Friday, April 12, 2013

Staying Safe in Athens

Like all major European cities, Athens isn’t without it problems. It’s inevitable that capitals will attract the sneakiest, most experienced criminals wanting to make money off poor, hapless tourists, so we’ve put together a list of the things you can do to prevent yourself from running into problems in Athens.

Firstly, if you’re thinking of hiring a car, be aware that drivers in Greece, and specifically Athens, can be reckless. Drivers cut people up, park where they like and don’t think twice about pedestrians, so be very careful. You can’t control the way other people behave on the road, but be extra cautious and keep your distance from other drivers if possible.

 Pickpocketing is a big problem in Athens, particularly on the Metro. Reports suggest that this is a major issue on the line between Athens Airport and the town centre. Be on your guard and split your money between different locations in your bag and on your person. Do as the locals do and walk around with a hand on your bag, and never leave your bag open or unattended. On public transport, keep it on your lap with your hands covering the opening.

Thieves tend to target tourists as they know they will be disorientated and vulnerable. Beware of excessively ‘helpful’ strangers offering to help you carry bags or who seem to be drawing out a conversation than necessary. In particular, be alert when passing through busy areas. Many pickpockets take advantage of busy, cramped queues for public transport and hotel coaches, and will deliberately cause hold-ups when getting on to create a ‘bottle neck’ effect where tourists find themselves squeezing past crowds of people, allowing them to reach into a bag or pocket to take purses, cameras and phones.

There is also a relatively common scam where a ‘friendly stranger’ will ask for directions in an area popular with tourists such as Plaka or Syntagma, before two men claiming to be policemen arrive and ask if you were buying drugs. They ask to see your passport and wallet to verify your identity, and while you are trying to persuade the ‘policemen’ that you haven’t done anything wrong, money will be removed from your wallet.

 It is also worth noting that there are certain areas targeted by beggars and gypsies who will use children to get sympathy from tourists. Vathis Square and the roads to the right of the National Archaeological Museum have a particularly high concentration of beggars. Sofokleous Street is also considered unsafe as a result of its reputation for drug deals and crime.

About the author:

Emma Lawson is a travel enthusiast who blogs about her adventures in her spare time to help other tourists

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