London Safety, security and travel insurance

Is London Safe? 

London is a big city and is generally a safe place. But as with any megapolis, it is worth taking sensible precautions. 

Are there pickpockets in London? 

There is petty theft, including pickpockets in London. They often target crowded places like transport hubs and tourist hotspots and are on the lookout for wallets, mobile phones and other smaller objects that can be snatched without you noticing immediately. Do not leave your bags open or place bulging wallets and mobile phones in the back pocket of your trousers. Leave expensive accessories in the hotel while you explore the city. Thieves on motorbikes and daylight mugging are not very common around London landmarks and tourist attractions during daytime but can still happen in areas like Camden town, Brixton, Croydon, etc. 

Can I leave my stuff (bags, devices, bicycles, etc.) unattended in London?

Though there are places on the planet where this is a non-issue, London might not be the one. Do not leave our bags unattended in the stations or public transport as they can be stolen or cause security alerts. 

Do not leave your charging laptop or a camera unwatched while you go to the bathroom in a cafe or a restaurant. Though most people in London are helpful and polite and will volunteer to watch your stuff for you, there is still a risk something can go missing.

Bicycles get snatched from time to time, and keeping them locked or secured is essential too. 

Can I leave my child alone in a hotel room in London? 

Most pubs and bars do not allow children during the evening and night hours. Fancy a pint in a pub with the locals or a cocktail in one of London’s posh martini bars? The English law does not specify the age when you can leave a child on their own in your accommodation, but it's an offence to leave minors alone if it places them at risk. Stairs, open windows, sharp objects, alcohol and illegal substances are considered a risk for children. Use your judgement on how mature your child is before you make a decision. You can also discuss childcare options with your accommodation provider. 

Is the traffic dangerous in London? 

In the UK, cars drive on the left. The driving culture is good, and you shouldn't expect to come across aggressive people behind the wheel. Stick to a defensive driving style, be polite and follow all the rules. 

Parking is quite daunting and expensive in London, especially near the tourist attractions. Opt for walking or public transport to save time.

Avoid leaving your car with valuables in it parked outside overnight as there is a risk of robbery. 

As a pedestrian, use designated crossings, wait for the green man to go, and take note of the signs indicating "look right" or "look left" to spot oncoming traffic. Don't stand too close to the road and watch out for the double-decker buses, they often drive fast on the narrow downtown roads. 

With many newly launched cycling lanes, you also have to be aware of the keen cyclists not always following the rules and moving at high speed. If you plan to cycle yourself or with a family, wear a helmet, and clearly indicate where you’re going. Only use the bicycle lanes or normal road, never the sidewalk, and don’t ignore traffic lights. If it’s red, you have to wait!

Homeless and street beggars in London

People living on the streets and in London are normally harmless, and so are the street beggars outside the supermarkets and transport hubs. They do not possess weapons. It is your choice whether you want to give them money or not. Many Londoners prefer buying them food rather than handing out cash. It is not uncommon to see a homeless person coming up to you casually and asking to buy them a sandwich, a burger or a hot chocolate. Another good way to support the homeless community is to purchase The Big Issue, a weekly current affairs and entertainment magazine sold by homeless or vulnerably housed people. They are usually dressed in logoed bibs and have a badge.

Moving around London at night time

Nighttime London downtown is usually safe, but some things still have to be taken into account. It is better to avoid poorly lit, dodgy-looking streets after dark and opt for a ride home. A cab is your best option as night trains and buses are often either dangerously empty or can be pretty raucous. Characters who enjoyed themselves too much in a pub might be keen to start something nasty.

If you have to walk home, keep your mobile phone and other electronics out of sight in your pocket or bag when not in use. Avoid taking out cash. London has quite a drinking culture, and things outside pubs, bars, and nightclubs, that usually close at 2am - 3am, can get rowdy. If you see something going on, do not try to interfere or reason with aggressive people putting your safety at risk. Call 999 in case of emergency. 

Is there a risk of terrorist attacks?

It is not more dangerous to visit London than any other European capital from the risk of terrorism point of view. Despite getting a bit of bad press in recent years, London is very well prepared for any possible threat. The abundance of CCTV cameras, the high presence of police around the popular locations, and the hard work put into public safety by the British secret services make locals feel safe, and life in London - is business as usual. 

If you are anxious about the terrorist threat, it is a good idea to avoid political rallies and large ideological gatherings. 

London Metropolitan Police put together comprehensive guidelines for people concerned about the threat of terrorism in London. It also contains an easy-to-use online tool for reporting suspicious activity. 

What are the top tips to avoid trouble in London? 

The British capital is one of the most heavily monitored cities in the world. Though hundreds of thousands of CCTV cameras aim to fight crime, it is still important to stay alert. Better safe than sorry. Here are some tips not mentioned above that will help you and your loved ones stay out of trouble in London. 

Don't lose your children out of sight at any time; tourist attractions are often packed, and the little ones are at risk of getting lost and frightened.

Keep your valuables safe while watching one of London’s many street performances and flash mobs, however fun they are - it’s easy to be caught off guard. Be vigilant around ATMs and keep your pin code safe when you need to withdraw cash; most things can be paid using a bank card. Plan your trips ahead and stay aware of your surroundings. Make sure your mobile phone has enough battery, and grab a charger before you leave. Be your most polite self in London. Don’t cut in the line, say “sorry”, “please” and “thank you”, and dress smart - it will help you blend in and look a lot less like a tourist. Don’t hesitate to ask for help if you are in trouble, feel lost or absolutely need to know that this cute statue by the river is: Londoners are proud of their city and will be happy to help. They are also warmer and more welcoming than they are usually painted.    

What to do if I became a victim of crime in London? 

Getting robbed on a family holiday is a hard pill to swallow. You must deal with the consequences of the disaster as fast and efficiently as possible to not be robbed of quality family time with family too. 

If your documents have been stolen, you must report a crime to London Metropolitan Police. Don't forget to contact your embassy to cancel them and arrange alternative travel options. 

Get in touch with your mobile network provider and report a crime if your phone is missing. 

If your wallet has been stolen or lost, blocking the bank cards is essential. 

In an immediate emergency such as ongoing crime, road accident, etc, contact the police, ambulance, or fire department on 999 or 112. These numbers are free to call. To report non-urgent crime by phone, contact your local police station on 101 from within the UK.

Health. Medical Emergencies. Insurance.

Food and drink safety in London

Water is safe to drink in London. If you don't want to pay extra for glass and plastic bottles in cafes or restaurants, you can simply ask for “tap water”. Refillable water bottles are a smart eco-friendly choice for the whole family to stay hydrated during your big city adventures. 

London is famous for its culinary scene with a wide range of cuisines from all over the world. The food is mostly of good quality, with a focus on organic and locally supplied ingredients. The food hygiene standards are pretty high in London too. It is always safer to plan your meal out in advance and go to places verified by good reviews. Avoid the tourist traps where quantity dominates quality. Watch out for dodgy-looking restaurants in Chinatown and suspiciously looking after-party kebab joints. 

The Covid-19 situation in London 

After almost two years of various restrictions, and thanks to the successful vaccine rollout, the UK government has removed the remaining domestic restrictions in England. This means that people can fully enjoy everything London has to offer. You are not required to show proof of vaccination before you enter the United Kingdom, but it is still a good idea to get vaccinated before you travel if you haven’t done so. 

Other steps you can take to reduce the risk of catching and spreading Covid-19 and to keep your family safe are wearing a face-covering in crowded, enclosed touristic spaces, carrying hand sanitiser with you at any time and making sure that your accommodation is well ventilated, especially during the hot summer months. 

Health providers in London 

London is famous for its world-class healthcare, both public and private. The National Health Service (NHS) is the main healthcare provider in the UK. NHS treatment is free for UK residents, but the overseas nationals are not eligible for it, except if they need emergency treatment while in the UK. If you're visiting from Europe, make sure to carry a valid EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) in case you need immediate and necessary medical treatment in an NHS hospital. If you travel from outside of the EU and EEA, you will be charged for treatments with the NHS. It is strongly recommended to take out appropriate travel insurance for the duration of your trip to cover any medical expenses.  

As NHS queues and waiting times can be overwhelming, private healthcare is a reasonable alternative if you anyway have to pay the bill. Not only will you be fast-tracked to a private hospital, saving precious family time, but you will also get the best treatment in the world. Options for private healthcare include private GP, general practitioners who can check on your overall wellbeing, refer you to a test or a specialist, write prescriptions etc, private hospitals offering a wider range of services such as complex diagnostics, surgeries, maternity care etc. Some private hospitals in London are The London Clinic on Devonshire Place in the Harley Street area, a globally famous hub for high-quality healthcare, The Princess Grace Hospital in Marylebone, The Cromwell Hospital on Marloes Road in Kensington, and The Portland Hospital, known for its maternity care, and many more. 

London pharmacies  

If you have an underlying health condition and take regular medications, take a necessary supply with you when travelling.

Purchasing over-the-counter medications such as painkillers, cough relief, and antihistamines can be easily done in one of London’s many high street pharmacies Boots, Superdrug, Lloyd’s etc. Stronger medications like antibiotics are only available with a prescription by a qualified health professional. They will require a visit to a GP or another specialist. 

Pharmacists in London are helpful, proactive and well-trained to diagnose minor infections or ailments. Certain types of medicine, such as eye drops, emergency contraception, and skin ointments, are available without a prescription but need a pharmacist's approval.

Medical emergencies in London

In case of a medical emergency, dial 999. The NHS ambulance will collect you and take you to A&E (Accident & Emergency) in the nearest hospital, free of charge, 24 hours a day. If your injury is not life-threatening, make your way to A&E. You can expect a few hours wait before you are attended to. St. Bartholomew's Hospital near St. Paul’s, Guy's and St Thomas’s Hospital near London Bridge, University College Hospital on Warren St near Euston Square, and St Mary's Hospital in Paddington are just a few examples of the centrally located hospitals with excellent A&E units. Use NHS A&E finder to find the best option. 

A private walk-in clinic is available on Harley Street. 

In case of an eye injury in London, head straight to Western Eye Hospital near Regent’s Park. 

For dental emergencies, call NHS 111. They will be able to assess your case, explain your options and help you locate your nearest dentist.  

If you require the medication outside of pharmacies' regular opening hours, check Boots or Lloyd’s websites for the late-night chemists near you. Paracetamol and other painkillers are often sold in 24h supermarkets and small off-licence shops. 

Travel insurance for your holidays in London 

Buying travel insurance when heading to London with a family is a safety net that can protect your family from the consequences of any emergency. Trip interruption? An injury? Lost luggage? Knowing that you will not be out of pocket in any circumstances means you can focus on quality time with your loved ones and enjoy all London has to offer. 

Some of your current insurance policies at home (home, health, credit card insurance) might include holidays, but the cover is practically never full. It is likely to limit what costs you can recover. 

The kind of travel insurance to opt for will depend on your needs. Do you have an underlying health condition and might require healthcare services when on holiday? Do you have an expensive photo and video equipment you cannot afford to lose? Do you plan to engage in extreme sports while exploring the British capital? 

The cost of your travel insurance will depend on the size of the family and duration of the trip, as well as your home country’s insurance pricing policy. Contact your travel agency or the airline you will be travelling with to discuss your options. Big names such as Allianz Assistance, Travelex, Axa, Europ Assistance, and World Nomad offer the possibility to purchase reliable and comprehensive cover for families online.  

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