Athens is a cultural hotspot, considered to be, by many, the birthplace of civilization and democracy. It is the capital of Greece and the country’s largest city. In 2018 Athens was visited by over 32 million tourists, thus becoming one of Europe’s most visited cities, a major tourist destination.
If you plan to visit Athens as well, you should take into consideration that not all the city’s areas are as safe as you might expect. Depending on the situation, you may want to avoid the following ones.
Omonoia is a neighborhood that has a bad reputation when it comes to safety for tourists. Even locals advise avoiding this area, especially at night. Omonoia is well known for beggars, prostitutes and pickpockets, so if it happens that your route takes you through there, keep an eye out for your valuables.
If your accommodation happens to be located in this particular area, keep your important belongings in the room’s safe, avoid going for walks during the night hours and carry your personal documents and money in your inner chest pockets.
Even if you are a charitable person, refuse anyone who is looking for charity and does not give money to beggars. All these could be scams and you have no way of knowing.
If you have children with you it is a good idea to avoid bringing them there. Even in the daytime and in plain sight there are people who use drugs. This can be a terrifying thing to watch for tourists who are not used to Omonoia and especially for the little ones.
Specific places to be avoided are 3 September St. and the roads right of the National Archaeological Museum. Another major street that has become notorious for drugs and crime is Sofokleous St.
To reduce the chances of becoming a pickpocketing or scam victim, you must not act like a tourist. Hide your camera and try not to be easily distracted or confused. Do not fumble with your wallets or bags. Pickpockets search for such easy targets.
Areas where immigrants reside
Even many locals are not happy with the Greek Government’s policy regarding immigrants. In the last years, some central areas of Athens have literally been flooded with immigrants, who are considered by Greek people illegal immigrants. These foreigners along with gypsies are known to practice crimes, mainly pickpocketing tourists and even locals.
The places where immigrants reside are dangerous to pass by during the night. Unfortunately, a young Greek who had just returned home from a trip abroad was thrown off a cliff by a gang of immigrants.
Downtown metropolitan areas and University Campuses
Athens is the often the site of protests. If such events are announced to take place, try to stay clear of Embassy Row, Panepistimou and Syntagma Square. The downside is that these places also include some of the best hotels.
You want to avoid being surrounded by people who take part in such protests. Because you are not of Greek citizenship, police may consider your involvement in demonstrations or strikes as being illegal. These events are more likely to happen during vacations such as Labor Day or on 1st of May and 17th of November.
You can find out about the kind of protests in advance from social media in order to stay out of their path. This could affect your ability to move around Athens or even to travel to and from Greece.
The State Department warns the public that some anarchist groups are known to use student campuses as a refuge. They can be violent and usually gather at the Polytechnic University or in its vicinity. The Aristotle University is another gathering place for them, therefore avoid going there if such groups show up.
Even though media tends to be unsettling, the protests in Greece are civil. Most of the times nobody gets hurt, and usually, the only damage is done to property, instead of other people. If there are a lot of people that show up to protest and the streets become crowded with demonstrators, expect difficulties regarding public transportation and even closures.
El Greco bar and Hollywood bar
There is a classic scam going on the streets of Athens. Around Syntagma Square you may pass by a few elderly men who seem extremely friendly and who will invite you to have a drink with them to the El Greco bar.
They may even go as far as to pay for your drink. However, the drink could be spiked with a drug. They then steal your money and other valuables and disappear. Be wary of this particular bar and watch out if somebody is being too generous in buying you a drink.
Another bar that you may want to avoid if you are a tourist is The Hollywood bar. That place is known to charge insane sums of money for basic drinks. Some tourists claimed that after they have been invited to have some drinks on the house, they have been asked 150 USD for only two drinks.
There is a simple way to avoid this bar scam. Tell the person that is trying to invite you into a shady bar that you are expecting an important message or telephone back at your accommodation. Also, add that he is more than welcome to come with you to the hotel and have a drink with you there. He will not come.
Crowded and narrow places
The easiest places for you to get pick-pocketed by thieves are the metro, the public buses, in the line at the Acropolis and even looking at the flights’ board when you are in the airport. If someone bumps into you in a crowded place, chances are they already have stolen your wallet or smartphone.
A good countermeasure against pickpockets is to use a decoy wallet, that is visible out of one of your pockets and of course, empty. Thieves will go after the decoy and after they steal it, they will immediately get away from you, leaving you safe and with all your valuables still in your possession.
In some places, the sidewalk becomes more narrow. For example, when walking down a street, you are forced to pass between a periptero, which is a kiosk-newsstand, and a fridge that contains drinks, or a postcard display.
That tight spot is ideal for a pickpocket to steal from you. They are extremely skillful when unzipping backpacks, as well. One person claimed that he came back to his hotel room and only then saw that every zipper on his backpack was open.