In global terms, London is a very safe city. But, like any big city, it’s always worth taking precautions. Whether you’re a tourist, frequent visitor or even a local, our London safety tips will help you stay safe.
Pickpockets in London focus on popular tourist areas (such as Westminster) and modes of transport (in particular the tube). The pickpocketing rate in London is high, with the crime almost single-handedly accounting for the fact that the tiny borough of Westminster has the highest crime rate in London.
The average value of a pickpocketing theft is £426.85, and the total value taken last year stands at 1.47 million. Popular methods include distraction tactics, in which thieves divert a victim’s attention before stealing their belongings, and using crowded areas to get close to a person without appearing suspicious.
The five stations with the highest rates of pickpocketing are:
1) King’s Cross St Pancras– 215 thefts annually
2) Oxford Circus – 195 thefts annually
3) Victoria – 160 thefts annually
4) Liverpool Street – 107 thefts annually
5) Stratford – 107 thefts annually
But there’s a lot you can do to stay one step ahead of pickpockets and thieves.
Prepare properly. Make copies of all important documents. Your passport, prescriptions, tickets, itinerary and so on – you want to have a spare copy of each. Leave all copies in your hotel room and keep them separated from the originals. Record details of electronic serial numbers.
Don’t carry unnecessary valuables. Expensive kit, such as a laptop or tablet, is much safer in your hotel room or at home than in a rucksack or satchel. Where possible, don’t carry such items at all.
Secure your bag. Thieves do not want to create a disturbance. They would much rather separate you from your valuables quickly and efficiently. This means that minor obstacles can be enough to put many thieves off. When sitting, loop a strap around your arm, leg or chair. When sleeping, fasten your valuables to your body with a clip. Use a twist-tie, paper clip or key ring to keep your bag zipped up securely.
Consider a money belt. A money belt is a fabric pouch on an elastic strip that fastens around your waist. Perfect for keeping important documents, cash and personal identification out of sight, money belts are worn underneath clothing for maximum security.
Stay vigilant. Pickpockets create commotions to distract unsuspecting travellers. So be wary if an argument, fight or jostle occurs on your train. Watch out for crowds, since these provide thieves with plenty of targets and escape routes. And be hyper-alert when train doors open, since this is the perfect time for a grab and run.
London is a complex city, with over 8000 buses operating on more than 700 routes, 250 tube stations and five airports. With a population of 8.674 million, to the uninitiated, London can be a daunting and confusing place.
There are plenty of options to get from A to B in London. Taxis, minicabs, trains, the tube, buses, coaches and even boats. Overall, London’s transport system is safe. However, there are few things you should bear in mind when moving around the city
Plan your route in advance. Before you set off, make sure you know how to get to where you’re going. Use the Transport for London website to plan your journey, and make sure you check out alternative routes in case of any problems.
Make sure any taxis or minicabs you take are registered. As in every major city in the UK, in London you get unlicensed cabs approaching passengers. To be safe, it’s better to book a cab over the phone rather than flag one down on the street.
Avoid walking alone at night. It is not advised to walk around certain areas of London at night. Though you may be relatively safe in well-lit tourist areas, one wrong turn could see you in a more dangerous area. Better to book a cab.
Beware of wearing headphones. Whether you’re in a cab, on a bus, the tube or especially when walking, avoid using headphones. Headphones reduce your awareness of your surroundings and can make you a soft target.
A few other things to bear in mind when in London.
Traffic safety. Remember, cars drive on the left in London. To make sure you cross roads safely, only use designated crossings and cross only when the green man is showing. Take note of signs indicating “look right” and “look left”.
Bars and restaurants. 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.
Street food. London houses a huge variety of fantastic street food vendors. If you use one, look for a license on the vendor’s cart.
The magic trick scam. Reported to be the most common street scam in London, the performer’s accomplice pickpockets the tourist as they are focused on the show. Another popular scam involves a woman throwing a “baby” – in fact a doll – into a tourist’s arms. In the confusion that follows, an accomplice will have a good root around your bag and pockets.
Cashpoints. 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.
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