England is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Although it’s hard to find statistics just for England, the United Kingdom as a whole received nearly 30 million visitors in 2022.
Many of these visitors flock to London, the capital, a world-class metropolis with centuries of history and amazing music, gastronomy, and shopping. England also has spectacular palaces, rolling landscapes that inspired countless poets, and other cities such as Manchester that have left their mark on global pop culture.
But while this storied country has countless amazing sights to see, is England safe to visit? Here’s our expert take.
Is England Safe to Visit in 2023?
Yes. For the most part, England is very safe to visit. However, this country is not just a tourist destination but a home to millions of people, some of whom live in impoverished towns and big cities.
Like any place with this dynamic, England has some areas with an elevated crime rate. Most foreign governments don’t separate England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland in their travel advisories but issue advice for the United Kingdom as a whole.
That’s because the safety situation in all those countries that make up the UK is about the same. Look at travel advisories for the UK, and you’ll have an idea of what you can expect for England specifically.
For example, Australia tells its citizens to exercise a high degree of caution in the UK, including England, due to the threat of terrorism.
In the UK, the risk of terrorism is highest in Northern Ireland due to the history of sectarian terrorist activity, but there have been many attacks in England itself. Terrorist attacks in England proper are usually the fault of Islamic extremists or extreme far-right actors.
The United States has a similar travel advisory in place, also telling its citizens to exercise increased caution (the second level of travel advisory) in the UK due to the threat of terrorism.
Although the travel advisory emphasizes that the risk is highest in Northern Ireland, England has experienced terrorist attacks as well. The risk is highest in London, which is the capital and thus an attractive target for terrorists.
However, your chance of being the victim of a terrorist attack in England is very low. Authorities have stepped up anti-terrorism activity in recent years, especially in London.
There’s also not much you can do to prevent a terrorist attack since they are, by definition, random. You can be extra cautious in crowds and always have an escape plan to put your mind at ease, but you shouldn’t let that fear stop you from going on vacation.
Although many tourists worry about terrorist attacks when visiting England, you are far more likely to experience more mundane forms of crime.
The crime level throughout England varies drastically. Common crimes include:
- Bag snatching
- Tourist scams
- Vehicle break-ins
- Knife violence
- Sexual assault
With the right precautions, you can avoid being the victim of these crimes in England. Besides humans, you also have to worry about nature when you go abroad. Luckily, England gets few natural disasters.
The only natural disaster that occurs regularly and can harm people is flooding, but you will have plenty of warning to get away safely if something does happen.
Most hikes in England are safe for all levels of hiker (the terrain is much gentler and more bucolic than in Wales or Scotland), but you should still exercise basic precautions when heading into nature and make sure you have enough supplies.
Crime in England
Crime in England is a primary concern for visitors and residents alike. Certain areas suffer from high crime rates, while some parts of England are so safe that residents regularly leave their front doors unlocked.
It’s hard to get crime statistics for just England as the UK government usually publishes data either for the United Kingdom as a whole or combines the data for England and Wales.
According to government statistics for England and Wales, crime overall decreased in 2022, which is a great sign. Thefts decreased by 20%, homicides decreased by 8%, and knife violence also decreased by 8%.
In 2022, the Crime Survey for England and Wales recorded 9.1 million total offenses. Most of these were minor crimes, such as pickpocketing and petty theft. The most common crime was fraud, followed by vehicle-related theft, criminal damage, bicycle theft, and then violence.
Violent crime levels in England are not ideal, but they are manageable. According to the same source, there were 663 homicides in England and Wales in 2022, and the homicide rate is steadily decreasing.
Knife-related offenses have also decreased, which is good news as there was a concern about those types of crimes becoming more and more prevalent in 2020.
So, what do all of these statistics mean for visitors?
It means that although England does experience crime, and you should probably have some situational awareness when you are out and about, your life will probably not be in danger.
Violent crime rates are fairly low in England, and the most common crime that will affect you is petty theft. Violent crime incidents that do occur in England are usually incidents between people who know each other and rarely affect visitors.
The crime rate in England also varies a lot based on location, so avoiding bad areas will help you stay safe.
The crime you are most likely to encounter in England as a visitor is petty theft. In 2022, the police departments of England and Wales recorded 98,781 incidents of theft from a person, which is an increase compared to previous years.
That does make sense since there was an increase in tourism compared to the COVID-induced lockdowns of 2020 and 2021, meaning there were fewer potential victims in previous years.
The four precincts that experienced the most thefts were Westminster, Camden, Islington, and Southwark, which are all boroughs of London. In fact, all top 10 precincts for theft were in London.
London, with its crowds and especially its crowds of tourists, is a prime hunting ground for thieves. You will have to keep a close eye on your valuables while you are sightseeing. Petty theft in London is most commonly pickpocketing.
Individuals will take advantage of a distracted person to take their valuables. Sometimes, pickpockets work in groups where a few people will distract a person while someone else takes their valuables.
A common tactic used by London pickpocket gangs is the bottleneck, where a group will block the entrance or exit to public transportation, forcing the crowd to squeeze by them and relieving people of their valuables.
Other forms of robbery are also common. Recently, there’s been an increase in ride-bys, when a duo on a small motorbike will snatch valuables from pedestrians.
You can avoid being pickpocketed with some basic precautions. Make sure that your valuables are safe in your front pocket or a secure bag with a zipper, not hanging out of your back pocket or open tote.
Be alert when someone seems too interested in you — Londoners usually keep to themselves. Be especially careful in crowds.
Although most incidents of petty theft occur in London or other big cities, don’t let the sweet landscapes of rural England fool you. There have been cases of tourists on road trips being the victims of vehicle break-ins, although other forms of theft are rare.
Make sure that no possessions are visible in your car when you park, and take all valuables such as IDs, phones, and wallets with you when you leave your vehicle.
For a few years, it looked as if England would struggle greatly with containing knife violence. Knife crimes, including homicides, reached a peak, with over 250 recorded homicides. Many tourists then worried about being the victim of a knife attack.
However, this statistic comes with a few caveats. Knife violence peaked in 2021/2022 but has been declining since, and some analysts think the increase was due to COVID-19 lockdown-induced sociocultural problems.
The victims of knife violence are rarely, if ever, random people on the street, especially foreigners. Victims are usually teenage boys or people that the perpetrator knew and had some conflict with. You don’t have to worry about random attacks on the street.
There have also been situations of pub brawls between strangers involving weapons, although this usually happens only in rougher areas. There is a high rate of alcohol-related violence in the UK.
According to public health authorities, binge drinking is connected to about half of violent incidents. Be careful not to overindulge and choose your pubs with an eye towards the atmosphere and likely clientele.
Avoiding Bad Areas
Crime rates in England vary drastically from area to area. Although people see big cities such as London as dangerous, smaller cities and towns in the north actually have the highest rate of crime.
According to the Office for National Statistics, the most dangerous place in England is Cleveland, a region in the north. A lot of high crime areas are located in the north of England, including Yorkshire and the Humber, the Northwest, the Northeast, and the West Midlands.
These are mostly areas that were hit hard by deindustrialization and now have high rates of poverty and low social cohesion.
London, like all big cities, has some parts with higher crime rates. Be careful in the tourist attractions concentrated in the borough of Westminster, as that has the highest theft rate in the country.
Neighborhoods with high violent crime rates include Hackney, Elephant & Castle, and Peckham, but even those areas are safe enough during the day.
Things to Consider
Here are a few other safety tips for visiting England:
- If you’re going out drinking, keep an eye on your drinks and the crowd around you. Drink spiking sometimes occurs in bars and nightclubs, and you want to get out of there if you notice signs of a fight.
- If you see someone standing near the doors of a public transport station or creating a bottleneck, wait for them to disperse before passing by.
- Many parts of England are safe to explore at night but avoid dark alleyways and side streets and stick to areas of town that have more people.
- Although the North of England has higher rates of crime, it still has thriving cities and places to visit. Northerners are also sensitive to their bad reputation, so don’t treat it as a blighted area.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some common questions other tourists have asked:
Is the UK a safe place to visit?
Overall, the UK is a safe place to visit. Some parts are more dangerous than others, so you should do your research ahead of time on which places to be careful around.
Is it safe in England at night?
Yes, most parts of England are safe at night. Big cities such as London still have lots of people out and about even during late hours, making it safe to walk around and explore.
Is the UK safer than the US?
Overall, the UK is safer than the US. Even London, the biggest city, has a much lower crime rate than most American cities. Violent incidents usually involve knives, not guns, so there are fewer mass homicides.
How do I not look like a tourist in the UK?
Blending in can help you avoid getting targeted by pickpockets. Try to dress like a local, so avoid baseball caps and shirts with your hometown plastered across them. Walk with purpose instead of looking at a phone or map.
Is the London Tube safe?
The Tube is the name for London’s underground metro system, and it is very safe. Stations are well-lit and fully staffed, often with a police presence.
So, Should You Travel to England?
England is a safe place to visit for tourists as long as you keep an eye on your valuables. Although some areas have higher rates of violence, especially knife crime, these usually occur in parts where tourists don’t want to go anyway. Happy travels!