The Anti-Tourist

I like to beat new paths for myself.

The day I thought I'd be murdered or kidnapped - AKA Always Read Reviews

By 13:13:00 , , , ,

After a fantastic week in Ios, I had one night and half a day to myself in Athens before catching my flight back home. The problem with focusing so much on Ios was that I completely forgot about this last night, and booked at the latest possible minute (read: 1 hour before my flight). The first room to pop up was in one of the most central districts in Athens, for a mere 22 euro - score! 

Or so I thought...

Sunset from my room in Athens - I was hoping this wouldn't be my last! 
Having said goodbye to the rest of the team at the port, I hailed a taxi and gave the driver the address to my hotel, the Sparta Team Hotel. That's when the first alarm went off. My taxi driver re-read the address, and seeing me alone with my luggage, asked me if I was sure about it. Perplexed, I double checked the address and confirmed, and the driver hesitantly drove on. As we approached the area, he told me, "Madam, for your safety, do not go out here tonight. I do not like driving here". If there's one person I trust in knowing a city, it's a taxi driver. This was not looking good...

The driver dropped me off right in front of the hotel, and quickly drove off. I walked past a few shady characters and walked into the reception, only to find even more leering men looking on. The receptionist, at least, was very friendly as she showed me to the lift (my room was on the 6th floor) and explained to me that my room cannot be locked from the outside, which meant that if I went out I'd be leaving my possessions available for anyone else. WHAT?

My room was actually quite decent, and with stable Wifi, I sat on my bed and took to Tripadvisor to check out the area and the hotel. You might want to do this before actually being in the room, especially when I read these comments:

"I have bed bug bites all over my body from staying in this hotel for one night. Nil air con in 35 degree weather. I booked 3 nights- only lasted not even 12 hours. The photos on the website do not reflect reality. Room was dirty and felt like fan was going to fall on me during the night. Hotel also in an extremely dodgey area, lots of illegal immigrants staying in hotel and working around the area. Not safe for a single female. Also no refunds"

and: 

"We arrived in Omonia at 20:00 and we were really looking forward to go to the hotel leave our stuff there and go to the bars. Little did we know that booking a hotel in Omonia area is a big mistake.
The hotel (which by the way was a hostel) looked much much nicer in the pictures. Quite decent and good for it's price - which turned out to be a place where men meet low-class prostitutes and looked like a place where people do crack (this is only a metaphor to describe how it looks by the way).
We take a turn in Menandrou Street (where the hotel is located) and it looked worse than the favelas in Rio, and I passed next to them a year ago. I was saying to myself to not judge a book by its cover as in the website we booked it from, the pictures and the specs looked good."


...which was when I realised I was already feeling itchy. Jumping up from the bed and covering it in towels (provided by the hotel... thanks, I guess?), I began hearing a lot of shouting and what sounded like fighting from neighbouring rooms. 



So there I was, in one hot room with a fan swinging above my head, the door locked and my luggage and a chair propped against it for safety, and a bed that was too alive for my taste. That night I tried to distract myself from the banging sounds and cursing behind my door, and somehow slept for a few hours. That morning, I changed as fast as I could, gave my key to the receptionist (again, really friendly and polite), asked for a taxi, and left the place as quickly as possible.

I've been to quite a few dodgy places in my life, and I rarely say this, but this place really got my spine tingling. Moral of the lesson: if a place sounds too good to be true, it probably is not true. For a few more bucks, I could have had a much more enjoyable night in Athens, and definitely a less itchy one!

Do you have any haunting travel stories? Let me know in the comments below! Stay safe X

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