Athens is considered a very safe destination to visit with a low crime rate. Take the usual precautions to avoid pickpocketing and scams when exploring Athens and you'll have a great time!
Is Athens dangerous? How safe is Greece? Is Athens safe for tourists?
Is Athens A Safe City?
I've been living in Athens since 2015, and find Athens to be one of the safest capital cities in the world. Violent crime is extremely rare, and the vast majority of tourists feel safe exploring Athens during the day and at night. A common sense approach to visiting Athens, such as avoiding isolated areas at night and being aware of belongings will lead to a safe and pleasant stay.
The aim of this Athens safety guide is to give my perspective and insights so that you know what to expect before arriving. Here then, are my thoughts and answers to the is Athens safe question, along with essential travel tips.
How Safe Is Athens To Visit?
The city of Athens in Greece is considered to be a very safe place. The crime rate is extremely low, and you will feel safe as long as you follow common sense precautions. Overall, the vast majority of visitors enjoy their time in Athens without major safety concerns.
Because I want my readers to have a hassle free time in Athens, there are some things you should be aware of.
For example, as with any big city, petty crime such as pickpocketing and bag snatching can occur in Athens. There are a few scams such a tabletop snatching of phones you can easily avoid as well.
In the 9 years that I've lived in Athens, I’ve not had anything lifted or stolen as I’ve walked in the city center. I have seen people in Facebook groups write about two or three similar situations where petty crime has led to the loss of a phone or wallet though.
Let me outline them for you here so you know what to avoid or be aware of:
Athens Metro Safety
Some people who have taken the metro from the airport to the center of Athens have mentioned that pickpockets work the line. They operate in two ways, either subtly lifting wallets, or two or three of them will use a blocking or distraction method while another lifts the wallet.
Personally, I've seen this about to happen only once, and managed to step in between the pickpocket and the tourist before anything happened.
The fact that the tourist on the metro had their wallet in their back pocket (I mean, who does that, really?!) probably made them appear an easy target. The pickpocket got off the train at the next stop, and the tourist was oblivious that they had almost gotten their vacation off to a bad start!
I totally understand that nobody is at the top of their awareness game if they've just stepped off a ten hour flight and onto a busy metro.
Solution – Pre-book a taxi instead. You can do that here: Welcome Taxis
Athens Tabletop Phone Snatching
This one always seems to catch some people out, and locals are not immune from it either! What happens, is you sit down at a taverna table in Athens (they are all outdoor), and like everyone else, you take your phone out to play with it.
Eventually, you put your phone down on the table to talk to the person you are with (depends how interesting Instagram is I suppose!). At this point, someone will walk over, and put a large piece of paper or photo in front of you asking for a donation or money. After a brief conversation, you tell the person you are not interested and they take the piece of paper away and wander off. You then talk to your companion about how irritating it was, and then a couple of minutes later realise that the person (who is no longer to be seen) has taken your phone.
People also leave bags hung over the back of chairs to find they have been lifted also.
Solution – Keep personal belongings in sight at all time, and don't leave you phones on the table – put them away somewhere safe like your pocket.
The above situations account for probably 95% of all the petty crimes I've heard about from visitors to Athens – and locals as well.
Also read: Athens Travel Tips
Is it safe to walk in Athens at night?
Athens is generally considered to be safe for walking at night. The central and well-lit areas of Plaka, Psirri, Koukaki, Kolonaki, and Ermou street are perfectly safe. Areas to avoid include Exarchia and Omonia neighborhoods at night, although recently as these areas become rebuilt, even that is changing.
Place to be cautious in Athens at night include Monastiraki Square and the green metro line. Philopappos Hill is also best avoided after dark as it is more isolated than you might think.
So, let's move on to another side of the issue…
One of the most commonly asked questions I get is about the safety aspect of Athens, and if it's dangerous.
In a way, it always puzzles me when people ask if Athens is a dangerous place to visit. It's hardly a war zone after all! Perhaps it's because of this…
The Speed of Bad News
I thought I'd start this blog post with a quote from a book by Douglas Adams, one of my favourite authors. Although the book was published in the early 90s, it's never been truer, especially in the age of social media.
“Nothing travels faster than the speed of light with the possible exception of bad news, which obeys its own special laws. The Hingefreel people of Arkintoofle Minor did try to build spaceships that were powered by bad news but they didn't work particularly well and were so extremely unwelcome whenever they arrived anywhere that there wasn't really any point in being there.”
Mostly Harmless from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series
Images and headlines flash around the world in milliseconds. One person shares a post in a Facebook group, and suddenly a destination like Athens has been defined by that one experience.
I've noticed this happening with Athens in certain Facebook groups recently. Somebody posts that they've lost their wallet to a pickpocket or they've seen some homeless people, and all of a sudden Athens is “unsafe”.
That's why I decided to address the Is Athens Safe question with this blog post.
But first, what does that question even mean?
Is Athens Safe?
I always struggle to answer this question when asked, because I honestly don't know what the question means.
Is the person asking will they get murdered, is there gun crime, will they get mugged, are there pickpockets, will there be a civil war?
I've been living in Athens since 2015, and none of those things have happened to me.
My girlfriend's lived here most of her life, and none of those things have happened to her either.
Will they in the future?
I don't know.
The law of averages suggests the longer you live, the more things are likely to happen to you at some point I guess.
But from a personal point of view, I find Athens to be extremely safe.
So how true are the negative stories about Athens? Let's put things into perspective…
Is Athens Dangerous?
Right now, the majority of my readers are from the United States. As such, I thought I'd make a quick comparison between Greece and the United States in regards to the intentional homicide rate.
The following figures are drawn from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Homicide Statistics dataset. You can find a summary wikipage here, but of course check out the original sources cited on that page as well.
In 2016, the numbers were:
- 84 total homicides in Greece. Equating to 0.75 homicides per 100,000 people.
- 17,245 total homicides in the United States. Equating to 5.35 homicides per 100,000 people.
Based on homicides alone, the question shouldn't be is Greece safe, but HOW is Greece SO safe!
In fact, Greece is one of the safest countries in the world in regards to homicides.
This means that as a tourist in Athens, the odds are extraordinarily low in regards to homicide. The answer to the question how dangerous is Athens, is not at all really.
Thinking about it, more people from the States should probably consider emigrating to Greece because it's safer!
Petty Crime in Athens
Ok, lets assume when people are asking “is Athens safe“, they are referring to so called petty crime.
Pickpockets, bag snatching, theft from hotel rooms. That sort of thing.
Do these things happen in Athens?
Well, Athens has an urban population of 3 million people. It also receives approximately 6 million visitors each year.
It would be pretty unusual if it didn't happen!
So yes, it does happen.
But petty crime such as pick-pocketing is very far from being an epidemic.
At least as far as the anecdotal evidence of myself and girlfriend and our circle of friends and acquaintances goes.
And whilst I have no figures for this (I did spend a lot of time trying to find some!), I imagine that once again they will be considerably lower per capita when compared with the United States.
How to keep safe in Athens
So, whilst I think the chances of the average visitor to Athens city center being pick-pocketed or robbed are very low, it would be remiss of me not to offer some practical advice on how to keep safe in Athens.
These travel tips will help you avoid scams, let you know which areas to avoid at night, and inform you as to different scenarios where you should pay extra attention.
To be fair, these are normal precautions you can apply to everyday life in any major city.
- Be aware of pickpockets on the metro. If you have a backpack, hold it in front of you rather than on your back.
- When you are in crowded areas (e.g. the Acropolis or a market), pay attention to people around you.
- Use a hidden wallet to hide your credit cards and bigger amounts of money.
- Leave your passport and any unnecessary valuables in the hotel safe.
- Avoid badly lit areas at night.
- Don't leave your cell phone on taverna or cafe tables where it might be snatched
- Steer clear of political protests in central Athens
Pretty standard stuff really.
- Travel Safety Tips – Avoiding Scams, Pickpockets and Problems
- Common Travel Mistakes And What Not To Do When Traveling
Does street art and graffiti make you feel unsafe or uncomfortable?
Some areas in Athens, like Omonia, Metaxourgio or Exarhia, have a bad reputation for drug use. You might even see people shooting drugs. There's also a visible homeless presence.
Does this make the area unsafe for visitors? I don't think so, but you might. Therefore it might be best to avoid them at night, especially if you don't know where you are going.
Some people also find the amount of graffiti in Athens, specifically in those areas very intimidating – it makes the city seem unsafe. It's just spray paint on a wall though, it won't bite you!
Is Athens safe at night?
As with any major city, it make sense to avoid certain areas at night. I would recommend visitors to avoid Filopappou Hill at night, and perhaps certain backstreets of Omonia and Exarchia. People sometimes ask if Monastiraki is safe, and I would say yes it is.
For the most part, visitors to Athens tend to want to explore the historic center so they also stay in these areas as well. These are very safe at night, although you should be aware of typical big city annoyances like pickpockets and bag snatching from restaurant tables or the backs of chairs.
Areas in Athens to avoid on certain dates
There are certain dates, especially the 17th November (Polytechnic Uprising anniversary) and the 6th December (Alexandros' Grigoropoulos death anniversary), where demonstrations and riots will start at certain areas of the city. It's something that happens like clockwork, and so easily avoided.
On those dates, keep clear of Exarhia, Omonia, Kaningos Square, and the area around Panepistimio metro.
Some metro stations like Syntagma Station and some main arteries from Syntagma Square usually remain closed on those dates, so be prepared.
Athens Solo Female Travelers
Women traveling alone probably have a whole set of concerns or issues I'm completely unaware of. As I'm not a solo female traveler, it's not my place to write about it.
What I would suggest though, is checking out a couple of Facebook groups. In particular, look for the Foreign Girls Living In Athens group which is very active and helpful.
You might also want to contact Vanessa at Real Greek Experiences for some of her insights.
On a tongue in cheek final note…
You might now be worried that Athens is too safe, and you won't have an exciting story to share.
Don't worry, I can help you out!
I've got a fun little post here called 28 awesome ways to get robbed the next time you travel.
That should spice things up a bit!!
Seriously though – Enjoy your time in Athens. Be aware but not paranoid. Be mindful but not on edge. And sign up for my free travel guides to Greece, which I'm sure you'll love!
Still not sure if Athens is your thing? Here's:
FAQ About Safety in Athens Greece
These are some of the most commonly asked questions readers have when it comes to finding out whether Athens in Greece is safe to travel to.
Is Athens safe for tourists?
Serious crimes such as gun crimes are extremely rare in Athens. What crime there is tends to be petty crime. Visitors to Athens using the metro system should be aware that pickpockets operate on popular tourist stops, such as the Acropolis metro line.
How safe is Athens at night?
Visitors should be aware that the neighborhoods of Omonia and Exarchia become a little rough around the edges at night. I would personally advise against walking up some of the Athens hills during the night time. In general, however, Athens is very safe late at night in the historic center which is where most tourists will tend to want to spend their time.
Is Greece dangerous for tourists?
Greece is one of the safest countries in the world. Perhaps one area where heightened awareness is definitely recommended is when it comes to driving in Greece. Greek driving can seem erratic and aggressive, especially if you are from a country like the US, UK or Europe where driving is a lot more tame!
Can you drink the water in Athens?
Yes, you can drink the water in Athens. The water is well treated, and the pipe work in the city passes all European safety standards. Some visitors may however prefer the taste of bottled water.
What tourist scams in Athens are there?
Scams differ from petty theft such as pick pocketing, as they often rely on personal interaction in order to carry out the con. Travelers always seem to comment on taxis scams, no matter which country they are talking about, and Athens is no exception. In addition, the ‘bar scam' does still sometimes happen.
Travel insurance should be one of the items to check off on your preparation list before traveling to ensure that you're covered while on vacation.
You'll want to make sure you have trip cancellation coverage of some sort, and personal and medical insurance. Hopefully your vacation in Greece will be trouble free, but it's best to have a good travel insurance policy just in case!
Check out more advice on traveling to Greece here – Greece travel tips for first time visitors.
Dave is a travel writer based in Athens, Greece since 2015. As well as creating this guide on how to visit Athens safely, he's created many others about the Greek islands and destinations in Greece. Follow Dave on social media for travel inspiration from Greece and beyond: