There isn’t much crime in Greece. Crime rates there, even in the turbulent atmosphere spawned by the economic crisis in the last five years, are significantly lower than crime rates in the United States, especially the rates of violent crsime. And very little of the crime that does occur there is directed at tourists. In the many months I’ve spent in Greece, I’ve seen only one crime against any member of my traveling groups, or against any other tourists. In 2012, one of my students lost her wallet to pickpockets on the Metro from the airport into Athens, despite the fact that I had identified the 3-person pickpocket team to all of my students (with my eyes and head nods). But she admits that she hadn’t followed my anti-pickpocket instructions completely; she knew that there was a large rip in her purse alongside the zipper, yet she had not repaired it before the trip, nor did she protect that vulnerability with her hand on the Metro. (The thieves, by the way, took the cash out of the wallet, but did not use her credit/debit card, and her identity was not stolen. They must have simply tossed the wallet aside; some four or five months it came back to her in the mail, sent by the American Consulate in Athens. Everything but her cash was still in the thing.)

Despite the low crime rate, it’s always a good idea to be on guard and to watch your personal belongings, particularly in crowded places, such as buses, metros, train stations, and ports. Keep your cash and credit cards in a well secured pocket, purse, or handbag. If you use a fanny-pack, keep the pouch in front of you rather than at your back. Be wary if a stranger—especially in a busy place—seems intent on capturing your attention, perhaps with a map or a baby or a request to lean over you to open a window. Pickpockets tend to work in teams; one of them will try to distract your attention, while the other digs a hand into your pocket or bag. One of their favorite tactics is to get pushed up against you in a crowded environment and to get their bag (or some other object) over your purse or wallet or fanny-pack, so you can’t see their hands as they steal your valuables. Zippers alone won’t necessarily stop them, so I encourage my students, in crowded places, to keep a hand or an arm securely over the purse, bag, or pocket that contains their money. Fortunately, there will be only a few times/places on our trip where we will be vulnerable in this way. Pickpockets are virtually unheard of everywhere except Athens and her seaport, Piraeus. I’m obsessive about reminding my students to be on guard when we’re in those locations.

A scam to watch out for is one that is sometimes directed at tourists in bars and night clubs: a group of locals will befriend you and join you for drinks and laughs. When everyone’s had plenty to drink, they’ll start disappearing one or two at a time, so their absence isn’t noticeable. Finally only the tourists are left, and they get stuck for the whole tab, which can be several hundred Euro by that time.

Otherwise, there’s just not much to be worried about, in regards to one’s personal safety, while traveling in Greece.

Team of pickpockets in action

The team member on the left distracts the tourist with a map,
while the other two rob him blind.