An honest look at the pros and cons of increased tourist arrivals in Greece’s capital and why you should avoid Airbnb in Athens.
Last updated: 14 Dec 2023
According to all data, 2022 and 2023 were excellent years for tourism in Greece and Athens.
Reports speak of historical records of tourist arrivals, even better than in 2019.
Of course, you can see this just by walking in the city.
The subway that connects Athens to the airport is constantly full of people with suitcases, in the streets of Plaka you hear more people speaking English than Greek, while the restaurants and bars of the city center are full every day.
That’s good, right?
I grew up in an Athens that always aimed to improve its tourism.
Its purpose was to stop being the place everyone used to transfer from the airport to the port to continue their holiday on some Greek island.
Besides, it has all the necessary conditions to succeed: rich history, world-class museums, vibrant nightlife, and tasty cuisine.
So seeing it achieve its goal and have more visitors than ever is a gift, isn’t it?
Long story short, yes and no.
An opportunity not to be missed
As it seems, the increase in visitors comes with some serious problems – I will explain in detail below which is the most important of them [spoiler alert: Airbnb in Athens] and how it affects the lives of Athenians.
But the truth is that Athens must learn how to adapt to the new conditions and face the difficulties.
The continued growth of tourism is a unique opportunity that should not be missed.
The Greek economy has suffered from many turbulences in recent years.
The economic crisis of 2008, which lasted about ten years, and the pandemic shrunk citizens’ incomes by about 35%!
Today, it is no secret that the country’s development depends considerably on tourism revenues.
Oversimplified, more visitors mean more financial transactions and bigger revenue for the state.
Athens’ big chance
At the same time, the city of Athens, which in the decade between 2010 and 2020 experienced great stagnation as a consequence of the economic crisis, seems to be flourishing again.
Distressed downtown areas are coming back to life.
Old, or even abandoned, buildings are being renovated and turned into modern hotels.
Archaeological sites and museums are being maintained, improved, and showing off their exhibits better than ever.
New shops are constantly opening, offering jobs to local Athenians – reducing unemployment, which remains among the highest in the Eurozone.
For example, talking a few days ago with waiters who work near Syntagma, in the heart of Athens, they told me how lucky they feel that tourism has returned and they can work again.
But even shopkeepers rely on tourism to increase their turnovers; with the cost of energy and raw materials soaring, tourists seem like a lifeline.
Even this blog you are reading right now would not exist without you, the city’s visitor.
Is Airbnb legal in Athens?
As you probably already suspected, the residents’ most significant problem is the skyrocketing rents.
The advent of Airbnb in Athens raised housing prices and made them unaffordable for Athenians, creating a housing crisis.
The landlords make huge profits from short-term rentals, many of which are in the gray zone, if not illegal.
To get a better picture, the map below shows Airbnb’s housing supply in the city center.
But what about permanent residents?
The minimum wage in Greece is around 700 euros.
However, several people have a higher income, getting 800 to 1,100 euros.
But even for them, the situation is not much better.
Right now, in the city center and around it, it is almost impossible to find a decent house with a rent of fewer than 550 euros.
More often, the prices range between 650 and 1,000 euros.
So, it is not too difficult to calculate what is left to pay the electricity bill, the heating, the supermarket, etc.
Is it better to stay in a hotel or Airbnb in Athens?
If you can avoid Airbnb in Athens, do it!
I am not going to lie; I have also stayed at Airbnb on my travels in the past.
However, seeing the problems it creates in the sustainability of cities, I made a conscious decision to stop using it.
Anyway, I’ve found that the money difference with a hotel room is often tiny.
I can save this money elsewhere; for example, by eating a cheaper meal or using public transport on an occasion when I would take a taxi.
The only exception will be if my destination offers no hotels at all.
Nevertheless, Athens has many hotels suitable for all budgets and preferences.
I am sure that you will find one that suits you perfectly with some searching.
Small changes like this can be part of the solution, not part of the problem.
Make Your Trip Easier
I always book my accommodation with a reliable service like Booking.com. Besides their price guarantee, you can rest assured that you will have 24/7 support in the event of any problems with your hotel. Always make sure you read reviews from other guests before booking.
If you want to get to and from Athens Airport with peace of mind, I recommend pre-booking your taxi with Welcome Pickups. Their flat rate is a few euros more expensive than random taxis, but they are totally worth it. They use local English-speaking drivers, wait for you at the arranged meeting point, even if your arrival is delayed, and introduce you to the city along the way.
Don’t forget to use Skyscanner before booking your flights as it compares different airlines to provide the cheapest and fastest solutions. Moreover, you can save a lot of money if you are flexible with your dates.
Nobody wants to think about all the things that could go wrong on a trip. However, these things can happen, so do not miss taking out travel insurance: SafetyWing is the one I use, as its plans are affordable and can save you a lot of trouble.
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