Mission Of The Month: Athens - how to avoid trouble in paradise

Around three million British tourists visit Greece every year – and August is one of the busiest months for consular staff. With this number of visitors, we're kept busy dealing with a range of problems such as hospitalisations, lost or stolen passports, accidents, arrests and, sadly, sometimes death. Every year we help around 1,500 people. About a third of these are aged 16-20, often on their first holiday without parents.

We are regularly asked why so many young tourists need our help. There is no simple explanation. But it's most likely a combination of holiday euphoria (several of Europe's "party" resorts are in Greece), consumption of large amounts of alcohol, plus a feeling that the usual personal safety measures don't apply on holiday.

There are things we can do – working with tour operators, the local authorities and police – to prevent problems arising in the first place. But this is not an easy task. Many visitors are often on holiday to party hard and have as much fun as they can, away from the restrictions of home and family.

We've been working extremely hard on our 2009 awareness campaign – "Another Side to Paradise" – which is geared around getting safety messages across resorts and in places where young people gather – beaches, bars and clubs. We'd like to see holiday makers having just as much fun and a lot less trouble.

Sharon Silverwood-Robson MBE is Vice Consul in the British Embassy in Athens. For travel advice, see fco.gov.uk/travel

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