How to travel to Zakynthos - those dreadful preparations when you decide at the last minute...
On Thursday (06.17.) we decided to go on holiday for a week on Sunday (06.20.) on a relatively low budget. The first thing we had to face was that travel agents in Hungary have essentially no real last minute offer right now. We could have found some from Vienna on restplatzboerse.at or 5vorFlug.de, but it is not yet easy to reach the airport in Schwechat by any means other than car or organised shuttle, as Flixbus only operates 1-2 times a day and this would have limited the options, the Student Agency buses are not yet running, the train service is not really up to expectations, and the CAT (City Airport Train) has not yet started. We hadn't really intended to take an organised trip, but you never know - we thought...
So we took the opportunity of a Wizz Air message in one of their push ups and bought 2 tickets to Zakynthos, where we had never been before. Few Hungarian tour operators organise trips to this destination, so we took this as a game of chance. Wizz Air's schedule (early afternoon departure from Budapest on Sunday and early evening arrival back from the island) is ideal for anyone. By the way, Wizz Air flies twice a week from Budapest (Thursday and Sunday), but by the time this post is published, the tour operator's charter will also be departing from Hungary on Saturdays. Ryanair will also be joining the fare competition with two weekly Zakynthos flights (Mondays and Fridays) from Budapest from the beginning of July. Surprisingly, the low-cost airlines do not fly on the same days and at nearly the same time. It is also worth looking at what Vienna Airport has to offer.
Although Wizz Air proposed to give a 15% discount in the mobile app, of course it didn't work on the morning of the booking day (17.06.), even the online payment was stuck, the transaction was pending for more than an hour and a half, the not very friendly customer service agent didn't see the transaction and could only advise to wait an hour and then pay again. (Good thing we waited longer.) So of course the ticket was nearly 9.000 HUF more expensive, here comes the hassle of arguing to get it reimbursed. Knowing Wizz Air's complaint handling practices, I am sure they will play on customer frustration and we will have to go to the government's consumer protection officer again or we will have to make the Competition Authority happy with this, as we often do with compensation for delays. I would, however, be thrilled to be pleasantly impressed with Wizz Air's complaints handling for once. We will see.
We found very few useful information about Zakynthos in Hungarian, but more in English, German and Russian with great hints. Accommodation offers from Hungarian travel agencies organising trips here are considerably more expensive than direct offers from hotels, and the travel package includes an extremely high airfare for a charter ticket.
So, to make the most of our 8 days/7 nights stay, we booked 3 different types of accommodation (3/2/2 nights), also in different types, to explore the island professionally.
20.06.2021 Budapest Zakynthos 13:40 16:40 W6 2455 (Wizzair)
20.06.2021 https://www.rooms48.gr/ - 3 nights
22.06.2021 1 day car rental, excursion to the interior of the island (thanks to
Motorclub we have the flexibility to extend this to 3 days and drop the
car off at a different location)
23.06.2021 1 day trip to the island of Kefalonia by ferry
09:45 from Zakynthos arrival 11:00 on Kefalonia
return from Kefalonia at 18:00, arrival in Zakynthos at 19:15
here we visit the Hungarians living on the island:
23.06.2021 https://www.matildahotel.gr/ - 2 nights
25.06.2021 https://www.azanteboutiquesuites.gr/en/home-eng/ - 2 nights
26.06.2021 1 day boat trip around the island
27.06.2021 Zakynthos Budapest 17:20 18:15 W6 2456 (Wizzair)
The selection of the accommodations took longer than planned, we spent almost 5 hours trying to contact the properties directly by email, but this is not so easy in Greece. And not because of lack of language skills, but because of the mentality (oh well, we have time for that). For the ones we managed to get their phone number, it was easier and quicker. This effort was worth a lot to us this time, we had a 50% advantage over the online booking portals and a 70% advantage over the travel agencies in the first two, with booking.com winning the third.
Our lodgings were chosen for this particular reason, to get good prices on a win-win basis, but it didn't work with everyone, some didn't even know the rates on the online portals and offered double the price, when we confronted them with this, they were shocked and said that they wouldn't give such a discount, but they might not even accept us for that much, even if we had a confirmation. We will discuss this phenomenon, online portals and pricing in one of our next check-ins.
We knew that it was not worth renting a car from the big international car rental companies (anyway, last year in Palermo, Italy, Avis-Budget was a complete disaster for us, but so was their Hungarian branch), so we were lucky enough to rent a car at the local Motorclub at a decent price, with full insurance and without the hassle of credit cards and deposits. It is definitely worth renting a car, as the taxis have horrific fixed prices, and public transport between municipalities is unpredictable and time-consuming with frequent transfers.
We'll share our experiences over the next few days, including the hotels and accommodation we stayed in as paying guests, the restaurants we tried and other services (car hire, excursions). At the end we will compare the cost of the trip to Zakynthos with a trip to Lake Balaton of the same duration.
About the author:
Tamás Pakuts has been actively involved in aviation and tourism for almost 35 years, and in the hotel and catering industry for nearly 20 years.
As a manager and consultant, he has had an insight into the operations of several airlines, as well as hotels, hotel chains and cruise lines, successfully taking part in their operational management, crisis management and development.
He and his colleagues are now present in many countries around the world as experts, consultants and trainers in the hotel and air transport industries, and are working with colleagues to develop a number of new projects of high profile internationally.