Home > Food, Greece > Tourism – the salvation for Greece?

Tourism – the salvation for Greece?

For months, news of the slowly degenerating economy of Greece has been absorbing headlines around the world. The same disease which struck otherwise stable economies in last few years gripped Greece in 2009. Like lemmings following each other over the edge, the Greek bankers lent more money than they saved and fell into the dark pit of recession.

Great food and views but at what price?

The government responded by introducing austerity cuts which angered the public workers and sent them striking all over the place. Around the world, perhaps for the first time, Greece was in the news every day. Riots in Athens. Then there was the sympathy vote from the western world. Let’s go to Greece on holiday to save their poor souls.

Last week, whilst in India, we decided that Greece was a convenient midway point between Delhi and London where we could drop anchor for a while to check out the employment situation before heading home. Not too close but still on the same continent. With the stunning islands of Cyclades on the doorstep, we spent less than 12 hours in Athens before boarding a ferry out to Sifnos. We nearly didn’t make the ferry because we woke up to find that no one had bothered telling us there was going to be a strike by taxi workers and metro workers. More about it here – http://tinyurl.com/ferry-to-sifnos

We had found Athens expensive, as we had expected to. Having spent the past ten months in S America and Asia, we were always going to be shelling out more in Europe. What we didn’t expect was prices similar or more to London. A cup of tea at a stall was €3. Compare this to Rs.5 of India (around $0.05) and the difference is you can get 60 cups of tea for the same price in India as for one in Greece! A new measure has been invented -the Chai Wallah Index!

Having paid the $50 per person fare to get on the Speedrunner 4 hydrofoil, we sat back and enjoyed the view from the ferry of the many islands we passed before disembarking at the stunning bay of Kamares in Sifnos. We found a room to stay and hired a scooter to visit the other parts of the island. When seeing the room, and still in the mood for haggling from Asia, I was quickly and without much effort able to negotiate 50% off on our room. It was odd because though not high season, the island wasn’t empty. I guess they try their luck on anyone who wont haggle.

Jumping on the scooter, we headed out to see some of the other beaches of the island and stopped for lunch. The beach was lovely with loads of fish swimming in it. We sat down outside a beach shack and looked at the fish menu and our jaws dropped. Most fish were at around €60 per kilo. The cheapest  was mackerel at €35 per kilo. Mackerel is a plentiful fish aching to jump into fishing nets. You’ll get a kilo for maximum £7 in England.

That night, we decided for the length of our stay on the island to make our own breakfast of fruits and yoghurt so went to a mini supermarket to buy a few things. We picked up a carton of Greek Yoghurt, one peach, two bananas and eight figs. The bill came to €20. The figs themselves were about €8. Next day on our outing on the scooter, we saw hundreds of fig trees on the side of the roads with figs just hanging on the branches over-ripe and rotting away.

Another morning we decided to go to the sea front to have a cup of tea and use wi-fi. A cup of tea was €3.50 or you could have English Breakfast (cup of tea, fresh orange juice, basket of breads with butter and jam, two eggs and four slices of bacon) for €7! So for €2.50 you can have an entire breakfast added to the cup of tea. Makes sense!

A greek salad is €6, a plate of lamb chops is €8. A bottle of water is €2, half a litre of wine is €2. They are crying out for a pricing consultant or they’ll drive the only thing keeping the economy – the tourist – away.

Moan over.

  1. Manu
    September 11, 2011 at 09:01

    Hilarious! I like your idea of the chai walla index, it could become the new global base currency :@)

    • September 12, 2011 at 04:51

      Thanks Manu and Craig. Yes, I think a chai wallah index is more accurate given it’s use of staple ingredients (milk, sugar etc) which are more likely to have a global commodity price than beef, tomato ketchup etc.

  2. September 12, 2011 at 04:45

    I reckon you should patent ‘Chai Wallah Index’ before the Economist steal it from you – they were the ones that founded the original Big Mac Index many moons back!

  3. September 13, 2011 at 02:40

    Hello again Shelly,

    Your recent blog article which was primarily devoted to price comparisons, prompted me to make a few comments regarding vacationing in the Greek islands and my native Milos in particular, which you recently visited, but apparently failed to experience.

    We get relatively few but quality visitors from England in Milos, but I see hordes of tourists from the UK in nearby Santorini. They are the primary victims of pre-packaged tourism, content in their knowledge they got a “great deal” in airfare and stay at a cheap hotel, and happy to just sit by the pool… reading paperbacks! No offense, but when they are not sitting by the pool, missing out on sightseeing around the island by reading paperbacks, they seem to be out obsessively comparing prices and reading blogs such as yours. 🙂

    To each his/her own, I guess, but to waste one’s Greek island vacation by reading paperbacks is a crime against humanity–their humanity. You can always read a paperback at home, in the dreary winter evenings in rainy UK. But when vacationing in the Greek islands, reading paperbacks should be the last thing on your to do list.

    Most visitors to Milos choose the island precisely because it is not included in the packaged tourism deals. We hardly get a couple of cruise ships a month, and hardly ever any “groups”. Individuals, couples or families visit Milos for its quiet, spectacular nature. They do not consume their vacation, let alone blog posts with incessant price comparisons. Yes, the price of tea is 60x less in India, but you are 100x less likely to contract a disease while sipping it in the Greek Islands. And yes, most Greek businesses are badly in need of a price consultant, but that’s largely beside the point of a Greek island vacation.

    When in Milos you may take a sailboat ride, dive in the crystal-clear waters, spend hours snorkeling, explore remote beaches and abandoned mines, enjoy great food and spectacular scenery, watch romantic sunsets, and engage in several outdoor activities such as sea kayaking, scuba diving, horseback riding, trekking, and mountain bicycling. Milos is less picturesque than Sifnos as you noted, as far as the Cycladic architecture is concerned. Only Plaka, Trypiti, Pollonia and a few parts of Adamas compare to the beautiful villages of Sifnos, architecture-wise. Milos, however, boasts 70+ gorgeous beaches and an amazing coastline like no other island in the Aegean, perhaps in all of the Med.

    No visitor of Milos should miss the caves of Papafrangas, the lunar landscape of Sarakiniko, the rocky cove of Kleftiko, the Sykia cavern, the abandoned sulphur mines in Paliorema, the abandoned manganese mines of Vani, the colorful beach of Kastanas, the azure waters of Gerakas, the colors of Paliochori, to name just a few places of interest. A month is barely enough to experience Milos.

    Personally, I wish for more visitors from the UK. They are generally great people, and would like to help them experience and enjoy Milos to the fullest no matter how long they choose to stay. To watch them waste their precious vacation time reading paperbacks just breaks my heart.


    Trip Advisor Destination Expert for Milos

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