Just like all big cities, London has its pitfalls for visitors, make sure you don’t fall into them and have your visit ruined. Learn more about potential problems here.
Most visitors to London will never come into contact with any kind of crime because the areas attractive to visitors are usually well policed and relatively busy and so less attractive to muggers and other criminals. The exception is pickpockets, they prey on visitors especially and are prevalent in areas like Oxford Street.
Pickpockets tend to work in teams. One or more people will apparently bump into you, pick your pocket or bag and then surreptitiously pass it to an accomplice. You will probably not even notice it has gone until you want to pay for something.
Don’t keep your wallet in your back pocket or your handbag (purse) open or slung on your shoulder with the bag behind you. The best place for your wallet is in a pocket that fastens with a zip or button. Wear your handbag across your body with the bag in front of you and closed. Inside the bag, keep credit cards and cash in a zipped compartment.
These are not the regular market stallholders with regular pitches, these street sellers are the people, usually, men, who set up a suitcase in somewhere like Oxford Street and sell what they claim is expensive perfume or watches for knockdown prices.
Don’t believe it – all you will buy is overpriced rubbish. Perfume boxes may superficially resemble expensive designer labels but they will contain inferior perfume. Similarly, other things sold like this may resemble more expensive items but they are always cheap copies.
You might be persuaded to buy because other people appear to be buying. Don’t be fooled. These people have accomplices planted in the crowd to start the buying.
This kind of street trading is illegal.
If you look around you will see another accomplice or two keeping a sharp look out for the police. If they see the police approaching, the seller will shut his suitcase quite smartly and disappear.
These are not as common now as they once were but you still need to be aware that you could get involved. Mock auctions take place in empty shops and a gifted salesman whips the crowd into a buying frenzy by offering apparently amazing bargains. Again, accomplices in the crowd will start buying and then innocent people join in. You won’t get a bargain, just like the street sellers, you will end up with rubbish worth a fraction of what you have paid for it.
Hotdog and Ice Cream Sellers
While visiting London you will probably see hotdogs, hamburgers and ice cream being sold from little push carts, especially in the royal parks. Under no circumstances buy from these. They are not only unlicensed and very expensive, they are also extremely unhygienic and you could easily contract food poisoning from these sellers’ wares.
They have no hand washing facilities, which is bad enough, but these handcarts are stored overnight in filthy back alleys and yards where pigeons and vermin of all kinds could be defecating and urinating on them. Then to add insult to injury, you will probably pay three or four times more for a hotdog or ice cream than you would from a regular outlet.
At one time, about 20 years ago, it was extremely rare to see a beggar in London or anywhere else in the UK. Now you will see many beggars, especially in Central London. Most are not a problem and it is entirely up to you whether you give them money or not. Some people say that it just encourages people to beg and you should give the money to a homeless charity like Shelter instead. Others give money directly to the street people. Very few beggars in London are aggressive, in fact, I’ve never seen any of them behaving aggressively. Occasionally, you might find one the worst for drink who is ranting. Just keep your distance and don’t make eye contact and you don’t get involved.