Considered by some to be the world's capital city, London is truly a place that offers something for everyone. While London is overall a safe place to visit, there are risks, neighborhoods, and scams to be aware of, just like when visiting any major city. London is one of the most visited cities in the world and by reading up on what to prepare for and taking some simple precautions, you can enjoy your trip just as well as the millions of other international travelers who visit each year.
- The U.S. State Department has issued a temporary "Reconsider Travel" warning for visitors to the U.K. due to COVID-19. Restrictions and advisories change frequently and quickly, so check for updates from the U.S. State Department as well as local authorities.
- Prior to COVID-19, the U.S. State Department advised visitors to the U.K. to "Exercise Increased Caution," but not to reconsider travel.
Is London Dangerous?
As with any major city, London experiences its share of crime, both violent and non-violent. Knife crimes are particularly troublesome in the city and are used to perpetrate robberies, sexual assaults, and homicides. The good news for travelers is that these violent crimes are mostly committed in the outer boroughs away from the touristic areas and are more often than not related to gangs. However, more crimes per capita occur in the popular and central Westminster and Camden neighborhoods than any other, although these are mostly petty theft or other tourist scams.
Some of the most common scams aside from pickpocketing include thieves who ride by on motorbikes and grab the bag or purse from an unsuspecting pedestrian on the sidewalk. If you're carrying a bag, keep it across your body and not dangling near the street. Another common scam includes street performers who distract passersby while an accomplice furtively steals your belongings.
London has experienced some high-profile terrorist attacks that, taken altogether, may give the impression that the city isn't safe to visit. And even though many of these attacks have taken place in busy areas frequented by tourists, statistically you're twice as likely to be hit by lightning in any given year than being injured in a terrorist attack on U.K. soil. The U.K. national government maintains an updated national threat level so you can stay alert to potential risks.
Is London Safe for Solo Travelers?
Lone travelers and backpackers embarking on Euro trips nearly always make an obligatory stop in the U.K., and traveling solo around London carries the same risks as any other big city. In general, the constant crowds mean you'll hardly ever be alone and the biggest threat you should be concerned about is pickpockets. You should be hyperaware of your belongings and carry them in a safe place, especially when you're visiting popular landmarks or touristic areas.
If you're out at night and moving around the city alone, use common sense and avoid dimly lit streets with few people. Have your route planned out before you leave your accommodations, since being alone and lost in London can quickly become overwhelming. If you feel unsafe walking, don't hesitate to grab a night bus, a black cab, or another ride-sharing form of transportation.
Is London Safe for Female Travelers?
Women who live in London and visit are able to move around the city without major problems. Women walking around at night, especially when alone, should always take extra precautions, such as avoiding dark streets and trying to stay near areas with people at hand. Public transportation around London is considered to be safe overall, but night buses have a tendency to get rowdy at night, especially the double-decker buses. The rowdiness is usually light-hearted, but sitting on the lower level near the driver is always an option if it gets out of hand.
Safety Tips for LGBTQ+ Travelers
London is a very progressive city and travelers across the LGBTQ+ spectrum should feel welcome. No city, not even London, is completely immune to homophobia and transphobia, and LGBTQ+ travelers should exercise normal precautions. However, taken as a whole, London is a place that celebrates sexual diversity instead of repressing it, and travelers can feel that from attitudes on the street all the way up to legal protections (the U.K. bans all types of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity).
Safety Tips for BIPOC Travelers
By all measures, London is always near the top of the list for rankings of the most multicultural cities. More than a third of London's residents were born outside of the U.K. and the diversity of the city is apparent from the shades of skin tone, the gamut of languages spoken, and the neverending options of world cuisines. And while for the vast majority of Londoners diversity is just a part of daily life, there are also several reported incidents of racism, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism.
There is generally an uptick in hate crimes and intolerant acts following major newsworthy events. For example, immediately following the Westminster terrorist attack in 2017, hate crimes against Muslims in London surged. In the week after the Brexit referendum, hate crimes in general across the city were nearly twice as high as usual. If you're a BIPOC traveler in London, stay informed on local and global news. For emergency situations, dial 999 immediately from any phone, otherwise file a hate crime report for a non-emergency situation to notify the police of your experience.
Safety Tips for Travelers
- Public transit stations are one of the most common spots for theft, especially those with the most traffic such as King's Cross St Pancras and Victoria stations. Be extra vigilant of your surroundings when using public transit.
- Keep your travel documents, credit cards, and cash in a safe location, and consider using a money belt when walking around the city so they are less accessible.
- Be careful when crossing the street. If you're accustomed to cars driving on the right side of the road, it's easy to step in front of moving traffic.
- Walking while listening to headphones makes you less aware of what's going on around you, so considering pausing the music while you navigate the city.
- More and more bars and restaurants around London are installing anti-theft clips underneath tables, so you can safely secure your bag and make it much harder for someone to steal.
- When using an ATM—or cashpoint as they're called in the U.K.—make sure you're in a safe location and no one is hovering nearby.
U.S. Department of State. "United Kingdon Travel Advisory." August 6, 2020.
Cato Institute. "The Chance of Being Murdered or Injured in a Terrorist Attack in the United Kingdom." August 15, 2018.
TellMAMA. "The Importance of Narrative in Responding to Hate Incidents Following ‘Trigger’ Events." November 2018.
Greater London Authority. "Tackling hate crime and intolerance." 2020.