13 Greece Scams To Avoid – How Safe Is Athens Guide

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Post author Nick

Written by our local expert Nick

Nick is is digital nomad originally from Athens, Greece. You will now find him exploring the Greek islands, Bulgaria and beyond.

Is Athens safe? Well, it’s a major city, and like any major hub, it has its share of petty crime. But here’s the good news: Athens is generally a very safe city. It’s always a good idea to stay street-smart, especially in the bustling Greek capital.

So, in this guide, we’ll dive into everything you need to know about keeping safe in Athens. Let’s get to it and clear up any doubts about just how safe Athens, Greece, really is.

TOURIST SCAMS IN GREECE - SOME OF WHICH ARE IN ATHENS
 

The most common scams in Greece include:

  1. Picture Scam: locals in Athens may ask you to take their picture, then blame you for a purposely dropped and broken camera, demanding payment
  2. Taxi Overcharging: always ask Athens taxi drivers to turn on the meter to avoid overcharged fares
  3. Bird Poop Scam: scammers throw a white paste on you and offer to clean it, pickpocketing you in the process
  4. Bar Scams: beware of false “free bar” promotions
  5. Restaurant Bread Scam: some restaurants charge for “complimentary” bread
  6. Friendly Bar Friends Scam: locals may suggest moving to another bar, where you’re presented with an inflated bill
  7. Pickpocketing: common in public transportation and crowded places. Protect your belongings
  8. Ferry Ticket Scam: fake “cheaper” ferry tickets sold near docks
  9. Taxi Driver Scam: inflated prices, longer routes, and incorrect changes are common taxi scams
  10. Restaurant Bread & Water Scam: in tourist areas, bread and water at restaurants may incur extra charges
  11. Free Gift Scam: “free” gifts lead to demands for donations
  12. Inflated Bill Scam: bars and restaurants may add extra items to your bill or inflate prices
  13. ATM Helper Scam: beware of scammers at ATMs offering to help avoid fees

Further down, I have listed more details about each scam so you can be prepared to stay safe. 

The capital city of Athens, right down near the southern edge of Greece, isn’t just big with a capital B. It’s the largest city in the country, buzzing with about 3.7 million folks. This place is like a treasure chest of ancient goodies – think the Acropolis, Hadrian’s Arch, and the famous Parthenon. These bits of history go way back to the 5th century BC.

Now, you’ve probably heard of spots like the National Archaeological Museum or the Ancient Agora. And yes, they’re as cool as they sound. Plus, there’s Syntagma Square and the temple of Olympian Zeus for your must-visit list.

Athens nails that perfect mix of an inviting Mediterranean vibe with some seriously impressive modern stuff. But hey, let’s talk safety.

A Guide To Your Safety In Athens

Is Athens safe - Monastiraki Square in Athens, Greece
Monastiraki Square, Athens

On average, Athens is a safe city as long as you take precautions as you would in any other big city in the world. Most travelers find it trouble-free. The town is free from major violent crime such as sexual violence, murder, and terrorism.

However, there are instances of theft, robberies, scams, and pickpockets. This is not to discourage you from visiting but to make you aware of the facts. Athens is still safer than the top 10 most dangerous cities in Europe. 

However, here are some essentials to know regarding Athen’s safety as a travel destination.

3 Unsafe Neighborhoods In Athens

The capital of Greece offers endless ways to discover its cultural and historical wealth of ancient museums and attractions. Like many other big cities, Athens struggles with delinquency, which is prevalent in certain areas more than others.

These include, but are not limited to:

  1. Omonia
  2. Vathi
  3. Exarcheia

All these areas are relatively unsafe for travelers coming from around the world to Athens. 

Omonia struggles with drug dealers, pickpockets, prostitution, people with an addiction, and petty criminals. You won’t find Greek locals in Omonia, especially at night. So, always keep an eye on your valuable items. 

Vathi is another area that you should stay away from. Located northwest of Omonia, Vathi is fighting similar issues in a smaller proportion.

Exarcheia is a widely neglected area of Athens where street crimes such as theft, pickpockets, and prostitution are rife.

Other areas to be avoided include Patisia, Larissa, and Peloponissos, especially at night. Moreover, the nightclubs at Glyfada Square are associated with organized crime. 

Safe Areas In Athens

Where To Stay In Athens - Hotels In Athens - Plaka
Plaka, Athens

Some of the safest places in Athens are Plaka, Kolonaki, and Koukaki. 

Plaka

If you want to experience an authentic Greek neighborhood, Plaka is the chalk horse. Its historical old towns are similar to the other European capitals such as Prague, Warsaw, and Rome

Plaka’s community represents a living museum of authentic Greek culture. The area is blessed with art, entertainment, exceptional scenery, history, and rich culture. All the attractions in Plaka are close to Metro stations. Other than expensive hotels, there’s nothing significantly wrong with this area, especially regarding safety. 

Syntagma Square 

Syntagma Square is in Athens, one of the safer locations to stay at. However, it is best to avoid it around the dates of protests and public demonstrations.

Connected to the entire city of Athens, the place is within walking distance of all the major attractions, like the tomb of the anonymous soldier, the Greek parliament, and the Kallimarmaro. This square is one of Athens’s most important areas, so it has numerous restaurants and cafes. 

Kolonaki

If you’re into luxury or trends, Kolonaki is your best bet. Surrounded by exquisite shops and boutiques, monuments, and museums, Kolonaki offers a cosmopolitan environment that pulls travelers from around the globe. It is also one of the most unassailable places in Athens.

Koukaki

Located in the South of the Acropolis, Koukaki emits a warm sense of local community. The walkable area of Koukaki is home to local Athenians. The main tourist attractions in the area are the Acropolis and Acropolis Museum. The surprisingly inexpensive hotels in Koukaki will blow you away. 

Brands We Use And Trust

  

Is Athens Safe At Night

Psiri Athens at night, Greece

Like many other big cities in Europe, Athens can be unsafe at night. However, that doesn’t mean you can not step foot outside. 

Naturally, it would make sense not to, but if you want to go out at night, you can. Just stay extra careful and alert. Avoid quiet and poorly lit areas such as Filopappou Hill and the backstreets of Omonia, Exarchia, Green Metro line, and Vathi. Since most travelers want to explore Athens’s historical center, they’ll likely have to visit different locations (some might even be at night).

Is Athens Safe For Solo Female Travelers

Greece With KIds - What to do in Greece with kids - Athens - Changing of the guard

Female solo travelers are prone to become victims way more than their male counterparts wherever they may be in the world. The same is true for Athens. 

However, when it comes to women’s safety, Greece’s capital is safe. You need to take the same precautions you would take in any other place. Stay alert, don’t roam about at night, and keep an eye on your belongings. Another suggestion is to look at a few international Facebook groups where you can find foreign girls living or traveling in Athens if you feel the need for some fellow female company on your travels. 

Editors note: I was just in Athens this year, alone as a female, and found it to be a very safe place.

Crime Rates In Athens For 2023

Exploring the crime rates in Athens reveals a complex picture. Despite perceptions of high crime rates in certain areas, the city’s overall crime statistics show a mix of moderate and high levels.

Common crimes include property crimes and vandalism, with a significant increase in crime in recent years – roughly the past three years. However, it’s important to note that while concerns exist, Athens does not uniformly experience high crime rates across all categories, and areas of low crime are also present.

  • The Crime Index is at 56.04, with a Safety Index of 43.96
  • Levels of crime are rated as moderate (58.47)
  • Crime has increased significantly in the past three years (76.99 – High)
  • Moderate concerns exist about home break-ins (57.39), muggings or robberies (53.79), car theft (47.49), and items stolen from cars (59.32)
  • Physical attacks due to skin color, ethnic origin, gender, or religion are low (37.89)
  • High problems are reported with drug use or dealing (63.85), property crimes like vandalism and theft (63.89), and violent crimes like assault and armed robbery (49.98)
  • Corruption and bribery are perceived as high (79.15)

Read more crime rates here.

Pickpockets In Athens

Pickpocket

Pickpockets in Athens on the Metro are standard. So beware of anything fishy. Hold your backpacks in the front rather than on your back. 

While the best way to avoid pickpockets is to keep all the valuables hidden from the public and avoid public commotion, a few other things can help, such as:

  • In public places, pay close attention to your valuables
  • Use a separate (hidden) wallet to hide your extra cash
  • Keep your passport and other valuables in the hotel safe
  • Avoid quiet and poorly lit areas
  • Take special care of your cell phones and other devices
  • Stay away from political protests in central Athens

Riots & Demonstrations In Athens

Things To Do In Athens _ Athens Guide - Lycabettus hill in Athens
View Of Lycabettus Hill From Anafiotika

Specific dates when riots and demonstrations start in the city center are:

  • 7th November – Polytechnic Uprising Anniversary) and
  • 6th December – Alexandros’ Grigoropoulos death anniversary).

New demonstrations happen like clockwork on these dates, so stay away from the areas mentioned earlier and the Panepistimio metro area on these dates. 

How To Get Around In Athens Safely

Greece Travel Blog_Is Athens Safe_A Guide To Your Safety In Athens

Pickpocketing is the most common crime in Athens. Petty theft in all its forms, including snatching, robbery, wallet stealing, etc., is quite common in crowded areas such as the Metro, nightlife destinations, tourist attractions, buses, and trains. Guarding your belongings in such places is especially important. If someone’s trying to distract you, ensure you’re vigilant about your wallet. 

Greece has relatively high rates of accidents on roads, primarily due to rash driving, over-speeding, and talking on the phone while driving. Drive defensively in Athens, so you’re not affected by distracted drivers. 

Taxi scams are another problem in getting around Athens. While Athens taxis are physically safe, they could be unsafe for your wallets. Taxi drivers gouge tourists and charge them more than they actually owe. 

Whenever you use a mode of public transport, make sure it’s official and licensed. Drivers often turn on the meter way before you sit. You also need to agree on the fare with your driver, so there’s no way they can scam you. Call the authorities immediately if you notice they’re ripping you off. This way, your driver will know you’re not someone they can mess with. 

Greece Scams & How To Avoid Them

Despite being the perfect blend of old and new, Athens’ tourist scams (along with the expenses) are a big turn-off for tourists.  Like many other travel destinations, Athens suffers from a small minority of scammers.

Picture Scam

One popular scam that runs across Europe, not just in Athens, is of someone asking you to take their picture. Locals will hand you their camera or mobile phone and ask you to take their photograph. Once you return the camera, they purposely drop it and blame you for breaking it, demanding that you pay them. Please do not take pictures of anyone unless you are 100% they are an honest tourist like yourself

Taxi Overcharging

There are honest taxi drivers in Athens, but it is not uncommon for taxi drivers to take advantage of tourists. They will overcharge, take on another person while driving, or take one to a hotel, tour operator, or restaurant where they get a commission from.

If you want to avoid this, ask the locals how much a taxi will cost and board a taxi that charges the same amount. Don’t board a taxi without a meter. Refuse their suggestions and insist that they take you where you want to go. Do not board a taxi that does not use a meter.

Taxi drivers in Athens are required to provide a receipt upon request. The receipt should include the taxi fare, registration number, and driver’s name.

Friendly ATM Helper Scam

Be wary of anyone who approaches you at an ATM in Athens trying to help you “avoid fees.” They may be trying to use a card skimmer to scan your debit or credit card and watch you enter your PIN code in order to empty your account later.

Another variation of this scam is when your card experiences issues at the ATM, and someone offers to help. Shield the number pad with your other hand while you key in your pin. Refusing help is best – but even better if you can travel with credit cards that don’t charge foreign currency fees and carry cash that can be exchanged at a bank in Athens, Greece.

Bar Scams

In Athens, tourists should be wary of a certain bar scam. Two people will make small talk and act as if there is an attraction between you. Then they will suggest going to a nearby bar which, unannounced to you, they are associated with. After a few drinks, the bill will come out to be five to ten times more than expected.

Though your “new friend/s” may offer to chip in and help you pay, you will be escorted by bar bodyguards to the ATM if you do not pay it in full. The best way to avoid this fraud is to suggest the bar yourself if you make new friends and or ask for the menu once arriving so prices can be seen ahead of time.

Bird Poop Scam

Imagine this: you are wandering the delightful streets of Athens when suddenly you feel something on you and see that it is a white paste. Suddenly, a “friendly” local comes to your aid, saying a bird pooped on you and offers to help clean it up, all the while cursing the birds for creating such a mess.

While they help clean you, they also pickpocket you. Unless in an emergency, do not accept any “help” from locals who rush over to assist you. Keep all your belongings hidden away, ideally money and cards, in your internal pockets.

Extra Athens Safety Tips

  • Take a paper map of the area you’re visiting with you instead of walking with your phone in your hand
  • Become familiar with the map before you venture out
  • Make copies of all your important documents, including licenses, passports, and visas
  • Learn some of the Greek language, such as:
HOW TO SPEAK GREEK

Geia/Geia sas: Hello

Kalimera: Good morning

Kalispera: Good evening

Kalinixta: Good night

Ti kaneis?How are you? To which you reply, “kala, esi?” (I am good, and you?)

Efharisto!: Thank you!

Parakalo: You’re welcome, and also, please

Signomi: I’m sorry/Excuse me

Den katalaveno: I don’t understand

Pou ine to…?: Where is the…?

Pou pao sto…?: How can I get to…?

Pou mporo na vgalo xrimata?Where can I withdraw money?

Pou einai to ATM? Where is the ATM?

Mboro na parageilo parakalo? Can I order, please?

Poso kani?How much does it cost?

Yia mas! Cheers!

To logariasmo parakalo: Can I have the check, please

…and in case of an emergency… Voithia!: Help!

ATHENS EMERGENCY CONTACTS

Important Emergency Contacts In Athens

Police in central Athens are quite impressive. They also have a dedicated ‘tourism police’ just a phone call away. Emergency contacts to the local authorities should always be known just in case things go South. Here are a few that can come in handy:

  • Hellenic Police: 100
  • Emergency Services: 112
  • Athens Tourism Policy: 1571
  • Domestic Violence Hotline: 15900
  • Racial Crime Reporting: 11414

So, Is Athens Dangerous

Every city on earth has some areas that are higher in street crime, and the dangers in Greece are no different. Moreover, accidents can happen anywhere. You can go to what you think is the safest place and can still experience something unimaginable. Crime in Greece is primarily based on theft and addictions, and they’re controlled and limited to certain neighborhoods in Athens. 

This makes Athens one of the safest tourist destinations, which is why nothing should stop you from enjoying Greece’s natural landscapes and experiencing Athens’s deep-rooted history.

Just make sure to educate yourself, keep your valuables safe, keep an eye on your wallet at all times, and always stay ready for the worst-case scenario. 

So long as you take common sense precautions like keeping your personal belongings close to you, you can be sure to answer your travel companions “no” when they ask you, “Is Athens a dangerous city?”

Comment

  1. Thank you for all your useful tips! Great blog. Very comprehensive & detailed information. Good guide for first time travellers to Athens.

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