Is London Safe ? 2020 Edition
London is the capital city of England and the United Kingdom and one of the most visited city in the world with 19.09 million tourists and 9.3 inhabitants in 2019. Well-known for its London Eye or the Big Ben, the city will never stop to amaze you.
There are a lot of things to do and to visit in London such as the Hyde Park, the Camden Market or the British Museum but is London safe? You will discover in this article if London is a good place to be.
Table of content
- The safety in London
- The boroughs to avoid in London
- Food safety in London
- Transportation safety in London
- Emergency numbers
- Tips to avoid scams in London
I) The safety in London
London is the top tourist destination everyone wants to visit at least one in their life. It is one of the most important capitals in Europe, so there might be fears that London is not a safe city.
As the city is filled with tourists, it is a great place for pickpockets and scam artists. But, this problem is a reality in every big city. Having said that, you can relax because London is very high on the ranking of safest and most dangerous cities in the world. According to the Economist’s Safe Cities Index, London is the fourteenth safest city in the world.
The overall risk of the city is low. London is considered a very safe city. Even though there are parts that are dangerous and should be avoided, it is completely safe to travel there.
To give you an idea of the number of assaults in 2019, there were 47 000 knife aggressions, which is the main problem in London for over 2 years.
It is safe to travel now, but you should be prepared in case of every situation. If you are a solo traveler or a woman traveler, make sure to carry with you something to protect yourself and always be on your guards. Don’t accept drinks from strangers. Store property safely under the table. Check up on your friends by phone or text to make sure they got home safely and vice versa. When using a cashpoint, make sure that no one is looking over your shoulder and that the ATM hasn’t been modified. Cover the keypad to conceal your PIN number. London is mostly very safe for women to travel to. Just follow your basic common sense and general rules of things to avoid, and you should be fine.
When going out at night know your route, avoid walking and take public transportation, take out your headphones, keep your belongings close, stay in touch with your friend, do not miss the last connection and choose your neighbourhood well.
II) The boroughs to avoid in London
In Westminster you will find the West End, Big Ben, St James’s Palace,Buckingham Palace, Oxford Street and Regent Street. Tourists there are frequently targeted by thieves and pickpockets, and the majority of the crimes committed in Westminster in 2019 were incidents of theft. For tourists, the tiny borough of Westminster is particularly dangerous.
Westminster has led the list of most dangerous places in London for two years in a row. In 2018, a total of 14,351 acts of violence were recorded. Statistically, Westminster is one of the most dangerous places in London, but, with all things considered, such as a high police presence and how busy it is, you should be relatively safe if you pay attention.
In Camden you will find most of the famous attractions such as the Camden Market, the Catacombs of London, Sir John Soane’s Museum, Dickens House and London Zoo. In 2018, 38,953 crimes were committed in the borough. Camden is safe except for petty crimes such as pickpocketing and mugging. Try to remain of you surroundings and keep an eye on your possessions. This should help you stay safe.
Newham is home to the Olympic Park as well as the London Stadium. There is a lack of investment is this area so, there are a lot of low-income, working-class households, with the attraction of gang culture and illicit cash, resulting of violent crime. In 2018, there were 38, 995 crimes committed. It is wise for tourists to avoid housing estates and also to remain vigilant when visiting tourist attractions or shopping centres.
d) Kensington and Chelsea
The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea is the smallest borough in London. It is one of the most densely populated areas in the United Kingdom. The are contains several major museums and universities. With a total of 24,436 crimes committed in 2018, Kensington and Chelsea is among the most dangerous borough in London.
III) Food safety in London
It is safe to eat in London, even in the markets, the food is controlled and everything is prepared according to the Food safety instructions. You are unlikely to get food poisoning in London. However, look online for reviews on restaurants and avoid tourist traps. Also, what out for late-night kebab shops, they are usually frequented by drunk people and sometimes hygiene standards are questionable.
The tap water in London is mainly supplied by Thames Water. Out of this, 70% comes from reservoirs collected upstream from the River Thames. The other 30% comes from boreholes which bring up groundwater. Either source is clean tap water that is safe to drink and meets all the European water quality standards.
IV) Transportation safety in London
Transportation risks in London are medium. Taxis and other forms of transportation are known to be very safe and reliable in London, as would be expected in such a developed European country.
a) Driving in London
It is safe to drive in London because standards are high. People let each other go, they do not cut you up and you won’t hear people using their horns too much either. However, it is not worth it driving in London because public transport is good and because it is always busy on the roads in the mornings and evenings. Also, if you are not used to drive on the left, it can be dangerous to take the car.
There are a lot of constraints from driving to London such as traffic lights, speed cameras, cyclists to watch out for, the congestion charge, one-way streets, bus lanes and expensive parkings. A real brain-teaser !
b) Cycling in London
London is not the safest city for cycling because there are cabs, people on foot, a lot a car and quite a few bicycles on the streets. If you really want to bike in London, you can, but be sure to follow the rules and you will be safe.
c) Taking a cab in London
There are generally safe but expensive. It can be maybe a safer option than taking an Uber. All licensed London taxi drivers undergo extensive criminal record checks as well as medical checks. This ensures that every driver can be trusted and relied upon to deliver a safe and comfortable journey. All drivers also have to learn the world famous Knowledge of London, providing them an unrivalled detailed knowledge of every street and point of interest in the city.
d) Taking public transportation in London
It is pretty safe and it is unlikely to meet pickpockets but it is still a good idea to keep an eye on your belongings. At night and on quieter suburban lines, it is best to stick to carriages with people in them, just in case.
V) Emergency numbers
For non-life threatening situations, call 111 if you are feeling unwell. You will be advised over the phone regarding what to do and usually be directed to your nearest medical facility.
For an emergency, call 999 or 112. An ambulance will collect you and take you to Accident & Emergency, free of charge. These numbers can also connect you to firefighters and police services.
You can also call 101 for non-urgent crimes.
VI) Tips to avoid scams in London
The five station with the highest rates of pickpocketing are :
- King’s Cross St Pancras with 215 thefts annually
- Oxford Circus with 185 thefts annually
- Victoria with 160 thefts annually
- Liverpool Street with 107 thefts annually
- Stratford with 107 thefts annually
The tips to stay away from the pickpockets and the scams are too, leave expensive stuffs such as laptops in your hotel room, secure your bags. While sitting, loop a strap around your arm, leg or chair. Finally, stay vigilant, because pickpockets and scams create distractions to steal you.
The most popular scams on the streets to avoid in London are :
- Fake Theatre Tickets : Some people offer discounted tickets to unsuspecting tourists in Leicester Square, but a lot of those tickets are fake. If it sounds too good to be true, just walk away.
- Bag-Cutting Thieves : Instead of trying to remove possessions from your bag, they’ll cut a hole in the bottom of it and catch the contents in their own bag.
- Fake Charity Collectors : Nobody wants to say ‘no’ to a charity collector. Some people play on those feelings of guilt to steal your money. In London, charity collectors must carry a permit to work in a public space. Don’t be afraid to ask for proof before parting ways with your hard-earned cash.
- Counterfeit Products : If you want genuine products, head to Bond Street or Regents Street.
- Suspicious Cash Machines : Some of London’s tech-savvy fraudsters attach cameras to ATMs to record your card details and PIN number. Another common scam is to replace the card slot with a fake one that acts as a ‘skimmer’.
- The Newspaper Trick : Some of London’s thieves are very daring and seemingly friendly. They might approach you for a bit of a chit chat while subtly placing a newspaper on top of your belongings. When they leave you, they’ll retrieve their newspaper along with your valuables. Avoid keeping your possessions on tables.
- Contactless Card Readers : One of the newest scams in London is also one of the hardest to avoid. Scammers brush up against tourists in busy areas with a contactless card reader. They can steal up to £30 from your bank account without you even realising.