How to Stay out of Trouble in Northern Ireland

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Northern Ireland is a complicated place, but it’s a generally safe and welcoming destination these days – just be mindful of talking about politics and religion.

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Giant's Causeway, a series of dramatic basalt columns on the shore of Northern Ireland. Photo © Getty Images / Peter Unger

Many people have outdated perceptions of beautiful Northern Ireland, a country colored by grim memories of regular bombings up until the 1990s. Granted, it remains a complicated place, due to a combustible mix of religion and politics, but during my recent years of living on and off in the Republic of Ireland, near the border with Northern Ireland, I’ve found that latter country to be a safe, welcoming destination for tourists who behave courteously.

Northern Ireland’s troubled history

Almost 100 years ago, Ireland earned independence from the UK, but was split in two. The Republic of Ireland operates as an independent nation, while Northern Ireland is still controlled by the UK. That separation of Ireland has long been a volatile issue, never more so than between the late 1960s and late 1990s.

Known as ‘The Troubles’, this era was marred by politically motivated bombings and by deadly clashes between Catholic “Republicans”, who sought for Ireland to be reunited, and Protestant “Loyalists” who wanted Northern Ireland to remain in the UK.

During this turbulent period, thousands of people were killed in sectarian violence between Catholics and Protestants, which was concentrated in Northern Ireland. After years of efforts to broker a peace deal, in 1998 the UK and the Republic of Ireland signed the Good Friday Agreement. That accord marked the end of The Troubles, and included a raft of measures to improve relations between the Republic of Ireland and the UK.

An elegant colonnade at Belfast City Hall, Northern Ireland.
Belfast City Hall. Image credit: Ronan O'Connell

Recent violent incidents in Northern Ireland

Sectarian violence has plummeted in Northern Ireland in recent years. Police statistics show that, over the past decade, the number of annual incidents of such violence has almost halved. But the infamous “Brexit” agreement – the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union – has created uncertainty and stoked sectarian tensions in Northern Ireland.

A new trade border between Ireland and the UK, prompted by Brexit, has angered a coalition of Loyalist paramilitary groups, who in March 2021 told the UK Government they no longer supported the 1998 peace deal due. While these groups have not yet become violent, there are fears they could. Since 1998, the major paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland – both Loyalist and Republican – have rarely launched attacks, with most bloody incidents caused by dissident groups who never supported the peace accord.

The highest profile sectarian violence in recent times was the April 2019 death of Northern Ireland journalist Lyra McKee. During a riot, prompted by a police crackdown on paramilitary groups, McKee was shot by a member of the New IRA, a Republican paramilitary organisation. The most common flashpoint for sectarian violence has been the annual Loyalist marches in Northern Ireland – displays of pro-British sentiment. Tourists are strongly advised not to attend such marches, which take place between April and July each year, with the largest being the Orange Walk on July 12.

Shoppers stroll along a street in downtown Belfast, Northern Ireland.
A street in downtown Belfast. Image credit: Ronan O'Connell

How to negotiate the Northern Ireland border

The border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland has been all but invisible since 1998, when all checkpoints were removed as part of the Good Friday agreement. These days a tourist could cross over this border without even realizing.

If they didn’t notice the roadside sign saying “Welcome to Northern Ireland”, they may wonder why all the speed limits are suddenly so low. That’s because in Northern Ireland they use miles per hour, instead of kilometres, which is important to note if you’re on a self-driving holiday.

They also use Great British Pound Sterling currency, not the Euro as in the Republic of Ireland, so it’s best to change some money at a bank in the south before crossing over into the north. And don’t worry, despite Brexit, foreign tourists don’t currently need separate visas for the UK and the Republic to cross back and forth across this border. But travelers should double check this before heading to Ireland.

Northern Ireland’s famous murals are serious business

“Just do it very quickly,” my mother told me on our most recent visit to Belfast, when I started to photograph political murals splashed on the side of suburban buildings. These emotionally-charged paintings have become popular tourist attractions.

But it’s crucial that visitors remember that most of these murals are linked to Ireland’s sectarian divide, and so they demand respect. Taking too many photos, lingering too long, or acting in a boisterous manner could be perceived as an insult by some locals. This is especially important in neighborhoods throughout Northern Ireland considered strongholds of Catholics or Protestants. There are too many such areas to list here, so the best bet is to behave courteously everywhere you go.

A political mural painted on a the side of a brick building in Belfast.
A mural in Belfast. Image credit: Ronan O'Connell

Stay low-key to avoid problems

Although political violence is, fortunately, now rare in Northern Ireland, tensions remain between Loyalists and Republicans. This strain is particularly strong in certain towns or neighborhoods. The easiest way to avoid problems is to be unobtrusive.

If you don’t discuss Ireland’s politics or religion in public, then you have little chance of offending anyone. It’s a bit trickier when it comes to the name of one Northern Irish city, with many Loyalists calling it Londonderry and Republicans preferring Derry. There’s no right answer here, but a local is very unlikely to take issue with a tourist using the “wrong” name for this city.

What locals may find offensive, however, is the wearing of clothes that could be construed as a political statement. That could be as simple as a garment or fashion accessory decorated with Britain’s Union Jack symbol. It also extends to wearing a jersey of the Scottish soccer teams, Celtics or Rangers. The former club is strongly supported by Catholics, while the latter is viewed as a Protestant team. Dress in a non-controversial manner, and avoid discussing touchy subjects, and you’ll have a safe and enjoyable holiday in Northern Ireland

Note: This article was recently updated to address some of the comments below.

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47 Comments

  • Kathleen said

    I am a Canadian, and I have been living in Belfast for nearly three years. I feel compelled to comment on this article because it is simply an exaggeration of the security situation in Belfast, and Northern Ireland. If you were trying to scare tourists away, I would congratulate you on your effectiveness, as I can see nothing in this article that would reassure someone considering a trip to Northern Ireland that they would have an enjoyable, safe trip.

    Indeed, I read almost daily in the media about attacks or crimes in Northern Ireland, many with links to paramilitarism, but probably just as many that are typical of the crime you would find in most other countries. In fact, Northern Ireland has some of the LOWEST crime statistics in all of Europe. Of the crime that is "Troubles-Legacy" related, the vast majority of it is either: gang-related, sectarian, or targeted at security forces (police). This means that crime in Northern Ireland RARELY, IF EVER, affects the general public or tourists AT ALL. In my three years here, I have not once felt threatened or even insecure, and I have willingly thrown myself into as many experiences as possible, including witnessing an Orange Order parade on July 12, engaging regularly with former paramilitaries and political prisoners in discussions about the Troubles, and travelling down the Falls road on my own to numerous locations.

    I would certainly advise vistors to Northern Ireland to seek advice when traveling beyond city centres or tourist attractions, and avoiding riots on July 12 is not a bad idea; however, painting the picture that Northern Irish are practically still at war with each other is a mis-guided representation. Yes, people remain noticeably suspicious of one another, but they are unfailingly polite and friendly to foreigners, willing to discuss the Troubles freely and with an open mind, and the dominant discourse here is overwhelmingly about reconciliation and the peace process. People here are proud of the accomplishments they have made to end conflict and live as normally as possible. Furthermore, increased immigration has meant that Northern Ireland is becoming an increasingly diverse and multi-cultural region.

    Northern Ireland isn't just a 'relatively' safe place for tourists, it is a completely safe place for tourists. The dangers for tourists here are no different or no more than any other part of Europe, and in many ways it is actually safer than many other places. If something does happen to you, the police are honest, responsive, and reliable. No matter where you go, if you are unfamiliar with a place, personal safety involves being aware of your surroundings, and your hosts - don't do something if you know it might be offensive, no matter where you go. But in Northern Ireland, the only thing likely to give you trouble is understanding the accents.

    There are a lot of people in Northern Ireland who call Londonderry, 'Derry'. Haven't you noticed nearly all the road signs have 'London' spray painted over?

  • Caoimhe said

    The only thing I can really take issue with in this article is the assertion that directly over the border, Derry is called Londonderry. I'm from a border town which is predominantly nationalist, and we all call it Derry. In fact, it's actually used as a means of determining on which "side" someone's sympathies lie, as only Unionists refer to Derry as Londonderry. So contentious is the nomenclature that Derry is referred to as "stroke city" (Derry/Londonderry) to remain neutral...if in a somewhat tongue-in-cheek manner.

  • Tamara Von Stanke said

    In the 5 years of my hubby and myself travelling and visiting my Mother-in-law in Belfast and in a Catholic area, Never seen or heard the shite you're talking about. Proddy cabbies drive me to Turf Lodge or to New Lodge. And the Marching....just don't visit....like everyone.....go to Tenerife or the Gran Canaries - they are all getting boozed up with the Brits there!

    Go to the Falls in Belfast to see some great murals. Tours done by some of the Cabbies and so interesting. If your finished shopping at Belfast's City shopping centre, stop out the back to Bittle's Bar which is right on the corner of Church Lane. Great drink and food here. You want to hear some Diddle-de-de music, maybe you can catch a group of players in Kelly's Bar in town.

    There are great restaurants and cafe's popping up everywhere in Belfast and its feels sometimes when I am there, like I am drinking a coffee in Brisbane in Paddington or in Surrey Hills in Sydney....except for the accents. They are trying...not every one, that's for sure, however there are those who want a better life - old and young of Belfast, with a head on their shoulders and wanting more in life...... than seeing the end of a can. Good on them!

    My favourite part of travelling Northern Ireland is up along Tor Heads....This is just the most beautiful coastline I have seen with the different shades of Green. There is a small town nearby called Cushendun....I swear on all that is good the Best Pint Of Guinness is poured from the small little pub there - Mary McBrides! I truly am going to do a tour here so I can prove it!

    Along the Coastline up there, there are small communities of surfers who on those wild days of weather, get out there on their boards and ride. Might be every 8-10 waves but they do ok and ladies...some of them lads...well most of them...no...in fact all of them were drop dead gorgeous!!!!

    I love driving over this hill along the Antrim Coast and just as I get over and around it......BAM! Dunluce Castle right on the cliff! Spectacular! Then head up to the Giants Causeway, Up to Brushmills for the Whiskey, Portrush for some golf or fishing. There are great drives up the North through some of the most wonderful breath-taking scenery with little streams and forests. And something that spun us out and we found on one of our drives is Lake Loughareema - A vanishing lake that drains out and then refills itself up again. Great story to it as well.

    Look there is heaps to do in the place and it is so beautiful to visit. Even if you have republican number plates on! I have spent Australia Day there and mixed with everyone and no one gave a hoot!


    If you are drinking in town - Drink responsibly and do not get caught up in arguments or any shite with drink.

    One Punch Kills.

    If you are drinking in town - like everywhere in the world....watch out for scammers, pickpockets, thieves and mugs looking for a quick dollar.

  • Darren Murphy said

    I don't know what everyone is barking about? This article didn't scare me off from traveling to Northern Ireland. I thought is was honest and to the point. When in Northern Ireland respect the locals, their culture, history and rules. Don't pretend you understand their struggles and enjoy yourself. Sound advice if you ask me.

  • Danielle said

    I am currently doing and essay on the orange walk and this really helped me a lot, I fully understand why this happens. this information is really helpful.

  • Aine Kelly said

    I am from Co Armagh and what I have read here in scare-mongering terms, is absolute bull****! It is articles such as this that misrepresent the people of the north. I have travelled repeatedly all over the north and a great deal of the south without so much as a whiff of any unrest or sectarianism in my travels. Derry is what I have always called the city and some others call it Londonderry but both names are used freely North and south. There is much fear generated but as far as I am concerned people tolerate each other very well in the main, it seems to be 'outside' influences causing problems. I have just travelled from North to South without one single secretarian event, (I certainly was not expecting one) not a police car to be see either way, just the odd squirrel or horse even a couple of sheep on the road. I have been in cafes, and stopped at other places etc and not one person has questioned who I was or what religion I am!! In fact, I was looking for a particular RC church and rocked up at what I believed was it, there was a lady in a car and I asked her if it was the RC church. She said no it's Church of Ireland, and then proceeded to give me directions to another church nearby which was the RC one, very helpful indeed and done with a smile.......so much for sectarian behaviour. For goodness sake get over it will ye.

  • A Hazin said

    I'm an Palestinian-American who lived in Jerusalem for 4 years until recently and I know what's in print is usually more alarming than what is the actual reality. I believe Northern Ireland, regardless of where, will be a walk in the park for us. We are very well aware of the history and are quite sensitive to lingering sensitivities. We are looking forward to visiting in August.

  • Rolf Pruess said

    Not a comment but a question: We are hiking with German boyscouts through
    Northern Ireland in July- what are the do`s and don`t`s for the kids? Are there any No- Go Areas for us ?

  • RJD said

    Rolf Pruess - Great to hear you are coming to visit, there are very few "no-go" areas in the country, people are very welcoming and helpful as long as you are polite (please and thankyou go a long way!). I've lived in N.I all my life and never been mugged, attacked, pickpocketed etc, Id say we are probably the safest feeling country in the UK (im bias!).

    I generally would say avoid the Falls/Divis area and the Shankill/Crumlin road area along with the Newtownards Road in East Belfast unguided, these areas do however have a rich history in regards to the linen industry/ shipping industry as well as "the troubles", the best way to get a tour of these areas safely and with good and un-bias knowledge is the city tours bus or the black cab tours, ask your hotel for contact info/bus pickup info.

    If you are in the country on the 12th July or 1-2 days before/after just prepare yourselves for minor delays as parades pass in some areas both in Belfast and small villages/towns. If you run into one there is no reason to get nervous or panic, just wait patiently for the roads to clear and carry on your journey afterwards, dont try to drive through the parades, you'll upset people for sure that way.

    These parades pass of 99% without any incident and wont be any cause for trouble, just avoid parades in Belfast city itself is a good rule of thumb, certainly any in the Ardoyne area, Crumlin road area, Carlisle Circus area and the town of Portadown, these are usually the ones that are more likely to have trouble associated with them, although this is becoming less and less each year. This will be easy to do as they are not main routes in or out of the city for the most part and will be blocked off by police presence and diversions.

    Most parades have a light police presence at them mostly to redirect traffic, so you should have no issues at all navigating around them.

    N.Ireland is beautiful country, Im an amateur photographer myself so travel around alot and can certainly say your scouts will have a wealth of places to visit that would be interesting, we have old forests, castles, rugged coastlines, outdoor trails, mourn mountains for hiking/climbing, sperrins for hiking and old celtic sites, Giants causeway and much more.

    Again, people here are very friendly, helpful and welcoming, theyll go out of their way to point you in the right direction or give you tourist advice. Just exercise the normal travelling precautions like you would in any western europe country. We also have very low instances of pickpocketing compared to france/italy/spain etc, but be sensible about keeping valuables in sight :).

    Enjoy your visit and hope this helps.

    R

  • stio said

    I'm a Republican living in Republican west Belfast and that article is absolute nonsense and a tad biased to be honest. The hunger strikers who gave their lives for political status, 10 in all including Bobby Sands were in prisoner of war camps, not prisons as that would suggest they were legally detained... they were interned. As for the 12 of july riots in 2013, this was instigated and carried out by full grown men and woman, not youths and the footage is available on youtube. Been up and down the falls road all my life and never came across a gathering of working class men, doubt you'd see that in the shankill either, maybe years ago but that nonsense ended with the troubles. In all the north or northern Ireland if you prefer is awesome, been all over and never encountered any of the 'threats' in this article. Security areas, fgs catch a grip lol

  • Billy King said

    'Do you want a chicken supper Bobby Sands?'

  • Jim Wilson said

    We are going to Northern Ireland as well as the rest of the country in June. I had hesitations about Northern Ireland just from hearing about it all my life. I have to say this article didn't help at all. You read the other replies and with all the differing opinions it makes me not want to spend a lot of time there.
    It appears that there is a lot of beauty and diversity there and I hope we will be able to get educated enough between now and then to make a plans accordingly.

  • Jeff Smith said

    Just been round the north coast, agree with everyone , fantastic scenery and v. friendly & accomodating people. But, went for a drive this morning on our way out of Belfast in our Dublin registered rent a car in the Shankhill Road area. We were followed and queried when we pulled over to reset the GPS as to what we were doing. Became quite friendly when we explained we were Australians & advised , " be careful driving round with those number plates in this area " Date = 2016, but as we tell our kids, it is your responsibility to live defensively.

  • Ger said

    Does the writer mean Republic of Ireland number plates? As regards being followed and queried that is very strange indeed.I guess it was some idiot with plenty of time on his hands playing the big fella who thinks he is back in the 70,s.I am sure this idiotic carry on is not sanctioned and is not supported by the vast majority of sensible minded people living in the area,one will always come across the odd clown anywhere..

  • Orlaith Walsh said

    Ive lived in Belfast my whole life, its very clear to me that this article was written by someone who doesn't know the north of Ireland very well and has relied on media coverage and historical literature to write this piece. It is true we have had a troubled past, but those days are well and truly gone.
    I'm a catholic and some of my closest friends are Protestant.... completely unheard of 20 years ago!!! But times have changed!!
    Like anywhere in the world you'll always get maybe some drunken brawls outside a nightclub or two... but that's usually over things other than the troubles!!
    Yes the 12th of July and the few days before and after are a bit of a pain in the backside with certain streets closed off and traffic delays.... and if there is any trouble it's usually a bunch of kids out throwing stones.... the majority of us have better things to do!!
    In fact most Catholics arrange to be on holiday at that time of year.
    Belfast is an amazing city..... we are bursting with history and tourist attractions!!! One being GAME OF THRONES which is predominantly filmed here!!
    We are not just about "the troubles" ..... there is soooo much more here than that!!! I feel completely safe here....the days of avoiding anyone from the other side are over and we are a friendly bunch who welcome tourists!!!

  • Peter said

    I've lived in Northern Ireland for 25 years, luckily growing up mainly after the horror of the past. Northern Ireland is a ridiculously safe place for tourists. No tourist would end up in the dangerous areas unless they knew it was dangerous. Centre of Belfast: Safe, Centre of Derry/Londonderry:safe. Really you'll only find trouble if you look for it e.g. drugs, pissing off paramilitaries etc. The PSNI is a professional police service and most people want to forget the past so unless you are looking for trouble you are unlikely to find it or it find you. But I do agree...avoid the 12th July in East Belfast as it can be a flashpoint if you go there BUT it has calmed down in the last year or so.

  • elwood said

    I visited northern ireland September 2016. Had a great time my hotel was in Carrricfergus and Loved Belfast city Hall toured giant causeway and bushmills. I will be coming back this year for a longer stay.

  • TheFacts said

    It's just as safe as the rest of the UK and Ireland in my opinion. The media just focus on the small flash points And there is no such place as County Omagh, Omagh is a town in County Tyrone. And he was a prison office.
    Article is full of flaw, not exactly reliable eh?

  • Terry said

    I am planning to visit northern Ireland this year and this has really helped me to make up my mind. My friend lived there for a year and advised me against going for many of the reasons stated above but after reading this I now want to go more than ever haha just won't be with my friend :( bonny portmore here I come :)

  • Andy said

    My wife is British and I'm Canadian and she's always been a little wary of visiting Belfast and Northern Ireland. Thank you for this article, in a historical context, and thank you all the people who commented about the reality of living and visiting this beautiful place now. We are planning our trip in June/July!

  • John said

    I'm 33 from Toronto and just returned from a trip to Ireland this past week (end of may 2017), spent 6 days in the south then rented a car And drove up to Belfast to spend 3 days before driving back to Dublin.. Belfast was Phenomenal and the highlight of my trip, if you like history then I would definitely recommend a black cab tour. The city is great and so are the people, mind you everyone that I met on the entire island were some of the friendliest people I've ever met in my life lol. Never once did I feel unsafe whist in Belfast, I was travelling with a good friend from work and we were out well into the night in the city centre walking the streets after drinking Guiness having a great time and we always walked back to our hotel which was located in the gasworks area (about 15-20 Minute walk from the popular pubs and nightlife, and a beautiful hotel I should add, free parking and a great lounge/bar *Radisson blu) , the streets are pretty empty after midnight once you leave the hub but again, felt perfectly safe. Great shopping and restaurants during the day and the city centre was quite busy and lively on the weekend, there was a great food festival going on at city hall, loads of tourists like the previous two cities I stayed at (Dublin and Galway), so please, anyone feeling hesitant to visit this great city due to mixed reviews...pack your bags and plan a stop in Belfast, you won't be disappointed!

  • Tom Stevenson said

    Thanks everyone for the comments. My wife and are planning a trip from Canada in September to the North and South and now feel totally comfortable with Belfast and the North. Really looking forward to the hospitality that I am sure awaits us.

  • Ruby Vaz said

    I am here in Belfast since 3 years and our family is here too. Never did we have any problem. Such heart warming, friendly people of Belfast. We are so happy to have you all in our beautiful splendid Belfast, Northern Ireland. Its breathtaking in these months till September.

  • Andy said

    It is Shankill not Shankhill for goodness sake

  • PhilSylvester said

    Andy, I'm blaming auto-correct! :)
    Thanks.

  • Noel Tobin said

    Been to NI many times and this is a disgraceful article.

    It says;
    "In April 2011, a police officer was killed in a car bomb blast on his way to work in County Omagh, which was the scene of atrocities in 1998 when 29 civilians were killed in a bomb attack."

    In actual fact, Omagh is a town in County Tyrone. Disgraceful article.

  • SophieS said

    We visited Northern Ireland in June of 2017.

    Hesitate to say anything- as it become inundated with tourists, but it was stunning.

    People could not have been more welcoming or nicer.

    We drove from Dublin, up to Belfast for the day--- and then spent 4 days in Ballycastle.

    Highly recommend the Northern Ireland coastal drive- haven't seen anything like it, anywhere else in the world.

    The Carrick a reade rope bridge and giants causeway were both must see attractions.

    Never felt a moment of fear. It was the most relaxing and beautiful part of our trip.



  • Cathy Kidd Hammond said

    I returned from a 2 week trip to Dublin, and frankly, after reading such an article as this, was scared to visit Derry. What a shame too, as my Kidd family on my father's side is from Derry and used to run a textile export business, and my great Grandma Winnie Golden was born and raised in Ormagh. I really wanted to go meet family but was afraid to go. Now I wish I had after reading other comments. Hopefully I'll get to go back.

  • Florence said

    I've recently moved to Belfast from Manchester (UK) and in part moved here because I feel safer here than in England. The people here are friendly and welcoming, the roads are clear and far safer and the standard of living is good. And beautiful countryside too!

  • Pauline said

    Well living in Northern Ireland all my life, I will not be perusing any other this website for honest travel information.

    The article is peppered with falsehoods and inaccuracies throughout. Eg this nugget "In the Republic they talk about the city Derry, yet immediately on the other side of the border, it's universally known as Londonderry"

    Haha - The city council is called "Derry City Council" the airport is called "Derry City" I'd hardly call that universal usage of the term "Londonderry"

    This:

    "These days there aren‘t set up border controls and checks but once in Northern Ireland if you see signs notifying you are in a security or controlled area, then obey them. If you park your car in these areas it could be removed or destroyed.

    Similarly if you are pulled over by police, just do what they say and act normal. And if you are asked to leave an area by security personnel, do so"

    I would imagine the writer of this article suffers from an over active imagination and quite possibly bouts of hysteria.

    And by the way, the opening photograph shows the Sliabh Liag cliffs in County Donegal which while in the North of the country is still not "Northern Ireland". If the author of this article had really visited this country he would know that.

    Move along now and instead seek honest information from the official tourist board or honest blogs

  • Sharon said

    I am travelling to Ireland in June, landing in Dublin, renting a car at the airport & driving to Dublin for a few days. Then spending some time in the Republic of Ireland. This article now has me a little worried, I was not aware of any of this. I thought this was a thing of the past and wary now of my licence plates.

  • Sharon said

    Sorry, meant driving to Belfast for a few days.

  • Jillian said

    I’m taking a couple of buses from the Dublin airport to Ballygally Castle Hotel for a few days in August all by myself and I’m not afraid at all. I’m from California and I’ve never been to Northern Ireland.
    My ancestor Archibald Glenn came to America from County Antrim in 1760 with his older brothers. He was only six. They were out on the frontier defending themselves from the Indians. They took up their muskets and fought in the Revolutionary War. It will be a wonderful trip. I want to see County Antrim to honor my courageous ancestors.

  • Bronwyn said

    There’s no such place as ‘county Omagh’, Omagh is a town (my hometown) and is in County Tyrone. This aritcle is and isn’t sensealised, it’s generally very safe and is even more safe for tourists but as is with every country, the more deprived areas it’s is best to not spend too long in. It’s more safe being a tourist here than a citizen, it’s more safe being a citizen than most European countries. It’s life or death if you are a citizen involved in paramilitary activities. If you dont know the area and don’t want any issues wear neutral clothes (no controversial football teams/countries, if in doubt just don’t wear any) and don’t talk politics (even English/Scottish politics can be touchy). Again, this is advise for small deprived towns that are highly segregated, the city centre and touristy attractions are fine. You would have to purposefully go out of your way to start a fight/anger someone to get any bother.

  • Roan said

    So don't drive there with republican number plates. Don't wear bright clothes. Don't make eye contact. Pretend to be Australian or American if things go south (see what I did here).

  • Shutyerbake said

    Honestly as long as you don’t wear a Celtic top at the 11th July bonfires or sing god save the Queen in Crossmaglen you’ll be grand.

    Northern Ireland is actually one of the safest places to live in the world now.

  • kevin said

    My wife and I drove through many parts of northern ireland in the "thick" of the July 12th ceremonies unknowingly. There was no evidence of anything unsafe where we were. We had a wonderful time in our rental car visiting fairhead, beneval park, the giant's causeway, gleniff horseshoe, and many other sites. Locals everywhere were quite nice. Although the learning curve for driving was a bit steep, we never worried about car bombs or getting shot. Hope this helps!

  • Madge said

    I was in Belfast a couple weeks ago, no issues at all and we walked everywhere, the people of Belfast were friendly and helpful, and oh so welcoming. I can't wait to go back, my Grandfather left there in 1929, I was the first of my family to return. We did the black cab tour, it was very saddening and eerie.
    It was far more powerful in Derry, we walked the Bogside and toured the Free Derry Museum, very poignant and I cried most of my time there, as I grew up watching those riots on TV.
    I did feel a sense of suspicion, but my kids say I'm paranoid anyway.

    Don't be afraid to go, it's a lovely city and a beautiful country, it was my dream to go and so worth it.

    PS Ballintoy Harbour took my breath away.

  • Caleb said

    This is nonsense , I’m from Fermanagh in Northern Ireland , not to speak for other parts of our we country , but my part is very safe , just avoid the peelers and ur grand , also if your staying for the 12th , go to a peaceful small town one , if you want some action and petrol bombs , go to the east Belfast parade

  • Mark j said

    I am 58 and have lived in Northern Ireland all my life, more than the last half of it in belfast. Here’s my view. This place is safer than most European capitals and you can move about it freely, with the caveat that it is probably wise to avoid ANY political conversations with locals, unless you are already friends, or sympathise entirely with their cause. I am exceptional liberal but I have been socialised into a particular mindset that contradicts my intellectual understanding. So I find my buttons being pushed when tourist start lecturing me about why the ‘other side’ is right. You would be shocked at how often very Ill informed tourists come into conversations with all verbal guns blazing! (Mostly Americans, I have to say!) best not to bring up or get involved with the argument at all to be honest. There is of course petty crime like everywhere else, and more than a fair share of loud drunks around, particularly at the weekends but mostly they are harmless, if a little annoying. We are generally regarded as being very friendly and nice to tourists and most of the Province is beautiful. Come and be impressed, I’ve been here 58 years and I still haven’t been shot, robbed, attacked etc - it really is much safer than its reputation!

  • Lacey Green said

    All - I had a little laugh at this article before I felt the need to comment. I'm 31, from Belfast and I love it. Regularly have I had brilliant nights out in the city having the craic with sometimes strangers we've just met. The restaurant scene is one of the best in any city I've been to, and not once have I felt threatened. Unfortunately I cannot say the same for cities like Dublin and Paris where I would highly recommend practising caution as a tourist, two of the most unsafe and seedy places I've been to (more than once unfortunately).

    My advice; enjoy some of the best restaurants and hospitality in the world. Enjoy our rich heritage, our nightlife and our street art. Do NOT get into brawls, watch your alcohol (measures are bigger here than in the rest of the UK), and if you do run into trouble or feel unsafe (which I highly doubt) speak to a police officer, bar staff, shop staff, anyone and they will assist.

  • JBrommo said

    I have just visited Belfast for the first time and I must admit I was a bit apprehensive but I believe I was mis-guided. The city is fantastic and the people are some of the most friendly I've met, and i'm generally a nervous traveller but never felt threatened.

  • Jakey Anto said

    I think the picture of this article is the Isle of Man, looking north from The Carnanes towards Niarbyl. Close to NI, but not part of it.

  • Doug lightfoot said

    I have visited Belfast twice in the last year what a wonderfull city most friendly people to go out drinking with they know how to party I would never of gone out in London uk like I have over there I had a little drive around the outer areas just to see it for my own eyes nice and peace full can’t wait to get back this soon love Belfast

  • Terry Quinn said

    As someone who lives in Belfast my only concern with the information is that 'LondonDerry' is not as stated universally used in the North, infact it is very insulting phrase to nationalists. Derry is a majority nationalist city and most people refer to it as Derry City. The term London Derry is used exclusively by Loyalists or official British news broadcasts.

  • Brian Giddings said

    Ye it's totally safe.

    Just don't do this , don't do that, don't say this , don't say that ...

    Maybe i'll go to Scotland instead.

  • Harry said

    I'm from England and have visited Northern Ireland twice (and I've visited the Republic of Ireland about 5 times).
    It is insanely safe. The biggest problem you will have is getting drunk in a city centre and encountering testosterone-fuelled men who are looking for a scrap. That would be my main warning - as in any UK or Irish city - just keep your wits about you when on a night out, due to potential for alcohol-fuelled violence.
    Having said that, I had some great nights out and didn't encounter any trouble.

    As for general crime - I believe Belfast (NI's largest city) is one of the safest cities in the UK and one of the safest in Europe. Just keep normal protocols in place such as any other city, such as watch your pocket in crowded areas etc.

    Sectarianism has pretty much disappeared. You get the odd minor riot in flashpoint areas such as the boundary between a nationalist and loyalist neighbourhood, but these are infrequent and relatively calm in manner. And why would you as a tourist be wandering around a random council estate anyway? I don't go to New York and start wondering around ghettos on the edge of the city.

    You will be extremely unlikely to encounter any trouble. Like I said, the main trouble will be getting into a skirmish on a night out. And even that's unlikely.

    There are a few differences you'll notice between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK (and Ireland for that matter).
    The police in NI carry sidearms, as standard. This is not the case in the rest of the UK or the Republic. This is testament to the slightly elevated risk of sectarianism turning violent compared to other parts of the British Isles. Police vehicles are also different. You often see (not exclusively) armoured land rovers.
    You'll notice also a lot of Irish stores that you don't find in the UK, such as Scally's, Dunnestores etc.
    You'll also find a lot barriers in the main cities - especially Derry and Belfast. These are to separate rival sections of society (the nationalists and loyalists) and to keep them apart. There are gateways that are open most of the time, but these can close at night and during tense times.
    If you travel to border areas, especially in Armagh, you will see advertisements which have Irish telephone numbers on them rather than British ones. A sign that you are in a nationalist neighbourhood/area.

    If you visit NI you will not encounter any trouble. Just stick to main tourist areas and don't talk about your feelings on NI politics. Even then, you probably won't encounter trouble.
    It's a very fun place to go. Belfast is much more enjoyable (and affordable) than Dublin.

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