So you’ve read up on your ruins and are saying “Kalimera!” to people on the street instead of “Good morning!” You’re ready to head to Hellas. But what about safety?
Greece, overall, is a safe place, despite what you may have seen photos of during protests at Syntagma Square. That being said, here are a few tips to keep you even safer (and healthier) while traveling on your own in the land of olives & honey.
Make Sure Your Taxi Driver Runs the Meter
Be absolutely sure he does this. A 1 or 2 should show up on the meter, indicating the fare type. Tariff 1 is the day tariff within city limits. Tariff 2 is the night tariff (12a.m.-5a.m.), or outside the cab’s limits. If a cab driver doesn’t turn on the meter after being asked, be sure to tell him you will report him to the police, as it is required by law for a cab driver to give you a printed receipt at the end of your ride that has the cab registration number and the driver’s name.
Don’t ride in a cab where the driver gives you a verbal flat rate. Do write down the license plate or taxi number, in case you need to report a scam to the police.
Check out the Athens Info Guide online for a more comprehensive guide to taxi travel.
Have a Plan if you Want to Drink
This should be a no-brainer, and is a good rule of thumb for any chica traveling on her own. If you’re hanging out on party islands like Mykonos and Ios, have a good time, but be sure to have a game plan for if you’re planning to drink; make friends with some other ladies staying at your hostel so you have a group to party with, drink lots of water and have your hostel or hotel address written down so if your phone dies or gets lost, you can still give your info to a cab driver.
Avoid Omonia at Night
..if you’re in Athens. Not only tourists do this, Greeks do, too. If you need to get off and still have a ways to walk, hail a cab. There are usually a lot of them parked outside metro exits, and English is widely spoken.
Know the drill with Pharmacies and Prescriptions
Greek pharmacies, which have a green cross outside them, are generally very cheap and pharmacists can help you with basic first aid issues. Keep in mind business hours, though; most pharmacies close around 8:30 p.m. on weekdays and stay closed all weekend. Trust me, it sucks to get food poisoning on a Friday night and be out of tummy stuff. It usually helps to arrive in Greece already stocked up on basic prescription meds you may need, like Diflucan, and certainly the good ole ibuprofen and Pepto. Also, be prepared to pay with cash in Athens-area pharmacies, due to the economic crisis.
Avoid Protest Areas
Most protests in Greece are peaceful, but, as anywhere else, they can get destructive or riotous. Your best bet for staying safe is to avoid the protest zones completely. If you do choose to go, though, take responsibility for your actions and choices, and be aware of safety issues that may arise.
Find out about strikes and plan transportation accordingly when possible
Strikes are common, especially in Mediterranean countries like Greece, Italy and Spain. Usually they don’t present danger, but can present enormous levels of inconvenience, and can leave you stranded or maybe having to pay a lot to get from one place to another. Check here and here about strikes in Greece, these sites are updated often.
Double Check with your Hotel or Hostel about Drinking Tap Water
Most of the tap water in mainland Greece, including in Athens, is perfectly fine to drink. However, on many islands and in some more remote areas of the country, it’s not. There’s no use in running the risk; make sure you ask before filling your water bottle.
Along that vein, stay hydrated. Greece gets HOT in the summer. Take this from a native Arizonan. Be sure to stay hydrated to avoid heatstroke! Also, be sure to wear sunscreen and a hat. Sunscreen in Europe is inexplicably pricey, so if you’re carrying on, be prepared to pay about 16-20 euro for a normal sized bottle of sunblock. If you’re checking luggage, I strongly suggest bringing it from home.
In general, Play it Smart
Trust your gut. Follow general travel safety tips, like not flashing lots of money around, have some sort of zipped purse or money belt, keep copies of your passport, credit card, all that jazz. And don’t buy anyone’s argument that you should avoid Athens altogether and only do the islands. That’s absolutely unnecessary, and it would be a huge bummer not to visit one of the most historical and lively cities in the world.
For the record, I never felt unsafe while traveling in Greece. Be wise, make good choices, and have fun!