Every traveller treasures the excitement of heading out on a new journey and the anticipation of learning about new cultures, cuisines, and landscapes. In today’s scene of global tourism, however, there is a problem that shadows the excitement: the safety of travelers. This issue hit home for me in a profound way during a recent journey to the captivating city of Thessaloniki, Greece, when my sister’s wallet was deftly lifted from her backpack during our very first hour in the country. The incident instantly made me wonder whether or not our vacation would be safe, leading me to research a recurring concern: “Is Thessaloniki safe for tourists?”
The article explores Thessaloniki’s security situation using both statistics and personal experiences to reveal the complex reality that influences travelers’ views as they roam through this historical city. By sharing this story and conducting an objective analysis, I hope to arm other travelers with the information they need to make wise choices and confidently start their own adventures in Thessaloniki.
With its unique blend of historical beauty, energetic street life, and scenic seafront, Thessaloniki has long been a popular vacation spot. However, worries about safety have begun to diminish the appeal of its centuries-old ruins and vibrant markets.
The safety index of Thessaloniki
According to Numbeo, the safety index of Thessaloniki is 46.45. On a global scale, this puts the city in a medium interval of risk. While it’s true that crimes increased in the last few years, the most common issues associated with this destination are not very serious and rarely put someone’s life at risk.
Pick pocketing and stealing valuables out of cars should be your main concerns here, similar to most parts of Greece. Physical attacks cannot be ruled out as well, although they usually happen as a result of robberies or provoked situations (such as getting into arguments or fights with strangers). Also according to Numbeo statistics, there is a fairly high (and increasing) number of people using and dealing drugs. From my experience, I can’t say that I had clear encounters with people on drugs, but it’s possible that the amount of thieves and robbers to be linked to the number of drug users desperate to make money to fuel their addiction.
General travel advice
First thing’s first. Before traveling to Thessaloniki make sure you have health and travel insurance, in the unfortunate case you would need any kind of assistance.
If you personally need help from the police or you witness any kind of crime, call the official EU emergency number 112, or go to the nearest police station. Unfortunately, from my own experience I can say that the police is often not very helpful, and that’s not only the case in Thessaloniki, but in many parts of Greece (for example, I had another bad experience in Athens as well, when our rented car was broken into). This is why I recommend you take extra measures of protection against thieves and attackers, so that you won’t find yourself in the position of needing to reach out to the authorities for help. Read on to find out the best ways to keep yourself and your belongings safe.
Telling you Thessaloniki is one of the safest European cities would be a lie. It’s not very bad either, but let’s just say that if you look like a tourist, you’re most likely a target from the moment you set foot in the airport. From that moment, it’s your responsibility to be extra alert of your surroundings and cautious with the whereabouts of your valuables. Like I said earlier, you need to be aware that you can be a victim of assault and pick-pocketing, as well as having your things stolen from your car. Before I give you some tips on how to avoid unwanted situations, give me a moment to explain what happened when my sister’s wallet was stolen, so you can see that some things we did were avoidable, others not.
🚍 After we landed on Thessaloniki Airport, we started looking around for the buses that go to the city. It was just me, my sister and my niece, excited for our new vacation. We quickly found a ticket office and asked how much is a ride.
🎒 My sister had her wallet in a small, bright yellow backpack. She asked me to open the backpack and take the wallet out, so she can take money from it, which I did. There were around 20-30 people around us, either waiting in line to buy a ticket or waiting for the bus to arrive, and any of them could have easily notice (1) where the wallet is located, (2) that the wallet had money in it and (3) that the backpack wasn’t secured in any way. We bought tickets, the bus arrived and we begun the ride. We were in the front section of the bus, standing and it was very crowded.
🚏 We reached one of the bus stations in the city center in about 40 minutes. We got down of the bus, crossed the street and started walking towards our accommodation. A few seconds later, my niece noticed that my sister’s little backpack was unzipped and opened widely.
💸 The wallet with all the credit cards, money, drivers license and other stuff was gone. After freezing all the credit cards, I Googled the nearest police station and went to announce the theft.
📜 The police took us a statement, but admitted there’s not much they can do. The buses in Thessaloniki don’t have security cameras. We were told that thieves usually take everything of value then discard the wallets in public places, so if they ever found the wallet, maybe we could get back the documents in it, which are of no value for the criminals. Long story short, we never heard back from the police ever since.
Now let’s see how you can avoid being in our situation, by following these tips:
- Use secured backpacks and keep your bags in front of you, where you can see them at all times.
- Avoid backpacks and bags in bright, flashy colors which easily attract attention.
- Avoid crowded places where thieves can easily operate without anyone noticing.
- Try to keep small amounts of money on you, in secure pockets, so that you don’t have to open your wallet in public every time.
- To keep money safe, carry around a credit card instead of cash, if possible.
Safe areas of Thessaloniki
There are a few of areas in Thessaloniki that are generally thought to be secure for visitors to explore. But wherever you go, use cautious and pay attention to your surroundings like you would in any city. Thessaloniki’s tourist-friendly neighborhoods are listed below, along with a brief description of each one:
Ladadika: A historic neighborhood well-known for its active nightlife, Ladadika is a well-liked destination for both locals and visitors. It has a large number of eateries, bars, and cafes, which keeps the place buzzing long into the night.
Aristotelous Square is the hub of Thessaloniki and is generally regarded as secure. It’s a terrific area to unwind and people-watch because it’s surrounded by stores, cafes, and restaurants.
Rotunda and Galerius Arch Area: Home to historical sites like the Rotunda and Galerius Arch, this area is generally safe and also provides insights into Thessaloniki’s rich past.
Ano Poli (Upper Town): Ano Poli is a lovely and scenic area with traditional homes and winding alleyways that provides breathtaking views of the city and the sea. Though it is generally regarded safe during the day, it is best to use caution after dark, especially in less well-lit places.
Kalamaria:Thessaloniki’s coastal suburb of Kalamaria is renowned for its laid-back vibe and seafront promenade. It’s a safe area with a variety of cafes and restaurants.
Nea Paralia: This seaside location is well-liked for leisurely strolls, cycling, and taking in sea views. It’s generally safe and well-patrolled.
While it’s crucial to keep in mind that these areas are typically deemed safe, actual levels of safety might vary from street to street and over time. There are some places that might have a different ambience and be less popular with tourists. Any city, including Thessaloniki, should be explored in the following ways:
- At night, stay away from areas that are dimly lighted or empty.
- Be cautious of pickpockets and keep your stuff secure, especially in crowded places.
- To fit in with the local culture, do some research on the customs and behaviors there.
- Follow the recommendations of locals and reliable travel guides.
- Keep up with any safety-related updates or travel advisories.
Thessaloniki is usually a busy city – and this includes the traffic as well. You can expect accidents and roadblocks, but nothing too serious.
Taxis are not very trust-worthy, as the drivers will each make you a price on the spot, trying to scam tourists as much as they can. Bolt is not available here, and Uber will order you taxis as well, so it’s not much helpful. If you want the Bolt or Uber usual experience, you can use BEAT app, which works similarly. I didn’t have the chance to use it, but you can try it if you really need a ride.
The buses are ok, but as stated before, thieves usually operate in them, especially on the routes that are frequented by tourists. Also, keep in mind that there are no security cameras installed, so if anything happens, identifying criminals is almost impossible.
Other than that, transportation in Thessaloniki is rather safe and if you take some precaution measures, you can have a good time while going around the city.
Greece, including Thessaloniki, has historically experienced lower levels of terrorism compared to some other countries. While there have been a few terrorist incidents in Thessaloniki, they haven’t been as frequent or widespread as in places that are more well-known to be terrorism hotspots.
I recommend consulting official travel warnings published by your country’s government, as well as global organizations like INTERPOL, and speaking with local authorities in Greece to get the most precise and up-to-date information regarding the present terrorism risk in Thessaloniki.
Remember that circumstances might change, and it’s always a good idea to be well informed before visiting any destination.
Risk for diseases
Like any other place, Thessaloniki has some risk for disease, although the specific dangers might vary based on things like the time of year, the state of the local health system, and individual health status. When visiting Thessaloniki, be aware of the following possible disease risks:
Before going to Thessaloniki, it is recommended that you are up to date on all of the routine vaccinations. This covers immunization against illnesses like the flu, measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis.
Water and Food-borne Diseases
In some places, there may be a risk of water and food-borne illnesses. It is best to stay away from eating raw or under-cooked food, especially from street vendors, and to drink bottled or purified water. To stop the spread of illnesses, it’s crucial to practice basic hand hygiene.
There may be a chance of mosquito-borne illnesses like West Nile virus during the warmer months. The danger of mosquito bites can be decreased by using insect repellents, dressing in long sleeves and trousers, and remaining inside during periods of high mosquito activity.
You could also require supplementary immunizations for hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid, or rabies, depending on your travel plans. To find out which vaccinations are advised based on your itinerary and health status, speak with a travel health clinic or your healthcare provider well in advance.
To maintain your health while traveling, keep in mind that health risks may vary, so it’s important to be informed and take the necessary precautions.
In the world of travel, the desire for discovery frequently coexists with concerns about safety and well-being. Our exploration of Thessaloniki’s safety environment has revealed a complex reality that extends beyond the news headlines and personal anecdotes. While my sister’s unfortunate wallet theft event raised questions, it also led to a deeper investigation into the complex nature of safety in this captivating city.
While no place can eliminate all risks, it is essential to approach travel with a balanced perspective. Misconceptions and media influence can cloud judgments, but a comprehensive understanding of a city’s safety measures is the cornerstone of informed decision-making. Travellers can reduce dangers and improve their entire experience by following safety tips and keeping up with recent changes.