Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland in the United Kingdom, is the perfect destination for lovers of literature, history, and culture. Over 4 million people visit the city each year.
When you visit Edinburgh, you must stroll through the medieval, brooding streets of the city center, full of surprises such as ghost tours or museums dedicated to the city’s famous writers.
Edinburgh is long a favorite destination of the royal family, and you can check out royal artifacts at Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace, or the Royal Yacht Britannia.
Climb Arthur’s Seat for the best view of the city. That doesn’t mean the city is just stuck in the past. Check out Scotland’s amazing culture at independent bookstores, top-notch restaurants, and the annual Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
Before you book your trip to Edinburgh, make sure that you check out practical concerns such as safety (this is a big city after all). This travel guide can give you the information you need to travel to Scotland safely.
Is Edinburgh Safe to Visit in 2024?
Yes, Edinburgh is safe to visit! The Scottish capital is actually one of the safest cities in the UK.
Although it has many of the problems other big cities have, such as petty theft and other forms of crime, the chances of problems affecting tourists are fairly low.
In a 2021 poll, the city was voted the safest place to live in the country. Most residents responded that they feel perfectly safe in their city, which not a lot of people in other parts of the country could say.
Edinburgh’s relative safety means that many of the problems that affect other places in the United Kingdom don’t affect the city.
Foreign governments such as the Australian government issue Level Two travel advisories for the UK, often due to the threat of terrorism and civil unrest. However, none of them mention Edinburgh or Scotland as a potential site of trouble.
In fact, Edinburgh repeatedly tops lists of the safest cities in the world. In 2015, it was ranked the 3rd safest city in the world by a travel insurance company. In many other surveys of the world’s safest cities, the city routinely makes it into the list.
Of course, it’s not without at least a couple problems. Keep in mind that this is a city of 543,000 people living in a fairly dense area, which means that crime incidents will happen.
Some common problems include:
- Bag snatching
- Verbal harassment
- Alcohol-related crimes
There are some violent crime incidents in Edinburgh, but most of those occur in residential areas far away from the center. If a tourist in Edinburgh runs into a crime, it is most likely petty in nature.
The city rarely experiences natural disasters. In its travel advisory for the UK, the Canadian government warns that Scotland experiences strong wind storms that have been fatal, but most fatalities occur outside of Edinburgh.
It is a good idea to be prepared for Edinburgh’s wild weather. It is cold and rainy, sometimes even in the summer, so appropriate attire is important.
Make sure that you follow the weather forecast and if a strong storm is predicted, try to keep most of your activities indoors (save climbing Arthur’s Seat for another day).
Crime in Edinburgh
Crime is the primary concern for most people visiting Edinburgh. Some are worried because of stereotypes due to the film Trainspotting, while others know that any big city is bound to have crime.
According to the Scottish government’s 2020 crime statistics, the city has a crime rate of 579 incidents per 10,000 people. It has the third-highest crime rate in Scotland, which seems alarming until you look at demographics for the rest of Scotland.
Most other Scotland localities are rural or small towns, so it makes sense that one of the most densely populated places in Scotland will have one of the highest crime rates.
According to a breakdown of crimes committed in Edinburgh, the most common crimes committed in the city are crimes of dishonesty (which includes most property crimes) at 36%.
This category is followed by road traffic offenses, which make up 15.5% of total crimes. At first glance, violent crimes seem to make up a sizable percentage of Edinburgh crime rates, at 13.9%.
However, the Scottish government classifies extortion as a violent crime, which some other localities do not. Most violent crimes in the city do not occur in tourist areas or affect visitors to the city.
Besides crime statistics, residents also feel safe in Edinburgh. According to Numbeo, which collects survey data on crime, Edinburgh scores a 30.52 out of 100 on the crime index, which is a low score.
Residents are somewhat concerned about rising crime over the past few years and petty crimes such as drug abuse, vandalism, and theft.
The concern over rising crime rates is backed up by the numbers. Like most places around the world, Edinburgh experienced an increase in violent crime in 2022. Violent crime in the city increased by 23%.
The increase was primarily driven by an increase in domestic violence reports and serious assault. However, some crimes, such as break-ins, are steadily decreasing.
Plus, it’s important to note that crime in 2022 increased compared to the previous year, when COVID-19 restrictions still limited movement (including the movement of criminals).
When compared to the five-year average, crime is still decreasing. What these statistics mean for visitors is that it is unlikely that your trip will be affected by a crime.
You may encounter an unpleasant incident such as petty theft or a drunken individual, but these are to be expected in any big city. As long as you take basic precautions and don’t let fear ruin your trip to the city, you should have a wonderful time.
As in most places in the world, the most common crime you will encounter in Edinburgh is petty theft. Petty theft is a common crime in most big cities because it is the easiest to get away with (and has the least consequences if caught).
It is common in cities that attract many tourists because thieves perceive tourists as being easy targets. Pickpockets and bag snatchers in Edinburgh tend to hang out around tourism hotspots.
Be careful of your possessions around popular tourist areas such as the Royal Mile, Edinburgh Old Town, Edinburgh Castle, Princes Street Gardens, and other attractions.
You should also be careful around public transportation and transport hubs such as Edinburgh Waverley or the bus from the airport. Thefts increase around popular times to visit the city, such as the Edinburgh Fringe Festival or Hogmanay.
Watch your things whenever you are moving in crowds. Thieves are not usually hardened criminals, so a few basic precautions are usually enough to deter them from taking your things.
Make sure that your valuables, such as your phone and wallet, are in a place that is hard to access, such as inside pockets of your jacket or a zipped bag.
Opt for a cross-body bag instead of a shoulder bag to prevent purse snatching. Replacing your passport abroad is an expensive headache. Carry a photocopy of your passport, a scan on your phone, or another form of ID and leave your passport in your hotel safe.
That way, even if you do get pickpocketed, you lessen your headaches. Street scams are not very common in Edinburgh.
However, it’s still a good idea to take some basic precautions such as not interacting with people who seem desperate to get your attention, especially if they are offering you something or asking for petition signatures.
Avoid common international scams such as someone spilling something on you then asking to help you clean up (a cover for theft).
Alcohol-related crimes are somewhat common in Edinburgh. The city has a large student population as well as many young people that come visit.
This, combined with Scotland’s binge-drinking culture, sometimes lead to unpleasant incidents. Most alcohol-related crimes are just incidents of disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace.
Sometimes, drunk crowds (usually of young men) will verbally harass people passing by, especially women. Women traveling alone may not want to walk past popular bars later at night.
Occasionally, drunk incidents escalate into more serious crimes. Bar fights often break out in Edinburgh, especially around closing time as unruly patrons get kicked out by weary bar staff.
It’s a good idea to avoid popular bar areas during closing time. Late at night on Lothian Road and Dairy Road, Edinburgh’s central nightlife areas, is not necessarily dangerous, but can be unpleasant.
If you are going out in Edinburgh, make sure you take some precautions.
Watch your drink intake and don’t overdo it — you are in a foreign country after all, and you want to have at least some presence of mind for whatever happens. Never leave your drinks unattended to prevent drink spiking, especially if you are a woman.
Avoiding Bad Areas
Like any big city, Edinburgh has a few areas that are better to avoid. Be careful around popular nightlife areas, such as Lothian Road and The Cowgate, as they get rowdy at night.
Other rowdy areas include the place between Salamander Street and Leith Links, which is informally Edinburgh’s red light district.
Stay away from the parks at night, especially The Meadows, as assaults are frequent. Calton Hill is a popular viewpoint, but at night it also gets a bit sketchy.
The neighborhood of Leith has a reputation for high crime rates, especially since it was the setting for the film Trainspotting. However, the neighborhood has changed drastically over the past few years and is now a trendy up-and-coming area of the city.
Things to Consider
Here are a few other tips for staying safe in Edinburgh:
- Mind the weather. Edinburgh is famously chilly and rainy, even in the summer. No matter what season you are visiting, make sure that you bring waterproof shoes and a raincoat to protect yourself from the elements.
- Watch your step. Sturdy shoes are the best choice for exploring Edinburgh. Most of the city center is covered in old cobblestones that can quickly turn an ankle in poor footwear. Plus, the streets get extremely slippery when it rains, and you don’t want to fall!
- Be sensitive to local politics. Scottish people are very proud of their regional identity, so make sure that you don’t call them English. Be careful when discussing sensitive political topics such as Brexit or Scottish independence as you don’t know what opinions people have.
- Don’t visit in August (unless you are a theater fan). Every August, the Edinburgh Fringe takes over the city. Theater fans flock to the city, but other visitors may be put off by the crowds and rising accommodation prices.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are a few other questions people who visited Edinburgh have asked before:
Is it safe to walk in Edinburgh at night?
It is mostly safe to walk in Edinburgh at night. Just be careful around popular nightlife areas very late at night, and don’t go down alleyways and poorly lit side streets in the Old Town (not so much because of crime but because you will get lost).
Is it safe to walk around Edinburgh alone?
Yes, Edinburgh is very safe for solo travelers. Even walking around alone at night is safe as long as you stick to well-lit streets.
Which is safer: Edinburgh or Glasgow?
Edinburgh has a lower crime rate than Glasgow and is slightly safer. However, Glasgow has come a long way from its criminal reputation of the past.
Can you walk everywhere in Edinburgh?
Edinburgh is a very compact city, so you can walk almost anywhere except for the far-flung suburbs if you are reasonably fit. It also has a good bus system to get around.
Is Edinburgh safer than London?
Edinburgh is safer than London. The smaller Scottish city has a much lower crime rate than the capital of the UK.
So, Is Edinburgh Safe to Visit?
Edinburgh is a safe city to visit. Besides the basic precautions you should take whenever you visit a big city, you don’t have to do much to protect yourself.
So, with so much to see and do and a safe environment, what are you waiting for — book your trip today and experience for yourself all that Edinburgh has to offer. Happy travels!