This post explains exactly how my friends and I planned our trip to Greece. I have included the details and prices of flights, accommodation, domestic travel and the VISA application.
From my experience, you have more opportunity to reduce costs when you plan everything yourself. The other benefit of planning everything yourself is that you do not need to pay a lump sum of money all at once but instead will make payments step wise over an extended period as you follow the 6 steps listed below.
This is the 7 step to do list:
- Pick a destination
- Finalize dates
- Finalize who is going
- Buy flights
- Book accommodation
- Book domestic travel
- Apply for Schengen VISA
Step 1: Pick a destination
Price is a major deciding factor when it comes to choosing a destination. My friends and I that we wanted a beach vibe. We then narrowed the list of options down to either Maldives or Greece. We ended up agreeing on Greece because it came out as the cheaper option after a quick browse of prices.
Step 2: Finalize dates
Select a date that allows enough time for planning and saving. Always consider the weather at that time of year. We chose the start of autumn (08 to 17 October) which is after peak season. This has it’s pros and cons – I will share more on that in a separate post.
Step 3: Finalize who is going
A lot of people will be keen at first because the sound of an island getaway is appealing to most. However, due to other commitments, finances or any other reason, people might pull out and that’s fine. You will never go on vacation if you try to synchronize 10 people’s calendars, finances and destination preferences. Since destination and dates are finalized at this stage, everyone should be able to confirm whether they are in or out. We traveled as a group of four.
Step 4: Buy flights
There are numerous websites that allow you to compare flight prices quickly and efficiently. We used cheapflights.co.za. On this website, you select a destination and dates and it lists different flight options according to price, flight duration and number of stops.
We chose to fly with Emirates which meant one stop in Dubai. Emirates is my preferred airline because of the comfort of their seats, their wide selection of movies and series on board, the USB connections available for charging your phone and I love the fact that they have WIFI.
Note that you don’t need a VISA to book a flight. All you need are your personal details and money. We booked our flights 4 months in advance. This was the biggest expense of the trip.
Return flight price : R8500
Step 5: Book accommodation
We decided on three destinations in Greece for our trip. We chose Athens (city), Mykonos island and Santorini island because these locations each offer a unique experience and are close enough to each other to fit into a 7 day trip.
- Athens for 2 nights – R1600 (R400 per person)
- Mykonos for 2 nights – R4286 (R1072 per person)
- Santorini for 3 nights – R7984 (1996 per person)
Total cost of accommodation per person: R3468
Step 6: Book domestic travel
You can either travel by ferry or by flight to get from one island to the next. We chose to predominantly travel by flight because this significantly reduces travel time and because if booked in advance can be well priced. For example, it takes 5 to 9 hours to travel by ferry from Santorini to Athens but 45minutes to travel by plane.
- Athens to Mykonos using Aegean Airlines for R950
- Mykonos to Santorini by ferry for R1051
- Santorini to Athens using Aegen Airlines for R1398.
Total cost of domestic travel: R3348
Step 7: Apply for a Schengen VISA
South Africans are required to have a Schengen VISA in order to travel to Greece. You can only apply for a VISA at this stage as you are required to supply proof of accommodation and flights. The list of VISA application requirements including the application form can be found on the VFS Global website.
The VISA office only opens on weekdays. The application process can take as quick as 15minutes if you have all of your documents. Remember that you have to schedule an appointment before going.
It takes up to 15 calendar days to process your VISA application. They then call to notify you that your VISA is ready for collection. I recommend booking an appointment sooner rather than leaving it till the last minute. You are allowed to apply for a VISA as early as 90 days before departure.
Cost of VISA application: R1280
The total cost is R16 596
For those looking to spend less, note that you can by reducing your Airbnb accommodation budget or by booking your flights even earlier than we did. Alternatively you can choose to travel between locations by ferry or even travel to fewer locations to cut costs. I will be writing a post soon on how I save up for travels 🙂
Feel free to ask me any questions 🙂 Happy planning!