The economic crisis of 2009 has made a major impact in Greece. Although it remains a fully recommended tourist destination, there is no doubt that many things have gotten worse. When I was there in 2008 the Greeks were basically happy, everything was peaceful and good mood. I have seen very little of that in present-day Greece, where kindness has been largely replaced by long faces and bad manners, even in professionals whose jobs depend on tourists, such as waiters and drivers. The problems reflected here are extensible throughout the country, but as always, they occur most in large cities such as Athens or Thessaloniki. Since the former is much more touristy, we will focus on it. In small cities and in the Greek islands, the risk of a relevant problem is practically nil and limited to some not-so-professional drivers.
PROTESTS AND MANIFESTATIONS
Moods have calmed down a lot in these 8 years, and except for occasional events, the possibility of being immersed in a manifestation or any type of mass popular act is practically null.
In 2008 as I say, the Greeks were happy and carefree, there was a lot of money, everyone who wanted had a job and crime rates were among the lowest in Europe. The Athens of 2017 has the unfortunate honor of being the city where I have seen the passers-by are most strongly holding their valuables, and I do not mean Asian tourists chastened of pickpockets, but most them were chastened Athenians walking around Ermou, the main shopping street in the city, with their bags and backpacks placed in front and firmly attached, which I do not remember seeing in 2008.
In main areas and public transport, the danger comes mainly from the mentioned pickpockets, but there are three areas related to tourism where more caution should be used:
- Surroundings of Omonia. This area is on the way between the main one and the National Archaeological Museum. In 2008 it looked ragged, but it did not look unsafe, at least during the day. It has now been worsened by problems related to prostitution and drugs, and should be avoided at night.
- Following this recommendation is even more important in Piraeus, which if it was one of Greece’s most dangerous places in 2008, now has not changed for the better. Just leaving the metro station in October 2017 I had the impression of being in Egypt, and I would have felt more confident having been there. The point is that everyone who is going to take a cruise or a ferry can not avoid it, so be alert, especially at night.
- The last area to avoid is the main bus station; when I arrived in 2008, it reminded me of shabby villages in Argentina. In 2017 I have not been there.
Global crime rates are objectively somewhat lower than those of other European capitals such as Paris, Dublin, Rome or Brussels, but there is one characteristic that differentiates them: most crimes in these cities, although occurring in urban centers, do not occur in areas so frequented by tourists.
Even after these warnings, there’s no need to be paranoid, Athens is not Venezuela or Brazil, it is a safe city if you apply common sense. Nobody should be discouraged to visit it because of these aspects, you just have to take precautions at night in certain areas and be aware of pickpockets.
There are many cases of drivers who do not want to use the taximeter and unnecessarily long drives. In our case, we were just in time from the airport to Piraeus to embark on a cruise, so we asked the flight attendants if they recommended taxi or subway; the mere mention of the taxi made them laugh, later they shook their heads and added “taxis in Athens are not a good idea”. Finally we had no choice but to take one to go from Piraeus station to the cruise terminal, and the taxi driver not only put the meter and drove there directly, but he also had printed a receipt without even having asked for it, so our only experience was positive.
In any case, it is said that in the port of Piraeus the scams related to taxi drivers are more frequent, and it should be added that taking the taxi inside the port supposes an extra fee. Therefore, it is best to leave the port to the main avenue and hail a taxi in the street.
HEAT IN SUMMER
Temperatures can exceed 40ºC many days in July and August, so be well prepared. To this, must be added the agglomerations that occur in the Acropolis in high season, which can result in an unsatisfactory experience.