As you may know, in recent months, the United Kingdom has been the target of several terrorist attacks. The first took place in May when a bomb went off at Manchester arena. Two others occurred in June with an incident on the London Bridge on June 3rd, and an attack near a London Mosque on June 19th. As a result, the UK’s Security Service, MI5, declared a severe threat level for international terrorism in Northern Ireland and a substantial threat level in Britain. Those designations are subject to change at any time–and they change frequently! Be sure to check their website to stay updated.
In light of this, many traveling to the UK in the near future question their traveling safety. If you’re one of those many, know that the United Kingdom generally has low crime rates. And the statistical probability of being at the scene of a terrorist attack in the UK or anywhere is very low. In fact, you are more likely to be struck by lightning, by almost four times, than you are to be caught in a terrorist attack.
If you’re planning to travel to the UK in the near future, use these precautions to stay safe:
The London police have advised residents and visitors alike to keep their eyes open for the following activity:
Stationary vehicles. Anyone sitting in a stationary vehicle, especially if they appear to be watching a building or other structure for any duration of time
Slow-moving vehicles. Any vehicle that is moving slowly when passing by a building or other structure, for no apparent reason
Suspicious recording. Individuals using recording equipment, or making notes in a way that feels suspicious, especially if they seem to be making note of entry and exit points
Loitering. People loitering around the premises of an event or well-traveled location, for no apparent reason
Unattended luggage. Unattended bags in public spaces
If you see any of this activity, or other suspicious activity, report it to the police – better safe than sorry! You can report non-urgent information by dialing 101, which will connect you to the local police in the UK. If you have an urgent report, dial 999. This number equates to dialing 911 in the US and is free to call in emergency situations. Plan ahead by programming these numbers into your cell phone so you can easily dial them if needed.
There are many ways to get around the UK, from public transportation, to cabs, to hiring a private car. Each are relatively easy, but there are different safety tips to keep in mind when considering your options. If you choose public transportation, be mindful of unattended bags or other belongings. Keep your belongings close to you, with valuables and tech items out of sight to avoid pickpocketing. Be especially careful if traveling late at night, during rush hour, or when crowds are large. If you opt taking a taxi or ordering a private car, make sure you choose one with a visible license. If you choose an unlicensed vehicle, which can be cheaper, you will have no legal recourse if anything goes wrong.
As we shared in our recent post about traveling safely in Europe in general, we highly recommend that you let someone (or even a couple of people) at home know that you’ll be texting, emailing, or calling them at regular intervals throughout your trip. They’ll know you’re safe and sound if they hear from you, and they can take action if they don’t. This means you should also check with your cell service provider before traveling. Make sure you’ll be able to communicate, as needed, with those at home.
You should also make sure you’re set up in the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) before you travel, which allows U.S. citizens to register their trip with the embassies in their destination countries. Learn more about it in our post on travel safety here.
After booking your trip to Europe, it’s imperative you purchase travel insurance. You’ll want to make sure that, among other things, cancellation or trip interruption as a result of terrorist events are covered, so you can be fully covered if you no longer feel safe to travel or want to leave the UK earlier than planned. Each plan offers a list of covered cancellation and interruption reasons, so make sure your plan includes your specific reasons to cancel.
The fact is, you need to be aware of your own personal safety wherever you travel, whether or not there has been a recent incident. So keep these safety tips in mind no matter where you plan to travel! They’ll definitely come in handy.