Safety and Security:
The United Kingdom is politically stable and has a modern infrastructure, but shares with the rest of the world an increased threat of terrorist incidents of international origin, as well as the potential for isolated violence related to the political situation in Northern Ireland.
Like the United States, the United Kingdom shares its national threat levels with the general public to keep everyone informed and explain the context for the various increased security measures that may be encountered. The UK Home Office posts UK threat levels on its website.
The UK Security Service, commonly known as MI5, publishes through its website specific reasons for any changes in the threat level and recommended actions for the public.
U.S. citizens should check with the UK Department for Transport for the latest security updates and carry-on luggage restrictions.
In the past several years, extremists have targeted and attacked public transportation infrastructure in European cities such as London, Madrid, Glasgow, and Moscow, demonstrating that terrorists continue to take an active interest in targeting this sector. The British Home Secretary has urged UK citizens to be alert and vigilant. For example, travelers are encouraged to keep an eye out for suspect packages or people acting suspiciously on buses, on the subway (called the Tube or Underground), at train stations, and at airports, and to report anything suspicious to the appropriate authorities. U.S. citizens should remain vigilant with regard to their personal security and to exercise caution. As has been widely reported in the press, UK law enforcement authorities have taken action to guard against a terrorist attack, underscoring in their public statements that the police are using a range of tactics to mitigate the threat. For more information about UK public safety initiatives, consult the UK Civil Contingencies Secretariat website.
The political situation in Northern Ireland has improved substantially since the days of the “Troubles,” with the successful completion of a four-year term by the Northern Ireland Assembly in 2011 and the devolution of policing and justice authorities to the Assembly in 2010. Overall, rates of violent crime are very low in Northern Ireland. Nevertheless, the Police Service of Northern Ireland assesses the dissident republican threat in Northern Ireland to be severe. Dissident republican groups have been the main sources of a modest rise in the number of security incidents in recent years. Attacks by these groups have focused primarily on police and military targets, and involved the use of firearms and explosives. Attacks have targeted the private vehicles and homes of security personnel, police stations, and other justice sector buildings, increasing the potential for travelers to be caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. Separately, demonstrations from December 2012 to February 2013 resulted in sporadic street violence, mainly directed at police. Tensions may be heightened during the summer marching season (April to August), particularly during the month of July (around the July 12th public holiday).
Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence. You should avoid the areas of demonstrations if possible, and be careful within the vicinity of any demonstrations. You should stay current with media coverage of local events and be aware of your surroundings at all times.
The phone number for police/fire/ambulance emergency services – the equivalent of 911 in the United States – is 999 in the United Kingdom and 112 in Gibraltar. You should also use this number to report warnings about possible bombs or other immediate threats. The UK Anti-Terrorist Hotline, at 0800-789-321, is available for tips and confidential information about possible terrorist activity.