Britain: How to Stay Safe in London During the Summer Olympics

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The 2012 London Summer Olympic Games are underway, and a good time appears to be being had by all. Does that mean that the athletes, officials, fans, and journalists should let down their guard? Hopefully, the Summer Olympics will take place without a major incident.

And while paranoia is never a good idea, it is still better to err on the side of caution when a major event such as the 2012 London Summer Olympics is taking place.

Social Problems Bound to Escalate

Victoria Ugarte is a Travel Writer and Founder of Explore My World Travel, a travel website dedicated to passionate travelers. She is also author of A Foodie & Fashionista’s Guide To London.

Victoria says that staying safe at the London Olympics is all about taking personal responsibility for your safety.

“Like most big cities of the world, London has its fair share of social problems, including pickpocketing, theft, begging, and drug abuse,” Victoria says.

“Social problems are bound to escalate with the population blowout and increased congestion around central London due to the Olympics. The key to personal safety, therefore, is to be aware of what’s going on around you, be informed on where the crime hotspots are, and to take responsibility for your own personal safety.”

Top Nine Tips for Staying Safe in London

  1. Be careful in London’s bars and pubs because fights often break out, especially on Friday and Saturday nights, particularly after football matches. “These sorts of skirmishes will increase exponentially during the Olympics, when pubs and bars get overcrowded with increasingly inebriated drinkers from opposing national loyalties,” Victoria says. “When harassed, it’s best to avoid confrontation, ignore those concerned, and walk away.”
  2. Friends should keep an eye out for each other. “Don’t let a friend accept a drink from a stranger, or leave a bar, club, or party alone or with a stranger,” Victoria says. “Make sure that you know where your friends are, and vice-versa. Keep in touch with your friends via phone or text to make sure that they get back to their accommodation safely. Have them do the same for you.”
  3. Be extra careful when withdrawing money from ATMs. “Many people have their cash stolen immediately after making withdrawals,” Victoria says. “Use ATMs that are in well lit areas like shopping centers, and make sure when using an ATM that no-one is looking over your shoulder. Cover the keypad so no one else can see you entering your PIN number.”
  4. Keep your mobile phone hidden. “Duck into a shop when you need to use it,” Victoria says. “Theft of mobile phones is on the rise in London, with criminals as young as 13 being spotted on bicycles grabbing gadgets out of people’s hands. In one area of London alone, Islington, mobile snatching has increased by 400% in the past 12 months.”
  5. Don’t walk the streets alone at night. “Don’t befriend anyone that randomly approaches you and recommends a local bar or club,” Victoria says. “Lone visitors in London have been known to have been lured into a private clubs with the promise of something more than a drink. Before they know it, a substantial ‘hostess fee’ appears on their bill for several hundred pounds and they are not allowed to leave the premises before paying it, sometimes with the use of force.
  6. Stay away from London’s problem areas. “The areas outside central London, such as the South and East suburban areas, are considered more problematic due to a higher concentration of housing estates and crime that stems from a street gang culture,” Victoria says. “Brixton, Hackney, Hackney Wick, and the surrounding areas become increasingly dangerous at night and should be avoided. Some parts of North-West London, such as Harlesden and northern Camden, are also known trouble spots. Stick to the more commercial areas, where there are likely to be more people.”
  7. Beware of strangers asking for help. “This can be the older gentleman asking you for directions, a man in a suit asking for emergency money for the phone, or a man with a very convincing fake gash on his arm asking for money to get to the hospital,” Victoria says. “More often than not they are scam artists wanting your money.”
  8. Use only black cabs or registered mini-cabs. “Sexual assaults and robberies have been reported by passengers using unlicensed taxis,” Victoria says. “If you need to take a night bus, always travel on the lower deck where it is generally safer; you will be visible to the bus driver on the lower deck and there will more than likely be other passengers around.” 
  9. Don’t be a curiosity seeker. “This is not the time to be curious or to grab some quick holiday photos,” Victoria says. “The mood of a crowd can turn in a matter of seconds and an initially peaceful demonstration can turn violent, particularly when offensive weapons are brandished and used by authorities.”

Better Safe Than Sorry

“Although it’s unnecessary for us to approach our travels with a spirit of paranoia, it’s important to be prepared and to take responsibility for our own safety,” Victoria says.

“Remember to be aware, be informed, be safe.” 

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