Traveling Corfu on a budget is all about seeking out the cheaper hotel options, dodging the peak season when prices get high, and choosing to eat local. Yep, these are the sorts of things that can help you check off this famous member of the Ionian chain without busting the bank account.
This guide runs through seven top tips for would-be budget travelers to this northwestern isle of the Greek seas. The aim? To help you enjoy the sparkling beaches of Palaiokastritsa, Porto Timoni, and Moraitika for less.
The good news is that Corfu isn’t up there with the most expensive islands in Greece. Not even close. It’s no Mykonos. No Santorini. There are loads of bargain hotel options and midrange guesthouses, along with free activities and money-saving opportunities. Check it out…
Go during the low season
Here’s the most obvious tip of all: Avoid that peak season. Prices soar higher than 906-meter Pantokratoras Mount (that’s the highest point on Corfu, in case you’re wondering) when the summer season kicks in. Rates for everything from hotels to activities hit their pinnacle as the crowds increase to crazy levels.
Not only will you save money by skipping the time from July to late August, but you should find that the beaches are emptier and the tavernas less busy. There are two sweet spots on Corfu when it comes to price-enjoyment balance. The first is late spring, around the end of April and May, which is prime for hikers looking to hit the mountain trails (it’s cool and the wildflowers are blooming). The second is autumn, in September and October, when the sea is at its warmest and temperatures hover around the upper 70s.
And it’s not just the cost of things on the island itself that come down. There’s also a major saving to be made on airfare coming into Corfu. They can be a whopping 50% or more of the rate that you pay in the peak season, which means you’ll land in Corfu with way more euros to spend on saganaki cheese and moussaka bakes.
Book your flights in advance
Corfu only has one airport – the Corfu Ioannis Kapodistrias International Airport (CFU). It serves just shy of a million passengers each year and is the main gateway to the island from the air. That means there’s some pretty hefty competition for the flights that jet in when the season gets into full flow. And, as any student of economics will tell you, high demand usually means increasing prices.
So it is with airfare to the sunny climes of the Ionian chain. Basically, you’re going to pay a whole load more if you choose to book your seats in the immediate run up to departure. Stats show that reservations made at least 30 days prior to take off are almost always more affordable, and those made 90 days before leaving are even cheaper again. Whoever said forward planning was for losers?
Matters are made even worse when it comes to Corfu because the vast majority (AKA – pretty much ALL) of the flights to the island are seasonal. That means they only run between April and October and then stop for good. You’ll often notice that there are price spikes as the first and last departures and arrivals of the season approach, so it’s especially important to book those long before you’ve packed your swim shorts and sunnies!
As if you weren’t planning on that anyhow! Yep, eating the local cuisine is one of the great joys of Corfu. Thing is, it’s also the cheaper way to travel this island, as you’ll usually find that international restaurants – of which there aren’t that many anyway – add a premium to the price.
For the best bargains on chow, try to venture inland into the heart of the island. There, the mountains conceal bijou villages like Ano Korakiana, Sokraki, and waterfall-ringed Nymfes. They have charming tavernas run by local families, with tasty mezze dishes like gigantes beans and fava paste that will set you back just a couple of euros each.
Word to the wise: Seafood in Corfu, and in Greece generally, can be pricy. Yes, it’s some of the finest in Europe, but quality comes at a cost. You’re looking at upwards of $15 for lobster and $12 for octopus. The takeaway? Going vegetarian for your trip certainly won’t hurt your attempt to stay on budget!
Do free things when you’re in Corfu
One of the top ways to do Corfu on a budget is to skip the expensive pursuits of the isle – scuba diving, guided hikes, wine tasting excursions – and focus entirely on the wealth of totally free activities that are on the menu. These are the things that won’t cost you a single cent. But that doesn’t mean they’re boring. In fact, they are pretty out there. Here’s a couple of suggestions…
- Hike mount Pantokratoras – There’s a 7.5-mile loop walk that takes you from the chestnut forests of the lowlands to the nigh-on 1,000-meter-high top of the tallest mountain on the island, where you’ll get views of Albania and the Balkans.
- The beaches – It seems like an obvious thing to mention but the beaches on Corfu don’t cost a dime. Yes, you can fork out $7-10 on a sunbed rental if you really want but that’s not compulsory. Oh, and they are downright fantastic beaches to boot, from Palaiokastritsa in the west to Kassiopi in the north.
- Vlacherna Monastery – You don’t need to pay anything to see this majestic Orthodox religious site sat out on a small islet of its own
- Corfu Town – One of the liveliest island capitals in the whole Ionian region, Corfu Town is perfect for wandering, fantastic for sightseeing, and – here’s where you can pay a couple of euro for a coffee in a bar – a prime people watching spot.
Pick your destination(s) wisely
Some parts of Corfu are more expensive than others. Remember that this is a pretty large island, one of the largest in its chain, in fact. It has many niches and crannies, which change in character as you move north to south, east to west. In one town you might find loads of bargain eats and low-cost hotels. In another they might be rarer than a rainy day on Corfu in June.
The places to watch out for if you’re on a budget are the resort areas around Cape Sidari in the extreme north of the island and the world-famous beaches of Palaiokastritsa. The first is the anchor of one of the more built-up resort clusters and tends to be expensive because of the quality of accommodations. The latter is a string of five idyllic bays that people are willing to pay more for because…well, they’re idyllic.
Better bargains tend to await further south on the run of coastline that connects Mesonghi to Corfu Town. We’re talking the likes of Benitses Beach and Agios Ioannis, which are riddled with affordable and midrange family hotels by sandy coastlines. Oh, and the capital of Corfu Town itself also has some good deals in its hostels (more on those later), but you will need to venture out to hit the best beaches and main sights from there.
Choose a bargain hotel
There are all sorts of hotels on offer on Corfu. From jet-setter palaces with infinity pools gazing out over the Ionian Sea to highland cottages in eco farms where you’ll have goat herds for company. Those looking to do Corfu on a budget will also be glad to hear that there plenty of cheap deals across the island, in the form of backpacker dorms and B&B guesthouses run by the locals.
Here’s a look at some of the cheapest places to stay on Corfu; the pads that will help you save dollars on where you bed down:
- The Pink Palace Hostel ($) – A pretty legendary hostel that offers loads of add-ons, from pub crawls to ATV tours. Costs little but is really for the younger crowd.
- Camping Paleokastritsa ($) – Pitch up and sleep under canvas near the five coves of Palaiokastritsa on the west coast.
We’ve also already mentioned how you can save a bunch of money by opting to book hotels both in advance and during the shoulder seasons on Corfu. You could save even more by choosing somewhere with self-catering facilities, since that means you’ll be able to cook for yourself and shop in the affordable local marketplaces.
This isn’t a tip that organized travelers are likely to need to be told. However, packing wisely can help you save some cash on Corfu. The reason? Things like sun cream and after sun are bank-account-busting things to buy in the local supermarkets here. Basically, the locals know that they have a captive market and prices go up for that reason. Hey, if you’ve got sunburn you need that aloe, amirite?
And it’s not just down to things that cost more on the island than they do back at home. Packing light and small could also mean you can get away with a carry-on cabin bag on your flight in and out. When going easyJet or Ryanair (the two most popular low-cost carriers that go to Corfu) that can save up to $40 per leg of your journey! Just be sure your bag fits into the designated carry-on limit because otherwise it will cost you more in penalties.