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Is London Safe to Visit? 2024 Guide From A Local

London is one of the most popular visitor destinations in the world, and it’s a fantastic place both to live in and visit. 

However, if you’ve never been before, one of your most important questions is going to be, is London safe?

The short answer – yes. For the long answer, keep reading. I’m going to run through the specifics of common questions and concerns that tourists may have before visiting London and the UK.

Trafalgar Square In London. A tall white stone column with a statue on top, next to a fountain. There are city buildings in the background and people walking around the column and fountain.
Trafalgar Square, a popular tourist site.

Crime in London

Like all major cities, London is susceptible to crime, however, it is still ranked as one of the world’s safest cities. The Economist Safe Cities Index 2021 ranks London as the 15th safest city in the world. This index marks it as safer than other major tourist destinations such as Paris, Madrid, Rome and Los Angeles. 

Another metric is the Berkshire Hathaway Safest Cities report – this focuses on popular cities for Americans to visit, and ranks London as the 8th safest city.

The most likely form of crime that tourists may encounter is pickpocketing. You should always keep an eye on your belongings and avoid obvious displays of carrying valuables or large amounts of cash.

Another crime which has the potential to affect tourists is thieves on mopeds snatching phones from people while using them – the idea being that your phone will still be unlocked so they can access your data. Keep your phone hidden, and try not to use it when walking around. Never carry it visibly in your back pocket.

This is no different than any other tourist destination and you should simply exercise the same caution as in any other large city, especially when you are near landmarks such as Covent Garden Market and major train stations such as Kings Cross and Victoria.

As with any major city, you should be aware of your surroundings and keep an eye on your belongings, but London is a city of almost 9 million people, the vast majority of whom live and work every day in safety.

An indoor market area, with giant Christmas decorations like bells and baubles hanging from the ceiling. There is a lower level with tables and above that people walking around market stalls.
Covent Garden Market

Knife and Gun Crime

London does get some bad press about knife crime, however, this is an issue that primarily (but not exclusively) affects a specific demographic – young men in urban areas. In some of the more deprived areas of the city, there is an ongoing problem with rival teenage groups committing knife crimes against other teenagers.

This particular problem rarely crosses over into affecting tourists or other Londoners, and the Metropolitan police are actively working on this issue. Tourist areas are generally well-policed and at low risk for violent crime.

It’s important to note that if you see an article showing a high number of knife crime offences – that number includes possession of a knife, not just using a knife. It is a crime in the UK to carry a knife around with you unless you have a lawful reason, and self-defence is NOT considered a lawful reason. 

Gun crime is far less common than in cities in the US, as there are strict rules on gun possession across the UK. Following the mass shooting at a school in Dunblane in 1996, handguns are effectively outlawed. 

Only police officers with specialist training carry guns – around 4-5% of total police officers. Gun crime is simply not a significant enough issue to require police to carry guns routinely.

Police In London

If you are walking around the city you’ll likely see police officers patrolling various areas – in police cars, on foot, and occasionally even on horseback! 

Police visibility is an important way of discouraging crime and anti-social behaviour, so don’t be alarmed by police officers walking around.

You’ll likely see armed police outside places like Buckingham Palace but the majority of police officers aren’t armed.

Public Transport Safety

Public transport is the primary way people get around London. Traffic is bad and parking is very expensive, so most Londoners travel using the London Underground (or the Tube as it is commonly known) and buses.

These are very safe methods of transport, especially during the day and early evening. Buses and the Tube are more efficient and cheaper ways of getting around the city than cars and there are no major safety concerns.

Public transport is still generally safe in London at night but I would recommend that you sit nearer the driver on buses at night, or at least downstairs if it is a double-decker. You should also avoid empty tube carriages at night and choose ones with several people in them.

If you do want to avoid public transport then you can use a Black Cab or pre-booked services such as Uber. Black cabs are licensed and very safe to use but don’t ever get into other types of taxis unless you have pre-booked with a company.

Walking around the city is also safe, especially during the day. It is a very walkable city and walking or taking the bus is a great way to see more of the London sights and architecture.

A London underground tube station, with signs saying Liverpool Street on the left side of the platform and a red Tube train arriving at the platform on the right side.

Is London Safe At Night?

Yes. London is a 24/7 city, so there will be other people around at virtually any time of day. If you are walking around at night I would recommend only using well-lit main streets – avoid alleys and parks.

I walked home alone at night in a less desirable part of east London on many occasions without any issues. 

Public transport is also generally safe at night. I would recommend that you sit nearer the driver on buses at night, or at least on the lower level if it is a double-decker bus. You should also avoid empty tube carriages at night and choose ones with several people in them.

Medical Care

Healthcare in the UK is run by the National Health Service. For many years the NHS was considered one of the best healthcare systems in the world.

Unfortunately, it has dropped down a few places in the last few years, primarily because of underfunding and the pandemic which have both led to increased wait times. Having said that, in an emergency, you will likely find excellent care in London and across the UK.

Following the July 2024 election we now have a change in government which will hopefully start to resolve some of the NHS challenges.

For UK residents healthcare is free as it is paid for through taxes. Tourists may be required to pay for treatment.

From a general hygiene perspective, I recommend that you have hand sanitiser with you to use after travelling on public transport, simply to avoid coughs and colds. There are no specific health concerns that tourists should be concerned about in London.

You do not need to have any specific vaccinations for travel to the UK. As of 2024 you no longer need to have a Covid vaccination to travel to the UK, however, it is wise to check the official UK government site before travel to confirm whether the rules have changed.

Also, whenever you are travelling outside your home country you should always have travel insurance to cover any medical costs as well as costs such as travel delays and lost possessions. 

If you have free travel insurance via your credit card or other scheme, check the fine print. Some policies that provide travel insurance as a benefit have a lot of restrictions, so check to see if the policy covers what you need. I have a pre-exisiting medical condition so always buy separate insurance with a medical declaration.

View of the London Eye wheel next to the River Thames, with people walking along the South Bank pedestrian path and Big Ben in the background

Terrorism

The Global Terrorism Index ranks countries rather than cities, and the UK is currently rated as safer than the USA, France, Germany, Thailand and many other popular tourist destinations. The current threat level across the UK is ‘substantial’ but don’t let that scare you.

The highest number of tourists to the UK come from France, Germany and the USA, all of which have similar if not worse terrorism risks.  For many tourists, the risk is no higher in the UK than in their home country. Tourists and Londoners should always be aware of their surroundings, but not unduly concerned. The risk of any individual being impacted by terrorism is very low.

A clear glass of water, against a cream background.
Safe water, straight from a London tap!

Is London Tap Water Safe To Drink?

Yes, the tap water is safe. This question often comes up as our water can taste strange to visitors. The London water supply is ‘hard’ meaning it has higher levels of calcium and magnesium compounds. This doesn’t affect the safety of the water, just the taste. 

Kitchen taps are connected to the public water supply system. In the UK this is usually called the ‘mains water supply’ which is completely safe to drink from. You may occasionally come across a tap with a sign specifically saying it is not drinking water, but that will be because the water from that tap comes from a tank rather than the mains supply.

If you ask for tap water in a restaurant it will be safe. If you are staying in rented accommodation the kitchen tap will be safe.

When it comes to bathroom taps in hotels, generally they are fine to drink from, and certainly for brushing teeth etc. However, some older hotel bathroom taps may be connected to tanks instead of the mains supply.

The water is still likely to be safe for drinking as enough people will be using it that it’s not sitting in tanks for long, but I personally prefer to drink bottled water in hotels than bathroom tap water to be safe.

For me, that applies in any country with safe water – in the USA, Canada etc I would still choose bottled water over hotel bathroom tap water for drinking.

Natural Disasters

The most likely natural disaster in London is flooding, but when floods do occur they are more likely to produce property damage and travel chaos than personal injury. The UK also has the occasional heatwave.

Climate change may mean that floods and heatwaves become more frequent in the future, but at this point are not a major issue for tourists, and London is safe from most natural disasters compared to cities in regions prone to earthquakes and severe weather.

Natural disasters seen in other parts of the world such as tornados and earthquakes are very unlikely to have a significant impact in London and so are not something that tourists should be concerned about.

View from the South Bank of the River Thames across to Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament with boats on the river

Is London Safe For Solo Female Tourists?

London is generally a safe place for solo female travellers. Of course, you should take normal precautions such as not leaving your drink unattended, not taking unlicensed taxis and not accepting drinks from strangers.

London is a busy city and even late at night main streets will have a fair number of people walking or driving them. Unfortunately, we live in a world where it is unwise for women to walk through isolated areas late at night, but London is no different to any other city.

Stick to public transport and well-lit, busy areas and you should be just fine. London is a great city for solo visitors with plenty of things to do alone.

From personal experience, living in London for most of my life, I have walked around different parts of the city at various times of day and night without any safety problems.

Is London Safe For Minority Groups?

London is a very diverse city, and many Londoners take pride in the multicultural nature of our city.

However, it’s not a perfect place and so racism, homophobia and transphobia can still be a problem. Having said that, the current Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan places significant emphasis on making sure that London is a city that welcomes diversity and where hate crimes are not tolerated.

There are many clubs, bars and events that cater for the LGBTQ+ community, so there are plenty of places to go that are very safe.

By and large, most Londoners are tolerant and welcoming, and as a tourist you should feel safe in this diverse city.

Can I Carry Something For Self-Defence?

No, possession of weapons is illegal and can carry severe penalties. Pepper spray is banned under Firearms Act 1968 – possession of pepper spray is treated as a firearms offence. 

You cannot carry knives for self-defence either – some types of knives are banned outright, and even legal ones can only be carried if you have a lawful reason, such as having a small pocketknife with you on a camping trip. 

The only thing you can have with you is a personal alarm – but the city is safe enough that you are unlikely to need one.

A pedestrian only shopping street, with people walking along the middle of the road, with colourful buildings. There is a sign in an arch across the street saying Welcome To Carnaby Street

Does London Have No Go Areas?

London is a very diverse city, and a few prominent people have made claims that certain parts of the city are no-go areas. This is not true. There are no particular areas that are unsafe for tourists to go. Some areas do have higher crime rates, but that doesn’t make them unsafe for visitors. 

These ‘no go’ claims are often rooted in racism, and refer to areas with more diverse populations. I lived in Newham for many years – the city’s most diverse borough. That does not make it an unsafe area.

There are certainly no areas that the police won’t go to, as those scaremongers would have you believe. 

Common Scams

The most common scams to be aware of are ticket sales and charities.

Only buy event and theatre tickets from official sources. Anyone collecting money for charity must have the appropriate paperwork and ID to do so. 

Emergency Contacts

In a life-threatening emergency, dial 999 to be put through to the police, ambulance or fire service.

If you need medical assistance but it isn’t immediately life-threatening, call 111.

To contact the police in a non-emergency, dial 101.

A narrow alley of colourful buildings and string lights hanging between buildings.
Neal’s Yard

London Safety Tips

Most of these tips apply to pretty much anywhere, but it’s always good to have a reminder.

  • Don’t carry lots of cash. A lot of places only accept card payments since the pandemic anyway. You won’t need cash very often, so only carry a small amount. I would recommend a multicurrency card from a company like Wise when travelling abroad.
  • Don’t wear clothing with a city or country name on it – it’s an obvious tourist giveaway.
  • The UK drives on the left-hand side – make sure you are checking the correct way before crossing roads.
  • Check your surroundings before using cash machines, and if possible use machines inside a bank.
  • Plan your route in advance, and try to stay off your phone while walking.
  • Keep an eye on your drinks at bars and pubs – if you have to leave them alone for any reason, order a new drink and get rid of the old one.
  • Keep a hand on your bag, especially in tourist areas where pickpockets are more likely.
  • When using public transport at night, stay near the driver on a bus or in a busier carriage on the tube.
  • Use a cross-body bag rather than a shoulder bag.
  • Don’t hang your bag from the back of your chair, keep it in front of you so you can see if anyone gets near it.

Final Thoughts

London is absolutely worth visiting and tourists are unlikely to have any kind of safety issues.

It’s a beautiful city and one best explored on foot. There aren’t many cities where you can stand by a building constructed in the 11th century (the Tower of London) and look across a river to a skyscraper built in the 21st century (the Shard).

It’s a city of huge variation of architecture, food, culture and music. Whether you want to spend a day wandering through the Natural History Museum or go to a gig in Camden, there is something for everyone. And ultimately, yes – London is safe.

The National Gallery - a large white building with columns at the front, a dome above, and people queuing to enter.

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