tourist walking near shops in Chania, Greece on a sunny day / scams in Greece

9 Scams in Greece to Watch Out For

Greece is one of the most popular countries in Europe for tourists to come explore, with its many known destinations such as Athens, Mykonos, Santorini, and its many beautiful islands.

Being a popular tourist country, scams in Greece are common in some large cities and islands frequented by visitors. These are the most common Greece scams you may encounter on your visit!

Side note: the locals in Greece are very friendly/hospitable people; they’re aware of how much Greece depends on its tourism and appreciate that.

But that being said, in a crowd of good, there are always a few people who don’t have the best intentions!

Friendly Bar Friends Scam

bartender making a drink in a dimly lit bar in Athens, Greece

This is one of those scams in Greece that you may not even know is happening until it’s too late, and it’s done in many different ways, so it’s easy to fall for it. Here are two ways it tends to happen.

You’re having a drink alone/with someone you are traveling with at the bar, and a person or few people approach you and strike up some conversation with you as they also enjoy a drink with you.

After speaking to you for a bit and enjoying a few drinks, they suggest another “better” bar to visit that they know of (this bar they’re taking to you is in on the scam).

Once they bring you to the new bar, they’ll order drinks with you; after the bill comes, it’s 2/3 times higher than the regular amount for drinks, and you’re “new friend” suggests you pay. If you don’t, security escorts you to an ATM to pay the bill.

Another way this happens is sometimes someone at a bar speaks to you, and you’ll think the conversation is genuine, but in reality, they work for the bar, and it’s their job to entertain you and have you order more drinks.

Pick Pocketing Scam

a beautiful old tree arched towards the ancient ruins of the Parthenon archaeological site in Athens, Greece

In some countries in the world, pickpocketing is a full-time job for thieves; it’s fast, nonconfrontational, and easy money. Greece ranks 5th for pickpocketing in Europe.

Places you must be most careful of when watching out for pickpocketers in Greece are public transportation, busy streets, and popular tourist attractions.

All of these places are prime spots for pickpocketers to do the crime without being noticed. These are also the times you’re most distracted looking around and being a tourist.

How To Avoid: Never put items in your back pocket. If you have items in your front pocket, understand that if you are wearing loose shorts/pants, you could be pickpocketed without feeling it.

Make sure your bags are always closed, and on public transportation, place your bag in front of you, not on your back.

Ferry Ticket Scam

ferry crossing the sea going to an island during sunset in Greece

When in Greece, you’ll find yourself visiting a few islands, especially if you’re visiting in the Summer. Island hopping is the thing to do in Greece during the Summer!

As you approach a ferry dock to buy a ticket and board, there is either an official office selling ferry tickets or staff tasked with selling tickets. And that’s who you’d purchase tickets from.

Unfortunately, there are ferry ticket scammers sometimes selling “cheaper ferry tickets.”

They position themselves before you get closer to the ferry and sometimes right by others who are selling official tickets, so be careful.

Watch out for these ticket scammers who’ll sell you a fake ticket, denying you any ferry ride!

Taxi Driver Scam

taxi driving down a picturesque cobblestone road in Athens, Greece
Credit: Nick Night

Taxi scams happen in many ways, and it’s the most popular scam for tourists to experience anywhere in the world. Greece is no exception; taxi scams are common at times here.

When looking to take a taxi, you can expect any of the following taxi scams in Greece to happen:

  • Driver tells you an inflated price for your trip
  • Driver says they aren’t sure of the destination & will tell you the price when they get there
  • The driver takes a longer route rather than the convenient/faster route to the destination
  • Inaccurate exchange: if you’re waiting for change, sometimes a driver will return smaller bills, and you won’t notice because the currency is unfamiliar to you

Another mistake tourists make when taking taxis is not establishing a price before getting in the taxi.

Sometimes, if you get in a taxi and they start driving, and you can’t figure out a “fair” price as the driver is driving, they then confront you to pay something for the 1-minute drive when you ask them to get out.

Don’t get in the taxi until you’ve established a trip price!

If you’re curious about Uber in Greece, it only operates in Athens, and when you order one, it will be a taxi.

I know the taxi scam best; I’ve experienced it in Mexico, Egypt, and Thailand, among many other places!

Restaurant Bread & Water Scam

panoramic sea views at a restaurant in Athens, Greece

This isn’t much of a scam; it all depends on the places you visit in Greece and the restaurant.

It’s common in Greece for water and bread to be instantly brought to your table when seated at a restaurant.

In order to avoid having to pay for something you didn’t want, simply ask the employee at the restaurant if this is complimentary or an extra charge.

In places like Santorini and Mykonos, for the most part, you will most likely have to pay for the water and bread; usually, the water you have to pay for comes bottled.

But for example, on islands like Crete, Rhodes, and other islands, bread/water brought to the table is almost always free!

Despite being from Canada, it makes sense to me that water and bread can be free. It’s common in some restaurants in North America. But rather than assume, just ask!

This isn’t much of a “scam,” but it is something you should know of and determine what you’d prefer to do.

Free Gift Scam

two simple bracelets, ones an evil eye bracelet

The free gift scam is popular worldwide, and in many gift forms, it can be a rose, a bracelet, a small piece of jewelry, or anything else.

You’re walking down the street, and you’re approached by someone holding roses, jewelry, etc. They reach out and try to give you the item and instantly say it is a “free gift.”

As soon as you take it, they start asking for a “donation” and then usually begin telling you about their life and how tough it is, etc. At that point, you’re essentially buying this gift, and you were tricked into buying it.

If they do get a donation, sometimes they say it’s too small, and they want more money.

Other times, if you try to give them the gift back, they step away and say, “No, you took it already,” and they can get quite confrontational with you.

No gift is free anywhere as a tourist. Don’t accept any “free gifts,” and if approached, continue on your way. This is one of the most common scams in Greece!

The Performer Cup Scam

aerial shot showing the famous Monastiraki Square full of many tourists walking and shopping in Athens, Greece
Credit: Andrea Leopardi

While this scam isn’t common in Greece, keep an eye out for it and don’t fall for it; keep walking.

This is how it goes: On busy streets full of tourists, a street performer with an instrument will walk in front of you and quickly place a cup full of money in front of you so you knock it over.

Because it happens so fast, you might knock down the cup full of money with your foot as you walk, as the scammer intended to happen.

Afterward, the street performer confronts you for knocking their cup full of money, makes you feel guilty for doing so, and persuades you to put some money into his cup for knocking it down.

These street performer scammers know exactly what they’re doing, and they barely perform the instrument they’re holding. They simply do this scam all day and collect money from tourists.

If it happens to you, keep walking; don’t feel guilty; it’s not like you saw the cup from away and walked into it. Don’t fall for this mindless scam.

But keep in mind, there are still many honest, great performers on the streets playing their instruments in good faith and looking for donations!

I only discovered this scam when visiting Athens this past Summer beforehand. I’ve never run into it before.

Inflated Bill Scam

This scam can happen at a restaurant or bar when it’s time to pay the bill, so make sure you check your bill twice before paying it.

At restaurants, sometimes they’ll add a portion of food or drinks you didn’t even order/have. Being on vacation or delighted after a delicious meal, this extra charge can slip by you when paying.

Another way this happens is at bars and is commonly referred to as the “Drunk Bill Scam.”

After you’ve had a few drinks, at least more than three, and it’s time to pay, you’re presented with an inflated bar tab. This bill suggests you had more than the drinks you actually had, or sometimes they’ll change the prices of the drink to inflate the bill.

ATM Helper Scam

person using an ATM with their card

Be careful when anyone approaches you as you’re busy at an ATM trying to withdraw money.

Sometimes scammers will approach you, suggesting they can help you “avoid ATM fees.”

What they’ll do is tell you they have a device to place over the ATM machine to avoid the ATM Fees; this is a card skimmer and will steal your card details!

If someone offers help to you at an ATM, politely deny their help and make sure they’ve distanced themselves before you continue to use the ATM so you avoid them seeing your PIN details.

The best place to get money anywhere is a national bank; going there, you know it’s safe regarding their ATM machines, and you can also ask for help there.

Also, when traveling, hold limited cash on you and use an international debit card to pay in a local currency anywhere that accepts cards!

Scams in Greece — Final Thoughts

Unfortunately, scams in Greece are common, and it’s been that way in many ways.

And because it’s such a beautiful, picturesque place to visit for all, scammers are aware that some tourists visiting are coming with money. But regardless of that, scammers are out to get anyone they deem a tourist.

As mentioned earlier, don’t allow scammers to represent locals. Greek people are very hospitable.

In fact, when visiting some of the islands in Greece, we ran into several friendly locals of all ages with nothing but good intentions.

Know of the scams in Greece, be wary, but don’t be completely closed off to act of nice service.

Rooftop views of the famous Parthenon lit up at night in Athens, Greece

What is the most common crime in Greece?

For tourists visiting Greece, the most common crime in Greece is pickpocketing. But on a country-wide scale, human trafficking/people smuggling into Europe is the most common crime in Greece.

How safe is Greece for tourists?

Greece overall is a very safe country to visit. If you visit one of the many islands, it’s safer than big cities like Athens. In large cities in Greece, it’s advised to practice general big-city safety tips.

What areas to avoid in Athens?

Areas in Athens like Exarcheia, Vathai, and Kolokoronti Square should be avoided at night. But in the day, you should be fine; keep an eye out for things.

What to be careful of in Greece?

Avoid carrying large sums of cash and exposing it, watch for your belongings, and be wary of unsolicited offers/advice from strangers.

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