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Traveling to Great Britain in June and would feel safest blending in

A friend and I are traveling to Great Britain in June. We will be there for the entire month and will be everywhere from London to Scotland, to Wales and to Dover. We are planning on visiting big cities, hiking, seeing scenic back roads, historical sites and even swimming a little... We just have no idea how to pack. I have heard layers, jeans, and comfy shoes. We want to really blend in. Being two ladies traveling on our own for the first time we are hoping to blend in with the locals for safety reasons. Are there certain online shops or styles that we should be looking at? We want to be prepared for every activity without having to pack more than one suitcase and a carry on bag. Any ideas for versatile and local styles would be greatly appreciated. We hope to be prepared without standing out. Thank you!

Posted by
964 posts

I'm an older British person and usually dress in the style indicated by Emma, down to the baseball cap. I've never been mistaken for an American though! That might well be because when I speak its determinedly not American, although I have been accused of being Australian, Scots, Irish, and of 'previously unknown origin'!

Wear what you are comfortable in, noting comfortable footwear, layers, and most definitely a waterproof top. I'm sure you'll fit right in!

Have a great trip!

Ian

Posted by
13700 posts

Great advice, as always, from Emma. You've little if anything at all to worry about traveling about the UK. As she said, there will be tourists everywhere so no one will be looking at you unless you're wearing something that would be outlandish at home as well as abroad!

Besides, you're going to be most comfortable wearing what you are used to.

An amusing side note....
I've a good friend in the Leicester area of England. Seen on the street together, you would be unable to tell which is the Brit and which is the American as we dress almost exactly alike: jeans, sweater/unfussy shirt, comfy shoes, wind/water-proof navy jackets, shoulder bag... Even our haircuts have been the same. The jig is up, of course, once we open our mouths. :O)

That friend is also much more well-traveled than I am, and her #1 bit of travel advice is, "Bring layers"!

Posted by
11447 posts

In general, the UK, as is most of the rest of Europe, is safer than the USA.

I will also say that Emma has given you excelent advice. The only thing I might add is to not wear any jewelry that looks expensive. Otherwise, be comfortable and enjoy yourself.

Posted by
1787 posts

Do Brits not wear capris? I must admit it is a wardrobe stable for me. But then I live in a hot climate and capris are almost as cool as shorts but look more polished. I would wear capris downtown but not shorts. And I do think it is an age thing...my twenty something daughter would wear shorts😊.

Do Brits not wear capris? I must admit it is a wardrobe stable for me

A lot of older British women wear them in hot weather.

To the OP, it sounds as if you think you’ll be somehow at risk if you’re identified as (a) tourists or (b) Americans. Neither is true. And if you blend in too well, you won’t experience the friendship and help that many British people habitually offer to overseas visitors.

If you could tell us exactly what you’re concerned might happen, perhaps we could put your mind at risk.

But this is a safe country, and unlike some US towns & cities (I’ve travelled often in the US), you’re not going to accidentally walk a block or two and end up in some no-go streets.

Posted by
3699 posts

Britain, especially London, grows steadily more multi-cultural. Hard to know what to "blend in" to.
There are a few cultural differences that Americans might attend to in the hopes of being a good guest. In general, UK residents do not assume that two minutes of conversation makes you best buddies. Some Americans think the Brits are stand-offish. No, they are polite (except at football matches) and pay you the respect of not prying into your life all at once. The foaming mannerly gestures do not mean they want to know about your appendix operation and may be as insincere as any British comedy on PBS. Try not to giggle.
In pubs, pay for your glass of bitters at the bar. No tipping required. There is still slightly less noise in public places, with voices at moderate levels, although sadly the volume is rising to meet the international youthful roar.
Be nice to the pub dog. They're really quiet. Not everyone loves the royals.
Your cellphone is a "moblile" over there. Newspapers are still printed on newsprint, most of them.
You'll be fine, mate.

Posted by
1104 posts

You don't need to worry about safety in the UK. I've always felt safer there than in the US. Wear whatever you are comfortable in and goes with the weather, and have a great trip!

Posted by
7991 posts

I do not understand the “safety” concern. Safer than US.

Posted by
3789 posts

I gave up trying to blend in a number of years ago. Of course it was useless in countries south of say Spain or Dallas, but even Europe knows we aren't European. I was recently in UK for the first time in December, and I couldn't tell the locals from the visitors from other European countries or North America. UK is quite multi-cultural, so even outward differences doesn't mean much.
As a solo woman traveller (of a certain age), I have learned that safety is an internal gauge and everyone is different. Sure there are some places with safety alerts, but otherwise your internal Spidey Sense should help guide your every day. It is rare places where tourists are actual targets for much more than a pickpocket, and even that can be prevented. I find the more I research beforehand, the more confident I am about going to a new place. Just think of the value of having 2 of you, so you can have each other's back?
I also blame the US media and its own tourist alerts system for constant barrages of doom and gloom and 'be afraid' news and information. You can actually find global maps that outline safety perception and the US is one big red 'scary' zone - primarily due to your gun laws. If you can survive your home town, you can survive Great Britain.
The one thing I will note (as a non-American), clothing will never cover if you are one who cuts food, puts down the knife, and switches the fork to the other hand to eat. That is going to alert anyone to you being American.....and they won't care.
Go, stay safe while hiking, and have a wonderful time. I bet it will bring out a little Thelma and Louise (but not the ending, I hope).

Posted by
9921 posts

Fun that you will be there for a whole month!

I'm older, often travel in UK on my own and will never in a million years blend in. I need my feet to hold up for long periods of travel and days of walking 8-10 miles so I always go with my particular brand of athletic shoes that work on my feet (Altra Zero Drop). I wear jeans but also take some quick dry travel pants and yes, for June in England I'd take capris depending on how heat tolerant you are. Last May I wore jeans many days but by the end of May and in to June I was in capris some days because I was hot. Definitely SS shirts with a waterPROOF rain jacket.

Here is a link to my Trip Report from last May and June. I spent time in London and did the RS Villages of Southern England tour with additional time in Scotland for the Best of Scotland tour altho I was not on my own this trip - traveled with family. There is a paragraph on my capsule wardrobe. I do all sink wash so the jeans I take have a good bit of polyester in them so they will dry quickly. A few years ago I got the traveling pants from Costco which are very quick drying and also very inexpensive. They are a weird length.

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/tours/tour-report-villages-of-southern-england-5-21-6-2-18

BTW, I have never felt unsafe in UK because I look like an old American traveler. No need to worry about this at all!

Pam

(PS EMMA! Your Mom sounds great!)

Posted by
5710 posts

I would never wear Capri pants, personally. Layers are useful, particularly if it’s cooler up north or in the evening.

The UK is generally safe for tourists. Americans tend to wear more jewellery - leave most of this at home so as not to tempt fate.

Fashion is generally global. Wear what’s comfortable, including good shoes for lots of walking. A lightweight waterproof would be useful for Wales and Scotland. Jeans are universal, so long as they aren’t cropped.

You will fit in whatever, as anything goes.

Posted by
8411 posts

My British friend who lives in London and Bognor wears capris a lot, so do her friends.

My other British friend from London has lived in the US for 30 yrs. He just spent 10 days in London and was oftten mistaken for being American based on his clothes which look no different to him or me from British clothes. It’s a mystery to us.

Posted by
3355 posts

I also can't understand trying to blend in with the locals for safety reasons. Europe in general is safe so there is no need to worry.

But if you want to blend in and not stand out as obvious americans, keep you voice down. Many americans are very loud and that is an easy way to spot them. Mark Wolters also has a video on the subject you could watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KebJkfLoEfA

Posted by
1310 posts

My darling Mom, who was an ardent Anglophile, bravely went solo to England and Wales in her late 60's. She was a timid person, but she was determined to do this. She told me after her trip she never felt afraid or unsafe and so many folks treated her like a friend. It was probably partly due to my Mom making it clear how much she loved the UK and how friendly she was to everyone. She was a Midwestern school teacher. She dressed exactly like she did at home, some skirts and some slacks.

Posted by
914 posts

Hi,
I have two suggestions. I would check out Rick's packing lists to help you get started.
https://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/packing-light/packing-list-women
https://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/packing-light/ricks-packing-list

And if you want to see what other travelers have worn, take a look at past Rick Steves tour scrapbooks for UK and London trips.
https://www.ricksteves.com/tours/scrapbooks (see same webpage for archives from past years)

When in the UK, I wear what I wear at home with the adjustment that it's LIKELY but not always going to be cooler than home.

Posted by
538 posts

You will absolutely be safe! On blending in, as others have said, wear what is comfortable and appropriate for the site you are visiting.
As a New Yorker, I can usually pick out the tourists- there just is something about how the cloths are cut, certain patterns and colors and pattern combinations that we dont use in US. ( and,yes in NY that means anything not black or a shade of black. NO PASTELS. LOL)
A month - Enjoy. Stay away from Midsomer - they seem to have a very high murder rate there!LOL

Posted by
4 posts

Hello All!

Your replies have been VERY helpful! Thank you so much. :-)

I grew up in a pretty dangerous part of the US so I'm in general very concerned about avoiding muggings, assault, and leering men that seem to have bad intentions. It was extremely comforting to see the responses where people couldn't figure out how I could possibly be concerned. I did not realize that the UK and Europe at large are so much safer than where I'm from. I'm used to having to worry about blending into the crowd and not being noticeable to avoid being a target for people with poor intentions. For example, if you are wearing form fitting clothes wear a big jacket so people on the street don't immediately recognize you as a female. Travel in groups of three or more in dangerous areas. Avoiding being outside at night and be sure to watch for 'herding' if a group of men are walking behind you and cat calling. NEVER change direction to avoid them. They likely have more friends waiting for you in the direction your changing course too... See why I'm a little paranoid? Thankfully, I live in a better area now, but I still am very wary when traveling to places that I'm unfamiliar with. It seems that my "spidey sense" will naturally be a bit stronger than needed for the UK.

I'm not used to the risk of pick pocketing. I'm used to bolder thieves. If pick pocketing should be my main concern, do any of you have any suggestions on how to prevent it?

We are going to be hiking a bit in the countryside. What would be the safety risks with that and how can we go about preventing those risks?

It's also good to know that fashion is fashion wherever you go, just be layered and prepared for rain. Thank you all, truly. I feel so much more relaxed about the trip and wont be looking over my shoulder so much.

Posted by
28126 posts

Safety risks walking in the countryside, in no particular order-

a bull in the field - best avoid. Probably a sign. Go the other way.

stinging nettles. They are obvious. Avoid, certainly avoid walking through them wearing shorts or sitting in them. Use care when answering a call of nature. Use Dock Leaf to assuage the pain.

falling into the canal. Don't walk near the edge. If you fall in, stand up. Don't fall in if drunk. I lost an ancestor in Victorian days that way.

stepping in souvenirs from recent cattle or sheep grazing. Not so obvious if it is raining or you don't look down. Walk carefully. Wear the right footwear.

Posted by
8411 posts

LoL Nigel.

bleejohns, where did you live that was that dangerous? Just in case i ever go to that city...

“Stay away from Midsomer - they seem to have a very high murder rate there!”

Diane, very funny! Love that show and have thought the same thing! How many murders can the writers think up in one little town...

Posted by
3713 posts

You've gotten lots of good advice here. It may be time for you to take a deep dive into the Travel Tips on this website. Perhaps not all, but many of the sections there will provide useful information for your trip.

P.S. I can't imagine "swimming a little" anywhere outdoors in Great Britain in June. Both air and water would be way too cold for me.

Posted by
682 posts

Wild swimming is a joy all year round in Britain, some more joyful than others! Did two sea swims in Feb, wetsuits are for wimps😁

Posted by
971 posts

Despite the high murder rate in Midsomer, i would't be too worried as a tourist. Most of the victims seem to be involved in the local gossip, either by having an affair or being involved in some inheritance matter. as an outsider you'll be safe!

We are going to be hiking a bit in the countryside. What would be the
safety risks with that and how can we go about preventing those risks?

If you’re planning what us Brits would called a hike (maybe six miles plus on country footpaths*) make sure you have proper sturdy hiking footwear with ankle support, a good large-scale Ordnance Survey map, enough food & water, a waterproof jacket, a phone (but don’t rely on signal) and most importantly let someone (for example at your hotel) know what route you plan to take and when you’ll be getting back. *Public footpaths aren’t often paved; they’ll be muddy tracks at the side of fields or through woods.

If you mean hiking in the sense of a gentle couple of miles meander through the countryside, then good shoes are still important!

Re pickpockets - just make sure your purse/pocketbook/wallet and any other valuables are buried at the bottom of your bag and keep your bag closed. Sounds like you have good situational awareness.

Posted by
9921 posts

Emma, I am still laughing about the remark. It does sound like something my Mom would have said as well!

Thanks to OP for giving us a picture of your concerns. We are a diverse group here so it helps to know what your frame of reference is. Me? I live in a rural town of 800 and carry bear spray when I go out to walk or hike on my own or with others. I'm much more comfortable assessing critter danger than people danger.

As to pickpockets, I have less concern in London than in Paris where I actually have gotten pick pocketed. I DO wear a Rick Steves type money belt. I travel solo and want to be proactive on keeping my extra credit/debit cards, cash and passport safe. It's worn under clothing and used as deep storage - so only accessed in your hotel room or a toilet cubicle. I keep one card and about 50GBP in my purse for my day money. If I am in a crowd I have my hand on the zippers. I have added some carabiners to my travel purse after my pickpocketing in Paris in 2017 (they didn't get anything but my pouch of OTC meds, etc.).

You'll get a difference of opinion on whether to carry your passport or leave it in the hotel room. I carry mine at all times when I am on my own. IF I am on a Rick Steves (or Road Scholar) tour I'm more likely to leave it in my day pack on the coach or in my suitcase in the hotel room.

I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at the feeling of safety in UK! I suspect if you tried hard you could find some unsafe areas but seeing and doing tourist things will not take you to those areas.

Interesting comment, Emma, about graffiti. There is none where I live and yes, to me, it shouts gang activity.

Posted by
11292 posts

One real safety issue in London, and to a lesser extent in the rest of the UK, is the fact that since they drive on the left, crossing the street is potentially treacherous for those of us from places where they drive on the right. The cars are coming at you in the opposite direction from the one you expect. Plus, there are one way streets, or the bus lane may be going in the opposite direction from the rest of the traffic. Particularly the first day or two, when you're tired and relying on instinct, it is shockingly easy to look the wrong way before crossing a street and find a car coming right at you.

In central parts of London, they actually have "look right" or "look left" written in the street, to help us hapless visitors. But I still find that when I'm tired, I make mistakes.

So, if you want to take a safety precaution that's actually useful, don't worry about your clothes. But do look right, then left, then right again, before crossing any street.

Posted by
3713 posts

One person's graffiti is another person's street art. There are many street art tour options in London. Doing one might take you out of your comfort zone and be a delight at the same time.

Googling London street art tour or graffiti tour will provide lots of results. This is only one of them.

I wasn't able to do this last time I was in London. It's one of the many reasons I want to go back.

Posted by
8889 posts

In central parts of London, they actually have "look right" or "look left" written in the street, to help us hapless visitors.

That's not to help visitors, that's for locals. Because of the large number of one way streets and traffic islands, so it is not always obvious which way the vehicles come from.

One real safety issue . . . ., is the fact that since they drive on the left,

The only safety issue is tourists crossing the street while looking in the wrong direction. A danger to traffic. Driving on the left is safer, because you keep your good hand (right) on the steering wheel and change gear with your left.

Posted by
5574 posts

Yeah, when you stop and "read" the street signs, or try to go down the wrong side of the staircase (some elevators are posted for American style standing, for some reason), you'll stand out plenty. Just like the people who stop and block the sidewalk on Fifth Avenue in NYC.

Seriously, it's not as prevalent a policy as it was years ago, but many police officers in Great Britain are unarmed. Even they feel safer than those of us in 2nd Amendment U.S.A.

Posted by
11447 posts

Driving on the left is safer, because you keep your good hand (right) on the steering wheel and change gear with your left.

Unless you're left handed.

And in airplanes, the senior pilot sits on the left. He "steers" with his left hand and uses his right for throttles and everything else.

Posted by
8848 posts

bleejohns

Where are you from?
After reading of you 'daily brush with death', accounting of your home town I would not want to inadvertently end up there.

Posted by
8411 posts

I asked the same question as joe upthread and still would like to know.

Are you still here bleejohns?

Posted by
964 posts

Hi bleejohns -

In defence of our bovine chums, it is perfectly usual to walk through a field of cows with a bull accompanying them - it’s the law that farmers can do that as it is not considered dangerous. Just give the big chap a wide berth and keep calm and quiet. A bull on its own in a field however should be avoided by alternative route. As A. Wainwright noted, the lone bull is the master in its own field. And as he noted (and illustrated) it is important to spot the difference between a bull and a cow!

Herds of cows only, will rarely even acknowledge your existence as you pass through. They will get out of your way if your paths coincide and you should afford them space to do that. If a herd decides you are the most fabulous and interesting thing they have seen all day and start to follow you to investigate, DON’T RUN! They’ll see this as a game or challenge and frankly you can’t outrun them. Remain calm and if necessary face them and shout at them to back off - this usually reveals them to be the scaredy cats that they are and they will back off, although I would confess that just once, a particularly curious cow followed me at close quarters all the way to the field stile despite me giving it a gentle whack on the nose with my map - it was an exception though on a well used path so maybe it wasn’t as scared of humans as others are generally. If in a group stay together and pass steadily through the field - determine if possible where the exit is and make for it so as not to prolong your time among the livestock. No walker enjoys particularly wandering through herds of cows (or navigating farmyards, a personal dislike) but they are an occupational hazard, so to speak.

Usually the tiny few unfortunates that are trampled to death by cows have dogs with them. Dogs and cows do not mix well, especially if the cows have calves with them - they will then be particularly aggressive and protective. The advice is if cows attack you and the dog, let the dog go as it has a better chance than you do of outrunning them. My advice would be not to mix the two and find another way round!

Ian

Posted by
28126 posts

no, I think our poster is a throw the question out and run poster.

Not a peep out of either of the ladies since the day it was posted (follow up 14 hours after posting and nothing else) although quite a few folks have tried to help over the last 10 days.

Oh well, must have tired of the question within the day before the sun went down.

Posted by
3789 posts

With all due respect fellow posters, there are no strings attached that when asking questions that we have to provide personal information or respond to satisfy the curious. I know there are plenty of posts we would like to know the back story on, but it isn't our business and doesn't warrant snide comments. There are times I think people post questions and leave because of intimidation, prying and rudeness....or in Joe's case, insensitive.
I am sure the poster got enough information to travel appropriately, and that is all that is required. Case closed.

Posted by
4 posts

Hello!

Sorry, things got busy and I just got the chance to check back in.

I'm originally from Collinwood Ohio, but moved to Denver about 7 years ago. If you are traveling to the US I doubt that Cleveland (The nearest big city) is on your list of places to go. Even if you decide that you have to go to Cleveland, the chances of ending up in Collinwood are unlikely. Its out of the way and most people that want to see down town Cleveland will get a hotel nearby what they want to see. Some friends of mine from home have said that the area is trying to clean up its image and cut down on crime, but I still wouldn't trust it at all. Too many bad memories and I just don't feel safe there.

In contrast, if anyone wanted to visit Denver, Colorado it is a very nice place and there are a lot of really neat attractions! I would consider this city pretty safe and don't mind evening outings. The only place that is less than savory towards the down town area is Colfax Street, but it's fairly easy to avoid.

Thank you for the tips! I found the information on the cows and bulls really interesting! I wouldn't have expected to potentially run into any bovine and its good to know that you cant outrun them. If we see any bulls I'll be sure to stay in the car.

We really appreciate your advice!

Posted by
4 posts

And thank you Maria for your kind defense. Yes, you are correct. I got the answers that I needed from the first post. Apparently, clothing doesn't matter and the UK is a heck of a lot safer than what I'm used to. I got an email and realized that there were a few more comments so I wanted to check in.

As for the person who commented "Maybe she got mugged" Not funny and in poor taste. I expected better of someone that travels and gets to experience different cultures. It might benefit you to consider that some people are born to better lifestyles than others. I grew up with the need to be very careful wherever I went. You apparently didn't. My concern for safety when traveling might seem strange to you, but should be respected none the less. Making a cheap comment because you were frustrated that I had not checked in does not excuse you to belittle or make fun of my life experience. I wish you well and better judgement in the future.