Is Athens Safe – A Guide To Your Safety In Athens
Located near the Southern tip of Greece, Athens is full of awe-inspiring beauty. With a population of 3.7 million individuals, Athens is the largest city in Greece. Home to ancient world treasures including the Acropolis, the Hadrian’s Arch, and the Parthenon, the ruins and antiquities of Greece’s capital date back to the 5th century BC.
The city possesses some of the most popular tourist destinations, including the National Archaeological Museum, the Ancient Agora, the temple of Olympian Zeus, Syntagma square, and many more.
The inviting Mediterranean climate blends perfectly well with the modern marvels. Despite all that Athens has to offer, travelers often wonder whether Athens is safe. Since the answer is more complex than a simple yes or no, we’ll delve deeper. This piece covers all you need to know about Athen’s safety as a travel destination.
Let’s jump right into the guide on staying safe in Athens, and answer your question on just how safe is Athens Greece.
A Guide To Your Safety In Athens
On average, Athens is a safe city as long as you take precautions as you would in any other city in the world. Most travelers find it trouble-free. The town is free from major crimes 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.
Scams Run In Athens 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. The most common scams include:
- Picture scams
- Taxi overcharging
- Friendly ATM helpers
- Bar scams
- Streetside games scams
- Bird poop scams
Take some time to learn about various Athens scams so that you can identify them when they’re happening to you
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
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 to “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.
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: 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.
Pickpockets In Athens
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
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)
All these areas are relatively unsafe for travelers coming from around the world to Athens.
Omonia struggles with drug dealers, pickpockets, prostitution, addicts, 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 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.
Riots & Demonstrations In Athens
Specific dates when riots and demonstrations start in the city are 1
- 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 above-mentioned areas and the Panepistimio metro area on these dates.
Safe Areas In Athens
Some of the safest places in Athens are Plaka, Kolonaki, and Koukaki.
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 stops. Other than expensive hotels, there’s nothing significantly wrong with this area, especially regarding safety.
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, 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.
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.
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.
Is Athens Safe At Night
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).
How To Get Around In Athens Safely
Pickpocketing is one of the most common crimes in Athens. Petty theft in all its forms, including snatching, robbery, wallet stealing, etc., is quite common in crowded locations 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.
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:
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!
Is Athens Safe For Solo Female Travelers
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 just 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.
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 should always be known just in case things go South. Here are a few contacts 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 crime, and the dangers in Greece are no different. Moreover, accidents can happen anywhere. You can go to one of the safest places 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.
Now you can be sure to answer your travel companions “no” when they ask you “is Athens a dangerous city”.
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