If you like local traditions and charm, the quiet rhythm of life, small family guesthouses are the best way to enrich your experience. The owners and staff are friendly and approachable, compared to the impersonal service you usually find in big hotels.
If you have a larger budget, renting a villa is a luxurious and splendid idea. They are usually located near or on the beach and offer more space and a magnificent view.
It should be noted that hotels in Greece, especially on the islands but also in Athens and other big cities, tend to be basic establishments. The rooms are usually small, the bathrooms smaller, the shower is often a hand shower; if there is a bathtub, it is often a sitz bath. Sometimes shower curtains are lacking in the most basic places. Cupboards are often inadequate, and sometimes there is only one cupboard. On the positive side, these hotels usually have a (sometimes tiny) balcony or veranda, either private or shared by all rooms (but these are usually spacious enough not to be cramped). The standard of cleanliness is generally good, even in the most basic places. Those who want more luxurious accommodation can usually find it in the most popular towns and on the islands, but they should check the quality of the hotel with reliable sources to be sure of what they are getting.
Today, most Greek hotels, even the smallest, have a website and accept reservations by e-mail, although fax is sometimes a more reliable means of communication. There are also many Greek and international hotel reservation services that make reservations, sometimes cheaper, or offer rooms if the hotel itself says it is full. If you don’t feel like picking a hotel, you can usually find a room without too much difficulty without booking in advance on all but the busiest islands, where it can be difficult to find rooms in high season and even in low season on weekends and holidays. If you get stuck looking for a room, try a local travel agency (preferably one that is recognised by a reputable guide) or ask in a café if the owner knows of a room for rent; this is often the case.
On some islands, although this varies from place to place, the owners of the accommodation meet the arriving ferries to offer them rooms. Often they have a van to transport you from the port and have brochures to show you around. These places are completely legitimate, sometimes they are some of the most profitable places. You can negotiate prices, especially when many of them are trying to fill their rooms, and it’s not uncommon to find prices in the 20-25 EUR range for a room or even a studio in the off-season. But they can be just a few steps from the harbour or a kilometre from the city. So before you accept such an offer, it’s best to get a good idea of the location.
The places listed in the guidebooks are usually booked up in advance and usually become more expensive as soon as you know they exist!
Nowadays, Greek rooms are usually air-conditioned. If this is important to you, please enquire before booking. In some rooms, which are in old, traditional buildings with thick stone walls, this may not be necessary. Televisions are also common, but the picture may be too blurry to use. When you turn on your TV, you may find that it only receives Greek-language programmes. Room telephones are rare in the cheapest accommodation.
The main problem you are likely to encounter in a Greek hotel room is noise. Anything on a road is likely to suffer from traffic noise, and even in hotels that are not on a main road, you will find that this outdoor ‘path’ is used as a highway by the notoriously noisy Greek motorbikes. And the pubs and clubs in the area can be noisy. If you are concerned about noise, it is advisable to choose the location of your hotel carefully. It will probably be quietest in an old part of the town or village that can only be reached by stairs, which goes against the prevailing philosophy of cars and motorbikes that “if I can drive it there, I will drive it there”.
In addition to hotels, almost all popular Greek destinations offer independent accommodation called studios or sometimes flats – the terms are practically interchangeable. Often these facilities are managed by hotels: a hotel may include some catering units, or hotel managers may also manage a separate building with catering flats. Although not often mentioned in travel guides, these studios are certainly a good option for many travellers. Typically, a studio consists of one large room, usually larger than a hotel room (although sometimes there are several rooms), with a sink, a small fridge and a two-burner hob. They usually have a private balcony or veranda, a television and air conditioning, but rarely an in-room telephone and almost never internet access. Unlike hotels, they do not have a reception, there are no breakfast or other catering facilities, and sometimes there is only a maid every two or three days. Studios are often located in quieter and more picturesque areas than hotels. For those who do not need all the services of a hotel, studios can be an interesting alternative. They offer better accommodation for the money spent and the opportunity to save money on food by preparing some meals yourself.