More than 10 million international tourists visit Ireland every year with few crime complaints or issues. The country ranked 27th out of 140 nations in the safety and security sector of the World Economic Forum's 2019 Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report, based on the business costs of crime and violence.
Between the 1960s and '90s, the Troubles (aka the Northern Ireland conflict) did sometimes spill over into the Republic of Ireland, increasing the prevalence of bombs, riots, tanks, and guns, but the Emerald Isle is much less hostile these days. With the exception of a few neighborhoods in the major cities, the country is, for the most part, nonthreatening and tourist-friendly.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, border restrictions and travel advisories have been changing frequently and as necessary to help travelers stay safe and informed during their visit. For updates on your trip to Ireland, be sure to check the U.S. State Department site for up-to-date Travel Advisories, as well as any requirements dictated by the local government for when you arrive. Beyond coronavirus concerns, the U.S. State Department does not note any risks to travelers in Ireland.
Is Ireland Dangerous?
Ireland is generally not a dangerous country. In fact, it's the 12th most "peaceful" nation in the world, according to Vision of Humanity's 2020 Global Peace Index, which is based on three pillars: societal safety and security, domestic and international conflict, and the degree of militarization. The U.S., for reference, ranks 121st on that list.
The greatest danger to an unwary tourist—in Ireland and worldwide—is opportunistic thieves who use bustling crowds as a cover. Pickpocketing and bag-snatching aren't entirely uncommon, especially in populated and touristy areas such as Dublin and Limerick. Additionally, "smash and grab" attacks on tourist vehicles (marked rentals, campervans, and cars with foreign number plates) are a definite risk.
Although bigger threats like robbery and shootings do sometimes occur, these types of violent crimes don't specifically target tourists. Travelers are more apt to fall victim to scams like overcharging for tours and souvenirs.
Is Ireland Safe for Solo Travelers?
Ireland is perfectly safe for solo travelers so long as they exercise normal precautions. There's plenty of room on this rural island to escape the bustling cities where most of the crime is concentrated, but even in urban areas, traveling alone is safe and common. When you're out, watch out for big crowds (i.e. pickpocket breeding grounds) and avoid walking alone at night, especially in the Dublin 1 district. Instead, take the DART public rail system or the well-populated Dublin bus.
Is Ireland Safe for Female Travelers?
Although rape and sexual assault does occur, as it does in every country, the risk to female travelers doesn't seem to be especially high. To lessen the chances of an encounter, tourists should try to stick with a group (especially at night) and avoid hitchhiking, heavy drinking, and taking drugs. If you are confronted or being followed, dial 112 for the police.
Safety Tips for LGBTQ+ Travelers
Ireland is a great destination for LGBTQ+ travelers. In terms of civil rights, homosexuality was decriminalized with the passing of the Criminal Law Act in 1993 and same-sex marriage has been legal since 2015. Irish law states that it is illegal to discriminate against a person based on sexual orientation, but does not state anything about transgender people, specifically. In general, attitudes towards the LGBTQ+ community are some of the most liberal in the world, so gay travelers don't need to fear for their safety in Ireland. Those who fall victim to harassment or violence should call the LGBT Ireland Helpline at 1890 929 539.
Safety Tips for BIPOC Travelers
A 2020 article by UK-based newspaper The Times reported that non-white Irish residents felt that racism was prevalent, albeit hidden. Hate crimes based on race, ethnicity, and religion are rare these days, and when they do occur, they're mostly confined to large urban areas. Anti-Semitism and stereotypes surrounding Jews and Muslims do exist, but hardly ever does discriminatory behavior turn violent. If you experience any harassment, you should report the incident on iReport, a national and confidential reporting system.
Safety Tips for Travelers
Staying safe in Ireland is easy if you take the necessary precautions.
- Wear your valuables close and as inaccessible to others 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, fasten the strap to a chair or your leg.
- Avoid being showy with jewelry and expensive clothing. Don't flash your wallet or cash in public.
- Exercise caution when visiting ATMs as skimmers are commonly used on those located in tourist-popular areas.
- Heed the warnings of unstable cliffs along the coast, such as at the Cliffs of Moher. Tourists have fallen to their deaths by straying from the official path at this natural tourist attraction.
- In the event of an emergency, contact the Gardai (the national police service of the Republic of Ireland) or the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland). Both can be reached from any phone by dialing 112 or 999.
World Economic Forum. "The Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2019." September 4, 2019.
Vision of Humanity. "2020 Global Peace Index."
The Times. "'Racism is a very active thing in Ireland — it’s just hidden.'" June 14, 2020.
The Irish Times. "Thousands risk their lives every year along Cliffs of Moher trail." January 8, 2019.