Safe Travels in Ireland

Crime Levels in Ireland

A view of one of the main streets in Dingle town, on the Dingle peninsula, in County Kerry, Ireland.
••• Nigel Hicks / Getty Images

Millions of tourists visit Ireland every year with very few crime complaints or issues. If you are planning a trip to Ireland, in the grand scheme of the world, you have selected a relatively safe place. No country is completely crime or worry-free, however, Ireland does not have a super high-risk rate for crime.

Just like any major cities, the capital cities, like Dublin of the Irish Republic or Belfast in the North, may have more danger spots.

Reputationally, you may have heard that there's bombs, riots, tanks, and guns, but Irish terrorism has declined significantly since the 1990s. As with any place, such as your hometown or a travel destination, be smart and be aware of your surroundings.

Emergency Numbers

In the event of an emergency, contact the local law enforcement authorities, the Gardai (Republic of Ireland) or the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland), both can be reached from any phone by dialing 112 or 999. There are a number of emergency phone numbers, or you can get in touch with the tourist support services offered by the embassies.

Crime in Ireland

Let's take a look at some general tips to help you avoid being a target or victim of crime.

Pickpockets and Bagsnatchers

The greatest danger to the unwary tourist, in Ireland and indeed worldwide, looms from opportunistic thieves, who use bustling crowds as a cover. The easiest crime for someone to pull is to pick your pockets or to simply snatch a bag and make a run for it.

Take the usual precautions—wear your valuables close and as inaccessible as possible. If you are carrying a bag with a strap, wear the strap across your body, not loosely off your shoulder. If you place your bag on the table in a restaurant, a quick trick is to simply fasten the strap to a chair or your leg.

And, never leave your valuables like passports, money, and credit cards unattended, not even in the hotel or in the rental car.

Robbery or Sexual Assault

While rare, robbery still exists. To avoid being threatened with bodily harm in exchange for your valuables, the best precaution is to avoid lonely streets at night or early morning hours—even if it means you take a detour or a taxi ride. Do not be showy and flash diamond rings, a fat wallet or jewelry more than absolutely necessary.

In the event you are confronted with a possible assailant attempting to rob you, the best reaction is to comply with demands unless you can safely call the attention of law enforcement officials. Fighting back is not recommended. Your risk of being injured increases tremendously if you try to fight back. Stay cool, calm, and collected and do not offer any resistance. Weapons in robberies are usually fists, boots, or knives. Gun crime is relatively rare. Most shootings are gang-related or family disputes, not stranger danger.

To lessen your chances of rape or sexual assault, do not plan on getting drunk, taking drugs, hitchhiking, going to parties or places unaccompanied, or walking alone on dark and desolate streets.

In the event, you are confronted or being followed, run towards people. Dial 112 for the police/emergency phone line.

Terrorist Activity

Since the late 1990s, the threat of terrorism by Republican or Loyalist paramilitaries has severely declined, though some Republican dissidents still want to undermine the peace process by violent means.

International terrorism has so far bypassed Ireland. The threat is not entirely gone since the Irish are part of the British troops who are fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. And, Irish airports are being used by the U.S. military. 

Irish authorities are actively preventing terrorist actions with security measures in place. The authorities should be well prepared for any terrorist incidents in most parts of the Emerald Isle. 

Homophobic, Religious, and Racist Hate Crime

Comparatively rare in rural areas and more a part of life in cities and towns, homophobic crimes, or "gay bashing," tends to happen sporadically, often in the vicinity of gay hangouts.

Religious hate crimes are uncommon these days, although sneaky vandalism directed against property is more likely than actual spontaneous physical attacks. In Ireland, anti-Semitism or stereotypes about Jews or Muslims may occur.

Racist hate crimes are mostly confined to larger urban areas and can be both spontaneous or planned. Most victims are non-Caucasian.

Car-Related Crime

"Smash and grab" attacks on tourist vehicles are a definite risk. Most of these are crimes of opportunity. The best prevention is simply not to leave any bags or valuables in plain sight—lock them in the trunk, even when only leaving the car for a few minutes. The same goes for camper vans or tents if you are camping—do not bring valuables.

Car theft and vandalism happen mostly when vehicles are parked in areas that are isolated. To prevent theft, use a supervised parking area and securely lock cars at all times.

Car-jacking rarely occurs. As a precaution, lock your car doors when driving in urban areas.

Credit Card Fraud or Scammers

Credit card fraud is on the rise in Ireland. It pays to keep your PIN safe and to keep the card within eyesight when paying. Beware of suspicious activity at or around ATMs, this might indicate credit card "skimming," or targeting by criminals.

There are definite cases of blatant overcharging for tours or souvenirs, which may qualify as a scam, but are actually not if the price is published ahead of time and you agree to the price.

Bigger scams targeting tourists are relatively rare. As always, the advice caveat emptor, meaning "Let the buyer beware" applies to all who think they are getting a good deal. If it's too good to be true, then it probably is.