Johnny's Guide to Greece - Traveling Athens, Santorini, Crete as a Digital Nomad

After spending almost a month in Greece, I realized that Americans and Europeans both love going to Greece for holidays but for very different reasons. For those from the US, it always seems like a romantic couples getaway where a ton of money is spent renting private villas overlooking the ocean with blue and white buildings in the background and no a single tourist in sight. For everyone in the EU, it seems like Greece is the cheap summer destination to go have fun, drink and go a bit wild. I honestly didn't know that much about Greece or the Greek Islands and am a bit surprised how amazing it is. The overall costs are really low compared to most of Europe, the weather is fantastic, the food is great, and it's gorgeous. However, there are a lot of downsides of Greece as well, the internet is terrible, and the country is overcrowded during the summer months.

In this blog post I'm going to share with you what I thought about Katakolon, Nafplion, Crete, Athens, and Santorini as well as why I skipped Mykonos this trip. I'll share with you where I stayed, what I ate, where I coworked, and give you some advice about which ferries to take, and which ones to avoid, which is something I wished someone would have told me before I went. I'll also talk about a few must do attractions while in Greece including plate smashing, scuba diving, and going on boat tours to volcanoes and hot springs. This is my digital nomad guide to Greece, keep reading for all of the info you'll need to make the most of your trip.

Getting to Athens

If you're coming to Greece, your first and last stops are most likely going to be Athens, although if you're coming from within Europe during the summer, you might be flying directly to Crete which we'll talk about later. I got to Athens from Malaga, Spain on the Nomad Cruise but left by plane. Within Europe there are a bunch of low cost carriers that fly in and out of Athens including EasyJet, RyanAir and Wizz Air, but for an extra $30 I chose to fly on Aegean Airlines because they had a better time schedule and I'm glad I did as it was a really nice flight with excellent service. The airport lounge in Athens was also incredible, we got in for free using my Priority Pass membership that my buddy David Vu gifted me. There are 7 lounges in Athens (ATH) with a few just next door to each other. My friend and I chose the Goldair lounge and it was fantastic with some amazing food.

To and from the airport you can take a train directly into the city for 10 euros. It takes 45 minutes and is a great idea if you're traveling solo. Taxis are only 35€ to the city center and might be easier, although in general I had terrible experiences with taxi drivers in Athens and wish Uber was available. I tried using the local version called Beat, but their app never worked past the verify phone number screen. In the city, I stayed at the City Circus Hostel and really liked it. They have both dorms as well as private rooms and I highly recomend them. Just make sure you book directly through their website and not on hostelworld as you'll get a really nice free breakfast if you do. Guests also get 15% off at their fantastic restaurant downstairs, try the bone marrow. Overall the hostel is in a very good location and is walkable to all attractions. Just make sure you avoid the Omonia district a few blocks in the opposite direction behind the hostel especially at night as well as the Exarcheia anarchist area as police don't go there. You'll also want to watch your pockets especially on the metro as there are a lot of pick pockets, and a friend got robbed his first day there.

At at rooftop coffee shop next to A for Athens

Coworking in Greece

After two weeks at sea on the cruise and 6 weeks in Nepal I was looking forward to having some decent internet so I could upload some photos and videos from my trip. I was tempted to go to Impact Hub but saw that their wifi speed was miserable at less than 1mps upload speed and was actually slower than the hostel. The other coworking spaces didn't look much better, nor did the cafes and coffee shops so I ended up just working out of City Circus which was decently comfortable, secure, and had useable internet. Santorini didn't even have a coworking space and the coffee shops and cafes had terrible wifi as well. Although, for short stints of checking email, as long as you didn't need to plug in to power, there were some amazingly beautiful places to work from.

I heard that the reason why Greece's internet is so terrible is because every time they try to install new fiber optic lines underground, they dig up an ancient ruin which prevents it from happening. Maybe it's the price of history and beauty, but then again, it could just be from terrible planning from the government. The good news is their 4G is decent and was only 10 euro from Vodafone for 10gb of data which is a great price. Best of all, since Greece is part of the EU, your data plan will work when you travel around Europe afterwards or if you bring your data plan over like I did from Spain or anywhere else in the EU. I bought a 2.5gb SIM card from Spain for around 20 euro which was a bit overpriced but it worked for me throughout the cruise in Spain, Malta, and for the first few days in Greece until it ran out. As for community, I went to one of the Digital Nomads Athens meetups and met a few nice people. I can see why some people choose Athens as a base as it has great nightlife, good food, nice weather, and a relatively low cost of living, but it definitely isn't a big digital nomad hub, and with it's terrible internet I don't see it being one anytime soon.

Enjoying the Sun at Kamari Beach in Santorini

Santorini, Greece 

From Athens, I headed down to one of the most beautiful Greek islands the one that's featured in every travel photo, Santorini. From Athens, you can either fly or take a ferry. Flights cost between 50-125 euros and only take 40 minutes to arrive. However, they are extremely strict about carry on luggage weight limits as a few of my friends had to pay a lot of money in excess fees so I'd recomend storing your luggage in Athens and just taking what you need with you to the islands. You can either leave your excess baggage at the airport luggage storage for around 10 euro a day/33 euros for 5 days, or you can do what I did and leave your luggage at the hostel for 1 euro. Aside from flying, you can either take the "fast" boat or the "slow" boat. On paper it may seem like the the faster SeaJet ferries are a better idea, but they're not. I've taken both the Blue Star slow boat and the SeaJet fast boat to and from Athens to Santorini and much prefer the slower Blue Star ferries as it feels like a mini cruise ship where you can walk around, go outside to get some air, sit at tables, use the 5 euro wifi and get work done. The SeaJet ferries are indoor only, much more prone to making you seasick, and forces you to just sit in your sea without the ability to go outside or get any air. The Seajets ferry is also twice the price and only saves 2 hours which isn't worth it. As someone who has been on both ferries, trust me, take the Blue Star, just make sure you get there 30 minutes early if you want a nice seat indoors, or pay for an upgrade to business class or their airplane seats.

In Santorini, you can either stay near by one of the beaches if you want more of a relaxed stay. Or if you want central access to all of the restaurants, things to do, and want to explore the island by bus, I'd recomend staying in the main center of Fira which is the main village of Santorini, which happens to be also confusingly named Thira. Just remember that Thira = Old Name for Santorini. Fira = Center of Santorini. I stayed at Fira Backpackers Place which is in the best location possible as it's 1.5 blocks away from the central bus station and 2 blocks away from the main square and a close walk to the more expensive areas where the epic views and nice restaurants are. It's not a fancy place but they have both dorms as well as private rooms and a really nice kitchen/lounge and outdoor sitting area. They also had decent internet, and a ton of power outlets so it was a nice place to work from and upload photos. On Santorini you have two options, one is to rent a car or ATV to go to all of the beaches in one day if you're in a rush, or you can do what I did which was more relaxed and take the bus to a different beach everyday. The buses leave every hour on the hour from the central bus station and for between 1.40 - 2.80 euro you can go everywhere on the island, so cars/scooters/ATVs really aren't needed. You can also take the taxi back from anywhere on the island for a fixed price of 20 euros or less which is also convenient. Kamari beach is the closest and is only a 20 minute bus ride, there you can also find a restaurant called To Koutouki Tou Bekri where they play traditional music and have dancing and plate smashing a few days a week.

Must Dos in Santorini 

The next closest beach is Perissa which is a longer version of Kamari beach but with slightly nicer black sand. You also have a few other beaches a bit further away such as the red beach known for its red cliffs and the white beach with its white cliffs. But to be honest, they're all similar so if you just wanted to lay by the water in a beach chair and get some sun, I'd personally just go to Kamari. The nice thing about Santorini is that even though there are plenty of beach chairs/sun loungers available right on the sand, they're actually free to use and supplied by the restaurants to encourge you to order food or drinks there. No one was pushy and unlike places like beaches in Bali, there aren't vendors hassling you to buy something. The water itself was brisk but it was actually a really nice swim as the waters are crystal clear, clean and unpolluted. Aside from the beaches the other must do is to go on one of the Caldera & Volcano boat tours. They have multiple options available ranging from 20 euros for 3 hours to 100+ euros for day tours on more private sail boats with less people. You can book any of them in person the day before once you arrive just make sure you give yourself plenty of time to walk down the cliffs to the old port as it's a 25 minute hike from the center. Also wear comfortable shoes for the volcano portion and bring a bottle of water and a hat as it's an hour in the hot sun on rough terrain.

Aside from the beaches and the boat tours, a must do on Santorini is to plan for a sunset in both Fira and the little village of Oia. I'd start with having drinks in Fira at any of the places on the cliff for an easy, beautiful, quiet sunset without so many people, and the next day take the bus to Oia to walk around and enjoy better views there but be prepared for the crowds. So there you have it, exploring the beaches, walking around the old towns, and seeing the sunsets are the main attractions for Santorini. My friend Kristin made a fun video of what it was like on the day boat and the volcano below. Also if you're really adventurous you can also scuba dive in Santorini as we did with Atlantis Oia Dive Centre which had small boats to take you out. The diving itself was just okay compared to places like Asia as there isn't much fish life here, but the clear blue waters on the first dive, and the decent wreck on the second made it decently enjoyable as you can watch in the video below.

How Long to Stay

Overall I'd suggest a minimum of 3 days here on Santorini and a maximum of 6 days even for digital nomads as the internet isn't great and there's only so much to do on your days off of exploring. Everything is also a bit more expensive in Santorini than in Athens but the beautiful scenery makes it worth while. As for food, I ended up eating gyro pitas for most meals as they were cheap at 2.80 euros and delicious. My favorites were Lucky Souvlakis in the center as well as the place just next to Nick the Grill. For dinner you should make a reservation at Salt & Pepper as they are often full, or go next door to Kapari Taverna for really great local house wine and good food. 

For most people, you'll want to also check out another island or two while you're in Greece. Myknos is known for it's nicer beaches and party life, but is also the most expensive. There are also a bunch of smaller more quiet and laid back islands such as Ios that you may want to check out. One of my favorite small towns was Nafplion as it was a charming hike up a hill with beautiful views, a small beach and a fortress on top. But if you had to choose just one other island to visit, it would have to be Crete which is the largest island in Greece and the mythological birthplace of Zeus. There is a ton to do on Crete so those in the know suggest a minimum of 7-10 days there if you want to see it all. We stopped there in the main town of Chania just for a day during the cruise and wish we had more time there and for the rest of the island. If you have limited time in Greece, I'd break it into two trips where you just do Crete one trip and Athens/Myknos/Santorini the other. 

Photos from exploring Nafplion

Overall Thoughts on Greece

I really enjoyed my time in Greece and would happily come back again in the future, especially as a couple. It's a beautiful country with a lot to see, amazing sights, and a ton of history. The only other place I would compare it to in terms of feel and history would be Rome in Italy. Both have great food, a ton of things from the past, and beautiful artifacts and sculptures. I think Rome wins a bit in the history part in terms of how things are preserved as many things in ancient Greece are in ruins, but both are places where it's worth going to, even with all of the tourists. My best advice would be to go to Greece in May and avoid the peak summer months of July/August at all costs unless you like higher prices and being overrun by crowds. Greece is a really nice combination of sunny beaches, history, low costs, and good Mediterranean food. There are cheap flights to and from Greece all over Europe, especially during the summer, but even from the US it's a trip worth going on. 

Unfortunately it's not a place I can see digital nomads living long term as the infrastructure is pretty bad. The internet is terrible, the taxi drivers are even worse, and they've now banned Uber as of April 2018. The poor Greek economy is a complicated subject but from what I know it's a combination of bad financial management, over leveraging debt and a lot of tax issues. Athens itself is a really cool city that is a strange mix of beautiful history often covered in ugly graffiti. It's a great place for artists to live cheaply, and drink at cool bars, and the islands are a great place for tourists, but overall Greece is not a great place to base as an entrepreneur or a digital nomad. It could be a great place for artists or anyone who doesn't care about infrastructure, and if you could see yourself living in Bali you might love it in Greece, but either place is for me. Instead I'd taken a cheap direct flight from Athens to Sofia and am basing myself in Bulgaria for a month where the internet speeds suddenly jumped from 3mpbs down and less than 1mbps up to 80 both up and down and for half the price. I'm glad I visited Greece and would happily go again as a tourist, so enjoy it for couple of weeks then move on elsewhere when it's time to get back to work! 

Sunset at Lioyerma Lounge in Oia

With Love from Greece,

Johnny FD

Enjoy your time there. Ask any comments below! 

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Post a Comment

  1. Great write up! I enjoyed some good holidays on the Greek islands in the past. Love a Greek Salad too!

    Just reading this book about the Greek financial situation funnily enough:

    Quite the page turner, considering the topic, would recommend.

  2. wow, beautiful scenery i also want to be traveling once


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