We've been told that there is considerable pickpocket activity. Is this actually true, or an exaggeration? We will be arriving mid-May.
Generally most big international tourist towns have pickpockets not just Athens. I hear about the same thing in Chicago
I would say yes on the Athens metro.
I always have trouble with this question. I don't know what "considerable pickpocket activity IS" or "too common mean." Once a day or ten per minute? The implication is that you are entering a den of thieves and your probability of being hit is high. But I don't know what the probability is for you as an individual to be pickpocketed or even an attempt made on you. Part will depend on what kind of a target your present to the potential pickpocketer. We have traveled nearly a year all over Europe in the past 20+ years (Athens three times) and have never seen a pickpocket, never had any problems and while we have seen a half dozen suspicious activities cannot say for sure that any of the activities were related to pickpocketing. But we have known a couple of people who were hit but they did some stupid things also. We use normal precautions and always wear a money belt - properly - and dress modestly. It has worked for us but doesn't mean that we cannot be hit the next trip.
Paul, really the only places that people regularly report pickpocket activities are very limited... for good reason. These organized theft groups (almost entirely NON-greek elements) target THREE places -- the Metro to/from airport, the Greenline to/from Piraeus, and the crowds in front of Parliament for changing of the guard. The 1st 2 are because people are traveling & have a lot of valuables on thier person and -- if they're Americans and "public transport virgins" they don't know how to conduct themselves when not in their car -- and also because crowding upon arrival at their station promotes pushing & confusion. The 3rd is because again, crowding, plus the distraction of watching the guard spectacle makes people oblivious of surroundings.
I have been in athens many many times, never had a problem really, just because of awareness. If you are in any of the 3 circumstances I listed, simply do NOT carry your wallet in pockets (stats show that vast majority of "victims" are men who refuse to believe they won't notice someone touching their clothes... wrong!). Keep most valuables in big luggage, carry the minimum either in money-belt or (if like me you don't fancy adding bulk to yur waistline) a handy "neck wallet" that hangs down inside the shirt. Both available online.
For the easiest peace-of-mind transportation from Airport, just take the x95 express bus just outside the building. €6, or €3 for senior citizens. Big bags are piled in central "pen" inside bus. Comfy seats; no one can board after airport, only 2 stops before ending in Syntagma Square. Unlike Metro arrival at Syntagma (when u must rush to get out before doors close), the bus terminates there so you can take your sweet time to collect things and disembark. &Unlike metro, where you must escalate & use ramps/stairs to emerge in square. from Bus you step right onto sidewalk. Easy choice if your hotel is within a few blocks.. otherwise u can take a taxi for €5 or so. If there are several of you, a taxi from the airport is quite reasonable; flat-fee €38 to central Athens.
Janet: Thanks for your comments. Indeed, awareness is key. Also not being obvious - I have a nice camera, but will keep it in the camera case as we exit the plane. We use the money belts consistently. We have never been hit, but as Rick Steves was robbed last year, it can happen to anyone. Thanks for your tip on the bus - we will probably do that.
We will stay in Athens for 3 days, then Nafplio for 3 days. Your suggestion on an earlier thread was quite helpful, and we thank you for your suggestions.
We take all of the usual precautions; money belts, neck wallets etc. One thing that dose not get discussed much on these forums in the security of your residence etc. back home. Most posters seem to worry about the pickpockets more than who could be walking out with the stuff in your house while you are gone.
That is an interesting take. Are you suggesting that the probability of your home being broken into while traveling is greater than being pickpocketed? Personally think that the pickpocketing probability is very low while traveling but a home robbery I would think would be even lower. Anyone here had their home robbed while traveling?
Yeah, getting robbed while on a trip would be annoying. I have neighbors who we inform about our trip. That's a big help.
They say that when people notify the immediate world on social-media that they'll be gone for a length of time, that sometimes clever crooks who know how to scan for such info will take note.. don't know how, but could happen. More likely, if people leave signs of absence (newspapers on front steps, cars in drive unmoved for many days), professional thieves in affluent areas may notice.
My amusing example is when living in Manhattan, and relatives from Indiana came to visit, totally apprehensive of Dangers In the Big Wicked City. They had a great time, totally safe, then returned home to find that ne'er-do-wells (not professional crooks) had broken into their farmhouse, drank up their liquor & took a couple of TV sets. So much for VP Pence's Safety State!! he he
In the past, I have done my trips on FB on a day-2-day basis after returning. That way, I give everyone the vicarious trip, I get to make everyone envious, I get to brag, and I do it from home. Plus I don't waste trip time on FB.
Last year on RS tours, we had girls stalking our group when we were inside the Pantheon in Rome and saw our fellow tour mates surrounded by the clipboard girls after coming up from the Metro in Paris, their hands busily dipping into pockets. In both places we were surprised at how brazen they were. Needless to say, both of our Rick Steves tour guides weren’t shy about telling these ‘ladies’ to take a hike. You need to be aware, especially in the larger cities, that you are a tourist and yes, you do look like a tourist so keep your valuables secure.
Frank; not really. The probability of either event occurring is probably very small. I would say that you just need to be aware and take the appropriate steps to protect yourself and your property.
As a regular traveler to Athens and the rest of Greece I have the experience to be prepared for pick pocket scams. I use the Metro from the airport and while it starts out mostly empty by the time you get to Athens the train is packed and everyone is elbow-to-elbow. Once you get off the Metro at your stop it's crowded, congested and everyone is trying to get to the stairs or escalators without considering anything else. For the most part Greeks aren't the problem and this is not an attack on foreigners to Greece but most crime is committed by non-Greeks. I'm not saying you'll be a target but just use common sense.
Keep your luggage, bags and what-have-you close to you, beware of anyone who approaches you out of the blue and starts talking to you while their partner is checking out what they can take from you.
I'm also amazed at the naivety of anyone who posts personal info through Social Media. You are asking for trouble not only back home but also where ever you are traveling to.
Criminals are sometimes more knowledgeable than you are when it comes to taking advantage of people. Don't be one of those silly people who post where they are going, when they are going and where they are at. If you think the government is more of a threat to your personal info think again . . . it's criminals.
TommyK5; you hit the nail on the head regarding Social Media. I believe several years ago, some entertainer posted on her facebook profile about being gone on tour for some period of time. Thieves broke in and stole $200,000 in jewelry. If we post on social media, it way after the trip is over.
Janet - i much appreciate your suggestions regarding transport from the airport to downtown ATH, or, as they say "The Centre". thank you again!
May i make some suggestions to those travelling, not only in Greece, but anywhere in Europe: DON'T look like tourists!
by that i mean, dress like Greeks, modestly, casually but respectfully (say jeans and jacket, nothing flashy, no jewellery, nothing obvious). don't speak loudly in English; keep your purse close to you & be courteous on the bus. The buses are the best way to travel and...you may even get a seat...which you may not get on the Metro.
As for cabs: always ask to see the meter - it is the law that the meter be displayed. however, in the newer cabs, the music screen obscures the meter. you can ask to see it. and...every cabbie i encountered last Oct/Nov 18 spoke English.
There are rules for cabbies: no smoking, no 'dawdling', no stopping to take pics or wasting time. this happened to me once & i refused to tip the driver but...i didn't have less than a 10 euro bill, unfortunately. i did report him to the hotel. my greek friend tells me that ANYwhere in ATH by cab should not be more than 5 Euros and, to tip, you just round it up, altho' i give a bit more because i know the nation is still "in Crisis".
Greece is not known for crime but there are many 'outsiders' (migrants?) camped in gardens/parks along Soph Vassilis/Kifissia St.
Yet, in the Nat'l Garden north east of Syntagma, it is quite a pleasant walk. you may see a group of police guarding,- esp near the Palace. Nearby i saw the 'new' Evzones (the special Constitution guards) practising their foot movements!!
The Nat'l Garden is a very lovely, safe and grand garden near "The Centre" [Syntagma]
by the way, ATH is my favourite city of all! i've always felt safe there.
I would not worry at the airport. The metro yes, it does happen so take some basic precautions. Personally from the airport I prefer to take the X95 bus (I’m not big on the metro with luggage. I pack light but still, anything bigger than a daybag is a hassle). This bus is express from the airport to Syntagma square, has room for luggage, and since it doesn’t stop and there are ample seats it seems less conducive to pickpockets.
Once checked into my hotel I’ll take the metro around as needed. Keep an eye on your stuff and follow common sense and the normal precautions and you should be fine.
Greece is the country where I felt safest of all I have visited.