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UK student nightlife: Top tips on staying safe

Outside a pub in the Seven Dials area of Covent Garden in London

By Helen Clews at the British Council  
2 July 2014  


It’s the weekend – time to put down those books, go out and socialise! Will it be a party, pub, concert, theatre, restaurant, bowling, cinema…? So many options!

By international standards, the UK is a safe country, with comparatively low levels of violence and street crime. But wherever you are in the world, it is vital that you take care of yourself.

Helen Clews, Safety Adviser at the British Council, gives her top tips on staying safe when you are out at night.

We also strongly recommend reading the British Council's Creating confidence guide (PDF, 1.6MB). This guide is designed for international students, and covers essential advice about staying safe while you're living in the UK. The Safety First guide (PDF, 1.6MB) has safety advice for visitors to the UK.

Travelling at night

  • Before you set off for your night out, plan your travel arrangements. Check the times of the last train, tram or bus, or book a taxi.
  • When travelling at night it is always safest to travel with your friends or in a group. If you do need to travel alone, let people know where you are going or text a friend your travel plans.
  • If travelling by bus, train or tram, sit close to the driver and other passengers.
  • Even if you plan to take public transport, it is advisable to take a taxi phone number and some money, just in case your plans change unexpectedly.
  • If travelling by taxi, make sure you take a licensed cab. If you are not sure how to find a licensed cab, ask staff at your school, college or university. Sit in the back of the taxi, directly behind the driver whenever possible.
  • Avoid walking alone at night. When walking with friends:
    • Stick to well-lit, busy streets where you feel safe. Avoid dark, isolated areas such as shortcuts along rivers and canals.
    • Walk confidently on the pavement.
    • Avoid listening to headphones, talking on your phone or using your mobile map – using these items makes you less aware of your surroundings, and also lets other people know that you have valuables.
    • Keep your valuable items (such as your mobile phone and wallet) out of sight.
    • It is best not to drink alcohol when you are walking on the streets. In some areas of the UK there are orders prohibiting this. (See Drinkaware.co.uk for details.)
  • Remember that vehicles drive on the left in the UK, and take care when crossing roads – cars may find it hard to see pedestrians in the dark.
  • If you live in halls of residence, make sure no strangers follow you through the main entrance. This is important for your safety, as well as for others living there.

Drinking alcohol and going to the pub

  • All pubs in the UK serve non-alcoholic drinks as well as alcoholic ones, and many serve food, so you don’t have to drink alcohol to have a pub experience. Most pubs are very welcoming, safe places but some can be less welcoming. Make sure you choose pubs with a friendly atmosphere where you feel comfortable. If in doubt, ask staff or students at your school, college or university for recommendations. (See The pub for more details.)
  • Drinking alcohol to excess can seriously damage your health. It can also lower your inhibitions and awareness, putting you at risk of accidents and dangerous situations. If you do decide to drink alcohol, then follow these golden rules: 1. Eat a meal before you go out, 2. Aim to drink a soft drink or a glass of water after each alcoholic drink, and 3. Most importantly, drink in moderation. Make sure you do not exceed the recommended alcohol consumption guidelines.

Please see Responsible drinking advice from Drinkaware for more information.

  • Never accept drinks from strangers or leave your drink unattended, to avoid the risk of your drink being ‘spiked’ with drugs or alcohol.

Avoiding problems

  • Most UK pubs, bars and nightclubs are safe, but a minority can be less welcoming. Ask staff and students on your campus to recommend where to go.
  • Always bring an ID to prove your age (such as your passport), and respect the rules of any venue you visit. It is illegal to smoke inside public venues in the UK, and often drinks are not allowed in outdoor areas after 11pm.
  • Be aware of others around you at cash machines (ATMs). Try not to use them at night or in poorly lit areas.
  • If you have a bag, carry it close to you with the clasp facing inwards, even indoors if the venue is crowded. If someone grabs your bag, let it go. Your safety is more important.
  • Avoid confrontation – it is safer to walk away if you are being threatened or hassled. If you are in a venue (such as a pub, restaurant or concert hall) and other customers give you unwanted attention, speak to the manager or the door supervisor. There are security cameras in most venues and streets.
  • If you are in an emergency situation, call the police or ambulance on 999. To report a less urgent crime or disorder, call 101.
  • The golden rule: Stay with your friends at all times… look after each other… and have fun!

Nowhere can be 100% safe – however, I do believe that the UK is an extremely safe country to come to. There are many services for the public in place to ensure their wellbeing, and also many lovely places to explore and visit safely.

Read more:

   •  Health and safety in your first few weeks
   •  Student nightlife in the UK
   •  Travel and transport