Is Athens a safe city?
Before I visited Athens, I hadn’t heard good things.
Fellow travellers told me that they didn’t feel comfortable walking around Athens, and that the city as a whole just felt sketchy.
When it comes to Europe, I consider myself pretty well-travelled.
I’ve been to many places that people deem ‘unsafe,’ including most of Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and even the pro-Russian breakaway state of Transnistria, Moldova.
I’ve also lived in Palermo, Sicily, where organised crime is still very much an issue, and where there are certainly places I wouldn’t walk alone after dark.
I’ve never had an issue.
Still, I was nervous about Athens.
With so many people telling me that the city felt unsafe, I was paranoid that I was going to get mugged the second I arrived.
Spoiler alert: I didn’t.
In this post, I discuss safety in Athens, including Athens crime stats, pickpocketing, common tourist scams, areas to avoid, and whether Athens is safe for solo female travellers.
So, how safe is Athens?
Let’s take a look and see.
Is Athens Safe? Athens Safety Tips for 2023
Named after Athena, the Goddess of Wisdom, and taking the crown as the birthplace of democracy, philosophy, and the Olympic Games, Athens certainly has an impressive history.
Over the last 15 years, however, things haven’t been all sunshine and rainbows for the Greek capital.
The financial crisis of 2009 left the Greek economy on its knees, and the refugee crisis, which began in 2015, only added to the strain.
With thousands of refugees forced to live destitute, often turning to drugs in order to survive, certain corners of Athens can feel a little seedier, or even less safe, than others.
It isn’t unheard of to see people shooting up drugs in broad daylight on certain streets, and the overflowing dumpsters, crumbling buildings, and prevalent graffiti don’t exactly make Athens look like the picture of innocence.
However, what the naysayers don’t talk about is that these things do not make up the whole of Athens, or even a significant part.
While some neighbourhoods are a little rough around the edges (more on that later), they don’t represent the majority, and contrary to popular belief, a bit of graffiti won’t actually kill you.
I believe that Athens is one of the most underrated cities in Europe and a very safe city, but you don’t have to take my word for it – let’s have a look at the numbers.
How safe is Athens?
The crime rate in Athens does not suggest that Athens is a dangerous city.
According to the Global Peace Index, there were just 76 homicides in Greece in 2020, at a rate of 0.75 homicides per 100,000 citizens.
To put that number into context, the homicide rate in the UK is currently 1.1, and the homicide rate in the US is a whopping 6.4.
According to Numbeo, in 2020 the crime rate in Athens was less than that in Dublin, Rome, Catania, and more!
Of course, Athens is still a big city, and you should exercise caution as you would in any big city, but overall, Athens is safe.
Terrorism in Athens
The US Department of State categorises Athens as a MEDIUM threat location for terrorist activity, but this is more of a general categorisation of Europe rather than Greece or Athens specifically.
The minor terrorism incidents that have occurred in Athens in recent years have been aimed at politicians and other officials rather than tourists, although of course the possibility of a larger attack can’t be completely ruled out.
The biggest threat to your safety in Athens is probably pickpocketing.
Major tourist attractions, crowded areas (such as Monastiraki Square), and the metro, tend to attract pickpockets, so you should be extra vigilant in those places.
Public transport in Athens is excellent, but metro stations and crowded buses/trams are definitely somewhere you should be extra vigilant.
The blue metro line from the airport to the city centre makes perfect sense for a pickpocket to hang out on (although I should say that I’ve taken this route several times and felt perfectly safe).
When using public transport in Athens, keep your valuables on your person (not in your back pocket), don’t leave anything important on the luggage rack, and be very aware of your surroundings at all times.
Is Athens safe for tourists?
Is Athens a safe city?
YES, but it does have its fair share of people who want to scam tourists.
These people usually lurk around popular tourist attractions such as the Roman Agora and Monastiraki Squre, as well as in metro stations.
A pretty simple rule of thumb is simply never trust a friendly stranger, even if they do seem really eager to help (especially if they seem really eager to help).
Here are some more specific scams in Athens.
If someone invites you into their taverna, always check the prices on the menu before you order (never order from a menu without prices!) and double check the bill before you pay.
Similarly to the well-known restaurant scams in Rome, some restaurants will try to overcharge or short-change tourists, and it’s much easier to avoid the situation in the first place than it is to get out of it.
There are some people in Athens who will insist on giving you a ‘free’ gift, usually in the form of a bracelet or rose.
No matter how genuine they may seem or how insistent they are, do not take the gift, and just walk away if they aren’t giving up.
This is a common tourist scam that always results in the person demanding money from you, and they can often become quite aggressive when you refuse.
Athens taxi scams
Just like anywhere else in the world, Athens has its fair share of unscrupulous taxi drivers who will try and take advantage of tourists, given half the chance.
I recommend downloading and using the BEAT taxi app, which is just like Uber, in order to avoid inflated tourist prices in taxis.
If you have no choice but to take a regular taxi, always make sure that the meter is on and agree on a rough price beforehand.
If you do get ripped off, take a copy of your receipt and the licence plate of the car and report it to the tourist police.
Is Athens safe for solo female travellers?
In general, Athens is very safe for solo female travellers.
Greek men can be more forward than men from other countries (although nowhere near as forward as Italians!), so they may try and chat to you, but it isn’t with any malice.
As for sexual crimes against women, reported sexual assault is very low in Athens (considering the population size), although of course it can still happen.
Is Athens safe at night?
Is Athens safe at night?
The vast majority of central Athens is very safe at night. Greeks don’t go out to eat until 10 or 11pm, and the streets are full of people drinking, getting ice cream, and drinking coffee until very late at night.
One place to steer clear of late at night is Filopappou Hill, where there has been a recent rise in robberies (during the daytime, Filopappou Hill is absolutely fine).
You should also exercise caution in a couple of specific neighbourhoods which I will discuss in more detail below.
Dangerous neighbourhoods in Athens
There are no super dangerous neighbourhoods or total ‘no-go areas’ in Athens.
Instead, there are a handful of places that can feel a little sketchier than others, particularly at night.
Try to avoid Vathi Square, Viktoria Square, Omonia, and Exarchia, late at night.
During the daytime, you should be fine in these areas, although with the exception of Exarchia, which is becoming famous for its edgy vibe and alternative bars and shops, you wouldn’t really have a reason to visit any of them.
On my second visit to Athens, I stayed just outside Omonia, and while I could tell that I was in a poorer area, I never felt unsafe (although it should be noted that I was back in my hotel by around 9pm).
Omonia does have a bad reputation, and this is generally where people are talking about when they reference poverty, homeless people, and people using drugs on the street in Athens.
If you do have to walk through Omonia at night, stick to the the wide main streets and avoid the narrow alleys that intersect through the main roads.
Although you will often find cheap guesthouses in Omonia, it’s probably better paying a couple of extra bucks to stay in a more touristy part of town.
Metaxourgio, which is right next to Omonia, also has a reputation for drug use, although nobody that I asked told me that it was unsafe, apart from the area around Metaxourgio Station (at night).
Vathi and Vikoria Square are not in the city centre, and therefore not places you could easily stumble upon.
Where to stay in Athens
There are tonnes of awesome and safe places to stay in Athens!
Plaka is the most touristy and located right under the Acropolis, making it a fantastic choice.
Koukaki and Makrygianni are also in this area and is a great choice in terms of safety and overall location. They are quieter than Plaka, but still in close proximity to everything.
Monastiraki and Psiri are both buzzing spots to base yourself if you want to be in the centre of things, especially in terms of nightlife.
I stayed in the residential neighbourhood of Pagrati, and while it was a 30-40 minute walk into the centre of town, I really enjoyed my time there and felt super safe. Plus, the metro got me to town in no time, so the distance really wasn’t an issue.
Kolonaki is the bougie area of Athens, where you’ll find high end stores and upscale restaurants. This is also a safe place to stay.
Syntagma Square is home to nice hotels and is also considered a very safe place to stay in Athens. This is super close to Plaka.
Top Athens safety tips
Most of the Athens safety tips below are general tips that you should be using in any big city.
They’re also largely common sense.
Nevertheless, here are some tips to follow for staying safe in Athens.
Important emergency numbers in Athens
It’s always worth making a note of the emergency numbers in whichever place you’re travelling to, and Athens is no different.
Here are some important numbers to keep in mind when visiting Athens.
You should also jot down your home country’s embassy number as well, just in case.
- Emergency services in English – 112
- Central police in Athens – 100
- Fire department – 199
- Hospital – 106
- Ambulance – 166
- Athens tourism police – 1571
- For racially-motivated crimes – 11414
- Domestic violence hotline – 15900
Don’t look like a tourist
If I could give you one piece of advice for every country, it would be this – don’t look like a tourist.
Or rather, don’t look like a hapless tourist (because let’s face it, you’re always going to look like a tourist).
This means walking with purpose (no stopping every 5 seconds to look at a map or gawp at some beautiful building), dressing like you would at home (no t-shirts saying ‘I Love Athens’ please), and not looking totally lost and clueless.
If you need to stop and look at a map, go inside a shop or a bathroom to do it.
Just focus on looking like you know exactly what you’re doing and where you’re going and you’ll be much less of a target to scammers and petty criminals.
Have copies of important documents
It’s always a good idea to have copies of important documents (such as your passport and ID) that you can easily access if something goes wrong.
Hard copies in a plastic wallet are ideal, or you can do what I do and keep photographs of your passport on whichever cloud storage platform you use.
Ensure you have travel insurance
Travel insurance is what’s going to get you out of a twist, whether you fall ill or become the victim of a crime.
SafetyWing is a great insurance company for digital nomads, backpackers, and casual holidaymakers.
Once you’ve got your travel insurance sorted, make sure you have easy access to your policy information in case you need to make a claim, as well as providing your emergency contact with a copy.
Keep your money safe
I’m not going to recommend one of those ‘money belts’ that you wear underneath your clothes, because honestly, seeing people faff around with those things only tells me that they’re massive tourists (in other words, puts a target on their back).
Keeping your money safe is pretty simple – don’t keep your wallet in your back pocket, always keep your money and bank cards separate, and make sure your bag has a good fastener that isn’t easy to get into.
It’s also a good idea to keep a separate coin purse that you can use for small purchases.
Don’t leave your things unattended
This is another no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at how many people leave their phones, wallets, or bags on the table while they run to the bathroom or go to pay the bill.
Never leave your belongings unattended, whether you’re in Athens or elsewhere!
Pay attention to your surroundings
When exploring a new place, it can be easy to get caught up in the excitement and the beauty of it all, but always remember to be vigilant and keep an eye on what (and who) is around you.
You can bet your last dime that if there are any petty criminals in the vicinity, they will certainly be watching you, so do the same thing and never let your guard down.
This is especially important when using public transport and in crowded spaces, such as Monastiraki Square.
Download the BEAT taxi app
BEAT is essentially the Greek Uber, and it is super popular in Athens.
If you download the BEAT app ahead of time, you won’t need to rely on hailing down cabs in the street, which may rip you off. It also tells you the price upfront, so you can decide if it’s worth taking a taxi or opting for public transport.
Is Athens Safe? | Final Thoughts
I hope that this article has shown you that Athens is not dangerous, sketchy, or a place that solo travellers should avoid.
Just like any large city, Athens has its problems – there are opportunists around who pickpocket unsuspecting tourists, and there are certain alleyways that it’s better to avoid after dark.
With that being said, I would much rather walk home alone in Athens than in London, Paris, or Barcelona, and even my home town of Manchester makes me more uncomfortable than Athens did.
As long as you stay smart, stay vigilant, and use your common sense, you should be absolutely fine in Athens.
That’s about it for today’s post, but as always, if you have any questions about safety in Athens then please reach out in the comments section below and I will get back to you!
Until next time,
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