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Residential Life

Keeping safe in London - your quick guide.

By Konrad 10 Nov 2022

Living in a big city like London is a great adventure – you can be surprised by something new every single day – new coffee shops, restaurants, tiny independent galleries, museums, bars, pop-ups, street markets, the list goes on and on… But whilst you’re discovering what different areas of London have to offer you need to remember that big, cosmopolitan cities come with a caveat – you do need to be vigilant and careful, especially when you’re on your own. We’d like to give you some simple safety tips that will make sure you keep being surprised by London, or any other big city you’ll visit, in a positive way!

Safe Travel

a close up of a sign

Public transport in London is very robust and will get you anywhere you want to go! But remember that pickpockets love travelling on a crowded tube too…

Keep your backpack in front of you, make sure that is zipped and that your iPad or laptop doesn’t stick out invitingly out of it. Keeping your phone in a back pocket of your trousers is also not a good idea, not just because someone can simply take it away, but it can simply fall out when you’re running towards a train that is about to depart…

There may be times when you need to live it up and take a taxi instead. Use ONLY licenced taxis! How to recognise them? Check out this article on the TfL website – it has pictures of stickers that you should see on a car that is picking you up. There are some simple rules that you must never break: the only type of taxi that is allowed to pick you up without pre-booking is so-called a black cab (if you don’t know what it is, go back to the article we mentioned above). Any other minicab has to be pre-booked, either via an app or by calling a taxi company directly. If you are offered a ride by a stranger waiting outside a bar ALWAYS decline, no matter how good the offer seems – it’s illegal for them to offer and the chances are that they are not licenced.

Don’t get so drunk that you fall asleep on the way back home – be it on a bus, train or in a cab. Not just because you might end up on the other side of London, but also because you’re making yourself into an easy target for robbery. You are responsible for yourself so make sure you are aware of what’s happening with you at all times!

Going out

a group of people in a dark room

Before you catch that licenced cab home you will hopefully have a great night out! Make sure you stay in a group and don’t part ways separately. Go out together and come back together, especially when alcohol is involved.

Keep your drink safe – the stories about drink “spiking” (adding mind-altering drugs to it) are very real and they happen all the time. An easy way of making sure you’re not a victim is to never leave your drink unattended. Keep it in your hand and if you need to go to the loo or outside for a cigarette, finish your drink first or leave it with a trusted friend who will hold it for you.  

Don’t accept drinks from people you don’t know or exchange drinks with others. Don’t feel awkward to decline a drink from a stranger – if they’re genuine they’ll understand!

If you can, drink from a bottle as it’s more difficult to spike a bottled drink. Also, don’t drink from jugs or bottles that have been left on the bar.

And one last thing, be careful how much you drink; even if your drinks are safe, the sheer amount of them might make you vulnerable – make sure what starts as a great night out finishes as such too!

Street safety

No matter what time of day (or night) it is, there are certain things you always have to remember about:

  • Be careful if you withdraw money from a cash machine (ATM) – have a look around to see if it’s safe; avoid deserted areas, unlit and run-down locations. These days you’ll pay using your card almost everywhere (even in black cabs)! Always protect your PIN, no matter if you use a cash machine or punch it in a shop – an opportunistic thief might try to get your card off you if they find out what your PIN is.
  • Try to minimise the time you spend on your phone in the streets. Phone snatching by people on bikes and scooters is quite common and happens all over London. Try to stay away from the roadside, especially if you’re listening to music on your headphones – not hearing what’s happening around you makes you an easier target.
  • Don’t leave your phones or tablets exposed on a table if you’re sitting outside and enjoying a drink – keep it in your pocket or a bag that is on your lap or between your feet rather than hung on the back of a chair. A dishonest passer-by can take easy advantage of you.

If you’re going to explore an unknown area take someone with you. If you prefer to go alone, plan your journey and avoid alley-ways, waste grounds and wooded, bushy areas. Walk confidently, holding your head up and facing oncoming traffic.

If you feel like you’re being followed, cross the road and walk quickly (cross it again if necessary). Try to walk into a busier area or a shop from where you can call the police (999 or 112). If you feel like something’s not right, get out of the situation (any situation) as soon as possible – don’t go against your gut feeling, the chances are good that it’s nothing serious but better safe than sorry!

If someone tries to snatch something from you don’t risk being injured – give it up. Your physical safety is much more important!

Keep your phone safe

Everyone has a smartphone these days and often it can cost more than a laptop! Even with the latest security measures that the smartphone makers introduce and can render phones useless when it's stolen, it doesn't stop thieves from trying their luck - and you shouldn't make their "job" easier.

Protect your phone with a passcode and make sure it's required immediately after locking the phone.

Note your IMEI number and keep it somewhere safe. Send yourself an email with it! And to find out what it is just type *#06# on your phone dial. 

Read this article from the Met Police. It has more info about phone safety and thing to watch out when you're on the go.

And also, just simply watch where you're walking :)

Most of it is common sense, but as we all know, common sense is so easy to overlook... Forewarned is forearmed and this is why we want to make you aware of your safety so you can apply the above tips to make sure you have an amazing, carefree time in London!

If you would like to find out more about personal safety, please visit the following websites:

Stay safe and carry on!