5 Important lessons learnt from getting pickpocketed in Athens

5 Important lessons learnt from getting pickpocketed in Athens

Back in February, I was invited by my friend to join her family to spend a couple of days in Athens which was soo much fun overall and very much reminded me of the antics I get up to with my family. Athens is the capital of Greece, known for its Greek mythology, archaeological sites with a rich history, plenty of museums, arts and culture. Fun fact, Athens is Europe’s oldest capital. Greeks are really friendly and hospitable in general. The locals would often treat us to free greek shots. We even got treated to free desserts on the house from the chef. I absolutely felt the love when I travelled solo to Mykonos island back in 2018.

The Story – How It Happened

But what I wish I knew before travelling here (which a simple google search would have helped) was that Athens was notorious for pickpocketing. This happened to me, I was pickpocketed for the first time in my life. In the moment, I was angry at the culprits but I was also angry at myself for not being more self-aware as I normally am when I do solo travel. However, this can happen to anybody!

We were en route to our destination and had previously taken out my purse to purchase tickets for the train. I put my purse back in my bag but almost zipped closed and was conscious of this. When we got onto the metro, I was very engrossed in the conversations I was having with my friends family and dismissed all usually heightened senses. We arrived at the destination station, Syntagma metro station, got off a very busy train and made our way to the long exit. I noticed two guys walking behind me, but thought nothing of it as everyone was hurdling to get out of the swamped train. A few minutes later, I immediately noticed my bag felt lighter and checked my bag noticing my purse was stolen. By then, those guys that were behind me walked past me and I was 90% sure it was them.

Grafitti in Athens
Grafitti in Athens

My friend and her sister were ahead of me and I instantly called out their names and said ‘Chase that guy’. They literally ran after one of the guys and got him to stop.  Syntagma station had patrol security who witnessed two Black women chasing after a guy and didn’t blink an eyelid to suspect something suspicious may have been going on. I quickly caught up with them and we asked politely if we could check his belongings. He pretended he didn’t understand English and then proceeded to pick up a call, speaking to the other guy in Greek. He only mentioned one-word ‘money’ in English three times. Although I couldn’t understand a word he was saying, his phone conversation confirmed that he was indeed one of the culprits after hearing the word money. He then let us check his backpack and in English, he said ‘ see I am Black just like you, I would never steal from you ‘ while comparing his skin tone to my friend. We all looked at each other puzzled as this was a local greek man. After we couldn’t find my purse in his belongings, we let him go and later realised that he has already passed my purse onto his friend who escaped.

Subsequently, we went up to the patrolling security, explaining to him what happened and he directed me to an office full of tourist police who gave to a small card with police information. After doing the necessity of cancelling all my debit cards immediately, we headed to the police station and filed a report. The police officer told me that 15 people had already arrived before me, reporting stolen items. He mentioned to me that typically they can get between 30 – 50 reports of stolen items such as passports and wallets per day. The next day, my friend’s purse also got stolen in the high street. To this day, the disappearance of her purse still baffles me.

Tips To Protect Yourself From Pickpockets

  1. Avoid travelling with many valuables.
  2. Never leave your bag(s) unattended.
  3. Separate your cash and stash in multiple places.
  4. Have emergency phone numbers handy.
  5. Be more cautious and alert when travelling to crowded places such as train stations and markets.
  6. Keep your bag(s) in front of you where it is always visible to you.
  7. Invest in an anti-theft bag.

5 Important Lessons I Learnt From My Pickpocketing Experience

When I look back at this incident, there were many important lessons I learnt and wanted to share some of them with you.

1. Having a support system around you is important! It creates community knowing you are not alone. Luckily, I was with 5 other people who were really supportive throughout the unfortunate incident and helped calm me down. I kept my handy Monzo card inside my phone cover so I wasn’t completely cashless.

Sisters sitting down and throw their hands up with the peace sign while looking at a view of Athens city from acropolis
At the top of acropolis

2. Sometimes things may not go to plan and are beyond our control. The only thing I have control over is how I react, the choices I make and my actions towards the things that are going wrong. Don’t let that stop you from creating travel memories and seeing the world.

3. Be more present and live in every moment while travelling. Being present and practising mindfulness can be impactful in many ways, to illustrate, creating calmness in the midst of chaos, forming deeper connections with people around us, heightening our awareness and deepening our observation of our surroundings.

4. After this incident, I questioned the value of items in my purse. Did they hold sentimental value? Could the items be recovered? The answers were yes and no. This thought immediately put things into perspective on how much value we can sometimes place on materialistic things. From memory, my purse had contained several items such as roughly 60 euros, a driving licence, debit cards, point rewards cards for many high street shops and restaurants and my old university card that was useful abroad for obtaining additional discounts. The purse itself was a gift from a good friend of mine. Although I had lost the purse, the memories it holds are still intact which is something I was grateful for.

5. Ensure you have travel insurance! As a frequent traveller, I now realise the importance of covering my trips. This is something I wish I had at the time as I would have been able to claim back what had been stolen.

Thanks for taking the time to read. I would like to hear if anything has happened to you during your travels and what important lessons you have learnt from your situation? Comment below or share your story with me on Instagram and Twitter.

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  1. August 2, 2019 / 9:59 pm

    Great post, though I’m sorry this happened to you and you had to go through a frightening and vulnerable experience. This is great informational for travelers to keep in mind. Thanks for sharing!

    • diywithjoy
      August 3, 2019 / 9:11 am

      Thank you for taking the time to read! What happened was unfortunate but I’m grateful I didn’t get hurt in the process.

      • Chris Christodoulou
        April 16, 2024 / 2:12 pm

        I’m from Cyprus and it happened to me in 2011 at metro. Greek police is entirely responsible for this ongoing pickpocketing reoccurring at Syntagma Metro. Most of the pickpocketing reports coming from same point and they deliberately ignore patrolling simply because they don’t care and they know that locals will not be chased by the thieves

  2. August 4, 2019 / 8:24 pm

    I think you have a very impressive blog, with a great mix of interesting travel destinations and lifestyle topics, and content that’s enjoyable to read – so I just want to let you know that I have nominated you for a ‘Sunshine Blogger Award’ ???

    I hope you’ll accept the award by participating – follow this link to see all the nominees and to take part: https://cherrylsblog.com/2019/08/04/sunshine-blogger-award/

    If the link doesn’t work – just click on the ‘Sunshine Blogger Award’ post in my blog homepage (Cherryl’s Blog) for all the details.

    With best blogging wishes

    Cherryl x

    • diywithjoy
      August 4, 2019 / 10:06 pm

      Wow thanks soo much your kind words, taking the time to read my blog posts and for the nomination! I will be honoured to accept the award! ??

      • August 4, 2019 / 10:09 pm

        Yay!!! That’s great. Can’t wait to read your answers and check out your nominees too ?x

  3. August 7, 2019 / 10:47 pm

    I’m so sorry this happened to you but glad you’ve got a positive message from that experience. Bless you, and stay safe ?

    • diywithjoy
      August 11, 2019 / 8:25 am

      Thank you! No worries, these things do happen which is unfortunate. But I’m glad nothing worse happened. Thanks for reading ?

  4. August 12, 2019 / 9:11 am

    So sorry that this happened to you!

    • diywithjoy
      August 12, 2019 / 9:25 am

      Thank you! These things happen. I’ve definitely learnt from it and can move forward now ?

  5. August 12, 2019 / 9:32 am

    I’m sorry this happened to you, but I’m glad you were supported and that you at least had money left and your passport. Pickpocketing has always been a fear of mine!

    Ash | thisdreamsalive.wordpress.com

    • diywithjoy
      August 12, 2019 / 7:32 pm

      Thank you! Me too, it could have been worse! Last year my friend’s passport was stolen but luckily she was on a work trip and the company was able to sort her out! Hopefully you will never have to experience it!

  6. August 12, 2019 / 1:33 pm

    Sorry about that. You write well, though, and for a change it’s great to read a travel story that’s not all about great beaches. I would never imagine this happening in Athens :-))

    • diywithjoy
      August 14, 2019 / 11:29 am

      Thank you for taking the time to read ? Me too, I didn’t know pickpocketing was really popular in Athens!

  7. August 12, 2019 / 1:44 pm

    It’s sad that you had to go through such an ordeal. Thank you for sharing these great lessons and tips on travelling . We loved the post .

    • diywithjoy
      August 14, 2019 / 11:36 am

      It’s alright, I’m just glad it wasn’t my passport! Thank you for reading ☺️

  8. August 26, 2019 / 10:00 am

    Thank you for sharing! I thought i had left a comment – it must not have saved. I can’t believe this happened to you but I’m not surprised whilst I was there I saw how people could be easily pickpocket and they tried to do it with my bf cousins. There needs to be a change in Athens.

    • August 27, 2019 / 8:09 am

      My pleasure! Thank you for taking the time to read. ? Oh wow that’s crazy! I agree there needs to be serious change because the Greek islands are nothing like that!

  9. September 3, 2019 / 2:20 pm

    I’m sorry this happened to you, I kinda know how you feel though I got scammed *sigh*, we move! Glad you learnt a lesson and I never knew Athens was notorious for pickpocketting loool. Guess I’m going to have to be on guard when I visit sometime in the near future

    • September 5, 2019 / 10:48 am

      Thanks for reading Ricardo! It’s a shame these things happen! Yeahh Athens does not play when it comes to pickpocketing. I saw soo many posts on it when I got back and wish I saw them before I left! Wait, ohh no how did you get scammed?

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