Day trip to Santorini
I have mixed feelings about my day trip to Santorini from Rethymno. On the one hand, it is a beautiful place, and one I wouldn't have been able to visit on this holiday without going on an organised excursion. On the other, certain key aspects of the day were not as advertised and I feel that I was ripped off, even lied to.
The basic facts are that we booked a day excursion from Rethymno to Santorini on a Megajet boat for about EUR 120.
Firstly, the ferry timings. I had seen ferries for the company I was travelling with advertised as taking 'only one and a half hours' or 'two hours and a quarter'. I was probably foolish, but I assumed that two and a quarter hours was the maximum. Wrong - the journey there took three hours and twenty minutes, and the journey back exactly the same. This demonstrates there was no setback on the day (indeed, a rep on the ship had told us when we were arriving, but I assumed I'd misheard!) and in fact an employee at our hotel mentioned that the ferries had started taking an hour more 'just recently'. I can only assume this is a fuel-saving strategy. What it meant in practice was an incredibly long day - we were at the port at half seven and got back to our hotel in the centre of Rethymno after nine.
Worse than this by far, however, was the timing of the stops on Santorini itself. The travel agent we booked with told us we'd get two hours in each of three stops or two hours in Oia and four in Fira, depending on what option we chose (1. Oia, Fira and a volcano tour, 2. Oia, Fira and a volcanic beach, 3. Oia and extended stay in Fira), which seemed acceptable for a condensed tour. On the boat, however, we were informed we would stay in each place for 90 minutes. I was mildly annoyed, but assumed this was just an itinerary that took into account the transfers.
Wrong again. Once we got to the port and were shepherded to our coaches (oh, yes, this is definitely mass tourism), the guide informed us we'd have 75 minutes in Oia and - if going to the volcanic beach as I'd chosen - forty minutes in Fira and another 75 minutes a the beach. I was furious! Had I known what the timings actually were, I'd never have opted for the trip as I'm aware that this is not long enough to see anything.
We had no option but to choose to forego the beach (I was mainly terrified the times would be slashed further and I'd end up with just 15 minutes there!) and stay in Fira (not as nice as Oia), but I decided to make my opinions known to the guide. This was to no avail: he merely told me it wasn't his problem, tried to insist I'd been ripped off by the travel agent (well, his timings were closer to those advised on the ship itself than the reality) and finally advised that I give the tour a chance because I'd see that I didn't need any longer in any of the stops anyway!
When I asked who I could complain, to he walked off.
To add insult to injury, part of the advised time was taken up by walking as a group to a meetup location. Actual free time was very brief. When the guide asked if I'd changed my mind, I had to say no. An hour in Oia is not nearly enough.
Finally, we'd been told the trip was suitable for someone with arthritis-related walking problems and it absolutely is not.
Other points which weren't ideal were the rushed, mass aspect and the fact that there are many, many other daytrippers everywhere, which means no casual wandering in the streets (everywhere is choked with visitors), but then that wasn't a huge surprise. No, I will reserve my annoyance for the misleading information I was given about what I could expect on this day out. If you are thinking of doing a trip of this type, ask questions and please get some assurances about journey times and how long you will get in each place. At over one hundred euros, this is not cheap and I would not have chosen to spend the money in this way had I known what it would be like.
Scratch Cards- You've Won!
Walking around the town is a small band of young people with clipboards who will approach you with a view to 'asking a few questions'. They claim that they are working for the local authorities and just want to ask a few questions about tourism but then at the end they produce a scratch card as 'compensation' for your time and offer it to you with the chance to win various products.
On every occasion I saw tourists scratch off the cards, they seemed to win the top prize, which in my book seems little suspicious to say the least. It was funny though to watch the 'local authority representative' step back and feign amazement quipping 'wow you must be lucky, that never happens'.
Then the catch. The prize must be collected that same day, with the 'local authority representative' advising you to go and claim it 'immediately'. Strange but the place to claim it is not a local authority building but instead a bar situated a few kilometres away. You must be joking!
I picture the scenario that you are forced to stay there and spend loads of money there with the promise that they are waiting for the 'prize' to be delivered. If you get accosted, tell them to get lost. It all sounds very suspect.
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The one thing I did not like about the otherwise picturersque inner harbor waterfront was the row of seafood tavernas now lining it. When they're open it's impossible to walk from one end to the other because you'll get stopped by the greeter at every single one of them. I don't like being rude, so I just turned back and went around the waterfront behind the buildings after I realized what was going on.
Miles of resorts
To the east of Rethymno, as far as the eye can see, there's a seemingly endless stretch of impersonal looking resorts and rooms for rent, tacky touristy shops, and tourist-oriented tavernas lining the beach. We drove along this route for several miles on our way to Moni Arkhadi and thought it looked like a terrible place to spend a holiday because it's so overcrowded and unnatural looking. Obviously a lot of people must like that kind of thing, but it's not for me.
The too international restaurants
When I go traveling, I want to see soemthing that is local and genuine, else I could as well stayed home in Sweden. That's why it's so boring to be 1000's of miles from home and find a restaurant with signs and menu in Swedish.
Fun Alternatives: Avoid the main tourist streets, then you will definately not find a Swedish menu in Grece.
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