Is London Safe? 9 Travel Tips For Avoiding Trouble
London is one of the busiest and most popular capital cities in the world for tourists, but is London a safe place to visit and how can you ensure you have a hassle-free trip to this vibrant city? Read on to find out all you need to know about staying safe in London.
Is London Safe?
On the whole, London is considered a very safe city to both live in and explore as a visitor. While there are parts of the city that are best avoided due to safety concerns, the major tourist areas are safe and welcoming. As long as you use common sense, you’re sure to have a safe trip to London.
Having visited London many times, I know all about using public transport, visiting the top tourist sites with ease, and how to stay safe when exploring London at night. Keep reading to discover my top travel tips for staying safe in London.
1. Keep an Eye on Your Possessions, and From the Eyes of Thieves
The top tip for staying safe in London is to keep an eye on your possessions at all times. This tip works for visiting any major city, and London is no different.
The times when your belongings are most vulnerable to theft are when travelling on busy public transport, when queuing at major tourist sites and when taking photographs. It’s at these moments that your attention can be taken away from your bag or belongings, even if just for a second, and people may take advantage.
If you can wear a bag that is safe and secure with zips, buckles or toggles, then you’re less likely to come under attack from thieves. Wearing a cross-body bag or carrying your backpack on your front can also minimise risk. It’s best to keep your valuables out of sight unless you are using them, so you don’t just walk around with your phone or wallet simply in your hand or pocket.
2. Know Where You're Going, Don't Look Like a Tourist
It’s always a good idea to know where you’re going when you set off from your hotel to whatever tourist attraction you’re visiting. This ensures that you can get on and off public transport with ease and you won’t need to worry about getting your phone out to follow Google Maps while you’re walking along the street.
Again, this just minimises your risk of being targeted, either by scammers (offering to take you to your destination) or by people looking to grab your phone when you’re not paying attention. If you look like you know where you’re going, and you walk with ease and confidence, you’re much less likely to be accosted by someone looking for an easy target.
Knowing where you’re going and which stop you are getting on/off at on public transport also means you’re unlikely to end up in any untoward neighbourhoods where you don’t know where you are.
3. Look Out For Unexpected Cars and Buses When Walking
London is a very busy city, and there are very few pedestrian-only streets. Therefore, cars and buses are likely to be passing by at all times. It is important to remember that cars drive on the left in the UK, so you’ll need to remember to check roads accordingly before crossing to ensure you stay safe while visiting London.
Most crossings in the UK have green/red man signals, and while there are no punishments for jay-walking, it’s worth waiting for the green signal to ensure you don’t get caught out.
4. Only Take Licensed London Taxis
Taxis aren’t the best way to get around London during the day – they are expensive and slow in London traffic – but they can be an excellent way to travel at night. You’ll want to ensure you’re travelling in a metered taxi, so you’re not stung by any extra fees when arriving at your destination.
It is vital that you only use licensed London taxi cabs or official car hire services or apps. These are then insured and registered so you will be covered should you run into any trouble while travelling in London.
5. Don't Walk London Alone at Night
If you can possibly avoid it, you’ll want to ensure you don’t have to walk alone at night in London. Of course, it won’t be a problem to walk short distances to use public transport at night (e.g. if you leave a major theatre and then head to a nearby station) as there will be lots of other people around. But you’ll want to avoid walking any great distance alone at night and avoid walking in quiet, unlit areas. This tip goes for travelling in all major cities and towns.
If you can afford to, it’s best to take a licensed taxi directly to your final destination to ensure you stay safe when travelling at night in London.
If you do take public transport alone at night, try to sit in the middle carriages of the Tube or on the lower deck of a bus as these are likely to be busier and there should, therefore, be a lower risk of an incident.
If your walking route at night looks to be taking you through an unlit park or street, it’s best to avoid this route and find an alternative. You don’t want to put yourself in unnecessary danger for the sake of saving a few minutes.
6. Check That Your Pin Is Covered When Using an ATM
Just like in any city, you’ll want to make sure your PIN code is covered when using an ATM in London. Card fraud is possible wherever you go, but there are precautions you can take to stay safe. Make sure there is no-one hovering nearby or looking over your shoulder when using an ATM.
Another tip is to make sure you only use ATMs that look safe and secure. If you have any suspicions that an ATM may have been tampered with, try to find another ATM nearby, perhaps in a bank or convenience store.
You’ll also want to be aware of where your Contactless card is when travelling on public transport as there have been some reports of people trying to scam people out of money by using concealed card readers on busy transport.
7. Being Aware of Your Surroundings is Key to Staying Safe
London is a real attack on the senses with sounds, sights and smells catching your attention wherever you go. It’s important to be aware of your surroundings so that you can avoid any untoward encounters or notice when any issues may be arising.
One tip to help you stay aware of your surroundings is to avoid wearing headphones while you travel and walk around the city. While it can be fun to listen to music or podcasts while you walk, wearing headphones stops you from hearing vehicles, footsteps or conversations nearby that may flag up potential issues or dangers.
If you feel uncomfortable at any moment, try to remove yourself from the situation, avoid eye contact and get yourself into a public place.
8. Travel With Other People - London is More Fun Shared
While London is generally considered safe for solo travellers, visiting with friends or family can be a good way to avoid any unnecessary danger. Groups are much less likely to be confronted by strangers or to be targeted in a mugging attack.
You’ll need to ensure that you still remain present and aware of both your belongings and surroundings when travelling as part of a group so that your distraction doesn’t lead to any danger.
9. Be Aware of the UK Emergency Numbers
While it’s unlikely that you’ll run into any significant trouble when visiting London, it is good to be aware of any emergency numbers you might need. Whether you need to report an incident or want to notify police of suspicious behaviour or unattended luggage, you can use the numbers below.
Please note that 999 should only be used in times of real emergency.
- 999 or 112 – Emergency number to contact police, ambulance or fire brigade
- 101 – Non-emergency number for the police
- 0800 40 50 40 – British Transport Police
Hopefully, these nine tips will help you to stay safe while travelling in London and you will have an amazing time exploring the English capital.
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