I adore Athens. I think far too many travelers come here and leave quickly, just doing the most important sites. But I actually love just hanging out here, getting coffee at Coffee Island and walking around Monastiraki or Omonia. Yet, Athens does have a big city feel to it (though the population is smaller than you might think). So I understand why so many travelers coming here want to know, “is Athens safe?”
Yes, you can safely travel Athens (or anywhere in the Balkans). But there is some common sense travel safety that you should practice when you travel anywhere, and Athens is no exception. So here are some important facts you should know about Athens safety and tips for staying safe here.
Is Athens Safe? 5 Things to Know about Crime in Athens
Here are five facts about the current state of crime in Athens that you should be aware of. I address how to protect yourself in the next section. So while these things exist, there are things you can do. Being aware of them is the first step.
Tourist Scams are Alive & Well
According to the Greece 2018 Crime & Safety Report:
Street crimes (pickpocketing, purse snatchings, mobile phone theft, other crimes of opportunity) continue to be common. The majority of these cases occur within the popular tourist areas and on the Metro system (rail and bus). Many of the incidents involve multiple perpetrators using various methods to distract their victims.
Reported Sexual Assault is Low for the Population Size
There were 157 cases of rape reported to the Athens police in all of 2017. Of course, sexual assault is heinously underreported worldwide, and travelers should still be vigilant in situations that pose a higher risk for sexual assault.
Crime increases in Omonia, Syntagma, and Exarchia during Protests
Greeks love a political protest. Stay away from Omonia, Syntagma, and Exarchia during political protests since these areas see violence and pickpocketing increase when the tensions rise and the crowds grow.
Easter Festivities can Involve Illegal Fireworks
This one is pretty unique to Greece. According to the Greece 2018 Crime & Safety Report:
Visitors during Easter are strongly urged to exercise caution when attending the celebrations that occur at midnight on Holy Saturday. Festivities normally involved the large scale use of fireworks, some of which are homemade and illegal. There have been incidents in which spectators have suffered severe, sometimes fatal, injuries.
The Terrorism Threat in Athens is Medium
The U.S. Department of State has assessed Athens as being a MEDIUM-threat location for terrorist activity. There haven’t been incidents aimed at tourists, but if a terrorist incident happens in a public place a tourist could be involved. There are one or two small terrorism incidents in Athens every year, but they are typically aimed at politicians and international officials.
So is Athens safe?
Yes, I think Athens is as safe as any other large city of its size. Tourists are at risk of the kinds of crime specifically aimed at tourists, like pickpockets, tourist scams, etc. This is the same as any other city that receives a lot of tourists.
10 Common Sense Athens Safety Tips
So Athens is safe, but you still have to use common sense because no place is one hundred percent safe at all times.
1. Know what to do if something goes wrong.
Having a plan for what to do if there’s a problem is the first step in making sure that you stay safe since you can take immediate action in case of an emergency.
The main phone number for emergency services in English is 112. If you are a victim of a crime, the central police phone number is 100. The Athens tourism police can be reached by dialing 1571. For incidents believed to be racially-motivated, please contact 11414.
However, if you feel you’re the victim of harassment by the police, then you should reach out to your embassy. For Americans, this is American Citizen Services at +30-210-720-2414. For after hours, weekends, and holidays, call the Embassy Receptionist at +30-210-720-2490.
2. Have your travel insurance information handy.
Since you’re a smart, safety-first kind of traveler, you know it’s a good idea to get a travel insurance policy before you leave for your trip.
But what do you do with it once you have it? First, it’s a good idea to have easy access to your policy information so you can make a claim if needed. You can also give the policy info to an emergency contact who’s not traveling with you. In a worst-case scenario, they can access the benefits to help you if you’re unconscious.
Something no one likes to think about: In an absolute worst-case, your family can use the policy to have your remains repatriated (provided this is part of your coverage, obviously. I look for policies that include this). No one likes to think about this stuff, but it would be worse if something happened and then your family had to figure out what to do.
Of course, the most likely scenario is you have travel insurance and everything goes right on your trip. That would be awesome. You’d have the peace of mind while you travel but you wouldn’t actually need to deal with anything.
3. Keep Your Money Safe
The safest way to travel in Athens is to use your credit cards and debit cards whenever possible. You can get cash out from ATMs, which have a better exchange rate than the money exchanges. Try to only take out the cash you need for a few days.
Make sure you use official ATMs. Stay away from the ATMs in night clubs or other ones that look disconnected from a business. These can be scams. I prefer to always use an ATM connected to a bank.
Never flash your cash when out in public. I like to put a twenty or a ten in a separate pocket so I don’t have to get out all of my cash when I need to buy something. I also like to have a coin purse so I can just get out my Euro coins when I want to buy something small. No one but you should be aware that you have more than twenty Euros on you.
Don’t keep all your cards and cash in one place. Split them between your person and your hotel room. While it’s a small possibility that you will be mugged or your hotel room robbed, both are REALLY unlikely to happen on the same day. The safest thing to do is keep your money in two different places so if something goes wrong in one place, your money is safe in the other.
4. Have a hard copy of your card numbers, phone numbers, and your passport
If something does go wrong and your cards and passport get stolen, you need to be able to get them replaced. Have a hard copy in case your phone also gets stolen. This way you can call your banks, your embassy, and then your travel insurance company to get everything replaced without needing access to the internet.
5. Enroll in your government’s safety traveler programs
If your country has a program for traveler safety, enroll in it. I am enrolled in STEP, which stands for Safety Traveler Enrollment Program. This is an American program that allows me to tell the State Department my travel plans. In return, they email me if something happens on the ground (like a political protest) or another incident.
I didn’t enroll in this program for Greece, but I did for my trip to Tunisia because there were protests happening in the capital. However, it’s completely free and a great resource for American travelers, so you can use it for any trip abroad.
I’m not sure which countries have similar programs, so you should check yours if you are not an American.
6. Think anti-theft
I use a special personal bag for my day bag that has anti-theft features like RFID technology, complicated zippers, and extra clasps. It’s not 100% theft-proof — nothing is — but it does make it a lot more difficult for a pickpocket to get to my wallet and passport. It’s called the Pacsafe Citysafe, and I’m a little obsessed with it. Pacsafe also makes smaller bags that look like traditional purses, but are packed with TONS of safety features, but this is our favorite.
If you keep your wallet tucked into the appropriate pocket, don’t flash your cash, and keep your bag closed, as this will be much harder for someone to pick your pocket.
7. Don’t leave your stuff unattended
It’s tempting to leave your bag a few feet from you or your cell phone casually on the table. But try not to ever be in a situation where someone could run up and grab your stuff. I like to sit with my bag wrapped around my chair leg when I’m sitting outside.
You can’t be one hundred percent theft-proof out in public. But your goal is to look like the person who would be the most difficult to rob so that pickpockets and petty thieves move on to easier targets.
8. Pay attention to your surroundings
I once stopped a guy from pickpocketing me in Milan because I saw him reaching to my bag out of the corner of my eye. Keep your head on and pay attention whenever you’re out in public. Don’t get lost in your phone on taxi rides and only sleep in the taxi if there’s at least one other person traveling with you who can pay attention.
9. Be cautious at night or when drinking
A common scam in Athens is for people to invite you into their taverns, and then overcharge you for drinks you might not even have bought. So you actually need to be cautious at night before you even start drinking!
Of course, once you’ve had a few drinks you need to be even more cautious. Never leave your drinks unattended. If you’ve had too much to drink, don’t walk back to your accommodations even if they’re close. Instead, take a taxi home (though ordering it with a taxi app like TaxiMe or BeatTaxi is best to avoid taxi scams).
10. Women need to be extra cautious because the world sucks
Yes, sexual assault in Athens is low, but female travelers should still be cautious, especially in scenarios where alcohol is involved. Use the same caution you would to protect yourself at home.
Where to Stay in Athens
If this is your first trip to Athens, figuring out where to stay in the city can be a bit intimidating. Because of the location of the Acropolis, it really matters which neighborhood you choose to stay in, especially if you’re looking for Acropolis views, easy access to the metro, and a good value for your money.
For our hotel recommendations, Generally, budget means hostel beds for around $30 a night and singles/doubles for around $50, mid-range is from about $50-100 per night, and luxury will cost over $100 per night. However, note that availability, time of year, and how much in advance you book will play a role in how much accommodations cost in Athens.
Budget: If you want a hostel dorm bed in the heart of Psyri, check out the Acropolis Hostel. This basic-yet-clean hostel boasts what very few in the world can: Acropolis views from its communal terrace. You’ll enjoy having access to an elevator (no lugging you bag all the way up to your room), and you can enjoy the lively neighborhood atmosphere and come home when you want since the hostel has no curfew.
Mid-Range: For my most recent trip to Athens, we stayed in a couple of different places, but my favorite was the Ares Athens Hotel off of Omonia Square. I loved it’s location, close to Omonia station, across the street from a Coffee Island (my personal version of Heaven), and with views of Mount Lycabettus. The rooms are clean and comfortable, and each room has a private terrace.
Luxury: If you are a traveler who loves having stunning hotel views, book a stay at A for Athens, a boutique hotel in Psyri that has what is considered by many to be the best rooftop bar in the city. You can also enjoy Acropolis views from the panoramic terrace during breakfast, You can even get amazing Acropolis and Parthenon views from some of the rooms. This hotel is basically Instagram crack.
Don’t see a hotel that’s the right pick for you? Check out our complete Athens Neighborhood and Hotel Guide.
More Greece Travel Resources
Headed to Greece? We have some great travel resources to help you with your trip. First read our guide to planning a trip to Greece, which covers visas, budgets, vaccines, and much more. We also have a Balkan currency guide which explains how money works in Greece and local tipping customs.
We publish new content about the Balkans almost every day! For more information about traveling to Greece and the Balkans, bookmark our Greece and Balkan travel pages so you can find out what’s new before your trip.
Finally, Make Sure You Come to Athens with Travel Insurance
I’m sure you’re aware that it’s a good idea to have travel insurance for traveling in Greece, the Balkans, or anywhere in the world! (Of course, you are, because I already talked about it in this post, but I digress).
Allison and I have both been paying customers of World Nomads for the last three years. We love the peace of mind it gives us in case of emergencies, accidents, illnesses, theft, or trip cancellation or disruption.
While we hope we’ve made it clear that Athens is perfectly safe to travel around, there’s always a risk inherent in everyday travel like theft or injury, so it’s better to play it safe. The saying goes “if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel” is true!
Stephanie has been living in and traveling around the Balkans for the past three years. She’s written for National Geographic Online, appeared on CNN Arabic and in the New York Times, and ridden more Balkan buses than is good for a person.