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ON POINT IN ATHENS

By THIS IS ATHENS TEAM at 12.Jul



“Where can we store our suitcases while we walk around the Acropolis?”
 “How do I get to the beach from here?”
“Can you recommend a good hairdresser?”
“It’s raining! What should we do now?”


Renia Ralli has heard them all. And then some more. 

In her busy role overseeing the city’s four Info Points, the native Athenian parts with the capital’s secrets on an hourly basis. But for this former physics-graduate-turned-civic-ambassador, it’s the best part of the job.

“The biggest buzz for me is helping people and showing off my city; making their lives easier,” says Renia, who speaks Greek, English, French, Italian (and is also studying Russian).

“They’ve chosen my city to spend their time and their money in. I want to give something back and maybe change their ideas about Athens.” 

As summer unrolls and Athens becomes a cultural cauldron of visitors, all wanting the best from their stay, three temporary Info Points have been installed for the second year at strategic sites: Syntagma Square,  Piraeus Port Authority and near the Acropolis Museum (there’s a permanent booth at the Athens International Airport).



When it comes to recruiting locals to man her booths, the Athens Info Point director looks for “personality first”.
 
“Having the right attitude - being welcoming and wanting to help - is far more important than tourism qualifications. Because you can’t teach that.”

Each Info Point has its own personality too, shaped by the people who use it.

“At Acropolis, it’s all about culture and archaeology.  People want to know what events are going on at that moment,” says Renia. “Then they’ll come back every day to ask, ‘What should we do today?’”

“In Piraeus, we’re mostly asked about getting around and how to kill time before a ferry, while at the airport, people are often tired or in a hurry. They just want to know how to get out of there fast.” 

And what about Syntagma, the busiest info hub of them all?

“Anything goes.”

“Food is the number-one question - then the sights. Whether it’s Greek food or Chinese, everyone always wants to know which is the ‘best’ restaurant in town. We’re not allowed to recommend a specific place. Instead we’ll mention 3 that we like.”

“People also often offer to pay us for our insider information or ask us to take them on a local’s tour of Athens. But that’s not permitted either. Sometimes someone will come back to us with chocolates to say thank you for the advice we’ve given them and that’s always really nice.”  

“I’ve also found that older people prefer to ask a real person for information rather than finding it on a device. They like the connection.” 

It’s not just tourists who seek out the info points. Greeks too are coming to them for help.

“About 10 percent of our customers are Greek,” says Renia. “They’ll ask for the inside story about something they’ve seen on the news that morning or how to get to a particular ministry.”

They like to complain too, she laughs.  

 “They’ll say things like, ‘You should really fix that broken tile over there before someone trips’ or ‘Why are there so many pigeons?’”

Renia and her team have to be specialists of all things: from the nearest free WiFi spots, to the best bus connections for the Athens Riviera, and the hottest theatre tickets in town.

But what has been her biggest challenge to date? 

“Years ago, a couple asked me very late one night to find them a place where they could leave their cat for five days” she recalls. “It wasn’t easy, but we did it.” 

Working at the interface, Renia is in pole position to clock the changes.

“Ten years ago, people would only come to Athens for a few hours before getting on a ferry. Now, almost everybody is staying in the capital for a few days.” 


Athens Info-Point kiosks may be found at the following convenient tourist locations:
Athens International Airport, arrivals level, Tel. +30 210 353 0390. Open daily and weekends 8:00-20:00. Months of Operation: Year-round

Acropolis, corner of Amalias Avenue and Dionissiou Areopagitou treet, Tel. +30 210 321 7116. Open daily and weekends 9:00-15:00. Months of Operation: May-September

Piraeus Port Authority, cruise ship arrival terminal. Open daily 8:00-12:00, closed Sundays. Months of Operation: May-September

Athens International Airport, arrivals level, Tel. +30 210 353 0390. Open daily and weekends 8:00-20:00. Months of Operation: Year-round

Acropolis, corner of Amalias Avenue and Dionissiou Areopagitou treet, Tel. +30 210 321 7116. Open daily and weekends 9:00-15:00. Months of Operation: May-September

Piraeus Port Authority, cruise ship arrival terminal. Open daily 8:00-12:00, closed Sundays. Months of Operation: May-September

Syntagma Square. Open daily and weekends 9:00-14:00 & 17:00-20:00. Months of Operation: June-October

  • Athens International Airport, arrivals level, Tel. +30 210 353 0390. Open daily and weekends 8:00-20:00. Months of Operation: Year-round

  • Acropolis, corner of Amalias Avenue and Dionissiou Areopagitou treet, Tel. +30 210 321 7116. Open daily and weekends 9:00-15:00. Months of Operation: May-September

  • Piraeus Port Authority, cruise ship arrival terminal. Open daily 8:00-12:00, closed Sundays. Months of Operation: May-September
  • 
Syntagma Square. Open daily and weekends 9:00-14:00 & 17:00-20:00. Months of Operation: June-October

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