Tourist information guide on Athens Greece

Packing and Heath!Traps and warnings

As in every big city with a lot of tourists, as with every kind of climate, there are a few things you have to know to keep your enjoyable visit from turning into a disaster or nightmare. Apart from these tips there is only one thing you have to use while traveling: common sense! If you do, you'll be okay and the memories Athens will create, will last a lifetime.

Pffffff...... warm!

You will have to adjust the clothing you take with you depending on the time of the year you visit Athens. In December, January and February it can be cold. Remember that on a warm afternoon in Summer, the temperature can get up to 45°C (113°F) in the sun. Stay out of the sun as much as you can, especially when your skin is not used to this kind of weather. Visit a museum or have a siesta like the Greeks do.

Remember to drink a lot of water. You do not want to become dehydrated. Water is cheaper than hospital is. Try to get a sun tan before you visit Athens, if not, protect your skin with a good and strong sun block cream.

Make sure you wear good shoes. You are not on a beach and Athens hardly is flat. Bring band aids in case you do get blisters. Most of the pharmacists in the center of Athens understand English as is the case with the staff of hospitals.

Bring enough photo rolls. There is a lot to photograph in Athens. If you have a digital photo camera, you can send your photo's home and empty the cameras memory card or you bring more than one card. Another option is to have your photos put on a cd. There are quite a few internet cafes where you can do so and most hotels also have internet service.

Travel light so you can bring a few nice souvenirs with you. Top

Not the best idea

The Zappeion in AthensAs like in every place you visit, you have to act a little responsible. Don't put your wallet in your back pocket, don't leave your mobile phone or camera unattended. 90% op the people will be able to tell you are a tourist and some of those people may want to spoil your vacation. Being a little cautious always is healthy.

There is one place in Athens where you do not want to go walking late in the evening or in the middle of the night. The unlit part of the National Gardens near the Zappeion is an area you want to avoid. Quite a few illegal Albanians wonder around there during the night waiting to see what they can 'borrow' from you. The park is safe during the day but once it gets dark you better stay on the lit streets and avenues edging the gardens. Top

Being sexualiy different in AthensBeing sexually different

Greece is not yet as liberal when it comes to having been born sexually different as most of the rest of Europe is. Therefore and if you are gay, lesbian or bi-sexual, you need to adjust your public behavior to what is regarded upon as 'normal' by Greek society standards. The older generation is not as broadminded as the younger Greeks are. You visit Athens to enjoy your stay, not to shock local people.

There are a number of gay, lesbian and bi-sexual cafes and bars in Makrygianni, the area just south of the Acropolis. Some of them are situated at the beginning of Syngrou avenue. There also are some gay friendly hotels in Athens. For both the bars and the hotels, some internet research will give you more information but remember: respect the Greeks and they will respect you. What you do in the privacy of your hotel room is your own choice of course. Read more about homosexuality in Athens and Greece on our Gay Athens page. Top

Being disabled or older

The town of Athens lies in the plane of Attika resulting in quite some Athens streets going up or down. Driving a wheelchair around in the center of Athens notOlder or disable, no problem. always is easy. You will need help to get to and through some areas. Some other places you cannot get to.

There finally is an elevator for disabled people going up to the Acropolis. For healthy young people, the stairs at the entrance are not easy to take. The same problem occurs with the rock of Areos Pagos that you pass on your way up to the Acropolis. Even for healthy people, the climb up the stairs is an undertaking, especially as the steps are extremely slippery unless you take the metal stairs. On top you have a great view on Athens however and it is the best place to be to see the sunset.

If you have a foldable wheelchair, you can get to the top of the Likavittos Hill using the funicular railway. Don't use the path leading up because the last part has a lot of stairs. Most of the museums have stairs at the entrance and sometimes even inside as do a lot of hotels too.

Disabled people or people that have trouble walking can see a lot of Athens but they will have to do this in their own pace and with some friendly help. Top

Taxi cowboys

Taxi cowboysMost of the times you will have an honest driver when you hail a taxi in Athens. However, there are some taxi-cowboys that will take advantage of tourists not knowing their way around. They will overcharge you, take on other passengers while driving you or take you to a hotel they get a commission from. You want to play it safe? Ask a few taxi drivers how much your ride is going to cost first so you will know the normal price, then get a taxi that charges that price. You want to pay for your drive, not buy the car....

According to the Greek Legislation, taxi drivers should provide, upon request, a receipt for the amount paid for transportation services. The receipt should also indicate the taxi registration number and the driver's name.

If you do get overcharged or other passengers are taken on board, don't start a fight but report the taxi number or the license plate to the police. They will deal with the cowboy. Read more...

A good way to avoid being scammed, crowded express buses or trains is to book your taxi transfer online (up to four people per taxi) before your arrival. The taxi driver will be waiting for you in the arrival hall of the airport holding a sign with your name. He will take you straight to your hotel or any other destination you booked online. As you paid when you booked your taxi, there is no risk of being overcharged and no money hassle. You also won’t be asked to pay more than you did. Read more… Top

The excellent Athens metro system or one of the many busses will bring you to or very close to almost any interesting place in town and they are much cheaper than a taxi. On arrival on Athens airport, take bus X95 that will take you straight to Syntagma Square for 3 Euro. From there you can get the metro or a bus to bring you close to your hotel. Top

Watch out for this old trick!Bar scam

A visitor told Athens Info Guide: "The very first time I visited Athens, I did not know about any kind of bar scam. One late evening, on my way back to the hotel, a man asked for a light close to Syntagma. After asking where I was from he said he had worked with my country men in Saudi Arabia and he wanted to offer me a drink and talk about my country.

He was very friendly and sympathetic so I went with him but as soon as I got to the bar, I knew something was wrong. A girl came to sit next to me asking me my name and whether I would buy her something to drink. I politely refused as I knew I was going to get a big bill if I did. The girl behind the bar started putting pressure on me to buy the other girl a drink.

I used a little trick to get both off my back. I told them I was gay, that I was not interested in them and that I had friends waiting for me at my hotel. I ended up paying 5 Euro for the Cola the guy so called had offered me."

There is a pretty good way to politely refuse this scam. Tell the guy you do not have the time to come with him because you expect an important telephone call at your hotel but that he is welcome to go with you to your hotel and you will have a drink with him there. He won't come with you.

You do not have to mistrust everyone who speaks to you and you do not have to think every Greek is a criminal. Just be careful in a healthy way and if anyone gives you a problem, call the tourism police (tel. 171). They speak English.

Don't judge all Greeks because of the actions of some. Remember, Greeks are very friendly people... Top

Police impersonators

Innocent tourists, who mostly very clearly look like tourists, can be stopped on the street by two men in plain clothes. They identify themselves as police men and briefly show a (fake) badge. They ask to see your passport or identity card.

They also ask to see the money you have on you. If you ask why they tell you there is a lot of counterfeit money around and they want to see if you have any. After checking, they return your passport and money to you and leave…with some money they have taken from you.

This scam can easily be avoided. You ask them to see their badge again and which police station they belong to. You also tell them real police would not ask to check your money because they know they don’t have the right to check anything else but your identity card or passport. Tell them that if they don’t leave you will call the police or stop a police car.

Always report this scam to the police providing them with as many details as possible. Top

Plaka, bargain!You have to bargain in Plaka

As about every shop in Plaka and Monastiraki sells the same kind of souvenirs, they all will be wanting to make a sale. When you want to buy something go to several shops and compare prices. Once you have found the lowest price, complain it is too high and you will go and buy somewhere else. Bargain with the shopkeeper!

Tell him this is all the money you have left and you are leaving tomorrow, that you mother is in need of expensive surgery, that you grandfather died when he heard the news, that you have been robed the day before and that your partner is going to hit you over the head if you pay the shop price. If the shopkeeper doesn’t throw you out, you’ll get a good price!

An alternative is to go into town, away from the tourist area, where prices are less. Top

About alcohol and love

Love and alcohol do not make a good mix.This bit of information will be hard to beat when it comes to a Greek summer. Millions of young tourists head to Greece every summer with the scope of meeting a dark Greek man with the looks of Adonis or a dark alluring Greek woman with the body reminiscent of Aphrodite de Milo.

On vacation, beer flows easily. The surf hits the beach with the right speed and sound and sex is everywhere. Whether it is heterosexual or homosexual, whether it involves drugs or not, whether Durex is the brand or not, there is plenty of it. However, whether this is your aim or not, there are some things you must know to make your stay as enjoyable as possible.

If you are female and a Greek guy approaches you, this is called kamaki, He is trying to get to know you. If this is not what you want, politely thank him and ask him to go elsewhere. If you are male and you want to get to know Greek women, you must know that very few travel on their own. Greek women have a mind of their own and they use it. Be polite and respectful and, unless you want trouble with the rest of Greece, don't take them in a direction they do not want to go. Ochi means No!

Always, yes, you heard well, always have condoms with you. A sexual transmittable disease is not the kind of souvenir you want to take home with you.

Vacation and alcohol often go hand in hand. Drinking heavily at lunch is a guaranteed way to get you to the hospital. The afternoon sun in summer is deadly so better not overdo it. Never drink and then sunbathe.

If romance develops between you and someone in Greece, let us know. The best relationships are made in heaven and Greece is the nearest place there is to it! Enjoy life and living! Top

Wrong parking is expensive in AthensWrongly parked

The Athens traffic police use a perfect system to teach traffic users good parking behavior. Park your (rented) car where you are not allowed to and you stand a chance of the police taking both licence plates from your car. They will leave a note behind the front windshield informing you where you can pick them up again… after paying a fine of 250 Euro!

When your licence plates are taken, you have the right to drive that car straight home. It certainly is not advisable to drive it anywhere else because, when you get caught doing so, the additional fine is even higher and your driver license will be confiscated for at least a month.

Ever since the Athens police started using this system wild, annoying and dangerous parking of cars has gone down drastically in Athens. When it comes to traffic rules, Greeks in general are a little anarchistic, until their bank account is touched. Top

Driving in Athens. Pay attention!Driving in Athens

Driving: Driving in Greece can often be thought of as being a memorable experience to visitors. From bad drivers, very nervous drivers to seemingly rude drivers, Greek driving is definitely different from the driving you are used to. Okay, there are places that have worse driving but in terms of driver behavior, Greece is near the top. Changing lanes with no indication, disregarding the pedestrian green light, driving over curb corners, crossing before the light turns green etc.

Greeks think they know how to drive and push their cars to the limit. Many people do this but then Greek roads are still undergoing repairs and creation. Greek drivers do not seem to show concern for other drivers, foreigners or otherwise.

Driving in Greece is no different from driving anywhere else. You just have to remember a few things:

- Do not let people upset you and ignore the often used car horn.
- Know your route in advance and ensure you know where you are going.
- Make sure you have a clear viewing area.
- Try to avoid Athens rush hour traffic.
- Above all, remain calm.

Roads: The highways that link various cities are paved and most have two lanes. Since Greece is mainly a mountainous country, the roads are windy, twisty and need careful drivers.

Just be a little carefulBreakdown & Theft: The Greek automobile association (ELPA) offers road assistance service reciprocal to your own road insurance scheme. If you are a member of a European road assistance service, you will be covered. Just bring your own vehicle assistance booklet with you.

Like any country, Greece also suffers from theft. Car radios are easily picked up and find their way to the Monastiraki flea market on Sunday. Cover up your car radio or install a removable radio. Leave your car totally empty and park it on a brightly lit street at night or in a guarded or closed off car park. Lock it up and you will be just fine. Top


    Pffffff...... warm!
    Not the best idea
    Being sexually different
    Being older or disabled
    Bar scam
    Police impersonators
    Plaka, bargain!
    About alcohol and love
    Wrongly parked
    Driving in Athens
      Breakdown & theft

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