Athens Travel Guide & Tourist Scams That You Should Know

My love for Greek mythology began when I was young. I remember watching the cartoon ‘The Odyssey’ on television that sparked my interest in Greek mythology and history. Through the cartoon, I had insights about ancient Greece, Greek gods and goddesses, Odysseus’s (also known as Ulysses in Roman myth) epic voyage, and the mythical beings he encountered such as the Sirens, Cyclops and the lonely Circe. 😀

Here’s a video of ‘The Odyssey’ cartoon on Youtube:


As I grow up, I became familiarised with Greece’s history. National Geographic history channel and varsity history lessons introduced me to the city of Athens and Sparta, great Greek philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle and Socrates, Greek gods and goddess Zeus, Poseidon, Aphrodite and Athena, and ancient historical sites like the Acropolis of Athens.

But, seeing documentaries and pictures in the pages of books and magazines is not enough for me. I wish to be there and see it with my very own eyes. So, when the opportunity came, I did not hesitate to book a flight ticket to the beautiful city of Athens in Greece – a decision I have not regretted at all.  😀


Athens Travel Guide & Top 7 Tourist Scams That You Should Know

Practically every touristy destination on this planet, including Athens has its own set of tourist scams that we should be aware of. The following are the 7 tourist scams that you should know when in Athens, Greece:


1. Buying A Drink For The Girl(s) At The Bar Scam

This scam usually takes place in a bar. Their modus operandi goes like this: An unsuspecting man enters the bar. A friendly man approaches the man and starts a small conversation with him. He is then introduced to a pretty girl at the bar. The pretty girl asks the unsuspecting man to buy her a drink.

The drink is priced exorbitantly, ranging around €50 – €100. When the unsuspecting man buys her a drink, he is slapped with a whopping bill afterwards. If the unsuspecting man argues over the bill, the men in the bar swell up in size and use the threat of violence to convince the unsuspecting man to pay. 🙁

Another version is where a man will approach an unsuspecting man on the street, make small talk and cordially invite him over to his bar for a drink. He will then execute the same scam onto the unsuspecting man.


2. Cruise & Hotel Trick Instead Of Ferry Tickets Scam

This is a variation of the scam mentioned above. A friendly stranger approaches an unsuspecting man/woman on the street. He makes small talk in an effort to get the man/woman’s attention and trust. He then offers to take the man/woman to his friend’s or sister’s travel agency to buy ferry tickets to a quiet island.

At the travel agency, they tell the unsuspecting man/woman that the tickets are sold out or not available and try to sell or convince the unsuspecting man/woman to buy a fancy hotel stay on one of the Cyclades islands or a pricey cruise package instead.


3. Pickpockets

Athens, Greece is a hotspot for pickpockets thanks to the huge number of tourists and illegal immigrants in the city. 🙁 The easiest places to get pick-pocketed are at the metro, public buses, in a waiting line at the Acropolis, and even while looking at the flights board at the airport.

Pickpockets are opportunistic preys. A moment of negligence is all they need to strike. If someone stumbles into you in a crowd, chances are they have your belongings – a phone, purse, wallet or camera. So, watch out for your surroundings and keep an eye on your belongings.

In the Metro trains, besides looking out for the average-looking pickpockets, do look out for three or more well-dressed men in suits, slacks and good shoes standing together between you and the door. They will purposely block the way so that you need to push through them to pass. When you do, you will be pick-pocketed by one of them. Be careful and avoid passing through these group of men.


4. Common Thieves

In Athens, thieves are known to watch and follow unsuspecting victims withdrawing money from the ATM machines in or near the metro stations, especially in Omonia, Metaxourgio, Monastiraki and Syntagma.

Then, they will wait for an opportunity to strike – usually just before the doors of the metro closes, when they will grab the victim’s belongings before they know what is happening and exit just before the train’s doors closes, leaving the victim on the moving train.


5. What’s The Time? Mobile Phone Snatcher

A lot of people in Athens have also had their mobile phones stolen by scammers asking what time it is. When the unsuspecting victim takes out his/her mobile phone to look, they snatch it and run away.

If a stranger comes up to you and ask for the time, just tell that person that you do not know the time. Most people wear a watch or own a mobile phone these days, so they would be able to tell the time. When asked this question by a stranger, there is a good chance that you are being scammed. Just ignore that person for your own good.


6. Taxi Ride Scams

Although there are honest taxi drivers in Athens, it is not uncommon for taxi drivers to take advantage of tourists not knowing their way around the city. They will overcharge, take on another person while driving or take one to a hotel, tour operator or restaurant where they get a commission from.

To avoid this, ask the locals how much the fare will cost from one place to another and board a taxi that charges the same amount of fare. Also, demand the taxi drivers to turn on the meter. Do not board a taxi that does not use a meter. Refuse their suggestions and firmly insist that they take you to your intended destination.

In Athens, all taxis are required to provide, upon request, a receipt. The receipt should indicate the taxi fare, registration number and the driver’s name. Be sure to report errant taxi drivers to the police. 🙂


7. Bogus Policemen

These plain-clothes police impersonators will stop unsuspecting tourists on the street. They will then identify themselves as policemen by briefly showing a fake police badge. After that, they will ask to see your passport or identity card.

Next, they will ask to see the money you have on you. The reason they will give is there are many counterfeit money around and they want to see if you have any. After checking, they will return your passport and money and leave with some money they have taken from you.

To avoid being a victim, ask to see their police badge again and ask which police station they belong to. Inform them that although they can check your passport or identity card, they do not have the right to check your money. Be firm and warn them that you will proceed to call the police or stop a police car. If you are a victim of such scam, make a police report as soon as possible.


A Walking Map Of The Places of Interests in Athens

I planned the route of the places of interests that we want to visit in Athens based on a walking map. Walking is by far the best way to travel, save money and keep fit and healthy at the same time. 😉 Therefore, using Google Maps, I created a simple route for my sister and I to follow when sightseeing in Athens, Greece.

The starting point of the routes is from the Airbnb apartment we stayed. From there, we made our way towards the nearby places of interests on the map, before heading back to the apartment in a loop. By having the map as a guide, we managed to visit a fair amount of significant sites in Athens and had a fuss free and enjoyable time there.


A walking map of the places of interests in Athens (Akadimias Street) @ Google Maps



In a Nutshell

I hope the information above will help visitors to Athens, Greece have a pleasant and wonderful trip and avoid being a part of the tourist scams’ statistics. A good amount of common sense and streetwise knowledge will make a huge difference in one’s experiences. Be a smart traveller and enjoy your travels to Athens, Greece.
Up next: A night’s stay in a private room of a luxurious apartment in Athens, Greece booked via Airbnb

2 Comment

  1. Sema says: Reply

    Athens good place. But beware of scams, pickpockets. In syntagma square, plaka in Athens. People spray fake bird poop and offer to help wipe with tissue. And ask you to remove your bag , while other guy waits acting to be on phone and pick your bag and run.. had experienced it. But we realized when they seemed fishy…and escaped the worst.

    1. Hi Sema,

      Good to know that you were vigilant and escaped the worst. I agree that Athens is a lovely and beautiful place, but being a touristy area, scammers and pickpockets will find opportunities to prey on unsuspecting visitors. Thanks for the tips and for sharing your experience with us, we appreciate it much.

      Wishing you a great weekend and safe travels.

      Best regards,

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