WHEN my friend and I booked a last minute bargain holiday to Zante, I must admit I had low expectations.
Zante was a place of Inbetweeners-esque shenanigans and where everyone from school whom I strongly disliked went on their summer holidays. Coincidence? I think not.
Truth be told, I’m more of a St. Lucia girl myself, but since my budget barely stretches to a weekend away in Butlins, and in desperate need of a girly getaway with sandy beaches and warm weather thrown in as an added bonus, I couldn’t really say no, could I? (Note, this was the same excuse I gave to my bank advisor when he asked me why I was spending so much money.)
Next thing you know, before my Mum could say “don’t catch an STD,” I was on the three and a half hour plane journey to the island where teenagers come to drink themselves into an early onset of liver disease.
The demographic on the plane was certainly not what I had anticipated. Chants of “ZANTE 2K SEVENTEEN LADS!” were replaced with crying babies and eager post A-Level girl gangs knocking back duty-free Prosecco were substituted with over 60s drinking Earl Grey. Could it be true that Zante had matured from its noughties heydey of fishbowls, hotpants and non-stop pop music?
In case you were wondering, the answer to that question is no. When we reached our hotel located on the corner of the infamous Laganas strip, I thought I had arrived at an under 18s disco. Girls in nude coloured bikinis (which are apparently a thing now but should never ever be one) were floating around in giant inflatable swans Taylor Swift style, guys were getting through balloons (also known as NOS gas) as if it was the last birthday party they would ever attend. From noon until midnight, the bar blasted out the latest “tunes,” which were essentially DJ Khaled’s “I’m the One,” and J.Hus’s “Did You See” over and over and over again.
As soon as we got to the hotel, we were greeted with a shot consisting of a bright blue liquid not too dissimilar to bleach(I asked what it was to which the barman shrugged) and a nauseatingly enthusiastic rep telling us how all the events in Zante were “absolutely mint.” Partly bowing to peer pressure and realising that this might be the last opportunity to be considered one of the cool kids, we ended up booking the boat party and the frat party for €95 each. Unbeknown to us as of yet, we had been, for want of a better phrase, completely mugged off.
My budget shot to pieces, I contemplated whether it was possible to live off of a liquid diet for 7 days. I needn’t had the dilemma because there was no vegan food at all for my friend and me to eat, so even if we were rolling in euros, we would probably starve to death anyway.
Thankfully, at 3 am walking home from our second night out, we came across a 24-hour fast food outlet selling falafel. I cut off the conversation with the very drunk guy from Birmingham I was talking to, which was probably a good thing considering I couldn’t understand a word he was saying anyway and gazed in amazement as our falafel wraps were prepared for us. It is rare moments such as these when I do believe there is a God.
Anyone travelling to Zante searching for a healthy dose of Greek culture will be disappointed. Unless you go into Zante town (which is beautiful at night), there is really nothing to do here apart from eating (if you’re not vegan, that is), drinking, swimming and taking about five naps per day to pass the time. Nothing really gets kick started until at least midnight, with the “pre-drink” bars on the opening of the strip getting busy around 10-11pm.
If you fancy a wander down the strip just to take in your surroundings, think again. It is virtually impossible to walk anywhere without being harassed by a rep, who is almost always British, almost always in their 20s and almost always have no idea what the hell they’re doing with their lives. You can be expected to be asked three basic questions, none of which you are required to respond to. Starting with a marginally offensive cat-call such as “sweetheart” or my personal favourite, “Sugababes,” they tend to ask:
- How long are you here for?
- Where are you from?
And, if you happen to be ethnic and they happen to be a little bit dim, they’ll ask:
- Where are you really from/what mix are you?
The fourth question is always “where are you going tonight?” at which point they will try every trick in the “Zante for Idiots” guide to try and get you in their bar. If I’d had said “yes” to every deal they offered me, I would have come back from Zante penniless and morally degraded.
That being said, we did find it best to take a wander and see what we fancied doing rather than booking ourselves onto events before we had even checked in. The boat party, whilst making for some good Instagram shots, was wholly underwhelming. The hour free bar that they promised never happened and instead, we ended up paying €5 for a vodka mixer that was undoubtedly watered down. The music sounded like they had just selected the “teen bangers” playlist from Spotify and the reps were terrible at getting everyone involved, engaged and most importantly, having fun.
The frat party (you will soon notice that all of these excursions are themed to disguise how shit they really are) was slightly better, but largely because I just got horrendously drunk on dirt-cheap alcohol. By “horrendously drunk,” I mean I almost fell off of the bar I was dancing upon and proceeded to spill chilli sauce over my t-shirt on the way back to the hotel. Suddenly, I felt 18 again, and not in the best kind of way.
The reasons why Zante was not the best holiday I’ve had evens out the reasons as to why it was the best holiday I’ve ever had. I have no desire to go there again in this lifetime, but I also had the best laughs with my friend, to the extent where ironically, the holiday destination that is supposed to tear friendship groups apart brought us closer together.
If you’re looking for nights out with a difference, Zante isn’t the place for you. Every club is like every shit club in your hometown (i.e. anywhere outside of London) and everyone is like every shit person in your hometown.
Zante hasn’t changed from isn’t in decline from its 90s/00s heydey, but it is slowly evolving, with deals and experiences catering to Millennial who are on this godforsaken earth for a good time, not a long time.
As a self-proclaimed culture-vulture with a hatred for all-inclusive hotels and tourist hotspots, Zante and I didn’t exactly vibe. But it did teach me a few things about myself. From looking up at the stars as the sun set on the beach to dancing on bars, to laying by the pool taking snaps of myself doing absolutely nothing, sometimes it’s okay to be “basic,” because it’s only when you let go of what you think you should be doing as someone “of your age and intellect,” that you finally get to have fun. And who can say no to that?
HIGHLIGHTS: Cheap drink deals and LOLs aplenty
LOWLIGHTS: Reps ripping you off, limited non-drinking activities and restricted eating options, particularly for those with specific dietary requirements.
STAY: Hotel Vivian- friendly staff and a young, fun atmosphere without being too overbearing
EAT: If self-catering, make use of the kitchenette provided in your hotel room and buy cheap, basic food from nearby grocery stores such as pasta to cook. If not, there are tonnes of places up and down the strip that will feed you on the cheap. Our favourite restaurant was Salt & Pepper, just about the only place on the strip that managed to cater to our veganism.
DO: Although holiday reps from British-recognised companies such as TUI may seem like the safe option, they are not necessarily the best. There are hundreds of reps in Zante begging for you to take them up on deals for parties and other fun excursions, sometimes for a fraction of the asking price, so always scout out the best deal before diving in head first.