowed for Better Equipment

Significant changes for the better have advanced in the equipment itself.  There was a time when backpacking meant throwing some dirty clothes in a canvas sling and hoping for the best.  Now you can prepare for your trip and anticipate some of the circumstances you may find yourself in thanks to modern backpack technology and general improvements in the travel gear industry.  Multiple compartments, larger cargo areas with better carry supports, pockets and slots for easy to reach items such as snacks or a first aid kit, backpacking through Greece is going to be so much easier than it was just a few years ago.

Saving money is a great reason to travel by backpack.  While traveling the country, saving a few Euro here and there is easy to do if you pay attention to the tricks and tips plenty of fellow travelers have found out.

But What To Do About Lodging When Backpacking Greece?

Staying in cheaper hotels is a given.  The five star hotel is nice, but you can save half your money simply by staying in smaller roadside hotels and motels.  Visit small family run boutique hotels and you’ll not only save cash, but support local business.  For those more adventurous backpackers, Greece is bountiful with hostels offering single rooms and dormitory style lodgings.  You can really save a few bucks by taking advantage of these accommodations and it’ll give you a chance to meet some fellow backpackers and share your experiences.

If you’re not quite up to sleeping in a dorm, AirBNB has plenty of options that are surprisingly affordable during the off season.  The same house may be out of your budget range during August but you may find the price falls as tourist season flags and September comes to an end.

A fantastic way to save some money on lodging is while island hopping.  The conventional ferries between the islands are less expensive because they are slower.  Depending on where you are going, if the high speed ferries can get you there in two hours, the conventional ferries may take closer to six hours.  Book the overnight crossing and the fare is cheaper still.  Now you have a quiet six hour trip in which you can catch some sleep without paying for additional lodging for the evening.  It may be about as comfortable as sleeping on an airplane, but if you can pull it off, it’s a “free” night’s stay.

What About Dining? Where Do You Eat When Backpacking Greece?

Food is everywhere in Greece.  If you dine at the finest restaurants you will find your money evaporating at an alarming rate.  This is true which ever country you travel to.  Dining in the trendy parts of town among the rich and glamorous will cost you a pretty penny in Greece, France or Las Vegas.  But if you venture off the tracks and find the smaller diners you will not only save money, but you’ll eat a more authentic menu that reflects the Greek culture rather than what the tourists have come to expect from Greek food.  Try the street vendors, gyros and kebabs are cheap and filling.

The Quandary Of Transportation

Traveling in the country is part of the experience.  Aside from the previously mentioned ferry tip, consider alternative travel methods to save a few Euros along the way.  Ride-sharing apps are popular among backpacking travelers and in highly frequented areas that attract tourists, the local ride-share hosts are plentiful and eager to serve.  Strike up a conversation with your fellow backpacking strangers, find out who is going where, when, and see if you can pool your resources and split a ride to the next attraction.

If you are traveling on your own, remember that moped rentals are much cheaper than renting a car and since you will be traveling light, you should be able to enjoy the ubiquitous nature of these little motorbikes and take them nearly everywhere in Greece, and for significant savings when compared to the larger vehicles.  You will also find in some occasions that parking your rented motorbike is cheaper and easier than finding and paying for a car parking spot.

Remember these few basic tips and backpacking through Greece will prove to be an amazing dream come true.  People don their backpack for a multitude of reasons, some to save money, some to venture out in the spirit of freedom, others just because it’s a trendy way to travel.  Whatever you reasons are, they are the right reasons for you and your journey will be as adventurous as you are willing to be.

To save some of your travel funds, visit some of the less traveled locations.  If you’ve read page upon page about a particular spot and seen thousands of photographs on everyone’s feed, odds are so has everyone else.  Avoiding Athens entirely, and staying away from wildly popular islands like Mykonos or Santorini will help you avoid the “tourist price increase” inherent in fashionable destinations.  Greece is full of hidden gems and secret trails just off the main roads waiting for you to discover.  In most cases, the thousands of Greek islands offer similar beaches.  The islands less visited will be the cheapest to see and you will get the same warm soft sand.

Dining “on the cheap” is easy to do and lets you get a true taste of Greece rather than some book’s interpretation of “the Mediterranean diet”.  Strike up a conversation with your local hosts, your taxi driver, or your bartender.  Ask them where they go to eat.  Any traveler will tell you the little hole-in-the-wall places you find often have the best food.  Eat where the locals eat and you’ll not only save money but experience true Greek culture.

Go backpacking during the off season to save a little more money and we rewarded with a little more room and adventure all to yourself.  The summer months see the wealthy and adventurous flock to the Grecian islands for fun in the sun.  But once the summer sun fades, or before it hits its peak, the islands are deserted and eager for any visitor such as yourself, looking to see the land without the throng of revelers.  Just keep in mind that the ferries also slow down during the off season, so you may have to be imaginative in your island-hopping.  The Grecian mainland has plenty to offer and much to see, backpacking the mountains of Greece is a fine experience even without seeing any of the famous islands.

Take advantage of the abundance of museums and cultural centers dotted everywhere.  Many of them offer free tours, or will give low cost admittance.  You can learn so much from a smaller local museum that focuses on the native discoveries of the area and there are so many of these galleries peppered throughout the countryside that it is nearly difficult to avoid them.  Stop in for a chat to learn more about the amazing country you are visiting.

Greek culture is much like any other, you will find people of all sorts, from gregarious to gruff, but the travel lifestyle will acclimate you to the idea that no matter where you go, people are all the same.  Some of the idiosyncrasies particular to Greece often pertain to hospitality.  If you do find yourself invited to share a meal, turning it down would be seen as rude or at the very least, impolite.  Sharing food is a common way for Greeks to socialize and share the day’s events.  You may find yourself immersed in long discussions or short anecdotes, but joining in these events is critical to endearing yourself to your hosts.

Finally, a good tip for backpacking Greece effectively is to pack appropriately.  In Greece you can go anywhere from the wintry peak of Mount Olympus to the powdery soft sands of the exotic island beaches.  Pack for your trip, and keep in mind that you may change your itinerary as you travel.  However, it’s not all party time beaches all the time.  If you want to visit any of the more historic sites, fine dining restaurants, or any of the multitude of churches and monasteries, make sure you have an outfit befitting more modest attire.  Bikinis, tank tops, and flip flops are inappropriate when out and among the conservative populace.

Backpacking effectively is a matter of being prepared.  Know your budget, know your plans, and always be willing to remain flexible.  Rigid itineraries are for the novice traveler, you are backpacking, take the impromptu tour, eat at the unknown spot, experience Greece the way you’ve always dreamed about.

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