London oozes pageantry, antiquity, and drama. Not only that, it’s the birthplace of the one-way street and the public flushing toilet!
But personal safety is an even more important factor on any vacation, especially if you’re bringing family. So is London safe to visit?
You may think you know London from blockbusters like the Harry Potter movies and Love Actually. But are London’s historic streets actually safe? Are we talking cuddly Notting Hill or creepy Diagon Alley?
I’ve lived and worked near the center and on the fringes of London, both north and south of the River Thames, for years. I’m here to tell you that despite alarmist headlines, London is a safe city to visit.
There’s no hiding the fact that London’s crime figures aren’t great. But no big city is guaranteed super safe. Still, it’s worth drilling down into the stats to see how London compares with other major cities.
In any destination, thieves see tourists as soft targets. So, you can take steps to lessen your chances of being the target of crime. To help you feel safe, here are ten things you need to know before you visit London. And don’t forget to check out our London packing list.
|Ampersand Hotel, Kensington
|Fitzrovia Belle Hotel, Bloomsbury
|London Lodge Hotel, Kensington
|How to Get Around
|Visitor Oyster Card: Use this travelcard on London Underground (the Tube), buses, and the Dockland Light Railway.
|Things to Do
|London Pass: This sightseeing pass gets you into the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, London Zoo, View from the Shard, + more.
|South Kensington’s Museum Quarter, British Museum, Tate Modern
What We Cover
- How Safe Is London Compared to Other Cities?
- What’s Being Done To Reduce Crime Rates?
- What Can I Do to Stay Safe in London?
- How Safe Is It To Use London’s Public Transport?
- What Parts of London Are the Safest?
- Where to Stay in London
- Where Should I Avoid Staying in London?
- Is London Safe for Solo Travelers?
- Is London Safe for LGBTQIA+ Travelers?
- What Should I Do in an Emergency?
- Do I Need Travel Insurance?
- Verdict: Is London Safe?
- Is London a safe city for tourists?
- How does London compare with other cities?
- Is London safe at night?
How Safe Is London Compared to Other Cities?
London compares well to other major cities when it comes to safety. It helps that, according to the 2023 Global Peace Index, Europe is the world’s most peaceful region. The United Kingdom ranks 37 out of 163 countries.
London also features in the ten safest cities in Europe, at number 6. For the record, Copenhagen in Denmark makes the top spot.
For the most part, London’s policing is performed by the vast Metropolitan Police Service (aka the Met Police or just Met). The City of London Police looks after the “City,” the financial district between St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Tower of London.
Historically, the enormous Met and the tiny City of London Police share an intense and unfriendly rivalry! It’s something you’ll pick up on if you spend enough time around here.
The Met publishes up-to-date stats on its Crime Dashboard. These show that, recently, knife offenses and theft have increased across some parts of London. But despite this, general crime levels are only just starting to reach pre-pandemic levels.
And though London’s knife crime hit the headlines a few years ago, Time magazine found that New York City’s murder rate was nearly three times higher than London’s. Not only that, knife crime in the U.S. exceeds that in the United Kingdom.
There are 70 times more gun-related murders in the United States than in the United Kingdom. Recent Met Police figures for London reflect the U.K.’s low levels of gun crime.
|Number of Incidents
|Violence Against the Person
|Public Order Offences
|Arson and Criminal Damage
|Miscellaneous Crimes Against Society
|Possession of Weapons
What’s Being Done To Reduce Crime Rates?
To help tackle knife crime, in 2018 the Mayor of London created the Violence Reduction Unit. This is part of a policing plan that focuses on building trust, supporting victims, and keeping people safe.
Individual local authorities have introduced bespoke youth crime prevention measures. So, for example, there are family intervention projects in Westminster, while Camden offers substance abuse support.
Finally, law enforcement is upping its game. The Met is working to put its house in order after a damning report highlighted institutional racism and misogyny.
What Can I Do to Stay Safe in London?
There’s a well-known correlation between tourism and crime. So Westminster, one of London’s most popular sightseeing areas, has some of London’s highest crime rates.
Sightseers are easy prey – they often carry plenty of cash and are distracted by their unfamiliar surroundings. But sometimes it’s hard not to look like a tourist.
Here are a few tips when it comes to staying safe in London.
- Stay alert and be aware of your surroundings. Don’t lose yourself in your mobile phone, especially on public transport or in crowded areas.
- Do your research – check out Tube routes in advance.
- Buy tickets and cab rides from legit companies to avoid being scammed.
- Keep money, passport, and personal belongings close, in a hidden money belt or crossbody sling. Keep zipper tags in front of you.
- Watch out for phone snatchers on scooters – stand back from the curb.
- Keep your bag on your lap, not on the floor, when sitting down.
- Choose accommodations with 24-hour reception.
- Don’t leave drinks unattended or accept drinks from strangers.
- Buy your Oyster Card – a pre-paid travel card – before traveling, so you’re ready to jump on the Tube as soon as you land. Visitor Oyster cards can be mailed to your home address.
- To explore off-the-beaten-track areas, opt for a guided walking tour of hidden London.
- Don’t bother guardsmen (the ones in tall furry hats) or the household cavalry (the ones in shiny hats and tall boots). They’re working and they can (and will) ruin your day if you obstruct them.
How Safe Is It To Use London’s Public Transport?
Over 3 billion journeys were taken using London’s public transportation in 2022-2023, most without incident. Transport for London’s crime report shows a crime rate per million passenger journeys of just 12.7. Buses are slightly safer than the London Underground.
More robberies happen at a station than on a train, with some transportation hubs experiencing higher crime rates. These include Kings Cross, Leicester Square, Oxford Circus, and Piccadilly Circus. Super-crowded places, in fact.
Rather than becoming a victim yourself, you’re more likely to see something upsetting. London’s train stations at night have their fair share of disorderly revelers.
You’ll also see unhoused people. The cost of living crisis has fueled a distressing surge in the number of people sleeping rough in London. So much so that Prince William has stepped in, launching the Homewards project working to end homelessness.
You might see unhoused people selling The Big Issue magazine. Buy a copy – these vendors are working to get off the streets, not begging. And it’s usually a good read!
What Parts of London Are the Safest?
When touring London, remember that prosperity and feelings of security often go hand-in-hand. Although tourist areas in central London will see more pickpockets and purse-snatchers, it’s common sense to stick to busy public areas and well-lit streets, especially at night.
If you’re putting together a safe travel plan, here are some suggestions:
- South Kensington – V & A Museum, Natural History Museum, Science Museum
- Notting Hill – Portobello Road Market, Movie locations
- Bayswater – Kensington Palace, Hyde Park
- Mayfair – Fortnum & Mason, Royal Academy of Arts, The Ritz
- Bloomsbury – The British Museum, Oxford Street, Pollocks Toy Museum
- Richmond – Richmond Park, Kew Gardens, Hampton Court Palace
Where to Stay in London
When choosing where to stay in London, you’ll find better deals in the less affluent areas of East or South London, but maybe not a great sense of security. For that reassuring feeling of safety, we think you’ll like these accommodations.
You’ll find old-fashioned comfort in the quiet streets of Bloomsbury at the mid-price Fitzrovia Belle Hotel. This quaint pub is handy for the British Museum, Oxford Street shopping, and Platform 9¾ at King’s Cross Station.
And for sheer indulgence – there are chandeliers made from South Pacific pearls – choose The Dorchester in Mayfair. It doesn’t get much fancier.
Where Should I Avoid Staying in London?
Standard advice is to spend no longer than you need on public transport – choose accommodation handy for the tourist attractions on your must-see list. Historically, West London has a better reputation for safety than East London or South London, with North London being somewhere in the middle.
But while you decide, be aware that these areas have the city’s highest violent crime numbers:
These areas have the highest theft figures:
Is London Safe for Solo Travelers?
There’s some good news. The Mayor of London’s Police and Crime Plan stats suggest most London locals feel perfectly safe walking alone at night in their own neighborhoods. Even more feel completely safe during the day.
Hopefully, solo vacationers can feel confident bearing this in mind. Solo travelers I’ve spoken to have had no problems in London. However, some have appreciated the extra level of confidence a portable door lock and alarm gives them.
For solo female travelers, the picture is complex but encouraging. Aiming to counter sexual harassment toward women at night, the Mayor of London has established the Women’s Night Safety Charter. Thousands of businesses have signed up to improve night-time safety for women.
Young women I’ve talked to say they feel perfectly fine alone in London’s public places and on well lit main roads. And whatever your views on the intrusiveness of CCTV, security cameras on public buildings do enhance feelings of safety.
So, solo female travelers shouldn’t be deterred. In fact, Mapquest’s list of the 10 safest cities for solo female travelers includes London, at number 8. If you’re wondering – Reykjavik, Iceland, tops the list.
Is London Safe for LGBTQIA+ Travelers?
While nowhere is 100% discrimination-free, London has a long history of being a welcoming hub for the LGBTQIA+ community. There are some pilgrimages you may want to make. First is the glorious Royal Vauxhall Tavern, a cabaret venue since the 1980s.
In the King’s Cross area, there’s Queer Britain, the United Kingdom’s only LGBTQIA+ museum. And a mile away is Gay’s the Word, the country’s oldest LGBTQIA+ bookshop.
Soho, next to Chinatown in London’s West End, is famous not only for its great bars, clubs, and restaurants but also for its buzzy queer scene. Top haunts include the G-A-Y Bar, Halfway to Heaven, and She Soho.
If you’re in London in the spring, head to London’s South Bank for BFI Flare, Europe’s biggest queer film fest. For a homey vibe, there’s a warm welcome at the London LGBTQ+ Community Centre in Blackfriars.
See Related: Is San Franciso Safe?
What Should I Do in an Emergency?
Some top tips if things go awry:
- 999 – Call this to report a crime in progress or if someone is in immediate danger. You’ll be offered the choice of law enforcement, ambulance, or fire department. If it’s unsafe to speak, press 55 when prompted, and you’ll be transferred to the police. If you have a hearing impairment, call 18000.
- 101 – Call this to tell the local police station about non-urgent crime.
- 0800 40 50 40 – Call this British Transport Police number to report a non-urgent crime on a train, bus, or Tube.
- 61016 – Text this number – a discreet way of raising concerns – to report a non-emergency crime on public transport.
- RoadSafe London – Use this online tool to report dangerous road user behavior.
- StreetSafe – This link lets you report non-emergency concerns in the City of London.
- If your cell phone is stolen: Tell your mobile phone provider immediately, so they can block it. Ask them for the phone’s identification number (IMEI) and give this to the police.
- Save the contact details for your embassy or consulate.
Do I Need Travel Insurance?
In an uncertain world, it’s common sense to take out travel insurance, especially if your London trip is a big-ticket vacation. Being insured also adds peace of mind.
Before you make a purchase, check your credit card terms. You may find you’re already covered.
ViaTravelers’ travel insurance favorites include SafetyWing and TravelInsurance.com. One of the best options for families is the Travelex Select plan, where kids under 17 are covered at no additional cost. Finally, if you book your trip through Booking.com or Expedia, you’ll have the chance to add travel insurance when booking your flight or accommodation.
Verdict: Is London Safe?
With a population of over 10 million, London has many of the same issues as big cities in other parts of the world. Most of the common crimes are a result of poverty, deprivation, and substance abuse.
But tourists to London can feel generally safe. They can minimize risk by using common sense and staying alert.
My strong advice: Don’t let needless fear derail your London travel plans. There’s too much to explore and enjoy!
Is London a safe city for tourists?
London is generally a safe place for tourists. As in any big city, tourists should watch out for pickpockets and phone snatchers. Staying safe on your London trip means using common sense and staying aware of your surroundings.
How does London compare with other cities?
Is London safe at night?
There is an increased risk of criminality at night in London – but the same can be said for any city. Going out to bars or restaurants in tourist areas at night should be perfectly safe.
Try to avoid walking alone at night in less busy neighborhoods. If you’re unfamiliar with London Transport buses and Tube trains, a safe option is a black cab or a licensed minicab.