Thinking about visiting Athens? Well, if you are then this post may be of some use to you. There are certain things you should just never, ever do here and I’m going to list them below so you don’t have to find out the hard way.
#1 Put paper in the toilet
I remember the first time I made this mistake, I was in the lobby of a hostel taking some important tests for a job interview. It was at this moment when I decided to use the toilet that was conveniently located next to me.8
I knew that with some toilets you could get away with putting a few sheets in there – so I took the biggest gamble that any man can make in Greece. I took a deep breath, closed my eyes and flushed the chain.
Before I knew it, water was flooding out from the toilet cubicle and out into the busy hostel lobby. What made it worse is that there wasn’t a single member of staff in sight and I just couldn’t get it to stop. After a stressful 2 minutes, I eventually walked out into the lobby to realise that it had become totally flooded with toilet water. Embarrassed, I did what any sane man would do: closed down my computer, grabbed my rucksack and left.
To save yourself a similar ordeal, I’d suggest using the bins provided.
#2 Rely on bank cards
As someone who doesn’t usually carry cash, this quickly became a problem for me whenever I wanted to buy almost anything. Many of the cheapest shops, bars and restaurants are small businesses and therefore much prefer cash.
You will find this to be more of a problem outside of the tourist areas.
#3 Instantly go to the bar to order
Before you assume that you can order a drink at the bar, look around first and f you spot waiters – take a seat! It’ll save you looking like an impatient tourist.
#4 Walk around Omonia late at night
The first time I came to Athens I stayed in a hotel located 2 minutes away from Omonia. I arrived at around midnight and decided to go for a walk. After 5 minutes I witnessed a couple performing a sexual act down a back alleyway, and a few minutes after that I was offered a blowjob by an African prostitute for €5. At the time I thought to myself “What’s wrong with this place?”.
It wasn’t long until I realised that Omonia is a notorious hotspot for junkies, prostitutes, gangs and drug-dealers.
#5 Assume that there’s no need for you to try and speak Greek
Yes, Greeks, in general, speak amazing English; some even better than me! But basic manners go a long way in this country and even a simple “Yasas” will be much better received than not trying at all.
#6 Eat in metro stations
For a city that feels somewhat chaotic and lawless most of the time, the metro’s one place where rules are obeyed. A lot of pride is taken in the clean, modern stations throughout Athens and as such you are unlikely to find people eating in them.
Don’t be that guy!
#7 Get in a taxi without a meter on first
I’ve learned one thing about taxi’s drivers here – they’re often crafty! If they sense you don’t know the area then they’re likely to take you down a longer route. In the past, I’ve had many drivers often mistake me for a tourist and try charging me prices that are sometimes double what they should be.
Never get in a taxi that doesn’t have a meter, and I even ask for a price estimate beforehand.
#8 Rely on (paper) maps
There’s something quite satisfying about finding your way around a city with nothing but a map. Although, I’ve found this to be a gruelling task in Athens! Thanks to the Greek alphabet, streets are often difficult to identify.
That’s why Google maps is an absolute life-saver here. Even if you don’t have mobile Internet, you’ll have no problem finding free WIFI amongst the city’s coffee shops, restaurants and bars.
#9 Leave your phone out on tables
This is an important one! A phone out on the table is like blood to a shark for thieves.
I experienced this a few years back. I was at a restaurant with a friend who left her phone out in front of her on the table of an outside restaurant. Before we knew it we were distracted by a little a Greek girl asking for money whilst her friend was hovering around the table. Soon after, we realised that her phone was gone, and the girls were nowhere to be found.
These people often work in groups and fully utilise the art of deception. Don’t think that just because your phone is out in front of you that it’s safe.
#10 Expect cars to stop at zebra crossings
Athenian drivers don’t tend to follow street signs, let alone signs painted on to the tarmac. If you’re relying on waiting patiently at a zebra crossing to pass the road, then you can expect to be waiting a while.
You’ll have to adapt to the Greek way of life: running into traffic hoping for the best.