scorecardI grew up in Athens. Here are 8 things I wish tourists would stop doing when they come here.
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I grew up in Athens. Here are 8 things I wish tourists would stop doing when they come here.

Konstantina Pyrnokoki   

I grew up in Athens. Here are 8 things I wish tourists would stop doing when they come here.
LifeThelife3 min read
  • I was born and raised in Athens, and I believe many mistakes tourists make here are avoidable.
  • Travelers should embrace the city's quirks while respecting public spaces and unwritten laws.

I was born and raised in Athens, so I've seen a lot of tourists.

After all, Athens had a record-breaking year for tourism in 2023 — and it's one of the most-searched summer destinations this year, according to Delta.

But while visiting our famous archeological sites and enjoying the delicious Greek food, tourists often make mistakes that could easily be avoided.

Here are things I wish people would stop doing when they visit Athens.

Stop falsely assuming Athens has year-round hot weather

Tourists often arrive here in tank tops and shorts no matter what time of year it is. But you should really check the weather before packing your bathing suit.

Although the weather in Athens is mild, temperatures vary from 16 degrees Celsius, or 61 degrees Fahrenheit, to 28 in spring and summer, with only a few days in July and August reaching the dreaded 30 to 35 degrees.

You can also expect colder fall temperatures (14 to 18 degrees), and particularly chilly winters (-5 to 10 degrees). Athens has seen its fair share of snow over the years, too.

Don't ignore dress codes

Athens is a pretty casual city — you can pretty much wear whatever casual outfit you'd like on strolls or in most museums and restaurants.

But stop entering churches in crop tops and tiny skirts — it's often deemed disrespectful. Long pants or dresses are much more appropriate.

Moreover, you're not even allowed to wear high heels at ancient sites, which is a rule created in part to protect their marble. And I suggest bringing flat shoes or sneakers with a good grip when visiting the Acropolis to avoid brutal falls.

While making your plans, remember taking a bus is rarely the best option

Buses in Athens are notoriously late and unreliable. Most people drive cars or use the metro instead.

Even if you've got a new, super-cool app that shows when the next bus will arrive at your stop, rest assured that Athenian buses defy all laws of GPS-based technology, and you will be disappointed — and late for your dinner reservations.

If you insist on riding the bus, ask someone at the stop when your specific bus passed last. If it was less than 20 minutes ago, I wouldn't bother waiting for the next one.

Take the metro or call a taxi (using the FreeNow app).

Don't just stick with gyros and Greek salad

The country's cuisine does not end with the classic Greek salad or with gyros. Definitely be open to trying more food and wandering off the beaten path.

When in Athens, swap crowded areas like Monastiraki for less touristy ones such as Exarcheia, Petralona, and Koukaki, where you'll find some of the best food in town.

I encourage you to try zucchini fritters, stuffed tomatoes, rooster with pasta in red sauce, pastitsio (Greek lasagna), moussaka (this casserole's famous for a reason), and plenty more flavorful nibbles and dishes.

When in doubt, ask a local for the best restaurants in Athens rather than blindly following travel guides.

You shouldn't flush toilet paper down the toilet

Clogged toilets are a nightmare, which is why you should avoid flushing toilet paper down them while in restaurants, hotels, museums — or just about anywhere in Athens.

The city's sewage system is quite old with narrow pipes, meaning they can't handle much. Use the bin to the side of the toilet to dispose of your used tissue instead.

There's no point in complaining about cicadas

Greek summers go hand in hand with two often-annoying insects: mosquitoes and cicadas.

You can use mosquito repellents to deal with the former, but not much can be done when cicadas are singing their lungs out at night.

Accept that their song will be the soundtrack to your Athens vacation and try to mentally block it out at night. Or, even better, let it lull you to sleep.

Never cross the street without looking

This may sound like a primary-school-level rule, but you'll need it if you want to make it back home in one piece: Never cross the street without checking for cars first.

Crosswalks are rarely seen by Greek drivers as a sign to stop, so crossing one whenever you want is unwise. Wait for the light for pedestrians to turn green and double-check for any drivers on the loose before crossing.

To be fair, cars in Greece are obligated to stop at a crosswalk, no matter the traffic light — but safety trumps proving your point.

Leaving your table without tipping is bad manners

When paying for a meal here, you may notice your bill does not include the mention of a tip.

Although tipping culture here is far from what it is in the US, where many feel tipping 20% is mandatory, it's considered especially rude not to tip servers if you're a tourist here.

In restaurants and cafés in Athens, it's good practice to leave at least a 10% tip.