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Is London Safe to Visit? A Londoner’s Guide 2024

London is often described as the best city in the world, and for good reason. It has world-renowned museums which are free to enter, a thriving music scene, several world-class universities and many famous landmarks. It is a melting pot of different cultures with a population of 9 million people.

However, if you’ve never been before, one of your most important questions alongside what to do 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.

Is London Public Transport Safe?

Public transport is the primary way people get around London. Traffic is pretty bad and parking 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 ways of getting around the city than cars and there are no major safety concerns.

Most tube lines have very frequent services throughout the day, although they aren’t running 24/7. If you miss a tube train during the day, the next one will generally be there within 5 minutes.

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 get into other types of taxis unless you have pre-booked with a local company.

Walking around the city is also safe, especially during the day. At night, stick to well-lit main streets, or just book an Uber if unsure. 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.

Red double decker bus with Tower Bridge in the background.

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.

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.

However, 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 and major train stations such as Kings Cross and Victoria.

London does get some bad press about knife crime, however, this is a social issue that primarily (but not exclusively) affects a specific demographic – young men in gangs. 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.

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

Gun crime is far less common than in cities in the US, as there are far more restrictions 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.

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.

Broadly speaking, London is a safe city and as long as you are aware of your surroundings, crime should not be an issue.

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 isn’t very high.

Health

First and foremost I will say this – 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. For UK residents healthcare is free as it is paid for through taxes. Tourists may be required to pay for treatment.

Healthcare in the UK is run by the National Health Service. For many years the NHS was considered the best healthcare system 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.

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 2023 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.

Is London Tap Water Safe To Drink?

Yes. Kitchen taps are connected to 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 otherwise, mains-connected tap water in London is safe.

Man holding a glass of water

The water in London is ‘hard’ and so may taste quite different to what you are used to as it contains higher levels of calcium and magnesium compounds, but it is still very safe to drink. You might find the taste slightly unpleasant at first but you will get used to it quickly.

As I am a Londoner myself, I am used to hard water and so I actually prefer it over soft water . Either way, water across the UK is safe and you can drink straight from kitchen taps without any health concerns. 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 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 tsunamis, 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 women alone. 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. I live alone and so am walking around the city in the evening fairly often and generally feel pretty safe.

If you are travelling from a country where you might carry pepper spray, be aware that it is illegal in the UK, with potentially heavy punishments. You can carry a personal alarm if you want something to either alert that you need help or scare someone off, however, generally London is safe for women and solo travellers.

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.

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.

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 in 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 White Tower in the Tower of London.

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