Finding rooms for rent can be one of the most important and challenging part of holiday planning. A clean, comfortable room, exactly at the location you want is the first worry of every vacationer.
Finding such rooms from afar can be a challenge when you often have very little information about the building, the owners, and the relative distance from the surrounding area.
Rental rooms (or Rooms to Let) in Greece can be obtained through either a Travel agent, or through direct contact. Often vacationers just travel to their destination and spend some time looking around for a place to stay.
The advantage of renting before arrival is that you don't have to waste any time looking for accommodations when you arrive for your vacation. You simply unpack and you are ready to enjoy your holiday.
Making arrangements through a travel agent is a good way to find a room for your holiday. Travel agents often have special arrangements with hotels and apartments, and some times can offer better prices. Reserve directly via internet or telephone before departing
Another way to rent is by direct telephone or internet contact. This is the best way to rent a room if you already have a recommendation from a friend who knows the place.
Telephoning might take considerable effort some times. The lines get busy, your connection can get cut-off, and the quality of connection can make it hard to communicate. Especially in remote islands or towns.
The advantage of waiting to rent upon arrival is that you might be able to see the place before you commit, and that you might (emphasis on the "might") get better prices from owners desperate to rent their under booked apartments. Another advantage is the very little planning that has to take place prior to the trip.
Very often, near ports of entry, especially on small Greek islands, you will find a travel agent or two who can help you find accommodations. Many small offices are packed next to each other on many islands within walking distance from the peer. Tourists disembark and walk straight into one of these offices where they can book a hotel room, rent a car, and obtain maps and information.
While many travel agents offer only tickets to ferries and rental cars or motorbikes, some do offer room accommodations.
Many municipalities in small and large islands have organized their island offerings and information through municipal travel offices. They don not rent apartments but they offer lists of accommodations and telephone numbers that travelers can book themselves, and other useful information to visitors.
Many times locals who have available rooms for come to meet boats and airplanes, and lobby for their accommodation. Usually they display pictures of the rooms, and would even be flexible with the price. Greek island hoppers take advantage of this tradition, although you cannot always count that the locals would be there to wait for visitors.
The great disadvantage of waiting to book upon arrival is that you often have to spend some time looking for a room, and you run the risk of not finding a place to stay. This is more dificult than it seems if you have to drag heavy luggage over steep, cobblestone lined streets under the scortching sun in search of a place to stay.
If your destination is a popular Greek island, or if you travel anytime between mid-July and the end of August, make reservations a few months in advance. This is the time that the entire population of Greece joins the millions of tourists that flock to the Greek islands, and therefore it can be impossible to find a room.
I prefer to book accommodations before I arrive to a Greek island or town. There were times when I found a room within a few minutes upon arrival, but there also have been times when I spent the whole first day looking for an apartment. There also have been times when I found absolutely nothing available and had to drive to another town.
Checking the cleanliness and general condition of the place is almost impossible to gauge via photos on web pages or on publications. Getting recommendations is probably the best way to ensure the place you rent is clean. If you wait to rent upon arrival you can inspect the premises before you commit, but keep in mind that this might not always be practical.
Find out how often the room gets cleaned and what exactly this cleaning includes. Emptying the trash can daily might technically constitute "cleaning", but it might not be what you have in mind.
Make sure you have a good understanding of the location of the apartments What's near by? (restaurant, grocery store, bars (noise), beach, town, ferry, bus station.
Very often a town is spread over an wide area and it is possible that the room you are looking at is far from any place you want to be spending most of your time. Often tourists arrive to find their apartment perched high on a hill, far away from the town, or the beach they want to visit twice per day.
Discuss the access to the apartments before you commit to renting. Is the parking lot near or far? On many islands the small towns don't allow vehicle traffic in their streets and you might find that your room is located at a steep walk far away from your car.
If you don't have your own vehicle, find out if there is transportation nearby (bus stop or station), or a major street where you could flag a taxi.
In some places the view from the apartment is the most important thing for travelers. A view of the volcano caldera could make a vacation so much more memorable in Santorini than one without it. Don't assume that the view is what you want. Ask to find out what the view from your own room would be.
Many hotel and apartment rooms that have a nice view fill faster, and cost more than other rooms within the same establishment.
How often is the room made-up? How often do they change linen and towels? Is toilet paper supplied throughout your stay? Apartments offer better prices because they don't have to offer service like a hotel would. This kind of service varies from place to place, so be sure to ask before you book an apartment
This might be the most important information you need to know before you rent an apartment in Greece.
You probably would want to know how many rooms you get, how many beds, the sizes of the beds, and whether or not your apartment has a balcony/patio, ac, tv, refrigerator, microwave, and anything else you need to make your stay comfortable.
Also, make sure you establish what's included in the price you are quoted. Just because there is air conditioning in the room, does not mean that it is available for the price you pay. It is rare that specific accommodations are in place but no available, but it does not hurt to make sure.
Certain items (such as cot beds) are additional charges. Be sure you know what you will be charged for extra items you request.
While most hotels include continental breakfast in the price, be sure to expicitly ask about it. You don't want to be surprised with a huge charge upon check-out for all the breakfast you thought were included in the price. This is what happened to us in the summer of 2006 at the hotel Afendoulis in the island of Kos. Breakfast charges can add up quickly for a family of four.
Very often small details can ruin a holiday. In my experience, such detail is the availability of window screen in a room. Mosquitoes in Greece can be veracious, and my family has experienced sleepless nights due to their biting.
Other details that you might want to inquire about include laundry lines, ac outlets, telephone line, cell phone reception, construction nearby (noise). Who to contact in case of need, and where can they be found? (sometimes they are hard to find and in apartments there is no office like you would find in a hotel.
To eliminate arbitrarry pricing appartment owners have to register their price range with the local authorities. Signs behind every apartment door indicate the prices for high and low seasons, and other rules and regulations governing the specific room. The price you pay should not exceed the amount indicated on this paper.
Find out the check out time and how to pay (rarely can one use a credit card) usually only cash.
The check-out time is not a "hard" deadline in small hotels and appartments, but I have experienced times when I was desperate to check out to catch a ferry, but could not find someone to pay.