Whilst any city can be a wonderful place to live, as with every big built up area, there are some simple steps you can take to ensure you stay safe in London.
Key Tips To Stay Safe In London
Keep Your Belongings Close At All Times
Theft is a huge problem in all cities. Pick-pocketing is a big business for petty criminals. Ensure you keep all your bags and shopping close to you, with zips facing inward. I would also advise keeping phones, purses, wallets etc. carefully zipped away on your person – don’t make it easy for thieves. If using a backpack, keep all items in the compartment closest to your back, or at the very bottom of your bag.
Do Not Wear Headphones When Walking Alone
Obviously common sense applies here. If you’re walking through a busy park at lunchtime, chances are you’re fine to have your headphones in, and you can boogie on down as you saunter through our lovely capital.
On the otherhand, if you’re walking back to Victoria from Green Park at 11.30pm, headphones in, not only are you showing theives that you have a gadget either connected by wire or by bluetooth somewhere on you, you’re removing one of your key senses – don’t be caught by surprise and stay aware of your surroundings.
Don’t Sit In Empty Carriages on Public Transport
Public transport in London is a great way to get around the city, but as before, don’t put yourself in a situation where you may get a nasty surprise and use common sense. Sitting with other people allows you some protection. Sexual harrasment on public transport is a big issue at the moment; staying in a bigger group reduces the chances of you being a victim of crime. Should anything happen, you have people around you to assist.
Do Not Leave Phones and Valuables On Tables Outside Restaurants
One of the well-known tricks is for a thief to pretend to be begging; they’ll approach you at your table and ask for spare change. As you, the kindly stranger, turn to put your hand in your coat pocket or handbag, which will normally be behind or beside you, they’ll have had your phone and anything else worth stealing off the table and be gone before you’ve turned back around. Unfortunately, I know first hand how frequently thieves take advantage of innocent people sat outside resturants and cafes simply trying to enjoy an afternoon coffee.
Tie your handbag under the leg of a chair, keep your wallet in your pocket and keep phones and other valuables off the table and out of view. You’re okay when inside, but you can never be too careful.
Stay Behind The Line On The Tube and Mind The Gap
I panic everytime I see groups of people standing and waiting for the tube. Platforms can become crowded and sometimes overcrowded and the slightest accidental push or shove can result in someone landing in front of an oncoming train.
I cannot stress how important it is to stay back behind the line. This line is clear, thick and visible at all tube stations. If travelling with children, keep them close to you and if you feel someone near to you is acting dangerously, move further along the platform. Never try to retrieve something if dropped and always board the train swiftly to ensure you don’t get caught by the doors – they close quickly!
Equally as important as staying behind the line is minding the gap. There is often a large gap (large enough to fall down) between the tube train and the platform at the station. Carry small children off the train and again if you drop anything do not attempt to retrieve it – underground trains come fast and frequently. Contact a member of TFL if you need assistance.
Uber operates in London, Black Cabs are also popular because their knowledge of the city is second to none but they do operate on metres. Look out for the cabs license information or prebook to ensure you’re using a properly licensed driver. For more information, see TFL’s Guide. Always ensure you’re getting in a licensed taxi. This is an expensive method of transport around London, but if your preferred method, ensure you keep yourself safe.
Agree a Price With A Rickshaw Driver Before Departing
Around several areas including the West End, Rickshaw Drivers are waiting with their vehicles to transport you around the city. In many countries this is a fun way to travel. Often adorned in flashing lights and carrying stereo systems, they can seem like an exciting way to get from A to B, especially after a few drinks.
Unfortunately, rickshaws are known to be a very expensive way to travel, and I’ve heard many a horror story about tourists being ripped off once they’ve been taken to their destination, with drivers demanding outrageous amounts of money for the fare.
Rickshaws can also be a little daunting, as they travel with the main traffic in London; that’s buses, taxis, Chelsea Tractor’s, other cyclists – you name it. If you’re going to use a rickshaw agree the price with the driver first. If you have a satnav, type in your destination on your phone so you know you’re not being taken around the houses. If at any point you feel uncomfortable, ask the driver to stop, pay your fare and move on.
Keep An Eye Out For Unattended Luggage
As you travel and at stations you will hear and see TFL telling you to keep an eye out for any unattended luggage, and to report to them any suspicious behaviour. It is highly important that when visiting you too act as the eyes and ears of the city for the police. Anything small, as we now so sadly know too well, could be the difference between life and death. If you see it and it concerns you, report it.
Don’t Buy Theatre Tickets On The Street
There are plenty of authorised sellers offering tickets to theatre productions in the West End. Don’t buy tickets from anyone who approaches you on the street. If they’re a licensed vendor, they will point you to their shop which will be well-established – you’ll know the difference when you see it.
London has been featured heavily in the news recently for its spate of knife crime. Whilst I don’t know the facts, I do know that all of the people who have sadly been attacked have either been known to the attacker or have been involved in some sort of gang. Please do not think every other person on the street in London is carrying a knife. Whilst you do need to be aware and again report anything suspicious to the Police – you do not need to fear knife crime when visiting our city as a tourist and the actions of few do not define our wonderful London.
As you would when visiting any country, ensure you are letting people know where you’re going, sticking with the people you are travelling with and staying alert at all times. Mention anything of suspicion to the police and should the worst happen, follow the advice of the experts guiding you. I must say, that to have to write about terrorism as a real and potential threat breaks my heart, but it is present and so we all must do our bit in trying to beat it, wherever we are.
Avoid Being ‘The Tourist’
Again, when travelling to any country there will be people waiting to take advantage of anyone who looks potentially lost or a little naive. Remember safety in numbers, storing your valuables and, if you do get lost, pop in to somewhere reputable such as a hotel, restaurant, shop or pub to ask for directions.
Stay Safe, and you will be sure to have the best experience in London.