Travelling in Ireland is not dangerous as such - millions of tourists visit the country every year without coming to harm whatsoever. Still it is a wise precaution to be a safety-conscious traveller. Here are some hints to make your stay as safe as possible. But always keep one thing in mind: Ireland is a safe country and crime targeting tourists is rare.
Pickpockets and Bagsnatchers
The greatest danger looms from opportunistic thieves who use bustling crowds as a cover to pick your pockets or simply snatch your bag. Just take the usual precautions to wear your valuables as close and as unaccessible as possible (and sensible) to your body. If you are carrying a bag with a strap wear the strap across your body. And if you place your bag under the table in a restaurant or café simply fasten the strap to a chair or your leg. And never leave your valuables unattended, not even in the hotel or in the car.
More drastic criminals will stop you in the street and demand money and/or valuables. The best precaution here is to avoid lonely streets out of hours, even if it means a detour or a taxi ride. And not to show your wealth too much (even though it might be argued that anybody is considered wealthy by the disenfranchised). If you are, however, faced with a robbery the best reaction is to comply with demands unless you can safely call attention to your plight. Fighting back is definitely not recommended as violent crime may well arise out of this.
The good news: Gun crime is relatively rare in Ireland and mostly related to gang or family feuds. The bad news: Resistance to robberies and any reaction to verbal insults can quickly lead to violent behavior. Weapons of choice are fists, boots and (in an alarming quantity) knives. Try to avoid any confrontation and back off any person who seems aggravated. Try to stay calm, cool and collected and do not offer resistance. And again try to avoid being an obvious target - a lonely stranger in a deserted area, especially at night.
Sexual assault and rape are a problem especially in the larger towns and cities and normal precautions should be taken - avoiding deserted areas at night being high on the list. You might also want to check our section on safety tips for women traveling in Ireland.
Homophobic and Racist Hate Crime
Virtually unknown in rural areas and on the rise in cities and towns, homophobic crimes are commonly known as "gay bashing" and tend to happen spontaneously in the vicinity of known (or suspected) gay hangouts. Again normal precautions should be taken. Racist hate crimes are mostly confined to larger urban areas and can be spontaneous or planned. Most victims are non-Caucasian and again usual precautions should be considered.
Since the late 1990s the threat of terrorism by republican or loyalist paramilitaries has severely declined, though some republican dissidents tend to undermine the peace process. International terrorism has so far ignored Ireland - but the involvement of British troops in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as the use of Irish airports by US military flights means that a certain risk remains. On the other hand Irish authorities are historically well prepared for any terrorist incidents and effective prevention measures are permanently in place.
"Smash and grab" attacks on tourist vehicles are a definite risk at all attractions and possible anywhere. Most of these are crimes of opportunity. The best prevention is simply not to leave any bags or valuables in plain sight - lock them into the trunk, even when only leaving the car for a few minutes. Car theft and vandalism happen mostly when vehicles are parked conveniently. Prevention should start with using off-street supervised parking and securely locking cars at any time.
A new phenomenon in Ireland and still very rare. Locking your car doors when driving in urban areas is advised as a precaution.
Obviously tents are not safe - do never leave valuables in them when you are away, not even at a regular camping site. Bear in mind that camping without the landowner's explicit permission is illegal and might lead to high fines.
Credit Card Fraud
Unfortunately credit card fraud is on the rise in Ireland, it pays to keep the PIN well safe and to keep the card within eyesight when paying. Also beware of suspicious activity at and around ATMs, this might indicate "skimming" of blatant theft.
While some attempts at blatant overcharging (even by local authorities) may be classified as "scams", real scams targeting tourists are relatively rare. As always the advice caveat emptor applies - if you are for instance offered a local lottery ticket in the pub, how likely will it be that you actually can claim your price?
In an Emergency ...
... contact the authorities at once. Also get in touch with the tourist support services offered by the embassies. Your first point of contact should be the Gardai or the PSNI, both can be reached from any phone by dialing 112 or 999. I have also put together a comprehensive list of Irish emergency phone numbers you might want to print out.