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.
About Irish Police
The police in Ireland are known as the Gardaí (plural, pronounced gardee) or Garda (singular), but people will know what you mean if you say Police.
Except for some special Garda units, deployed in reponse to specific threats, Irish police are unarmed. While it used to be more common, you’ll still see Gardaí ‘on the beat’ – just walking around an area keeping an eye on things. They are in general friendly and approachable, so if you are concerned about anything to so with your safety do talk to them.
There have been many Garda Stations closed in rural areas in Ireland over the past decade, but all large towns and cities have one to many stations where the public or tourists can call in if they have any concerns. Everyone will know where the nearest station is, so just ask.
Calling the Gardaí in an Emergency
Emergency numbers are 999 or 112.
112 works in all EU countries, and several others in Europe, and can be dialled free of charge from any phone, even one with no credit or without a local sim card.
Garda Vehicles are generally either white or grey, with prominent blue and yellow markings.
How dangerous is Ireland?
The quick answer is not very, but there are still things you can do to minimise the risks that do exist.
It is not easy to get hard statistics on crimes suffered by tourists, but the Irish Tourist Assistance Service (ITAS) report that they were alerted to 433 incidents involving 739 people in 2012. While not all crimes involving tourists are reported to them (though most in Dublin at least are), the reports they issue are a useful way to get a sense of the situation.
Their statistics suggest that you are most likely to be a victim of crime if you are female and aged between 17 and 25 years. The vast majority of crimes were in Dublin (77%) followed by Wicklow, Louth, Kerry and Galway. Most occurred between 2pm and 6pm, while visitors were sightseeing or relaxing in cafes or restaurants.
Theft, either from people (50%) or from cars (11%), accounted for most incidents. Twelve incidents were categorised as violent, which included aggravated thefts (a weapon was involved) and assaults. The weapon is unlikely to have been a gun, more likely a knife or possibly a dirty syringe.
To get some perspective on that, over 6.5 million people visited Ireland in 2012 and fewer than 1 in 10000 visitors reported any crime, fewer than 1 in 500,000 a violent crime.
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%), 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 and opportunist thieves are quick to recognise tourists, assume that they carry cash and valuables, and consider them easy prey. I know it’s 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. Many are drug users, so they can be unpredictable and you should not engage with them in any way.
The Boardwalk along the Liffey is particularly dodgy and although it is a nice place to walk, you need to be very cautious. Pickpockets 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 thieves.
DO NOT be fooled into sympathy, distracted by someone asking you a question or approaching you for any reason. Stay alert without being paranoid. There are some very expert pickpockets – if you feel uncomfortable about anyone who approaches you 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 when 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. Owners of iPhones tend to be targeted most but any smart phone is at risk. 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.
The following precautions apply to using a phone anywhere, not just in Ireland, but are worth noting:
- Keep your phone out of sight, 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, where 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 the IMEI number (here’s how to get that) 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.
- Install an app that tracks your phone and renders it useless to anyone who steals it. Even if you don’t get it back that will give you a small amount of satisfaction.
What to do if things go wrong
Report the theft or loss to the Gardaí 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.