Top 5 Ultimate Guide to Safety in London
Safety in London is crucial when planning your trip to London. London is known for individualism and independence when going out and about, especially in Central London. Living in London for over 20+ has given me the experience of dos and don’t, the culture, the people and my surrounding area. Read my Guide on London for First Time Visitors.
Although there are 5 tips in this post, it includes what to expect when you’re in London. People will tell you to keep your belongings safe, avoid dark alleyways, don’t bring flashy items with you and use your common sense. Everyone knows that, we’re all adults here but every country is different. Every country has its own way of talking, walking, breathing and eating.
This post will include getting by as a local tourist while being safe at the same time. Without further ado, read on.
1) How do you stay safe in London?
Safety from local scammers in London
Before you arrive, make sure you read and research the area where you’ll be staying and read up on local scammers in London. Below is a list of areas in London you should be vigilant in.
I went to Paris and if it weren’t for my best friend living there, I would have fallen for the ring scam. I went to Barcelona and the first two days of arriving, I felt safe, everyone was so friendly, so I thought I hung my camera around my neck for people to see. Before I knew it, someone tried to grab it from my neck unsuccessfully.
Learn the British etiquettes by reading my Guide to London for first-time visitors above so you don’t get trapped from pick pocketers and people taking advantage. Stay in the Central just to be safe.
Especially in Oxford Street, Regent Street, and Tottenham Court Road, there are many “homeless people” and old ladies wearing head scarves begging for money. Don’t fall for that trap, they could have a house somewhere in South Kensington. If someone asks you to buy a Big Issue Magazine, it means they are genuinely homeless, trying to make a living from selling magazines. The Big Issue magazine is quite expensive, but they only get a commission and not many people buy them. It would help them a lot in the long run.
Beware of street performers found on Westminster Bridge near the Southbank area. People usually watch them and are entertained by them. Click for more information on things to do in Southbank. They will ask you to give them £20 to solve a puzzle. They’d tell you that you’ve been unsuccessful, then they’ll ask you for another £20 for a second chance. Guess what? You’re unsuccessful again. Then they’ll tell you you’d get the rest of the £40 back if you solve the puzzle. NO!!! Don’t fall for it.
Avoid cabs or taxis that don’t have any license numbers. I’ve noticed that even the black cab scammers may mimic license plates. Always get an Uber or a reputable black taxi. When you see a row of taxi drivers by the side road, they’re more likely to be reputable. Although expensive, it could save you a lot of money and most importantly, save your life.
In Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus, if you want to buy theatre tickets, make sure you buy them in a reputable booth. Here is my West End Walk for ideas on what to do in London. Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus are situated in the West End.
When you see people queueing up and enquiring about ticket prices, you know they’re genuine. Shop around several booths and ask for a price and compare them to the ticket booth in the actual theatre. The most popular theatre shows are The Lion King, Harry Potter, and the Cursed Child, and Les Misérables. Watch out for people selling cheap tickets on these shows. Although I’ve never seen anyone selling cheap theatre tickets, many people have been scammed into buying them.
If you’re buying something cheaper than the actual price (except the 50% off on tickets for shows on the same day), then you know they’re fake.
2. Safety in Central London
Is London safe for tourists?
The crime rate is lower than most cities in the United States of America and most of our police don’t usually carry guns.
I’ve never been pickpocketed before and I’ve been living here for over 25 years, even when there are crowds of people on public transport. If you blend in with the locals, you’ll be okay.
Keep your passports and visas in your hotel room just in case it gets lost or stolen. No one really steals people’s passports here but keep it in your hotel room just to be safe.
If possible, make a photocopy and bring a hard copy of your Driver’s Licence or ID with you in case they want to see you’re a genuine traveller, especially if you want to drink in a pub. If you look like you’re between the ages of 18 – 25 and you want to buy alcohol, they will ask you for some ID.
Safety in London for female travellers
Female travellers have no problem travelling in London, but be vigilant of drunk men at night, especially weekends, female travellers could be prey. During the day, safety in London for female travellers is as safe as you make it.
No one really cares whether you’re travelling solo or with a group of people. You can tell them you’re alone, even if you’re a female solo traveller. 90% of the time, they’ll help you out and assist you as much as possible. If you’re lost or need help with your luggage, there’s a likely chance someone will ask you if you need help.
Is London safe from terrorism?
Although you may hear terrorism on the news, it doesn’t happen regularly. Only one terrorist attack happened in Streatham in 2020, one in London Bridge in 2019, one in Westminster in 2018, and five in 2017, so it has gone down since then. It’s also about being at the wrong place and at the wrong time.
If there are future terrorist attacks, the Police Force will do everything in its power to make sure everyone is safe. When it gets to a point where everyone is injured or die, police will shoot the terrorist to make sure everyone is safe. The police department looks at how dangerous and critical the situation is.
As for living, is London safe to live in?
London is one of the safest cities in Europe. It really depends on where you live. Usually, North, West, and East London are on the impoverished side and even though there were many incidences of a knife and gun crime, it doesn’t happen every day. If you want to find safe areas in London, (although house prices can be high) consider areas in Richmond, Bromley, Kingston-upon-Thames, and Sutton. Generally, the South, South East, and South West of London are safe.
I’ve never been pickpocketed, never had my phone is stolen or someone looking over my shoulders while I use the ATM machine, even when I’m alone in the Central. Again, use your common sense, if someone looks strange, don’t talk to them.
A lot of the areas mentioned below have had a bad reputation on the media being a rough area, but I personally think it’s more impoverished and grubbier than certain areas.
3. Don’t Wear Flashy and Expensive Brands
We don’t usually wear designer brands or flashy outfits, even if we’re wealthy. It’s so two seasons out of date (unless you go to places like Chelsea, you can see the difference in their behaviour and what they wear, but no one will bat an eyelid if you wear something casual). If you want to blend in with us, make sure you wear casual clothes because people will think you’re a show-off if you wear designers. Nothing has happened to me personally when I wear flashy outfits, holding my phone in my hand in tube stations, but I’m already comfortable living here.
I also took my two friends on a day trip to London. They had their cameras around their necks as they walked in busy high streets, and nothing happened to them. I have done that several times to take photos for my blog, nothing happened. Just be vigilant and keep your personal belongings with you.
4. Safety at night, in restaurants, bars and clubs
London at night is as safe as it is during the day, even when you’re in the vibrant areas of Soho. It’s when you’re in bars, and clubs you need to be careful. I cannot stress enough about always keeping your drinks in your hand because people are known to get their drinks spiked. Although it’s not a regular occurrence, men can be flirty, try to dance with you and give you unwanted attention, then, in consequence, spike your drinks.
Stay close to your friends and family when you’re in a busy bar, pubs, and clubs. Men will generally find women who are by themselves and take advantage. If you happen to get drunk, use a licenced taxi, a black cab, or an Uber. Even though it’s more expensive than taking the night bus or night tubes, it’s safer. You’re likely going to go out once in the weekend anyway.
At the ATM machines, although I’ve not experienced any strange behaviours, when I take cash out, there have been many instances where strange people will look behind your shoulders. Be prepared! Otherwise, they will stand 2 metres apart. When you see cameras at ATM machines, it’s more likely to get your pin numbers, so, avoid machines that have one. Otherwise, most banks have ATM machines inside.
There are night buses and night tubes but there are likely men who are drunk too who will take advantage of drunk women.
Avoid quiet roads where it’s not lit, especially if you don’t know the area. Stick to busy areas like Oxford Street, Tottenham Court Road, Regent Street and Piccadilly Circus. Although nothing has happened to me walking in quiet side roads and cobbled streets, I still feel uneasy walking in the dark where there’s no one there. I always take off my headphones and am always aware of my surroundings.
5. List of places you need to be more vigilant in as a tourist
Brixton has come a long way in terms of how we live. There are many supermarkets, high street fashion stores, trendy bars, pubs, and restaurants. Although it’s not a clean area, compared to other parts of London, there are still many things to do, especially for young people. The cost of living can be expensive, but Brixton has been known to have a crime rate in the past. It has decreased lately, however, it’s still an area where you still must be careful. Brixton is very multi-cultural area with African and Jamaican culture and people from around the world migrate to London reside in Brixton. I’ll write a post on Brixton soon
Like Brixton, Croydon has come a long way in terms of how we live. Compared to Brixton, there are many million-dollar apartments now built around the city centre and a great place to buy your essential items, bars, pubs, restaurants, and a shopping centre (mall). Croydon is situated in Surrey, on the outskirts of London, also known as Greater London. Croydon is very multi-cultural and people who have migrated to London, reside in Croydon. There are more locals here than there are tourists, but there are many accommodations to choose from near East Croydon Station, which can take you to Gatwick, London Bridge, and other major train stations in less than half an hour. I’ve worked in Croydon for over 3 years and there have been several ambulances and police officers, so be careful, especially at night. Click for more information on Croydon.
Like Brixton and Croydon, Lewisham can be dirty. Situated in South East London, Lewisham is also multi-cultural with people from around the world residing here. There are many transport options to get to Central London. You can use the DLR to go to Greenwich and a train ride to London Bridge and the rest of London in just less than half an hour. If you can find accommodation here, it’s relatively cheaper than finding hotels in Central London.
Parts of the Greenwich area
If you want to find accommodation in Greenwich, try Canary Wharf or accommodation a few minutes’ walk from Greenwich Park. Greenwich has a bad reputation because of its past, but recently, I’ve walked alone at night several times, nothing has happened. Just be vigilant because of its bad reputation in the past, otherwise, just stay near Greenwich Park or Canary Wharf. Click for my guest post on Things to do in Greenwich, from Food Wine Sunshine.
Like Greenwich and Lewisham, Peckham has had a bad reputation because of its high crime rate in the past. Now, it’s just impoverished and grubby than having a high crime rate. Peckham is also multi-cultural, and I’ve noticed a few shops closing. There are many Afro Caribbean shops, Indian shops, and Chinese shops and most people that live here are locals. You’ll see a lot of but not a lot of tourists stay around this area unless they know the area very well.
Here are some more areas you could research on before you arrive in London
- Stonebridge Estate Harlesden
- Tulse Hill
- Custom House
There are different contact numbers in case of an emergency. Here is the list below:
999 and 112 are the same.
999 will direct you to the police, ambulance, fire brigade services in the UK.
112 works the same way and can be used to call emergency lines throughout Europe using your mobile phones.
101 works for non-emergency calls for the police, for example, a crime. If your mobile phone or wallet has been stolen. This number applies in Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.
111 works for non-emergency calls to the local GP or hospital. For example, if you’re illness isn’t life-threatening e.g. headaches, depression symptoms, etc. They will advise you on what to do.
Visit the Government website for information on government services. It will include information on Corona Virus and travel during the pandemic, Visas and Immigration, General Travel and many more.
In conclusion, is London dangerous?
According to the Economist’s Safe City Index, London is the 14th safest city in the world. When I say vigilant, make sure you don’t flash your phones in your hands and be aware of your surroundings, especially at night, if you’re not staying in the central.
Most of the places mentioned above have had a bad reputation in the past because of its high crime rate, but nowadays, they’re grubbier and more impoverished, than anything else. I’ve walked around some of those areas mentioned above in the evening and nothing has ever happened to me, but I felt uneasy because of past crime rate.
Yes, there have been a few instances where a stabbing occurred, but it’s not every day this happens. Usually, the people that get stabbed are the people that have known each other. I didn’t feel threatened or harassed as a young female walking alone in some of those areas.
Unlike the United States, there’s no high-flying bullets from gang violence or police and ambulance sirens. You just have to be at the right place and at the right time for something bad to happen. Just be aware of your surroundings.
What you can do now
- Research more on the safest areas you want to stay in.
- Read the Government website on safety tips on the Corona Virus.
- Read up more on the areas in safety tip number 5.
- Feel free to contact me for recommendations on the safest areas to stay in a particular attraction.