While you're in Athens you will probably take a stroll in the Plaka district where you can do some shopping for Greek souvenirs.
While I was shopping there with my friends, there were a number of people on the streets trying to sell rubbish. The hardest ones to avoid were these older women trying to get us to buy their white table clothes. Simply saying 'no' didn't work. The women were SO anxious to get rid of the cloths that they kept downing the price until it went from 120 Euros to 10! Regardless though, I wasn't interested, so I smiled and shook my head.
I learned fast though that ANY friendly gesture whatsoever (a smile, eyecontact, or saying 'no thanks' instead of just NO) does not even register into these peoples heads, and they think it means you really are interested in what they're selling even though you're saying no. It got to the point where the women were even yanking on my shirt, saying "buy, buy buy" and didnt want to let me leave until i agreed!
I had experiences like this several times in Athens, as well as in Turkey. Some of the salespeople are very pushy to the point where they will almost grab you, or pull you.
I found that the best thing to do is to make no eye contact with them at all; dont even glance at the product if you don't want it...don't smile, dont say thanks any way...just keep walking and say no.
You will find many interesting people doing stunts, or crazy things on the streets to grab peoples attention. I once saw a woman painted completely blue, her costume was blue too; she looked like the genie from 'Aladdin.'
I stopped to take a picture of her because she was so hillarious. But then she expected me to pay for the picture I just took of her with my own camera!
You have to watch it, sometimes these people are doing odd things just to get people to take pictures of them so that they can make some money.
Here's the picture I took of that blue lady. See her motioning for me to come pay her for the photo?
This is one I read about in a guidebook before going, so I didn't get caught, but it wasn't for lack of trying. Men walking on their own in or around Syntagma Square are approached by a local who starts a conversation, then says they know a good bar and invite you to go with them. Once there you meet attractive women who ask you to buy them a drink, and you get stung with a huge bar bill. Like I said, I didn't get caught, but I did get approached several times. One guy started by asking me the time, which led to a conversation about where I was from, which football team I supported… they are persistent, and the best approach seems to be to say no firmly and laugh it off in a 'I wasn't born yesterday' manner. It's a shame to have to be so suspicious as the Greeks are in fact very friendly.
Beware of false policemen working in the Makriyanni district in the nice neighborhood!
I've seen a tourist being approched by a man asking for directions to Syntagma or something of that sort. As the tourist try to help a "undercover police man" equipped with a false policebadge turns up and warns the tourist not to talk to strangers and asking if the tourist has bought drugs, made illegal money transactions etc.
He will then ask to see the tourist's money, gives it back again and then some of the money are missing. These robberies are getting common in Athens, just as "the expensive ladies' bars" are getting more uncommon. I've been living in Athens for longer periods and have seen it happen or heard of it more than twice. So beware - insist to study the policebadge, ask to go to the policestation to get things sorted out or call for help.
BEWARE of any man striking up a conversation with you near Syntagma Square.
I met a man named Nikolas in one of the side streets near Syntagma Square who asked me for the time. It was a sunny day and early on a Saturday afternoon. He was friendly and outgoing and he asked me where I was from, what I was doing in Athens and where I was staying. Then he said he had a brother living in my hometown who had a restaurant. The man was about 60 years old, wore a black felt baseball cap, sunglasses and a sheepskin coat. He was overweight. He said that he had a shop nearby and why not go back and he would write down his brother's name and the name of the restaurant and I could say hello for him. He had not seen his brother in eight years. So I followed him up a few side streets and we ended up on Navarchou Nikodimou Street at a bar called "El Greco." It's just a couple streets away from Syntagma Square. He motioned to the restaurant across the street and said that it was his, but that it was closed now, so let's just go into this bar and get a pen and paper. We do that and instantly I realize that something is wrong. There are two girls dressed like hookers sitting at a table and behind the bar is an Asian woman, about 55, who looks like an ex-hooker. There was no one else. I've seen these sorts of bars all my life and knew instantly what sort of bar this was. He orders an ouzo and orange juice for me (he had mentioned earlier that I should try it) and a whiskey for himself. It was probably iced tea. He tells me to sit down at the bar. I do. And so does he, but not next to me, but rather one stool over. So now there is an empty stool between us. Gee, I wonder who is going to sit there? He begins writing down the names, etc and our drinks are now on the bar. I have a couple sips of my ouzo and orange juice and suddenly a blonde woman sits down next to me. She says that she is from Mykonos but probably she is Eastern European. Not Greek. She asks me to buy her a drink. I refuse. But the barmaid has put out a Champagne glass on the bar for the girl. The barmaid tells me to buy the girl a drink. Then suddenly I notice that Nikolas has disappeared, probably into the back room. I realized that I have to get out of there as soon as possible. I ask how much my drink is and the Asian barmaid shows me a drinks menu and says "Ten euros." Fine. "But finish your drink, what's the hurry?" I take another sip, lay out ten euros, and split as fast as I could. I only had perhaps three or four sips of the drink. At most I drank half of the glass. As a daily drinker I can hold my alcohol very well, but within 15 or 20 minutes I was as high as a kite. I knew instantly that the drink had been spiked with some sort of date rape drug or strong sedative. Certainly they wanted to get me delirious and relieve me of all my money, credit cards and perhaps my passport.
By chance I see Nikolas again and begin following him. He is wandering aimlessly around the streets in his sheepskin coat. He is overweight and his big gut is hanging out. He sits for awhile and smokes a cigarette. He then pees in a doorway. I see him ask other men for the time but hardly anyone pays any attention to him. Then he meets another man and there is a familiar and amicable exchange between them. So I follow the other man who has short gray hair and is about 60ish as well. 5'6". He stops in Syntagma square and I wander past him and pretend to admire the Parliament building. He begins to chat me up. He says he is running a bar for a friend and that there are some girls there and would I like have a drink with him there? I ask him how much he earns for bringing men to this bar. He looks a bit surprised and then says flatly, "15%." And do you ever put drugs in the drinks for these men?" No he says, no drugs. But sometimes a little sugar. Whatever that means. I tell him to get lost and he does. Watch out for the El Greco Bar and any man who asks you for the time or seems too friendly.
There is a common scam that goes on in Athens, where a man will ask you what time it is. He only does this in the hope that you will take your cell phone out to look, and if you do he will snatch it and run away.
If someone you don't know asks you the time, tell him from a wrist watch, or if you don't have one, say you don't know.
This bar scam has been happening in Athens for years, and they do such a good job that even a seasoned traveller can be scammed. After getting money from an ATM I went shopping, and happened to ask a random person for directions to a store. He gave me complicated directions which I could not follow, and then said - "Come, I show you." One thing leads to another and we start talking. He then says that his family owned bar is near by and invites me for a drink. I don't know why I went and kick myself. I was given a full bottle of Heinekin and asked to remove the cap myself and pour myself a glass. I'm not sure whether the drugs were in the beer or the glass. They scammed me 4 ways. 1. Beautiful woman asks me to buy her a drink, I comply, she leaves, bar tender says she ordered the finest champagne on the list. 2. Bar tender takes my 5,000 Drachma Bill and swaps it for a 500, I'm drugged so I don't think twice and give him another $5,000. 3. Prostitutes proposition me, I say no, prostitutes go away. 4. Bar tender doesn't have change, asks me to pay with exact change. Person next to me puts their money on the table and offers to make change for me. Being drugged, I lay my cash on the table, big bills get exchanged for small bills, suddenly I have exact change to pay with. Being drugged, I barely realize that I'm being completely swindled. 5. Drugs wear off, I call them on the scam, demand money back, get mad. everyone in on the scam tries to calm me down, says that the "tourist police" are being called (I later learn that there is no such animal). I walk out and am blinded by the sun, due to whatever they drugged me with. I stagger through the streets, running, scared out of my mind about being arrested, being followed, and having lost a lot of money. I jump on trains, in taxis, etc. and eventually land back at my hotel. Frankly, I feel lucky to be alive and can't believe how stupid I was. I went back the next day to try and find the place but was unable to. It was somewhere North of Placa, the main tourist trap shopping area near the old neighborhoods leading up to the Acropolis. I was somewhere near the new underground subway station that was being built at the time (it was either during 1999 or 2000)
Your story of the lost tourist and the fake policemen is exactly what happened to my husband and I last Sunday, Nov. 18th 2007.
We were on Vouli Street walking toward the Electra Palace Hotel when a small man asked us for directions to the Acropolis. Out of nowhere, two "policemen" appeared, dressed in leather jackets and who flashed a badge.
The routine was the same. I handed them 1200 dollars and some euros. The big one handed me back my money, while keeping 9 one hundred dollar bills. I caught on to his scheme and grabbed him, while screaming "you are stealing my money, help, help." He dropped the money on the ground, saying "you dropped it, there it is".
The "lost tourist" stayed behind acting as though nothing happened.
I have been having nightmares ever since, wondering if they were really policemen.
I wonder why they didn't run off with my money. What scared them off? It was Sunday morning and there were no people around.
I was not aware of the bar scam, but managed to see this first hand. I bumped into an elderly gentleman called George not far from the acropolis underground who looked impeccable - he had a nice tag watch (probably fake), lots of money in his wallet and very well dressed. He told me the acropolis was closed for the day (this was around 5pm) and so suggested he buy me a drink nearby and tell me more about it's history. Regrettably I trusted his kind face and followed him to a small cafe in the plaka area. Weirdly enough he took me to an empty cafe, near the back and offered me a drink, then this girl behind the bar sits down with us and asks us to buy her a drink (champagne). After my OJ, her big fat boss walks in and hands us the bill. €210 each!!!! I of course was shocked so I got up and wanted to leave, but the big guy was in my way. George of course paid his €210, but I only coughed up €20 as I kept my other euros in a hidden pocket and then ran for my life!!! The fat boss wanted to take my credit card!!! Beware of this old man near the acropolis! The message here is don't be stupid and DON'T TRUST ANYONE!!!!
I HAD MY WALLET STOLEN FROM MY BUM BAG WHICH WAS TURNED ROUND SO IT WAS ON MY BELLY WITH MY T SHIRT OVER THE TOP SO ITHOUGHT IT WOULD BE SAFE BUT SOME GUY AT THE BUS STOP UN ZIPPED IT AND TOOK OUT THE WALLET AS WE WERE GETTING ON THE BUS I COULD FEEL SOME ONE PUSHING AGAINST ME SO IT MUST HAVE BEEN HIM. FIRST PROBLEM I HAVE HAD LIKE THIS IN 20 YEARS OF TRAVEL TO GREECE. TOLD THE POLICE BUT THEY WERE USELESS DIDNT EVEN GIVE ME A CRIME NUMBER FOR MY INSURANCE.
Hello All. Been there. They wanted to rob me in bright day light as well. I met a guy, he said he's a tourist from Italy, he went my direction so we talked for a bit. He offered a dring in a pub nearby. And it was near, so I agreed - why not have a nice cold drink in the hot. We went into Hollywood Pub. I ordered an Ouzo, he too, then the waitress joined and asked if we could buy her a drink -we agreed to share the bill. Little chit-chat and the bartender brings a bill for 300 EURO. The Guy takes out 150 like nothing happened. I say -it's way too much. They block my way out and want me to pay. Luckily I had 50 EUR with me and gave them only 30 from my one pocket. But they wanted more, so I sy I'm calling the police. They won't let me use the phone. So what I do, is I push away the bartender away, jump the table and chairs and run out of the place. I find a policeman, ask for help, but he only points me to the police station to search for help there. Overall long story with the police and a couple of hours lost, but in the end after some more sightseeing I return early evening to that pub and call the police station where I was earlier as we agreed with the lady officer that if it would be open she would send a patrol there. It was open, police arrived after 45 mins!!! The bartender was fu**ing surprised to see me and the police. There was no discussion, as soon as he saw me he had my 30 EUR in his hand to give it back to me. All in all- a happy end, could have ended differently had they drugged me. Maybe a lesson learned for them and will think twice before trying to fu*k a Polish tourist again :) Police told me they know about it but....it's Greece, so what can u expect.
Like others I was scammed in Athens, approached by a friendly man the weekend of the recent elections. He asked me the time Sussex my nationality and then spoke for 10 or 15 mins saying how he was returning from working in IKEA before saying he would get his business card for me. He talked confidently and was friendly he suggested a drink and we ended up in El Greco. Now at this point I started to think this was not right. I had a beer he had a vodka and orange and he bought the 2 bar staff a drink. I didn't think much of it as it was his round. The girls were friendly asking loads of questions they asked for another drink and at this point i knew it was a scam. Nicholas feigned dismay at the price of the drinks 80 euro for 4 and I parted with 40 euro believing it possibly may have been we had both been caught out. Not happy that night I did some research and realised I'd been had.
The following day I worked out where the bar was and waited to the evening to go back. I found "my friend" leaving the bar... Clearly he was in on it so I confronted him in the street threatening to get the police as they were everywhere due to rallys.
Long store short I got 35 euro back agreeing to pay 5 for my beer. Have to say it left me with a very bitter taste of Athens, but I've learnt my lesson