Practical Advice for walking in Athens

Yes, we all know how to walk, but walking in Athens can be much more pleasant if you follow these few pieces of practical advice. Whether you take a walking tour or simply venture out on your own (perhaps to sites and walks described in this blog) mind the following and you’ll be much better off:

1) Carry a bottle of water. Plastic water bottles can be found in every kiosk, supermarket and mini-market but you’ll be better off carrying some water with you in advance, especially if you go to a park or archaeological site or if it’s a Sunday with most stores closed. Many shops, including kiosks, close for many days in August and with temperatures hovering around 40°C (100°F) the risk of dehydration is just around the corner. To be eco-friendly you may carry a heat-resistant, reusable bottle you can fill yourselves.

2) Apply sun-screen before leaving your hotel. You don’t need a nasty sun-burn to spoil your vacation.

3) Wear a hat or cap. And don’t be ashamed of carrying a sun umbrella if you think the heat will wear you down. Even Greek women occasionally carry them these days. OK, I haven’t seen any guys sporting them yet.

4) Both for safety reasons and for making your walk more comfortable get a hidden waist wallet (a.k.a. waist pouch) that can go undetected under your shirt or a waist-pack, preferably a secure, slash-proof one for use in congested places or one with a bottle holder so your hands can be free to e.g. carry a camera. Make sure that the pockets stay at the front where you can see them. Alternative solutions like cross-body travel bags or "healthy back bags" may be even more comfortable but not quite as safe. If you are already in Athens and don't have one, shop in stores selling such gear near the mid-section of Panepistimiou St. (a.k.a. Eleftheriou Venizelou St.) at Athens center, inside the arcades.

5) Mind the pavement cracks and holes. These and various obstacles (like illegally parked cars and motorbikes) will force you to zig-zag quite often, especially if you venture out of the city center and its large sidewalks. With pavements like these it’s no accident it took 10 years for Ulysses to get back home… (just had to throw this in!)

6) Zebra tracks: Don’t assume drivers will stop before them. On the contrary, zebra tracks are both over-used (by street designers) and ignored (by drivers). Do as the traffic lights suggest and even so always look out for approaching traffic. Drivers often pass through the yellow / orange light. Greeks have a love-hate relationship with the traffic code, and your view will depend on which part of the world you’re coming from. If you come from Cairo or Beirut I think you’ll really appreciate our driving; if you come from Berlin or… Denver… Oh, dear!

7) Have a map with you, digital or paper one (but don't go out flashing your iPhone in a seedy neighborhood...). A map can be truly liberating, as it will allow you to venture out to neighborhoods that you might otherwise tend to avoid out of fear of “getting lost” (which is not a bad thing at all to do, in a foreign city).

8) Carry a couple of transport tickets, or a daily one (price 4Euros). Reason: same as above. With most buses starting, ending or passing through somewhere in the city center you can easily get yourselves back to familiar territory by riding a bus and thus you should feel more free to explore.

9) Last but not least! Avoid the infamous sandals-and-socks combination which is guaranteed to have you frowned upon by Greeks, from the youngest to the oldest and from the homeless to the nouveau-rich J

Follow the above and Athens should be open for you to explore and zig-zag through as long as your feet can handle it.

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