When Drew and I first found out we were pregnant, the first thing we thought was — no more traveling for us like we used to.
It was last February 2017 when I was just randomly searching online when I stumbled upon a number of promo fares. One last travel. Why not?
Babymoon — it’s getting popular nowadays. It is something couples do before having a baby. It’s like the last chance to celebrate your freedom before your whole life changes entirely.
But where? US? Travel time is too long. Paris? UK? Same. Travel time is atleast 6 hrs. For someone pregnant like me, it is adviseable to keep it at most 4 hrs travel time. Turkey? Yes. But, I’ve been there already. Greece. Yes. Can I go to Santorini when I take this? Search… Yes! There are budget airlines from Athens. Perfect! Greece it is!
But when? As I researched when is the perfect time to travel when pregnant, they advised to have it on the 2nd trimester – atleast before 7 months. So I booked our flights for 2nd week of May, I’ll be 6 months by then. Just right.
I got our return flights Bahrain to Athens at just $590 for 2 pax (around BD 115 per pax) through Pegasus Airlines. Cheap! Then I booked a flight from Athens to Mykonos, and Santorini to Athens for just BD 60 total for the two of us via Ryan Air. Again, cheap. We were just originally planning to take a boat from Mykonos to Santorini. All set. Flights have been booked as early as February. We just have to wait. Hotels can be booked 2 months before, no worries.
Getting a visa
Greece is part of Schengen area and you need a Schengen visa to enter the country. There’s a Greece consulate in Bahrain but the embassy approval is done in Kuwait so you need atleast 15 working days visa processing time as the documents will be sent to Kuwait.
We first submitted our requirements on April 2 at the VFS global office in Diplomat, Manama (UK, Australia, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Denmark visa applications can also be done here). Unfortunately, our application was not accepted because we overlooked one very important thing– Drew’s residence visa in Bahrain will expire on September 2017, just 4 months valid when we travel in May. There’s a rule that residence visa and passport should be valid atleast 6 months at the time of travel. So we had to renew his visa first.
We were close to giving up as his company doesn’t normally renew their visas that early, but still we tried. It was a looong waiting game. Thankfully, his visa got renewed on the last week of April. But still, we didn’t have time anymore for the 15 working day window of visa processing (our flight was supposed to be 11 May).
We didn’t have a choice but to rebook our flights. Good thing the hotels I booked had free cancellation policies (I normally do this through booking.com). Also, we cancelled our plan to go to Mykonos as Drew wanted to limit our movement due to my condition. So we just rebooked a return flight Athens to Santorini.
We went back to VFS and resubmitted our requirements. We had to get another set of travel insurance as our date of travel changed. We didn’t submit an updated bank statement anymore. Three days later, the consulte called and was asking for the latest bank statement. So I did, and just to be sure, I also submitted stamped copies of my savings-investment policies.
Our visas got approved after less than 10 days. Visa cost is BD 42 per person.
I first informed my doctor of our plan to travel when I was 25 weeks, and she assured me it was fine and airlines allow until 32 weeks. As the day approaches, and I was experiencing consistent contractions, she gave me 2 injections and prescribed medicines for it, and advised me to come back 3 days before my travel date to issue travel certificate as this would only be valid for 7 days. I thought she would just sign in the letter but when I came back, I still had to undergo all the tests I normally go through every check up.But none of the airlines asked me for it, maybe because I don’t look that pregnant to them.
We first landed in Athens (after a quick stopover in Istanbul), and our hotel transport was waiting for us in the arrival area. We were quoted at EUR 40, one way for the hotel transfer. It is cheaper to go through metro (only EUR 18 one way for 2 pax), but we were after lesser hassle and we don’t want to waste time looking for our hotel on our own. Because we were set to go to Acropolis that day so I chose a nearby hotel. The hotel was very close to the metro – Victoria station (only 4 stations away from Acropolis). We would only stay for half a day as our flight to Santorini was on the same night, so we just had a few hours to explore Athens.
Around Acropolis metro station exit, you would see some promodizers selling simcards. We got a local sim (Vodaphone) with 10 gb data and few minutes call for EUR 15 which we were able to use in Santorini as well. You can also get at the airport in the postal office but unfortunately when we came, they were out of stock.
Entrance to Acropolis alone is at EUR 20 per person, but if you have several days to spare in Athens, they have multi-site ticket for EUR 30 which entitles you for an access to Acropolis and 6 other archeological sites and is valid for 5 days.
I had another goal in mind for Acropolis — a photoshoot! Theme: greek goddess. So I brought all the costume I bought in Bahrain, complete with the hair accessories. The only problem is, I have a KJ photographer- my husband. Just after 3 shots, he would already ask me to remove all the costume, because he was embarrassed. So I didn’t expect to have a good shot anymore, but lo he had some lucky ones!
I really find their metro set-up weird. There are no ticket validating machines as you enter the station. Not even guards to have your tickets checked. Once you buy the ticket, there’s a small machine beside the ticket booth, you just have to insert your ticket to validate it, then you are free to enter the station. But the question that was bothering me, how will they ensure all the people entering the station had a valid ticket or even have a ticket. It’s really weirding me out.
Almost a victim.
Before coming to Athens, we’ve already read about how notorious their metros are due to pickpocket incidents.
And we experienced it firsthand.
We boarded at Victoria station going to airport so we had our luggages with us. Drew carried 2 luggages (me being pregnant so he doesn’t want me to carry any).
When we entered the train, 2 people helped him carry the luggages and that’s when he felt the man’s hand trying to get in the front pocket of his pants. He immediately tapped away the suspect’s hand and transferred his wallet to safety. The train was full and we were a feet apart with some people between us , so I just heard him saying “yung bag mo, dinudukutan ako“. When we were at the next station (not our stop), he signaled at me to get off coz the guys were still beside him. It’s not just one guy. They’re atleast 3. We met a Filipina earlier before that incident and she also warned us about it coz the guys usually dress up decently so you wouldn’t think they are pickpocketers.
Minus this and the vandalisms, they have a pretty efficient metro I must say. The airport has a walkway attached to the station so it’s convenient to take the metro to and from the airport.
We arrived in Santorini half past midnight so we opted to stay first in Kamari, a village just near the airport. We quickly explored Kamari after breakfast, headed to the black sand beach, and just walked around.
We checked out by lunchtime and headed to our hotel in Imerovigli – Athiri Family Hotel.
We really love our hotel. The location is good, our room is perfect for a decent price (got it for only EUR 81 per night, breakfast included). Our host, Kostas had been very helpful in giving us tips and recommendations in exploring the island. He provided a map, with all the sites to see and restaurants to try.
Imerovigli is a quiet village, away from the crowded Fira and Oia, but with the same beautiful view.
That afternoon, we headed to the caldera path which was just few minutes walk from our hotel, and trek along it towards Fira village. After about 10 minutes walk, finally, we saw what I expected of Santorini – the view of the whites and blues.
The hike along the caldera path is a must when visiting Santorini, as this would give you lots of instagram-worthy pictures and scenic views. You can start from Fira going to Oia (or vice versa) and the trek would take around 4 hours.
The next morning, our breakfast was delivered to our room.
We asked Kostas to arrange for an atv for us. We were quoted for EUR 35 for a 24 hour rent. We can actually rent a car for the same amount, but they didn’t accept our licenses, as it should be an international one. For an atv rental, you would also be needing a valid driver’s license (any). The atv was delivered to our hotel and you can pay through credit card. They will hold your driver’s license until you return the atv. You would also need to put some gas, we just filled ours for EUR 5 and it was more than enough for a whole day.
We drove for around 15 mins and more to Pyrgos which can be found at the highest point of Santorini, with panoramic views of the whole island. The locations in the island are easy to navigate through google maps.
Around the village, you would see some shops selling souvenirs, which are much cheaper than the ones in Fira and Oia. So do your souvenir shopping here.
After some quick shopping and exploring the village, we asked Kostas for a good restaurant around the area. He recommended MetaxiMas in Exo Gonia, just a few minutes drive from Pyrgos, but unfortunately they were not open until 2pm and Terrence was already hungry. So we settled at Pyrgos Restaurant, which is quite good also.
We headed back to our hotel and went for a quick dip in our little jacuzzi before proceeding to our next tour.
After 15-20 mins atv ride from Imerovigli towards the end of Oia, would take you to this beautiful port.
You can also access this area from the top of Oia village but the steps down are steep, so better to take a drive going here.
Because we didn’t get the chance to fully explore Oia, we came back the next day. This time, we tried their public bus. There’s a bus stop near our hotel, and ticket is only EUR 1.8 per person. The first bus we saw didn’t stop, and when we asked Kostas, he said when the bus is full, they usually won’t stop. We were about to go back to our hotel and rent an atv again when another bus came and thankfully, it picked up some passengers on our stop.
Oia is the most popular village in Santorini and this is where most tourists flock to shop, dine and watch the sunset. This, for me, has also the most scenic view of the caldera and Aegean sea.
Finding the famous three blue domes
When you google search images relating to Santorini, I’m pretty sure images of the 3 blue domes would be on top.
I will give you the simplest direction on how to locate this to get your obligatory Santorini shot.
At Oia bus station (there’s only one) go to the main square where you would see this church (it’s just few steps away from the bus station):
Picture above shows the front of the church. Once you’re there, facing the caldera, proceed to the pathwalk on your right. You would see Bulgari jewelry store (yellow in color), take the small narrow left just beside this shop and follow the steps going down. This would already lead you to the blue domes.
To get these shots, there will be a queue. Be mindful of the time you spend on taking photos to give chance to other tourists. You can go nearer the domes as you wish by taking the steps further down.
After taking enough photos of the domes, we proceeded to get some desserts as this is the only place I remembered Kostas recommended (because it has something to do with sweets). It is called Melenio Cafe. We were able to get a table overlooking the caldera.
Sunset in Santorini
Sunset in Santorini is considered as one of the most beautiful in the world. For the last two days of our stay, we weren’t able to see this as it was cloudy. Good thing on our last day we got the chance to witness it. The most popular spot to view the sunset is in Oia, but we settled in Imerovigli which has the lesser crowd. The sun sets here at 8:20-ish pm, so the day is long and you would feel that you have more time to explore the island.
So that concludes our Greece trip. If I wasn’t pregnant, we would definitely try the adventurous side of Santorini — taking the Caldera tour, trek to the volcano’s crater, swim at the hotspring. But personally witnessing the breathtaking views of the island was more than enough for me.
– Personally, we find Athens more expensive than Santorini.
– Food cost averages EUR 10-15 per person.
– It is generally safer in Santorini than in Athens and people are friendlier as well.
Glad to have this trip taken with my husband before our final approach to the realness of parenthood. A once in a babymoon trip of a lifetime.