Deciding which country to travel to on your own, might be a bit tricky, especially as a woman or girl. Men see us as the more vulnerable sex, and traveling alone to a less safe country might result in unpleasant situations. In Greece, however, I have never been close to any danger. Greece is safe for women as well as men.
I have always loved traveling alone. Not having to mind anyone else while getting lost in an unfamiliar place is my way of finding relaxation. Alone I have been to Marocco, France, Germany, Croatia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Italy, the Czech Republic, and Greece. If I had to choose the safest country of all of these, I would say that Greece is the most safe, by far.
My experience of traveling alone
Let me start by explaining situations I have encountered in other countries that gave me a feeling of unsafety. What scares me might be completely normal to you. So for you to understand what triggers my feelings of vulnerability, here are three cases that made me feel uncomfortable.
Let’s start with Croatia. In this country, I felt safe until I started hiking. In remote areas, every house has a guard dog. Unlike the pets I know, these dogs live outside, and their only purpose is to guard the property. After hiking for just 15 minutes, I had an unpleasant encounter with four of these dogs. Since they are not used to people passing by on foot, they saw me as a threat. They jumped over their garden fences to come towards me, barking and showing their teeth. I was lucky that their owners quickly responded and took control. However, I did not continue my hike and went back home, afraid to pass by a dog without an alert owner.
When I arrived in the Czech Republic at 6 a.m., I needed some caffeine to gain the energy to explore Prague. Entering the only open place, I walked into 20 men, drinking half liters of beer. They all stared at me as I walked in, making me wonder if I was even supposed to be there. I did not feel comfortable, and this first encounter wasn’t the only one. Whenever I was outside in the city, I felt good and safe. However, going for a drink, at any time of the day, I came across only men. After a while, I did not feel free to stay in a bar and stopped going after the second day. Maybe I just went into the wrong places, but it did make me feel vulnerable in Prague.
Marocco was my worst experience. I dressed to fit in, wearing long skirts and sleeves. But everywhere I went, I felt people staring at me, both male and female. I felt awkward and alert, afraid that something shady could happen any minute. But this was not the worst part.
Walking through the narrow and busy shopping streets in the old part of Fez, I was continuously surrounded by men wanting something from me. Buying things at their shop, following them to a secret place to drink wine, or paying them to guide me through the city. It was overwhelming.
After just one day I was afraid to go out on the streets. I asked help from the hostess of the accommodation I rented to take me out of the city in the morning and get me food at night. I honestly did not feel safe exploring the city on my own.
Why Greece feels safe
My main fear while traveling alone is being recognized as a single woman in a foreign country. The more I can blend in, the less vulnerable I feel, and the more I enjoy my trip. And in Greece, I felt integrated immediately. There are dark Greeks and light Greeks, blond- and black-haired, and there are blue eyes and brown ones. Everyone can go to Greece and blend in amongst the locals, especially in Athens.
Besides, there are few places in Greece where shop and restaurant owners will surround you to get you inside their business. You can stroll around the cities and villages and decide for yourself where you want to go.
The Greek men are also not very openly flirty towards women. They will definitely look at you, but they will not try to interact with you if you’re passing by or sitting next to them in a tavern. They leave you be, treat you with respect, and you will feel safe to be around them.
The last reason for me to feel safe in Greece is the warmth of the Greek culture. When something happens to you on the street. For example, if you fall or your car breaks down, there will always be at least one Greek to stop and help you. Referring to you as their paidi, their child, they will do anything they can until you are good to go. And they will never expect something from you in return. Greeks are just genuinely friendly and helpful people.
The risks while traveling through Greece
Stray dogs can be dangerous
The scariest things in Greece for a solo traveler are stray dogs and children begging for money. Each city, town, or village in Greece, unfortunately, has stray animals as the result of the crisis, when people could not afford to feed their pets anymore. The exception here is smaller islands, where there are only street cats.
Some of the dogs can be very territorial and hungry and might make your stay in Greece not safe. Encountering them at the wrong place and at the wrong time can result in an attack. The good thing for us women is that street dogs in Greece tend to be much more aggressive against men. But don’t push your luck.
At night, don’t go alone to a remote area or even a deserted part of a big city. There might be a pack of dogs there, and entering their territory can end badly. Villages and smaller towns are mostly safe since the locals take good care of the dogs. When I go out at night, knowing that I might encounter some strays, I always take a big stick with me in case I get attacked. Luckily I did not have to use it yet, but I feel slightly safer knowing I have something to fight back with.
Today the problems of the dogs living on the Greek streets are well known by the municipalities. Greece started doing something about the problem, and more and more people take stray dogs home to have them as a pet. Hopefully, soon we will not have this problem anymore.
I also want to show you the other side of stray dogs in Greece. Look at the three guys (or girls) in the image above. These dogs accompanied me on a hike in the mountains last summer. Like actual guides, one showed me the way, the second was behind to tell the others to stop when I was struggling, and the third scouted the area around. They walked with me for four hours and did not leave my side until I was safely back at the starting point. These street dogs made my day, I felt safe with them alone in the mountains. I still visit to check on them whenever I am in the area.
Children begging for money
The second thing that might make you feel uncomfortable and not safe during your stay in Greece is the children begging for money. You will mostly see them at night, going around restaurants or shopping streets. Some will try to sell you flowers, hats, or cards. Others only have a sad story and ask you for money to help them. Always they are way too young to go around and beg.
Good to know is that the parents or other family members of these children are always around the corner. Even when they tell you a story about sick parents or disabled siblings, it is their family who sent them to get your money.
A kid with a sad story in the right location can easily make hundreds of euros a night! And although the families of these children usually don’t have a lot of money to spend, the begging child is just a side hustle. Sadly, these children are forced to beg and are exposed to danger on the streets at night. However, by giving them cash you are supporting the parents to continue. So do not fall for the story, don’t be bothered too much, and don’t give them money.
My boyfriend once told one of these children that he could not give her any money. He said he had lost his wallet and could not get home or eat that night. The kid left and returned a couple of minutes later, giving him 20 euros. She said, take this so you can get home safely tonight. Showing that the child was making extra money and not in a bad situation herself.
Greeks profiting of tourists
Like in any country, the Greeks will always try to profit from tourists as much as they can. Traveling to famous touristic places you might have to pay too much for a meal or souvenir, but I believe this will happen in any country, all over the world. Also in Athens, you should be aware of the possibility of pickpocketing, homeless people on the streets, and overpriced taxis. However, it is not more than in other big cities in Europe. Take care of your belongings, ask for prices before you enter a cab, and prepare to overpay a little if you want the real tourist experience in Greece.
Explore the Greek culture alone
The last tip I want to give you if you consider traveling alone through Greece is to not limit yourself. Don’t just visit the well-known and popular touristic places because you might believe they are safer. The best thing about traveling alone in Greece is being able to blend into the Greek culture. In smaller villages on the mainland and on lesser-known islands, you are much more likely to become a part of true Greek life. People here will be super friendly and helpful, they will cook you food or invite you over for dinner and most importantly, they will make you relax and feel safe during your stay in Greece.
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