Staying Safe in Ireland
In common with everywhere Ireland has its share of thieves and car thieves in particular are quick to spot unwary tourists. Most areas are safe to walk in but be cautious of going too far off the beaten track in cities and large towns.
None of this is intended to alarm. Ireland has a relatively low crime rate and is not a dangerous place for visitors, but crimes do happen and it is sensible to take basic precautions to ensure that your holiday is not spoiled.
Main Image: Irish police (Gardaí) with James Joyce by idimeta
How dangerous is Ireland?
The quick answer is not very, but there are still things you can do to make it less risky.
It is not easy to get hard statistics on crimes suffered by tourists, but the Irish Tourist Assistance Service report that they were alerted to 361 incidents in 2010, and while by no means all crimes will have been reported to them, the reports they issue are a useful way to get a sense of the situation.
Their statistics suggest that tourists are more likely to be victims of crime between 2 and 6pm, to be female and aged between 17-25yrs. Most crimes involved theft, either from people (48%) or from cars (11%). The vast majority of problems occured in Dublin (77%) followed by Wicklow, Louth, Kerry and Galway.
Collating information from embassies it seems that every year in Ireland around 500-700 tourists lose or have their passports stolen. While that is a very small percentage of the number of people who visit (fewer than 0.01%), but it’s a percentage you definitely do not want to be in.
Practically all these problems are preventable by being aware and taking sensible precautions.
The following tips will help ensure that you have a safe trip:
Carry the minimum amount of valuables with you. Leave jewelry, tickets, credit cards, passports and cash in the hotel safe if possible.
Carry your passports credit cards and money separately. At least in the event of a theft you are likely to lose only one.
Make a list of your passport, travelers checks and credit card numbers before you travel. Bring one copy with you and leave one at home.
Never have one person carry all passports – asking for trouble that!
Don’t be a hero. If you are mugged hand over the goodies without panic – you do NOT want to be injured.
- Stick to well-lit, busy areas when walking at night and don’t walk alone after 1 a.m. anywhere.
- Wear bags from one shoulder across to the hip. Keep your bag close by when in pubs or restaurants.
- Park your car in well lit areas, preferably in designated car parks or multi-storey car parks. Never leave any valuables visible in your parked car.
Be Alert for Pickpockets!
Pickpockets are quick to recognise tourists and assume that they carry large amounts of cash and are easy targets. I know it is tricky but in cities especially, try not to look too obvious a target!
In Dublin the area around O’Connell Bridge and the Liffey in general is often frequented by beggers/pickpockets.
The Boardwalk along the Liffey is particularly dodgey and although it is a nice place to walk, you need to be very cautious. Pickpockets also tend to operate regularly in areas frequented by tourists, especially around museums and bus and train stations. Hotels, restaurants and pubs, where relaxed visitors are likely to have their guard down, are also popular spots for theives.
DO NOT be fooled into sympathy, distracted by someone asking you a question or approaching you for any reason. Stay alert without being paranoid. These are some very expert pickpockets – move on and away from the area quickly keeping a tight hold of your bags.
Be VERY careful with your mobile phone
You are making a call or looking up some information on your phone, a cyclist whizzes up from behind, grabs the phone from your hard and speeds away. It’s gone, for good.
Sadly this is all too common an event in Dublin in particular. Similarly in restaurants and bars, in particular in fast food outlets, it is a big mistake to leave your phone beside you on the table. You only need to be distracted for a moment for it to be whisked away. Owners of iPhones tend to be targeted, but any smart phone is at risk.
The following precautions apply to using a phone anywhere, not just in Ireland, but are worth noting:
- Keep your phone hidden away, in a bag or a front pocket. Don’t attach it visibly to a belt or keep it in a backpack.
- Never leave your phone on the table when in a restaurant/bar.
- When making a call in a public place stand with your back to a wall, so you have a good view of everything and everyone who approaches you.
- Avoid making calls in crowded places, like train stations, or in poorly lit places at night.
- Make sure you have a note somewhere of the make, model and IMEI number (it’s under the battery) of your phone.
- Set a pin number or swipe sequence so that at least your data is protected if the worst happens and your phone is stolen.
What to do if things go wrong
If you do become a victim of a theft ask someone for directions to the nearest Garda (Police) station.
Report the theft or loss to the police and be sure to ask for a copy of their report, which you will need for insurance purposes and which will also explain the absence of any documents should you have lost those too.
If you have lost your documents - visas, passports etc - you will need to contact your embassy to have them replaced. There is a list of embassies here.
If you have lost credit cards, you will also need to contact the issuing companies as soon as possible. Again, there is a list on the Emergency Contacts page.
The Irish Tourist Assistance Service is a marvellous organisation who help tourists who have been victims of crime. Largely staffed by volunteers, it is there to provide both practical and emotional support and to act as a friend to any visitors who find themselves in difficulty as a result of crime.