Dangers and Problems
• Greeks love to strike and a tough austerity measures currently being implemented by the government has multiplied the number of strikes taking place in the capital. Check daily with the reception that public servants are not on strike when you want to visit state-run museums and archaeological sites.
• Athens is one of the safest cities in Europe, but it is advisable to take reasonable precautions to protect your personal belongings, such as keeping your handbag close to your body and your wallet in a safe inside pocket. Having said this, avoid walking alone in the areas around Omonia Square and Theatrou Square, which have degenerated into drug-addict hangouts over the past few years, and have some badly lit streets.
• Taxi drivers have dramatically cleaned up their act since the 2004 Olympics, but some of them might still try to overcharge you. Ask in advance at the airport or your hotel what a reasonable fare would be for a taxi ride to your destination.
• On July 1st 2009 smoking was banned in all public and private areas where people gather, like restaurants, bars, public waiting areas and taxis. However, Greeks are the heaviest smokers in the European Union and you’ll often find that these rules are flouted. Although it is forbidden, taxi drivers often smoke so it’s best to let them know it bothers you before they light up.
• Buy bottled water before you reach archaeological sites, as prices at on-site cafés and kiosks tend to be excessive.
• Athens is hilly and pavements are slippery and uneven. Wear comfy shoes.
Dos and don’ts
To paraphrase the well-known proverb, when in Athens, do as the Athenians do and avoid sticky situations.
• It is customary for people to greet by kissing on both cheeks. Greeks often ask personal questions even to someone they just met. They might inquire about your marital status, whether you have kids, or your line of work. If asked, you can ask back - it is seen as a sign of interest in the person you’re talking with.
• Make sure you dress modestly when visiting a church or monastery, which basically means keeping your chest and thighs covered. It is also customary to drop a coin in the donation box near the entrance and light a candle.
• When invited to visit someone’s home, it is advisable to bring the host a gift, be it flowers, a bottle of wine or confectionary.
• If you’re a dinner guest, you’ll probably be asked if you want a second helping. Despite popular belief, it is fine to say “no”.
• Nudism is not forbidden, but you must always choose a remote beach. The golden rule is to make sure no families are around.
• It’s customary for people to arrive 15-30 minutes late for a dinner party.
• Fancy bars, clubs and bouzoukia require formal dress, so keep your flip-flops for the beach. Cheap eateries like tavernas and smaller bars are casual.
• It’s customary when eating in tavernas, mezedopolio or oinomageirio to buy plates (mezedes) for everyone to share, rather than one plate for each person.
• A 16% gratuity is included in some bills, but you’re expected to leave something extra to round off the amount.