Planning a visit and wondering: is London safe for travel?
It’s important to do your research ahead of going on holiday, especially in a major city and with the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. As a London local who loves exploring this exciting metropolis, I’m here to provide you with my take on the city’s safety, including hard data and safety tips.
All in all, London is generally a safe place to visit, but there are some things you should know about safety in London. And while you’re here, be sure to bookmark my articles on where to stay in London and what to do in London.
Table of Contents
- Is London Safe?
- Things to Know About Safety in London
- 7 Safety Tips for London
- Tip #1 – Keep Your Phone In A Place Where You Can See It
- Tip #2 – Leave Your Passport At Your Accommodations In A Safe
- Tip #3 – Avoid Walking Alone At Night
- Tip #4 – Always Be Aware of Your Surroundings, Especially When Wearing Headphones
- Tip #5 – Plan Your Travel Route Before You Leave
- Tip #6 – Don’t Carry A Lot of Cash
- Tip #7 – Let A Loved One Know Of Your Whereabouts
- London Safety FAQs
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Is London Safe?
Amongst popular European cities, London is generally a very safe city for travelers that plan ahead. However, before you travel, it’s important that you do your research on where to stay and what measures to take regarding the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. People visiting London should take the usual precautions to protect their belongings against pickpocketing when out touring the city by being aware of their surroundings, especially when using public transportation.
London has high levels of law enforcement and security across neighborhoods, making it a safe city for visitors. According to the Economist’s 2021 Safe Cities Index, London ranks as the fifteenth safest city in the world.
One element about the United Kingdom that makes it significantly safer than some other countries is the fact that there are very strict gun laws. This makes gun violence a much less common crime in London compared to other major cities. Possession of weapons is the least common type of crime in London.
The most common crimes in London are violence, sexual offenses, and robbery. Of course, there are ways to help prevent these types of criminal activity from happening.
Things to Know About Safety in London
On the travel advisory level scale, The US State Department advises people traveling to the UK to exercise increased caution when visiting the UK due to the potential for a terrorist attack. This is level 2 out of 4, which means that you are still safe to go, it is just recommended that you exercise common sense and awareness when traveling.
Big cities are unfortunately the biggest targets for terrorism even though they are not intrinsically dangerous places. Over the years, London has increased security significantly, especially in the busiest areas of the city, making it a safe place to roam.
Safe Neighborhoods and Areas in London
Many boroughs in London are considered very safe for visitors to wander around. To stay safe in London, it’s best practice to make yourself aware of the various neighborhoods before your trip.
Much of West London is generally a safe area and one that people of all ages flock to. Richmond in West London has the lowest crime rate in London – it’s a beautiful residential area with some of London’s best restaurants, parks, and shops.
Other top areas that are safe in London to visit include Notting Hill (West), Bermondsey (South East), Highbury (North East), and Hampstead (North West). These neighborhoods are scattered across London so you can easily diversify your trip while also ensuring you are in a safe area.
In general, you will be able to feel safe in the majority of neighborhoods in London. It’s all about taking safety precautions such as staying aware of your surroundings, planning your route, and leaving valuables in a safe place before going out for the day.
Covid-19 Safety in London
The UK was the first country in the world to begin administering citizens the Covid-19 vaccine. They ran a very successful and efficient vaccination program that has seen over 151 million vaccinations to date, with many people getting vaccinated in London specifically.
Today, Covid-19 restrictions in London have largely been lifted, but it’s still good practice to keep a mask and hand sanitizer with you just in case.
Crime in London
Crime rates in London have unfortunately increased by 10% in the past year, according to the Metropolitan Police crime dashboard.
Results from the dashboard also state the most common crimes are violence against a person without injury, theft, and violence against a person that has resulted in injury. The borough of Westminster has significantly higher crime rates than any other area in central London, mainly due to its high population density and tourist attractions.
The London government and the Mayor of London have put an immediate crime plan in place for 2022-2025 to tackle crime over the coming years. The plan has four main priorities: to focus on reducing violent crime in London and address its underlying causes, to increase trust and confidence in the policing system, to improve services provided to crime victims, and to protect people from criminal exploitation and harm.
Common Scams in London
Another way to stay safe in London is to know the common scams. Unfortunately, the reality of London being a top tourist destination means that scammers see it as a prime opportunity to target visitors and even locals. Some of the most common scams are:
💸 Thieves and Pickpockets – Make sure you keep your hand on your bags at all times, especially in crowded places. Pickpockets target tourists in busy places, so protecting your belongings will help prevent getting them stolen.
🎟️ Fake Tickets Scam – It is recommended to always purchase tickets for concerts, broadway shows, and sporting events from online platforms and not from sellers outside of venues. Although on some occasions the sellers are real, there have been a lot of fake tickets sold this way.
👜 Fake Luxury Goods Scam – London is full of luxury goods, but if you’re in the market, then beware of fakes. It is recommended to buy from the stores directly, or a luxury secondhand store for vintage designer goods. A lot of London markets will try and pass off fakes as real designer items, so best to buy from a recognized seller.
📹 Cameras on ATM Machines Scam – When using an ATM in London, make sure you check to ensure there isn’t a hidden camera. There have been reports of ATMs with cameras attached so scammers can record credit cards and PINs.
📷 Someone Offering to Take Your Picture – This is a timeless trick that has happened in many cities, including London. If you’re traveling solo and would like someone to get the perfect shot of you in front of your favorite landmark, be mindful about who you ask so you don’t get your phone stolen. Families are likely your best bet.
👐 Fake Charity Collectors Scam – This guilt trip scam has trapped many tourists and is easily avoidable. Unfortunately, there are fake charities around London masquerading as real charities asking for money. Real charity collectors in the UK must legally carry a collector’s permit and registration number, so you can ask to see these if you’re planning to donate.
Hazardous Weather and Natural Disasters
London has a reputation for being one of the rainiest cities in Europe, which can sometimes result in thunderstorms or flooding. See my guide to the best time to visit London for when to come for better weather.
Although rain is a part of life in London, London is not known to have particularly hazardous weather such as hurricanes, which require much higher temperatures than you’ll see in the UK.
The weather can be spotty in London, and rain doesn’t always mean a thunderstorm or torrential downpour. You’ll likely experience a quick rainfall that blows over within a short period. The best way to be prepared for London’s sometimes wacky weather is to always carry a travel umbrella on you and go indoors if the rain picks up.
The London government has implemented a severe and natural disaster framework to be prepared in the case that hazardous weather may arise.
Solo Female Traveler Safety
Solo travel for women carries its own set of precautions, however, London is generally a safe place for solo female travel. The best practice as a solo female traveler in London is to take steps like planning your route or avoiding walking alone at night where possible.
There is a great free personal safety app that you can download in London called Hollie Guard that allows you to notify your emergency contacts when you’re in trouble. I would recommend downloading this when you arrive in London. Another great trick is to carry a personal alarm should you be in an unsafe situation.
When going out for the evening, it never hurts to let someone know where you will be as an extra safety measure.
LGBTQ+ and BIPOC Safety
London is one of the most friendly cities in the world for the LGBTQ+ community. There are several queer-friendly bars and events within the city, which has one of the largest LGBTQ+ communities in the world. Soho is a hotspot for the queer community, where you’ll find a great selection of gay bars and clubs. London Pride and Brighton Pride are two of the largest annual LGBTQ+ celebrations, welcoming queers from all over the world.
Over a third of residents in London were born outside the UK, and it is known for being a very multicultural city. BIPOC travelers will very often feel welcome and safe in London.
That being said, although London is diverse, there is still a ways to go in terms of alleviating racism and hate crime. It is recommended to stay informed of local and global news and always be aware of your surroundings as a traveler, regardless of your ethnicity.
London is known for its bustling nightlife scene that attracts visitors from all over the world. There are so many fun places to drink in London.
However, the busyness of London’s nightlife has made it easier for people to spike drinks, which can be very dangerous. When going out at night, it is best to travel in groups and ensure you always hold onto your drink.
If you have to leave your drink unattended for whatever reason, have your friend or partner watch it. If someone offers to buy you a drink, ensure that you do not take your eyes off of it from the moment it’s made to when it’s handed to you.
Is Tap Water Safe to Drink in London?
The tap water in London is clean and safe for drinking. Tap water in the UK is also considered some of the best in the world. London’s tap water goes through a process before it hits your taps, and the majority comes from River Thames and River Lee reservoirs. The water is then taken through a freshwater treatment before becoming accessible to you.
If you needed any further reassurance, London’s tap water is often tested by private water companies such as Thames Water to ensure it’s safe.
7 Safety Tips for London
Tip #1 – Keep Your Phone In A Place Where You Can See It
Street theft is unfortunately quite common in London, and phones, in particular, are easy to grab out of someone’s hand or pocket. Put your phone in your bag when not in use, and keep your hand over your bag while walking or on the tube. Also, when walking on busy streets, grip your phone tightly in your hand so cyclists riding by don’t have the chance to take it (this has happened!)
Tip #2 – Leave Your Passport At Your Accommodations In A Safe
When traveling, your passport is one of your most prized possessions and not something you want to risk losing. It is recommended to leave it at your hotel, AirBnB, or other accommodations in a safe. You can set a reminder on your phone to take it out of the safe before your return flight for peace of mind.
Tip #3 – Avoid Walking Alone At Night
As with any big city, some neighborhoods in London are not as safe as others. It is recommended to avoid walking alone at night in less well-lit or busy areas and travel in numbers if possible.
This will not only make you feel safer when wandering around a city you’re less familiar with but will also reduce the risk of being approached by strangers. If you see any suspicious behavior, you should report it to the local police station.
Tip #4 – Always Be Aware of Your Surroundings, Especially When Wearing Headphones
Many people that are looking to visit the UK think about whether London is a safe city to explore. It certainly can be as long as you’re using common sense and being street-wise to avoid dangerous areas including dark alleys.
The best way to do this is by always being aware of your surroundings at all times. Wearing headphones when walking alone at night is not recommended, as it is harder to see others, so hearing your surroundings becomes more important.
Tip #5 – Plan Your Travel Route Before You Leave
London is a big city and maneuvering through it can be tricky without a plan in place. Planning your travel route before you leave your accommodations will not only help guide you along the most efficient route to where you want to go, but also make you feel safer when navigating.
Public transport can get you almost anywhere in London, as well as to some of the best day trips from London, and is the most cost-effective. City Mapper is a great app you can download that provides real-time updates on transit and the best routes to take.
Tip #6 – Don’t Carry A Lot of Cash
When paying for things in London, the majority of places take credit and debit cards, which means you will not need to carry much cash when you’re in the city. This is great news as it reduces the risk of non-urgent crimes like robbery.
Cards can be used for everything from the tube to coffee shops, and the only places you’re likely to need cash are for some markets and smaller businesses.
Tip #7 – Let A Loved One Know Of Your Whereabouts
It is good common sense to let your loved ones know your plans, especially when traveling. Most cities can have dangerous areas, so it is a great safety measure to have emergency contacts in case of any unlucky encounters. Your loved ones will appreciate knowing you’re safe and it will allow you to be able to enjoy London for the great city that it is.
London Safety FAQs
What should I avoid in London?
In London, visitors should avoid wandering around the city alone at night, particularly in less safe areas like east London where street crime is more prevalent than in other neighborhoods. Travelers should also avoid carrying valuables with them when going through touristy areas as there is high foot traffic and an increased risk of getting pickpocketed.
Is London safe at night?
London is safe at night, as many areas across central London are well lit. That being said, it’s important to ensure that if you are planning to be out and about at night, you travel with someone and have your mobile phone on you in case of an emergency.
Which parts of London are dangerous?
Although London is one of the safest cities based on its score in the Economists safe cities index, every big city is bound to have less safe neighborhoods than others. When you visit London, I would recommend steering clear of Croydon, Tower Hamlets, and Newham, as they have reputations for being less safe areas.
Is London safe?
London is generally considered safe, especially in comparison to other popular European cities. Due to the number of people and the fact that it is one of the most famous cities in the world to visit, the security is very high, so you will feel comfortable going through busy areas because they are well guarded.
Thank you for reading my London safety guide. I hope my tips helped stay safe during your trip to London. Up next, check out my picks for the best things to do in London!
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