Staying Safe in London
Tips on staying safe and secure in London
At times, Central London can feel busy, noisy and confusing – but for a major world city, it’s remarkably safe.
We’ll run through a few tips on staying safe and secure, so you can enjoy your visit.
Numbers to know
In an emergency, call 999 or 112 – be ready to explain exactly where you are, and whether you need the police or urgent medical help.
You can call 111 for non-emergency medical advice, and 101 to be connected to a local police station.
Pickpocketing and street theft are relatively rare, but it’s sensible to be prepared. If you must carry a passport or driving licence as photo ID, keep photocopies somewhere separate and secure; you may want to do the same for appropriately disguised bank card details.
If your phone or tablet has a tracking function, or a way to disable it if it goes missing, make sure this is activated.
Mainline railway stations and the popular tourist areas around Westminster and Oxford Street are among the biggest hotspots. Be aware of your surroundings and the people near you, and keep personal belongings out of sight unless you really need to use them.
The Metropolitan Police website has a quick link to report lost property or to report a theft.
Ask any local, and they’ll tell you that tourists stand out – they’re slower moving than Londoners. That doesn’t mean you need to rush everywhere, but it’s worth mapping your journey in advance.
London’s neighbourhoods are so different, at different times of day, that it is hard to offer specific advice. As a rule, apply your normal common sense – avoid unlit streets at night, and turn back or go to where people are if you feel unsafe.
Transport for London provides a generally safe and efficient transport system. All of London’s buses and Underground and Overground stations are monitored by CCTV. Most station platforms also have an information or emergency button or a member of staff, and over 2,000 police officers patrol the network.
Night Tube services run on five Underground lines on Friday and Saturday nights, providing a round-the-clock service.
After a few drinks, normally polite Londoners can sometimes be louder and less considerate, but for most people this is annoying rather than threatening. Some parts of the West End can feel intimidating when making your way home late on a Friday or Saturday night; however, London’s anti-social drinkers are more of a danger to themselves than to others.
Your fellow Londoners
Hundreds of years ago, a famous writer offered a portrait of the English: not very friendly, but quick and wholehearted if someone’s in danger. Not much has changed…
For help or advice, look for a police officer: they may be wearing a vest that identifies them as a ‘Community Support Officer’ or ‘London Transport Police’. Staff in Underground stations are busy but helpful. At major events, like the London Marathon, you will also see official stewards.
Londoners have a poor opinion of themselves as helpers, but they can surprise themselves! If you need assistance from a passer-by, approach them politely and explain what you need. They may be initially unsure or suspicious, but often they will be glad to help.
Out and about
Central London has a distinctive pub and bar culture. It’s generally very safe, but the usual advice about personal belongings still applies. Use security clips on bars and tables, where provided, and don’t leave bags or phones on chairs or tables, even for a few moments. In a noisy environment, anti-theft bells are unlikely to be a deterrent.
Popular destinations in the West End and the City can get crowded, and with bustling groups of drinkers inside and out, they are more ‘open’ places than they might appear.
As a visitor to London, you share in a responsibility for everyone’s safety. If something seems unusual or suspicious, speak to a police officer or member of transport staff, or call the confidential hotline on 0800 789 321.
Resources like the Citizen Aid app provide step-by-step information about how to respond to an incident. It’s designed to inform, rather than reassure, but at least it deals directly with the subject.
In general, Londoners are realistic – they have to get on with commutes and routines. A newly popular wartime slogan, “Keep Calm And Carry On”, seems like good advice. If anything, there’s a slightly greater feeling of solidarity between locals and visitors, which can only be a good thing…