Safety and security
Major pre-planned strikes and demonstrations
Demonstrations take place regularly around major squares in central Athens, in particular Syntagma Square. Nationwide strikes and protests can occur at any time and may disrupt road/air/sea travel and cause delays/diversions at border crossings. You should follow local media reports and check with your travel operator. You should avoid large crowds and demonstrations. Some demonstrations in the past have turned violent.
Road closures are common in Athens and are not always announced in advance. Demonstrations can be called at short notice, but there are certain dates on which demonstrations traditionally occur: 1 May, 17 November, and 6 December.
Most visits to Greece are trouble-free, but theft of passports, wallets and handbags are common on the metro and in crowded tourist places, particularly in central Athens. Leave valuables in a safe place at your hotel or apartment and carry a photocopy of your passport with you. You should maintain at least the same level of personal security awareness as in the UK.
When driving on holiday, keep your valuables out of sight and lock your vehicle at all times. Always park in a well-lit area or secure car park. Be alert to car crime.
Personal attacks, including sexual assault and rape, are generally rare in Greece. Although there have been incidents involving British nationals in some holiday resorts frequented by large numbers of youth tourists. In some cases the alleged attackers were also British nationals. In many cases excessive drinking by either the victim or the offender preceded the incident. There have been some racially motivated attacks, mostly but not restricted to inner-city areas.
Alcohol, drugs and use of nitrous oxide can lead to you being less alert, less in control and less aware of your environment. Drinks served in bars overseas are often stronger than those in the UK. We recommended only purchasing branded and labelled drinks.
Travelling within Greece
It’s sometimes necessary to time stamp or validate your ticket on public transport for it to be valid.
Take care when travelling by road. In 2016 there were 812 road deaths in Greece (source: Department for Transport). This equates to 7.5 road deaths per 100,000 of population, compared to the UK average of 2.8 road deaths per 100,000 of population in 2016.
Make sure any vehicle you hire is in good condition and check that you’re insured. When renting mopeds or quad bikes, insurance sold by the hire company usually only provides third party insurance, which only covers the cost of damage to another vehicle. Quad biking is considered an extreme sport and carries the risk of serious injury or death. Specific travel insurance to cover quad bike rental is essential to avoid you having to pay the costs of private health care and/or repatriation to the UK. Always take care to read the details of your insurance cover before you travel on holidays paying particular attention to the small print and exclusions on your insurance policy.
Greece has recently introduced legislation banning the use of quad bikes of 125cc and under on tarmac roads. A fine of €1000 can be imposed. Larger quad bikes (150 and 310cc) are available to rent, but only to drivers aged 23 and over with a full driving licence. Provisional licences are not considered adequate for driving in Greece and can invalidate your insurance.
If you intend to hire a moped you will need a valid driving licence with at least category A1 - ‘light motorcycle’. Category P, which is valid in the UK for driving mopeds up to 50cc, is not valid in Greece.
By law you must wear a crash helmet on a scooter, moped or motorcycle. Quad bike riders must wear a full-face helmet (or non-full-face helmet plus goggles). Failure to wear a helmet might invalidate your travel insurance if you are involved in an accident and could lead to a €350 fine and confiscation of your licence.
You shouldn’t approach or take photos or videos of military installations, vehicles or buildings at any time. The Greek authorities will arrest and possibly prosecute anyone doing so. Certain border areas are also militarily sensitive. Although you can visit these areas, you should avoid taking photos or video footage.
Water sports and swimming
Follow local advice if jellyfish are present.
If you are considering taking part in water sports activities, do so through a licensed water sports centre and make sure paperwork is completed before starting the activity. Check the Safe Water Sports website for more information.
However inviting the blue waters may be, make sure you follow any warning signs, adhere to instructions from lifeguards and observe the flag indicators on beaches.
Since 1974, Greece has been a stable parliamentary democracy, with its head of state elected by the Parliament. It joined the European Union in 1981. Greece is going through a long-running economic crisis and its financial system is fragile. Greece has made positive steps in reducing its debts. Following the latest economic review, international creditors have released funds, but there remains a risk of further economic difficulties and related demonstrations.
In 2015 and 2016, there was a dramatic increase in the number of migrants and refugees arriving on Greek islands, including Lesvos, Kos and Samos, and seeking to continue their journey via Greece to other EU countries. The flows have now reduced significantly. The British Embassy is keeping the situation under review, but at present there are no reports of any specific risks to British nationals visiting these islands or at border crossing points.