The scam alert page of Rick's web site is very interesting readling. However, it seems that all of the scams take place in Paris, Prague, and throughout Italy and Spain. What types of scams take place in London and the surrounding areas? When I visit London next year I will, of course, use a money belt, and keep my day bag with me all the time. But what else should I worry about if anything? Do taxi drivers scam you? Do folks try to sell you expired passes to public transportation? etc...
"Black Taxi cabs' are 99% honest. Tough to qualify for the licence, so they dont want to lose it. Only scams i noticed were people offering to be your "guide'. But they probably will sell you Tower Bridge and Buckingham Palace if you are interested in buying.
Pickpockets in crowds.
You can read the scam board on virtual tourist: http://goo.gl/HD9WL Scams can occur anywhere, but please do not become overanxious or overly worried. I have traveled all over the world by myself and have been going to London nearly every year since the early 1980s. I consider London to be one of the safest big cities I have ever visited. If you observe the normal precautions, you should be just fine.
One I've heard of involves a dirty man dressed in black holding a big brush. He says, "Allo, guv'nor" and offers to clean your chimney. Do not fall for this! It is a scam. Besides, you probably left your chimney at home.
A Royal Navy recruiter will drop a shilling in your mug of ale at a pub and when you drink it, he'll claim you "took the King's shilling" and march you off to your assignment aboard a frigate somewhere. Of course, this scam hasn't been seen much since Nelson's victory at Trafalgar in 1805! Seriously.......as an English language speaker, you're at a bit of an advantage in Britain. It's more difficult to direct you to the wrong place because you can read the signs. Even if the money looks different, you can still read its value on the notes and know what you're receiving in change. You don't need (well, maybe in Scotland, hahaha) anyone to translate a question for you in order to ask directions from a local or to find the expiration date on a ticket. I think the opportunity for being cheated is reduced slightly in London, but as others have said, it is a big city so just be alert. Pickpockets and thieves exist in every country of the world. Like the Rick Steves' advice in any country, I might add that if the restaurant you are considering has a menu outside in six different languages, you're probably not getting the most authentic meal in England. Wasting your time in a dull, touristy pub is worst "scam" I've ever experienced there. Enjoy your trip!
I have to echo Matt. You'll have the best time if you avoid touristy spots (and the 6 language menu is an INSTANT tip-off!) like the plague. I am a New Yorker who has spent quite a bit of time in London, and must report that London is really safe as houses, as big cities go. Follow the rules that you would follow in any big American city, and you will be fine. By mentioning the "folks try to sell you expired passes" thing, you indicate that you are aware that that sort of thing is a scam - so you won't have any trouble avoiding it, if it happens. I predict it won't, in London. And as for black taxis - they ROCK. They are honest, and they know London so well it's almost creepy!
A tourist official in Thailand once gave me an interesting little piece of advice. Most people are nice. Most people will help you if you ASK for help. The ones you have to watch for are the ones that talk to you without an introduction. Would you talk to people like that where YOU come from? Would YOU go up to a complete stranger and just start talking to them????
I think London is fairly scam-free compared to some cities. Hold on to your bag and keep an eye out in crowded areas (especially Oxford Street if you go there). One thing to remember is that only licensed cabs (the black cabs) can stop for you in London. There are minicab companies, but they can only pick you up if you book them. So, avoid anyone offering you a taxi service on the street who isn't in a licensed cab.
Roger - that's a really good point. I remember reading a women's personal safety book once & the author said if you are in trouble be proactive and ask someone for help. His point was that a woman would have to be amazingly unlucky to pick the serial killer, but the serial-killer is going to be picking the distressed female.
In all the years I have been in London I have never met any people other than pure upstanding hard working paragons with nary a bent thought e'er twitx their ears. And the Met police sit about all day drinking tea and eating small cakes.
"A tourist official in Thailand once gave me an interesting little piece of advice. Most people are nice. Most people will help you if you ASK for help. The ones you have to watch for are the ones that talk to you without an introduction. Would you talk to people like that where YOU come from? Would YOU go up to a complete stranger and just start talking to them???? Roger"
Roger, I used to live in Seattle and it must be the friendliest place in the US. Yes, people just start talking to you anywhere. Waiting to cross the street, sitting on the bus, waiting in line at the grocery store. I moved away in 2003, but that's how I remember it.
I used to live just west of London and have been back a dozen or more times. It's one of the safest cities I've ever spent time in. Frankly, no one has ever approached me with a scam. I'm sure it happens. It hasn't happened to me, though. Never used a money belt. Sure, I take normal precautions on busy streets, like Oxford Street. (I.e., wallet in a front pocket. But I didn't even do that when I lived there.) If there was a real problem with pickpockets in London, the BBC would be talking about it. They aren't. Although you will see warning signs in a few obvious locations. Pay attention to what is going on around you. Don't look like a stereotypical American tourist. (Garish t-shirts, shorts, running shoes, lots of cameras, loud voice.) You'll be fine.
Carole - Seattle is still like that but so is Hawaii where I now live most of the time. Roger needs to watch some RS DVDs and see how he operates. In my yearly trips thru Europe I have met some of the most interesting folks where I started the conversation with a simple statement or question.
"Wow, Roger, you must be living in your own small cocoon if you find it wrong to talk to strangers. That's how most friendships start. I'm wondering how you met your gf/wife." I think you are taking this advice out of context. Having a word with a stranger on a train or cafe or pub is different than someone aggressively approaching you in a public situation. That is the one to be careful with.
Back to the original question: Be suspicious of Gypsies who come up to you and ask, "Do you speak English?" Also avoid restaurants that offer you an English menu; that's a sure sign of a tourist trap. :)
The warning to avoid restaurants with menus in English can safely be ignored in London ad throughout the U.K. and Ireland.
"Wow, Roger, you must be living in your own small cocoon if you find it wrong to talk to strangers. That's how most friendships start. I'm wondering how you met your gf/wife." Paul - If YOU walked up to me in the street in LA (especially say North Hollywood) and started talking to me I would be VERY uneasy. There are times and places to meet/interact with people. If I had walked up to my wife in the street in Manchester and just started talking to her, I doubt that she would now be my wife.