Safety in busy areas
From my own travel experience, I have a few safety tips for anyone traveling to ANY country.
(Many suggestions below are based on common sense, but everyone has a different version of what common sense is...)
The observations made are not unique to Athens, and many large bustling cities have pickpockets just waiting for that unsuspecting tourist to come along for easy pickings... So here is my 2-cents on the subject of safety when traveling abroad.
1) Please be mindful with your personal belongings. ALWAYS keep your purses on your lap or infront of you, one hand over it and fully closed, your important electronic items/docs/currency under your clothing (NOT in your open pockets), and NEVER leave your electronic gadgets in plain view for others to take notice.
-> I was with a small tour group, and one of the guys in our group had just finished taking a food photo with his smartphone and placed the smartphone on the table without realizing he just invited the neighborhood scammer to come on by. A tall slim dark man began to hover over this guy's shoulder, with a PIECE OF PAPER in his hand -- large enough to cover the smartphone on the table. The distraction of his hovering and not wanting to leave our group alone kept us from realizing that under that paper he was holding, he was sneaking that smartphone into his bag...And eventually the dark man left. Little did we know that was the scam... it was not until the dark man was long gone did the guy in our group realize that his smartphone was gone as well.
2) If you can (and if you know you won't need them), leave your important documents and most credit cards in the safety deposit box in your room. Only carry some currency and one card on you, and these items should be "hidden" as per tip #1 above.
-> I haven't encountered any issues regarding carrying my passport and credit cards on me, but some friends who don't want to carry around their important docs tell me the safety deposit box is a good idea. Otherwise, a good suggestion if you do carry your important docs/credit cards/currency is to have them in an accessible under-clothing billet/wallet that is tucked just inside the waist of your pants/skirt or somewhere on you where it'd take some extra effort for a thief to take it from you.
3) You don't always need to flaunt your good jewelry/ expensive watch/ etc. while on vacation.
If you're on a business trip and have no time to change into something less business-formal, keep your expensive things well hidden.
-> Some of the places you may be traveling to are not in the best economic situation. Take this into account, unless you really don't mind losing your wallet/purse/necklace/expensive watch...Or being the victim to a taxi driver who turns off the meter and decides they want to charge you a bit extra based on your visible blingbling... Be smart about your accessory choices in the areas you're traveling to.
Just a few general tips that come to mind for keeping your important documents and items safe. Traveling should be enjoyable -- one just needs to realize one's surroundings and to always be mindful of where things are, and have backup plans just in case. Happy Travels! :)Related to:
- Women's Travel
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
- Road Trip
Safety in Athens, Greece
I'm a British citizen, and I've been living in Athens for just over 2 years. During this time I've experienced some crime and unpleasantness, but over time I've realised that avoiding crime isn't a hard thing to do. Just don't be stupid. If you walk around with a DSLR camera around your neck, and with an iPad in your hand you're making yourself a target, so try to be subtle. Bring a bag and hold onto it, don't have your expensive electronics out all the time. Avoid certain areas at night, and be civilised with the locals. I've seen too many loud-mouthed Americans loudly complaining and being obnoxious. You'll find that if you're nice to and polite with the locals, they'll be friendly and welcoming in return.
Using the internet makes it easy to avoid demonstrations, which rarely affect areas beyond Syntagma square.
These tips are applicable in pretty much any city, just have some common sense and you'll be fine.
nothing really to worry about
It’s better to book a hotel in advance and try to be in the city center, between Syntagma and Monastiraki if possible so to have the basic districts and monuments around. But even if you live somewhere else there will be for sure at least one bus leading to the center. The traffic is huge some days though so it’s better not to loose all your day in the bus, especially if you don’t have many days to spend in Athens. The bus X95 (5 euro) from the airport will take you directly to Syntagma square.
Athens is one of the safest big cities in Europe, you wont have any big trouble if you just use common sense and watch out for your valuables in croweded areas like in every touristic city. Pick pockets also like the packed local buses/trolley buses. There are a lot of beggars the last years but they don’t show any offensive behavior, just keep walking...
During the night avoid the area around Omonoia square. Syntagma square and Plaka are very safe, you will see plenty of locals walking around because we like to go to clubs late. If you avoid badly-lit streets you will feel more comfortable anyway in any district.
We have a lot, we like to participate but yes, sometimes it’s dangerous because they turn violent, into a fight with the police or other riots happen at the same. The area between Omonoia and Syntagma is mainly affected during big demonstrations, just say away from there during the protests.
Not nice for a tourist but you may fall into a strike that may cause change of your travel plans. The last years the train network has seen lots of strikes but also local transport in Athens, less frequent in ferries. Air Traffic controllers often announce participation in general strikes too, keep in touch with your airline.
The Greeks aren’t good drivers, they don’t respect the signs and their car is their kingdom, the pedestrians are like ants :) Cross carefully the streets and even if you see a green light watch out for any car, they don’t stop sometimes :(
If you want to drive inside Athens, good luck! You will stuck in traffic for good, and the other drivers will drive you nuts in 5’
Finally, take note of 171, it’s the number of Tourist Police (you can call from anywhere in Greece, daily, 24hours) where you can find help if you are in trouble or just have difficulties with services, shops etc call them also to ask anything about bus timetables, boats, general strikes etc
Athens Safe As Most Cities
Athens is as safe as any other city we have visited. We have been here a week and have seen no evidence of thieving or danger. On the contrary, the people here are friendly and most hospitable. The city is no more dangerous than London, New York or Paris.
Beggars in Athens!
You will often come across beggars in Athens.
Some of them exercise this as a hobby because they are lazy to work.
Of course they are not Greeks but all sorts of other nationalities who have come to the country.
Not everyone should be trusted.
The one in my photo is limb okRelated to:
- Road Trip
- Hiking and Walking
Please note entrance into the Acropolis is denied after 1500 hours during the winter months**!! Lots of people turn back disappointed; I guess no one expects a sight to shut so early.
Once in, however, people can stay on for a 'bit' longer :)
They are very concerned about the restoration & preservation of their heritage sights.
** 'Winter months' in this instance means low season for tourism, i.e. between October and mid April. Don't worry, during the peak season it's open till 1900!
However March has temperatures in the 20s, so one would expect longer visiting hours :-( It's due to the fact that more staff would need to be employed, perhaps not viewed as worthwhile when there are not enough visitors.Related to:
- Historical Travel
I'd read in my guide book about stray dogs being a potential problem, and how they can get together in packs. Apparently the solution is neutering them rather than rounding them up and killing them off.
With one serious exception, they were not a problem. A couple followed my around the Acropolis, but they were entirely friendly. The same at the Temple of Zeus.
The exception was when I ran past the Temple of Zeus on the return leg of my epic run up the Lykavittos Hill. 2 or 3 ran alongside me (one of them very close by) barking aggressively. That was scary. I had visions of spending Christmas Day in casualty.
So the jury is out on neutering, as far as I'm concerned. A round up and a whiff of gas sounds better...
(To be clear, I love dogs and the only reason I don't have one is the problem of having it taken care of if I'm going on a trip, BUT whether stray or not, I expect them to be under control at all times and not a threat to innocent pedestrians).Related to:
- Museum Visits
- Historical Travel
While the risk of being pick-pocketed in crowded places in any major city should be common knowledge even seasoned travellers can be caught. Last week, after years of incident-free travel, we were done in the middle of the day on the Athens Metro, between Monastiraki and Omonoia stations on the older green line. This was our first experience and it largely reflected our own stupidity in letting our guard down after so many years without trouble. Worse, we knew beforehand that this part of the Athens Metro is a high risk area. Nevertheless the experience left us very wary about using the metro thereafter, particularly after being subjected to another but unsuccessful attack in the same place the next day. The brazenness and the skill of the pickpockets is unbelievable.
We had first travelled by the newer metro from Athens airport to Monastiraki station in the city centre without mishap or concern; despite carrying a suitcase and backpack each. Changing to the green line brought us into a stream of lunchtime commuters travelling through Omonoia and Victoria on the green line. We inevitably stood out a mile. As we moved to board the train we were effectively and somewhat frighteningly forced by the crowd into the carriage. We ended up being trapped near the doors, unable to move. The risk was obvious but there was nothing we could do about it; we realised what was likely to happen but could do nothing to prevent it.
We felt nothing untoward at the time, but when we “escaped” at the next station, all four zippered pockets on my wife’s jacket had been undone. Fortunately all accesses to our baggage were padlocked and our passports were more safely stored, but 300 Euro in notes was gone. There was some sympathy from one of the local railway police officers and we did manage to file a formal report at the local police station but we knew we were not going to get the money back.
Our concerns were obviously heightened by this event, but barely 24 hours later we were targeted on the train again, between the same stations, this time by a more obvious effort to prevent us getting off the train when we wanted to, followed by a fumbled attempt to take my wallet (not much cash and no cards now).
So fellow travellers be warned; don’t let your guard down for a minute and do be aware of how skilfully these thieves can access your belongings.Related to:
There are lots and lots of dogs on Athens streets.
Most of them, I think, are not actually 'owned'. Those with collars (red and blue especially) are looked after by animal charities (neutered and fed) but I saw quite a lot without collars.
They didn't cause me any trouble, and all seem happy enough just to do their doggy thing, wanderting around, sleeping in comfortable places etc etc.
They are not running in packs, which would be scary.
But don't be tempted to stroke them and, if you are with children, make sure they don't either. I saw one foolish man get nipped for doing exactly that.
If you see a sleeping dog, let it lie undisturbed.Related to:
- Family Travel
If you have walking difficulties....
.....you are going to find Athens difficult.
Very few of the sites and places I visited were truly accessible for wheelchairs. You can see from the photo what the surface of the Acropolis 'wheelchair' route is.
Whoever is pushing will have his or her work cut out.
Pavements are often narrow, uneven and slippery and there are many steps, especially in the Plaka area.
Most sites such as Kermeikos (superb) and Pnyx have only limited access and exploring them if you have difficulty in walking would not be easy.
If you do not have 'normal' mobility I think you must accept that your visit to Athens is likely to be more curtailed than it might be in some other European cities.Related to:
- Family Travel
You may well (and should) decide to go up Lycavitos hill to see the fantastic vity vieews from the top.
You may also decide to take the funicular, because it's quite a climb (with steps) to even get there, let alone to the top.
It's a perfectly normal funicular................ but don't expect views. I was surprised, because I'd assumed it would trundle its way up the outside of the hill. It doesn't; it stays in a tunnel all the way.
It cost 6 euro return (April 2009) and, if I hadn't already paid, I think I would have walked back down.
The views are worth the visit though.Related to:
- Family Travel
Watch your step 2
Keramikos is a fascinating archeological site by the Thissio Metro stations.
It contains part of the ancient cemetery, with superb tombs, as well as buildings and a really lovely museum.
It also contains, to my amazement and pleasure, tortoises!
Watch your step....because I very nearly trod on this baby tortoise, barely 10cm in length and wandering rather sleepily (it was early April) through the grassy site.
I later saw an adult tortoise........much bigger, more easily seen.......but even so, don't stand on them!Related to:
- Family Travel
Watch your step 1
Marble is a beautiful stone.
But when it is used for street surfaces, or for paving, it can be exceptionally slippery. This is the case when it is dry, but when it is wet it is lethal.
There are a lot of marble pavements, steps and surfaces in Athens. Even when attempts have been made to give grip (by chipping holes in the surface) it doesn't really work.
Make sure that whatever you are wearing on your feet has a reasonable grip and do take care. Good footwear may not always be the height of fashion, but it's better than a broken wrist or ankle ruining your holiday!Related to:
- Family Travel
Being that I'm not exactly a frequent visitor of bar and taverns in Europe the following may not exactly be a scam but policy but I think its worth noting. While at a bar in the Plata section of Athens with a friend we were scammed out of 75 euro per person. We were sitting at the bar and the two female bartenders who took our orders started talking to us and then asked us if we minded if they had a drink...while I thought it was an odd request I shrugged and said yes as did my friend. After they finished their drink they asked if we minded if they had another...again I thought that was strange...but I just figured they were really polite. Finally after three times of asking our permission for them to have a drink they handed us each a bill that included a 25 euro charge for each of the three drinks they had. They never once mentioned that we were buying them drinks much less the cost. My friend speaks a little Greek and he said there weren't any signs up stating that patrons buy the bartenders drinks without ever officially agreeing to the transaction. We refused to pay and the owner went ballistic and tried to make us pay...we just walked out. So if your male and planning to go drinking in bars that have female bartenders be aware if they ask you permission to have a drink.
At the base of the path leading up to the Acropolis, just after coming through the booth paying admission, is a "patio" area with sculpture type artwork on display. They are not behind any type of protection, and there are no signs saying keep away. Well, my daughter just thought she would pose next to one of these, and we got put in our place quickly! There was an ancient looking woman sitting off to the side, you would think she was just a tourist resting before continuing on up, but not so! A guard in clever disguise, and she flew up to pounce on my unsuspecting daughter to get her grubby little paws off the sculpture. About scared the pants off her!
So, don't touch, and beware of harmless looking little old ladies...Related to:
- Historical Travel
- Family Travel
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