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Safety concerns - has anything changed?

Hello,

My husband and I are hoping to travel to Europe in September, and Greece is the main major place left on our bucket list that we haven't already seen. However, we haven't been considering it, as we assumed with everything with the economy, ISIS, and migrants, it would be too unstable. From looking on this forum, particularly posts a few months ago, it looks like people were thinking that the area is very safe and that there isn't an increased safety concern. Has anything changed since then or can we go there without too much worry?

Posted by
16883 posts

While you were right to start your own thread as opposed to high-jacking a different one, the responses already posted on the other thread pretty much say it all. Nothing has changed recently and most concerns were overblown to start with.

Posted by
5249 posts

Go for it, commila! You'll find friendly people, low prices, great food, safe cities and countryside.

Posted by
195 posts

Great, just wanted to make sure there was nothing new that is emerging, though I did see in my brief scan that there had been one other recent post about this, so that is reassuring.

The US State Department's website says: "Greece has been the scene of domestic terrorist incidents as recently as 2015. Credible information indicates terrorist groups continue plotting possibly near term attacks in Europe. All European countries remain potentially vulnerable to attacks from transnational terrorist organizations. Greece’s open borders with other Schengen zone countries, as well as its long coastline and many islands, could permit terrorist groups to enter or transit the country with anonymity. You should remain vigilant and exercise caution." This along with the economic condition/proximity to Syria/migrant crisis was leaving us feeling pretty unsure if Greece would be the right choice for us. However, in reading through what everyone is saying, it seems like the overwhelming consensus is that there is no need for concern, so that has been very enlightening to read about today. Thanks guys!

Posted by
984 posts

We are just back from a month in Greece. We were on Crete and Naxos. Everything is normal. The areas you are planning to visit have no migrant issues and are safe.

Posted by
195 posts

Thanks, that is such exciting news! I think we're going to do it! I'm so glad I checked this forum....our misconceptions very nearly made us choose a place further down on the bucket list, but I think - based on everyone's feedback - we can feel good about going to Greece for the first time after all. Can't wait!

Posted by
11450 posts

We just spent 10 days in Greece, on Mykonos and Naxos( loved Naxos.. Mykonos not so much.. too pricey )

We encountered nothing but Greek hospitality.. and saw nothing but beautiful beaches.. flowering bushes against white washed buildings..

We returned about 2 weeks ago.. and it surprises me how many people ask about "the refugees".. honestly.. you are not going to see or encounter any unless you go to Athens and look for the camps.. or perhaps if you visit the islands in the chain nearest to Turkey.. and frankly that is not where most tourists go.. and even if you did.. what on earth are the refugees going to do to you .. nothing has been reported except locals helping them.

I would go back to Greece tomorrow.. and btw.. my daughter, who is only 19 ,, just spent two weeks there with her friends backpacking around ( so not with us) in early May and they felt very safe.. encountered no issues.. and had a ball.. they visited Corfu and Santorini.. so when I say I think you will be perfectly safe I am not just trying to calm you down ..

Go and have fun.. and visit Naxos.. the people are amazing( our rental car broke down in the mountains.. middle of nowhere and locals helped us.. gave us food, drinks, and phoned the rental car company for us.. these people are so nice) ... the food great..( and cheap) and the beaches so beautiful..

Ps I don't think ISIS is that interested in Greek islands.. I think big cities like New York, Paris, London etc would be more their style.

Posted by
31465 posts

commila,

I doubt that anything in Greece has changed, as everything appears reasonably stable there at the moment. The migrants shouldn't be a concern as the majority of them are on Lesbos and other areas. Go for it and I'm sure you'll have a wonderful time.

As this is your first trip to Greece, I'd suggest doing a bit of research on travel there, as there are a few "differences" that you should be aware of (such as the "bathroom etiquette).

Posted by
195 posts

Great, thank you for further confirmation Pat. I'm so glad to hear that I was mistaken about there being any need for concern. Your trip sounds great!

Ken, I hadn't gotten that far into my research, but just looked up what you suggested....that will be a new one for sure!

Posted by
11450 posts

Ken what is the bathroom etiquette???

Posted by
31465 posts

commilla,

Yes, that's the "etiquette" I was referring to. Some people instinctively flush, but the hotel owners will not appreciate that.

One other thing is that in some places you may have to use bottled water as the tap water is dreadful (and may be unsafe to drink). For example, on the island of Hydra the tap water tastes horrible but bottled water is readily available. I found the same situation on Santorini.

Posted by
2855 posts

KEn, the need for bottled water depends VERY much on the location. Santorini for instance, is so dry that a lot of its water has to be desalinated, and of course that tastes terrible. On greener islands, there may be good springs. Sometimes the water is so-so from the faucet, due to chlorination, but perfectly healthu... such as Naxos... and then on certain street corners there are marble fixtures w. faucets, that link directly with springs... and you see locals filling up bottles there, and waiters from restaurants ... so you know its fine. Also, Crete actually has areas whre the local water is used FOR bottling (Zakros brand I belileve), and in the town of Spili, the town square has a "showplace" water-source with 24 brass Lion's Head, from which gush water from the top of Mt. Ida... there again you see locals filling bottles for home use. Finally, anyone who goes to Delphi has a fabulous treat in store -- the local water comss traight from the snowmelt atop the highest mountain there, and is truly nectar of the gods. We were in a little local pizza place, and the watress filled our glasses & we couldn't believe it... swilled a whole pitcher full.

Posted by
31465 posts

janet,

I agree, the water depends very much on the location. Whatever the situation in Santorini, the taste was so bad that there was no way I was going to drink the tap water. On Naxos I was told by the hotel not to drink the water in the hotel due to a high lead content in the pipes. However, there was a spigot in the street a few feet from the hotel entrance that was apparently OK to drink.

Posted by
984 posts

We stayed at a hotel where the owner worked with the Naxos water department for 25 years. They told us it was fine to drink Naxos tap water. In 13 visits to Naxos we have always used the tap water. Granted the water from the spigots in the streets is so pure it is actually sweet.

Posted by
11450 posts

Ah yes .. the toilet paper issue.. its funny hotel we stayed in had a sign in bathroom in our kids suite.. they were on second floor.. but we had roof top suite and no sign in our bathroom.. .I wonder if gravity helps.. lol

But yes.. it is commonly requested you not flush tp.

Posted by
195 posts

Is there anybody more well-versed in politics than I am that can speak to the events in Turkey today, and whether they impact safety in Greece in a new way? Not sure if that changes anything, or if Turkey is a very different situation than Greece. I know that Turkey directly fights against ISIS, but I'm not familiar with whether Greece has entered the conflict. Just bought my plane tickets earlier this week, but having a hard time knowing it's right next door to Turkey and not being put off by coworkers asking "you are still going?!"

Posted by
2855 posts

You are not flying into Istanbul, are you? YOu are not changing planes there, are you? In that case, we are talking about Two Different Countries. To make a parallel, suppose you have a European friend coming to America to visit you in Los Angeles. They write that they are afraid of "troubles" because there was a big riot in Mexico City. What would you tell them? Stay Calm and carry on, right?

Posted by
195 posts

No, not flying through Istanbul, thankfully (though I would have liked to see Turkey). Earlier today I was thinking, like you said, about a comparison to being in the US when there are lots of travel warnings out for Mexico. I think the difference is that the Istanbul airport is less than 150 miles from the Greek border, so it feels a little different. Probably more akin (geographically speaking) to - if there were an increased terror threat in a particular state and I was going to visit a city in that state - and then there being a terror attack in a city on the other side of that state. With the proximity with Turkey and Syria, along with the fact that I'm assuming Greece doesn't have the resources to watch the borders quite as strictly due to their economic situation...it's hard for it not to seem like it would be quite easy for terrorists to come to Athens/the airport as a convenient/nearby target. All of this is in the context of the State Department's general advisory regarding travel within Europe and the fact that they believe more attacks are imminent. Wasn't thinking too much about it till my coworker commented...just don't want my desire to travel to cause me to act foolishly at a time where travel is being cautioned by the US government. But, all that being said, I don't have much knowledge about Turkey vs. Greece is involved in the war in Syria, how much national security Greece is able to fund, etc.

Posted by
2908 posts

Commila, For what it is worth, I just signed up for a RS Greece tour, so I am in the camp that Greece is no more dangerous than any other European country or than staying home. Wray

Posted by
6868 posts

Commila, there are a lot of good articles in NYT that explain the situation in Turkey (I pasted a link to 2 of them below). An oversimplification of the difference between Greece and Turkey is Turkey's border with Syria and its volatile history with Kurds and the PKK that goes back decades and is not new. Greece has its own vulnerabilities, but they are different from Turkey's.
http://nyti.ms/294G62K
http://nyti.ms/296UJnx

Posted by
2855 posts

Also, only 1% or so of Greeks speak Arabic, and almost none are ethnically arabs ... Arabs in Greece would really stick out ... sort of like, if you dropped a few 6-foot-tall Norwegians into Northern Japan, they'd be fairly noticeable. And speaking Norwegian.

Posted by
6868 posts

Not sure if I'm reading too much into the prior comment, but Turks are not Arabs either, nor do they speak Arabic. I doubt that most people would be able to tell apart a Lebanese person (who speaks Lebanese Arabic or French) or a Turk (who speaks Turkish) or a Greek (who speaks Greek) or an Armenian (speaks Armenian) just based on appearance alone.

Posted by
195 posts

Thanks for your tips. Looks like there is no way to get a refund for our trip, so we'll have to either go despite the State Departments terrorism warnings for Europe or lose our money :-/

Posted by
11450 posts

Commila, for what its worth , our neighbor is flying to Isantbual tomorrow for a three week vist( which will include visiti g some greek islands. Hes going solo and meeting a friend who lives in Turkey.

I wouldnt have been shocked if he cancelled , but he doesnt seem concerned at all!

You will be in Greece, not Turkey, but frankly no where including our home countires is safe from terrorists anymore . It does suck. But i choose to see the glass half full.

I cant say that before our visit to Paris a few weeks ago tha ti didnt have some niggling concerns, our rental aprtment was not far from the last attacks there, but honestly, once we were there i didnt think about it at all, life just has gone on as normal. Sure we saw some extra security in places we habnt seen before, but i chose to see that as reassuring , not scary. It was weird seeing police carrying large gu s openly though, especially since as i age the policemen all look like they are 14 yrs old lol

Posted by
195 posts

Thanks Pat. I know that it is probably 99% safe that we wouldn't be in the exact place at the exact time of a terror attack. I just tend to be a pretty risk-averse, so I'm not sure I'm the "go anyway" type - kind of wish we would have waited until a time in life when things in that area have calmed down a bit (hopefully that will happen eventually). I'm trying to talk myself into the fact that it would be VERY unlikely to be caught up in something bad, as it affects such a tiny percentage of the number of tourists that travel to Europe and we now have no choice but to keep our ticket, but hard not to have the nagging thought that it could be us. The main thing that has me bothered is the US State Department's general warning about imminent terror attacks throughout Europe (and our friends' hesitant comments when we say we're going there), so that's why I've been asking here about safety. In any case, I know that is something we'll just have to decide on our own and that nobody can predict terrorist attacks...we'll just have to decide whether losing our money is worth the peace of mind. I am glad to hear that, in all other safety matters, it seems that Greece is good to go. I appreciate your reassuring words and am glad you got to enjoy Paris...my favorite city!

Posted by
31465 posts

commila,

I doubt that there will ever be a "perfect time" to travel in Greece and there are never any guarantees, but in all probability you'll have a wonderful holiday. When I was in Greece a few years ago, there were major riots taking place in Athens, including one involving fatalities. I had no problems at all, and didn't see any demonstrations except for one somewhat comical march that passed by a restaurant in Nafplio one evening. I think they were protesting one of the big Wall Street firms or something, but it was very tame and somewhat "unenthusiastic".

Of course, you'll need to be vigilant to avoid pickpockets and the usual "tourist hazards" like that.

Posted by
2855 posts

Commilla -- You also have to remember that the State Department website text is reviewed by lawyers and people in diplomacy service. Besides keeping us safe, they have another (equally? more?) important concern -- that if anything at all happens, our State Dept doesn't get blamed by political opponents for not having magical powers of foresight. I always think about those WARNING signs on products: "WARNING: Do not put Plastic bag on Head!" "WARNING: Do not use this toaster in the Bathtub!" Or (what I just read on my bottle of "white out" correction fluid) "WARNING: Do not swallow contents!" ... the lawyers always say, look I know it's stupid, but it can't hurt to add this boilerplate, it's just CYA.