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Athens fighting rise in pickpockets on Metro

When last there 2 years' ago, it was awful going from the airport to the Central City, however, now it looks like it's even worse. I was immobilized by 2 guys while a third went through my backpack which had nothing by dirty clothes-still had to fight our way to the exit door at our stop!

Posted by
33 posts

WOW. Thank you for the article, and I'm terribly sorry about your terrible experience on the Metro. Thank goodness they didn't end up taking anything, and that you're okay. That's pretty scary - "immobilized" paints quite a picture.

Husband and I leave for the Athens tour soon, and we'll definitely keep that in mind. Two years ago, we took the Best of Europe tour, and a couple of young men tried to pickpocket one of the men in our group. And I remember keeping my purse to my chest while squeezed like sardines on the metro in Rome. (Don't think I've ever been that close to total strangers before!)

Husband keeps one of those hidden wallets that hang inside your pants, and I wear my money belt underneath my clothes. Do you suppose the professional thieves are talented at picking bags with anti-theft features, like the ones by Travelon or Pacsafe?

Posted by
2417 posts

If you read that article top to bottom, it does say that (despite the rise) Athens has been less plagued than other major European capitals like Rome and Paris, and that the most-affected place is the Metro from airport to Central athens. There are several reasons
• because people have just arrived, they have all their valuables & cash on them
• The Metro provides good opportunity because it starts out empty at airport but crowds up before reaching center city. In crowds, there's opportunity to bump/jostle standees, steal in the confusion & jump out at next stop. Also, when Metro reaches Syntagma, tourists are struggling to get out with heavy bags before doors close, and can be pickpocketed in the crush.
• Another factor, so many Americans are "public transit virgins," they are distracted by the new experience, and not adequately aware of their surroundings -- "ripe for the picking."

In many trips to Greece, I've always preferred to take the X95 Express Bus to Syntagma Square; it leaves every 20 minutes from curb right outside Airport building -- and there are SO many advantages.
• its 1 hr vs 45 minutes actual travel time -- but it's a "wash" when you add to the Metro travel the time that it takes to cross street, reach platform, wait for train, and at the end to escalate up from depths and climb final steps to street.
• Costs less, if that matters... i think €6 (half price for seniors) and the Metro is ??€8 €10 ? now?
• IMPORTANT - only 1 stop between airport & Syntagma, so a pickpocket could not grab and run
• Big luggage is piled in a central "pen" inside bus, safe & in view of all
• Syntagma is terminus, thus no rush at all to get off, and you step off directly onto the sidewalk.

BTW, the last paragraph of that story says "many of the offenders captured are Albanian." As Greek friends have told me, laughing, petty theft is not part of the Greek culture. Greece has to cope with illegal Albanian immigrants. (not a factor in islands, and not encountered in Athens by most tourists). I recall just a few years ago a big newspaper story about a roundup of Metro pickpockets -- 70 arrested, 69 were Albanians.

Thus -- take the X 95 bus, or a taxi (€ 38? flat fee daytimes), and rest easy. If you need to take the Green Line Metro to Piraeus after your arrrival, put any important stuff in your big bag, and just minimal small change on your person. I've taken the Metro scores of times in my 12 trips, with no incidents... but I'm a seasoned public transit user, unlike many fellow Americans.

Posted by
757 posts

I've used the Metro from the Airport to Central Athens (and back) numerous times and so far have not had any problems. As Janet stated the Metro is fairly empty at the airport but at each stop more and more people enter and before you know it it's jam-packed. Most people (Greeks anyway) will not be out to rip you off but it does happen to less-than-wary tourists and even locals.

The Metro is quick and efficient and gives you more options for stopping closer to your destination. I've never taken the bus so can't speak about it but I would listen to Janet's recommendation for the bus if you are concerned about theft.

Athens is a safe city with little violent crime but pick pocketing, bag theft and scams to get you to buy something you don't want happens. Use common sense like you would anywhere, even back home!

Posted by
106 posts

Be careful you guys. It was on the Greek news as well the last few days many incidents have occurred. The thing is they can single out who is a tourist and they target you the moment they see you. You have to be very careful especially in the metro or when someone approaches you in crowded places like Monastiraki, Plaka etc. Don’t have anything more in your wallet than you are willing to lose. Hide some extra cash in a secret pocket or shoe or just improvise. The main clue is a) not to get distracted b) have your eyes open.

I am always cautious with my stuff because I work in Plaka so I have to be twice as careful every single day. Also be careful when carrying a backpack. I usually like to lay on my back when in the metro so that no-one but the wall can have contact with my precious things. A friend of mine didn't even understand the moment they opened his backpack with a knife. He was listening to music and didn't hear anything!!!

In which station did your incident happened? Usually they act without getting noticed. Your attackers must have been thugs or drag addicts or something :/ Very hard situations. You never know how to react. Survival instincts take place.

Posted by
364 posts

My experience was 10 years ago - so very obsolete - but it had a happy ending:
We were going from our Athens hotel, via Metro, to a car rental location. We got off the Metro and I had forgotten my backpack on the Metro. I hopped on the next one and someone had handed by bag in at the next stop's security office. "Thank you!" There are some very nice people out there!