Staying Safe in London

London is generally considered to be a safe city for travellers and locals alike. With a large number of CCTV cameras in operation (one of the highest numbers in the world) and a strong police presence there is a strong deterrent for crime that does actually work. All things considered though, this is still a large urban city and crime still happens, and there are always things travellers can do to minimise their risk.

London is one of the worlds largest cities, with a complicated transport system and a non intuitive street plan many crimes happen while people, unfamiliar with the city, are trying to get from a to b and get lost. Transport for London has an online travel planner, (www.tfl.gov.uk) you can plan your route from door to door, traveling at a specific time, in advance online. This is strongly encouraged, you can print out the map and the timetable and minimise the chances of getting lost. If you choose to use the Barclays Cycle Hire system, it is also strongly recommended that you again plan your cycle journey online on their website. London is not in any way based on a ‘block’ system, rather it has evolved over hundreds of years of human occupation. You cannot intuitively find your way, especially on a bicycle, planning in advance will also select the safest route minimising your chances of a traffic accident on London’s busy streets or getting lost.

Traffic in London is incredibly busy, and while their are plenty of pedestrians stomping the streets road safety is a must. Only cross at designated crossing, marked either by a black and white stripe patten on the road, or at a traffic light with a ‘green man/red man’ signal. At ‘zebra crossings’ (the black and white stripes on the road) always wait by the side of the road till the cars have stopped before stepping out. They are obliged to stop and let you cross, but its always best to wait first. Crossings with a signal often have a button the post to activate the signal, always wait until the green man is lit before starting to cross – if you come across a signal with a flashing red man do not start to cross! This is to tell people already crossing to hurry up!

London is full of snickets, alleys and lanes, during the day in the most popular parts of London these can be generally considered safe, but after-dark its advised not to walk down them at all. Try not to take cash out of ATM’s after dark, never leave your bag unattended and always keep an eye on your drink – drink spiking does happen in busy and quiet venues alike. Consider taking a black-cab home after a night out rather than the Tube or Bus, unless you are very familiar with the route and the timetable, walking alone very late at night is also not recommended if you don’t know the city well.

Hiring a black-cab, distinguished by their unique shape and yellow light, is the safest form of night transport. You can flag them down or from a taxi rank – the unique black cabs are all licensed and safe, you can even ask them to wait until you are safely inside your accommodation before driving off, this is known as a ‘nightowl service’. Don’t be fooled by lone drivers, not in a cab, touting for hires outside of pubs or stations, legitimate black cab drivers will always be driving their cab or waiting inside their cab at a taxi rank.You can even hire a legitimate black-cab via twitter @tweetalondoncab (http://tweetalondoncab.co.uk) is run by black-cab drivers and is part of Transport for London’s ‘Safer travel at night’ initiative.

If you are a victim of crime while in London, report it to the police at once. You can dial 999 for all emergency services or stop a policeman on the street for help.

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