Are Americans Safe in London?

The threat of terrorism can make visitors feel unsafe

Mature couple in front of Big Ben.
••• Betsie Van Der Meer/Getty Images

The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the events of 9/11, the 2005 London bombings, as well as more recent terrorist attacks in the British capital could make you think twice about visiting a foreign capital like London. It is a shame that there is such a fear of danger regarding London.

Americans say they are concerned about coming to London because they don't know what kind of welcome they will receive.

It seems a shame that people who simply want explore new places should have these concerns. 

It is true that there is a large antiwar movement in the UK, such as the Stop the War Coalition, and that in the UK, there are regular demonstrations protesting UK troops fighting in Iraq. But this does not mean US citizens are not welcome in London.

London is one of the largest cities in the world and the most populous city in the European Union. At its core, the British capital is an incredible multicultural, polyglot society where people of many ethnicities, religions, and races live together quite happily most of the time. In London, there are 7 million people, speaking 300 languages, and following 14 faiths. If such diversity is thriving in London, why wouldn't Londoners welcome overseas visitors?

World terrorism has caused a decline in US visitors, and, as a result, London tourism has suffered.

Hotels and major attractions have all lost business as a result of a drop in the number of US visitors, who are a major contributor to London's tourism sector. There are many schemes to entice Americans back to London, and travel agents have been asked to promote special package deals for trips to London.

CBS News did a poll in 2006 asking, Five years after 9/11, how safe do you feel? According to the results, 54 percent of Americans said they generally felt safe, while 46% said they felt somewhat uneasy or in danger. In other words, opinions remained quite divided. 

But there was a reason for optimism. In July 2007, a Safety in London poll found that most international travelers wouldn’t change their travel plans following recent terrorist threats. Travelers are a resilient and persistent bunch.

This continues. If people dream of traveling somewhere, they are going to find a way to do it. If it makes them happy, they will make every effort to do it.

There is, however, a reason for caution. Anyone traveling to a foreign city or area, whether it's their first or 20th visit, should adopt personal safety practices, such as always walking with a companion, avoiding large gatherings of people, and staying away from large receptacles, such as outdoor garbage bins, where a bomb could be hidden. That is common sense. 

The London Tourist Board offers safety tips to tourists. The Mayor of London also publishes pointers for upgrading tourists' safety when they're out and about. Read all of these and take them to heart.

Heightened awareness and more alert behavior could save lives.

It is also wise to check to see the travel alerts your national government issues. For Americans, the US State Department issues such alerts and warnings.

If you're in or going to London, you can check the website of the US Embassy in London as frequently as you wish for terrorism news and see whether there was any recent action that might provoke an alert or warning of dangerous terrorist activity.