How Safe is England? What Travelers Need to Know

Traveling to England? Find out how to stay safe from crime, pickpockets, scammers and more with these tips from our travel safety expert.

Crowded street at Portobello Road Market in Notting Hill, London Photo © Getty Images/Alexander Spatari

London, the capital city of England and the United Kingdom, is the place where thieves are most active. Overall, the city is pretty safe for travelers, just watch out for these common scams in and around the rest of England.

Pickpockets in England

Like most countries in the world, England has its fair share of pickpockets. On average, most pickpockets work in crowded areas or where a crime can go unnoticed, with the Christmas holidays being a 'sweet period' for thieves to congregate.

Victoria Station in London is a favourite hunting ground for thieves. They will distract you and take your belongings. By the time the unspecting victim realises, it's usually too late. Pick pockets look like ordinary people and analyse human behaviour, so if you are the guy in the flash grey suit with the Blackberry you are likely to be a target!

The innocent crowds on the London Underground are a prey for pickpockets. They get as close to you as possible and maneouver in when you are either exiting the tube or when the tube stops for them to make a quick getaway. It's hard to believe but there are a majority of pickpockets in England who are foreign, who love to target tourists - women are most vulnerable. 

Pubs, clubs, cafes and restaurants attract thieves who like to preform the old snatch and grab. To prevent crime, it is advised that you don't leave your bag hooked onto the back of your chair. Whilst walking around, try not to leave valuables in the zip compartments of your backpack and don't walk around with your phone in your trouser, coat or back pockets. 

If you think you have had something stolen you can report it to transport police or the nearest police station, also remember to get your travel insurance before you depart to the UK.

Beggars in London

Although there has been a major crack down on beggars by the goverment, there are a few Eastern Europeans, largley Romanian and Bulgarian females who still exisit in places such as Mayfair, Marble Arch and Oxford street. These scarved Gypies, (as some put it), are sometimes with their children, but more often than not are mostly alone and are harmless.  

It is not so common these days, but there are some beggers (usually males) who come aboard trains or on the underground to ask for 'small change' to get themselves home. Some people do give them money, but more often than not, they are are usually ignored, which is fine to do, as the beggar will move onto the next carriage. Other "touts" may approach you, state they've lost their travelcard and ask you to withdraw money for them.  

Travelcard Beggers 

Oyster cards are a wide phenomenon in London, however, if you aren't using one or any form of contactless technology (UK issued Visa, Mastercard etc) then you're likely to have a travelcard. It is not so typical as it once was, but you may find some "shady" characters outside your local train station soliciting for your used travelcard.  Some will either have some for sale or ask if they can buy your travelcard for a fraction of the price or have it for free. Begging is illegal in the UK so it is upto the invidual what they choose to do in this situation. 

Safety in England's cities

The city of Manchester is highly regarded for its football team heritage, its culture is vibrantly lite by those blue and red scarves. But even as a Metropolitan rainbow Manchester was once known as "gunchester." Albeit, by the late "two thousands" gun crime had decreased dramatically due to tighter sentancing.

A Birmingham resident reports that the Manchester city center is mostly a nice place to visit, though gang violence has been creeping in and thieves are in full swing. At the weekends the city is thriving with a buzzing nightlife which can lead to anti-social behaviour.

Locals also warn against the following areas: Tottenaham, Blackpool, Sheffield, Leeds, Rotherham, Middlesbrough, Birmingham and Bradford. 

Common scams in England

In addition to pickpocketing and other thieving tactics, there are some scams that occur throughout England.

Car burglary

Thieves wont be shy to help themselves if they see valuable items on display in your vehicle. If you have items such as laptops, hand bags, expensive clothing or Sat Nav's, lock them away in the boot and make sure all electrical items are switched off as the signal can be tracked. It takes seconds to smash a window leaving you with a heafty bill to repair your car and you dispossed of your valuables.

ATMs scams

"Cash points", "cash machines" or "hole in the wall" are some of the terms used to describe an ATM in England. The universal scam here, is the art of distraction. 

Thieves may be so bold as to come right up to you while you're using an ATM. This goes against the common courtesy of standing a respectable distance behind the person completing a transaction.

Other times, a group of perpetrators will wait until you've entered your PIN and try and record it, then distract you with conversation and take your bank card and cash. If someone walks up to you mid-transaction, hit cancel immediately. 

Ticket scams

We all know that you'd love to join the nutty football crowds chanting those mantras at the stadium or see Adele in concert, but ticket touts will often practice illicit behaviour as a means to sell tickets outside the backdoor of venues at inflated prices. Some will have second hand tickets that if purchased may refuse you entry to the event.

Ticket touts will often snap up tickets for big gigs as soon as they are on sale and flog them on secondary sites. Rules have been introduced by the British government to regulate this practice to protect consumers. Be careful when buying tickets off secondary ticketing sites that aren't legit. Many people have been ripped off after paying above face value prices for fake tickets or ones that just don't arrive! 

Scams while living abroad in England

Bank scams

If you will be residing in the UK for a while and plan on getting a British bank account beware of bank scam emails. They usuallly state that there is something wrong with your account or that your information needs updating. DO NOT click on them or click through to any links associated with it. If you want to check that everything is fine with your account, then call or visit your bank.

Job scams

Yes this does happen! Any company advertising on Gumtree is a suspect. As you relentlessly apply for that dream job, your personal details are exposed everytime you post your CV. You will eventually get a call from a beguiling 'recruiter' claiming they want to interview you or that you have been successful for the role. Many will ask you to transfer money to cover training costs or facilate accommodation. DO NOT be a victim, if this does happen, use the force and hang up the phone, do not give your bank details out either. 

If you do become a victim of fraud, you can report it to the Action Fraud, the UK's national fraud and cyber crime reporting centre.

International student scams in England

Criminal masterminds have a fresh appetite for International students. You may recieve a telephone call or a phishing email from someone pretending to be from a genuine establishment like the UK Home Office. They will claim something is wrong with your visa and will want you to disclose personal information such as your bank details. Please note that legitimate officers will never contact your for money, these are fraudulent actions. 

Another trick to be weary of is website masquerading. These are created to look like legitimate ones. There are a number of bogus colleges and universities that fraudsters have designed to invite aspiring students overseas to study in the UK and also sell faux degrees and qualifications. If you are thinking of studying in the UK, avoid the plight and contact the educational provider directly to check that they are offical. 

Culture and racism in England

England is a multi-cultral melting point and is accepting of different races and religion. The nation appreciate and aim to live in harmony. Some years ago, the Race Relations Act was introduced by parliament to tackle discrimination, common bigotry and prejudice over concerns for migrants who wanted to make the UK their home. Although the latter has been addressed and it might seem unimaginable that this is no utopia, but you will still find some tension and racism between some citziens in parts of England. In August of 2011, carnage broke out across the country following the death of Mark Ruggan who was shot dead by the police. Within hours, rioting, looting and arson spread like a virus around every dominant city in England, after outrage that this was an unlawful racial attack on a black individual by the police. 

The cutlure and traditions in England are unique and will be different to the other parts of the UK. Food festivals, music festivals like Glastonbury and other cultural activies such as afternoon tea and the theatre are common in England. 

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6 Comments

  • PhilSylvester said

    Hi all,
    thanks very much for your input, and yes this is not one of our better articles, and is in fact due for a refresh - to be honest, it's a bit old. We will be fast-forwarding that schedule thanks to your input.
    In our defence though, if I may, we're not singling out the UK, we're just as mean about everywhere. Kidding! (Actually, not kidding we're pretty harsh sometimes).
    We actually try to be as fair and impartial as possible while being honest about the things that MIGHT happen to you. Not saying they WILL, just might.
    However, you're all quite right and this article isn't up to our usual standards. We'll fix that as soon as practicable.

  • PhilSylvester said

    Thanks to a (large) number of comments criticising this article we have given it a re-write and a much-needed update. We believe it now more accurately reflects the position towards personal safety in the UK.
    As a consequence of this re-write the comments that appeared below the old version were no longer relevant, and could mislead first time readers of the post. So we have removed them in the interest of clarity.
    Let me make it clear, we welcome feedback of all types. In this case we have acted as swiftly as practicable to address those concerns. This is NOT about removing negative comments to 'clean up' our image, rather removing any confusion in the wake of our changes.
    We now welcome fresh comments on the updated content, and hope we have done enough to restore the faith in World Nomads of previous contributors.
    Once again thanks to them all - we hope you like the new version.

  • RUBY said

    i hate this site i want to sue you i was born there and you are insulting a country that has no such thing as cat burglary or petty job scams or ticket scams i hate you

  • Banjo said

    this site is fake

  • Phil said

    Ruby and Banjo,
    Sorry you're so upset by it. As you can see this article has already been revised once, but I'm happy to do it again and I'd appreciate your input.
    If you could give me specifics of what it is that you find so wrong, and offer some alternatives, I'll happy include them.
    No need to be a good writer, just tell me what it is you want to say, and I'll do the writing.
    Send it to [email protected]
    There's too much hate in the world Ruby, so I'm sending you lots of love from World Nomads.
    Seriously though, give me an idea of what's so wrong and I'll make changes.
    Cheers

  • Paul said

    This is probably the most shockingly ridiculous travel article I have ever read. Complete nonsense such as 'thieves are in full swing', 'Locals also warn against the following areas: Tottenaham, Blackpool, Sheffield, Leeds, Rotherham, Middlesbrough, Birmingham and Bradford.'
    Both of these statements are ridiculous, verging on lunacy.
    It is quite obvious that you have never been to England, are a complete nitwit, and should consider an alternate form of employment as you are shit at this one.

    By the way, where the fuck is Tottenaham?

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