Chicago the Windy City, is famous for its basketball team, jazz and blues, deep pizza’s and buzzing nightlife. There is its skyscraper skyline and its crisp location on the shores of Lake Michigan.
However, Chicago is also known for its crime and was the one-time stomping ground of Al Capone. Petty crime is one issue, but some of the city’s residential areas are hotspots for gang-related crime which has led to some alarming statistics. You would be forgiven for having some reservations about visiting.
However, we are here to tell you not to worry! We have put together this huge guide to safety in Chicago – full of all the tips and information you’ll need to keep yourself safe – so that you can enjoy what this cool American city has to offer.
Whilst COVD 19 has not gone away, the world is opening up again to travellers. However, at the time of writing, the USA continues to struggle with the pandemic and international travel to and from the States is severely restricted.
The advice of most world governments at this time is to avoid the USA.
For the most up-to-date safety information and what you should be doing to help, please consult the WHO and your local government.
- How Safe is Chicago? (Our take)
- Is Chicago Safe to Visit? (The facts.)
- Is it Safe to Visit Chicago Right Now?
- Chicago Travel Insurance
- 19 Top Safety Tips for Traveling to Chicago
- Keeping your money safe in Chicago
- Is Chicago safe to travel alone?
- Is Chicago safe for solo female travellers?
- Is Chicago safe to travel for families?
- Is it safe to drive in Chicago?
- Is Uber safe in Chicago?
- Are taxis safe in Chicago?
- Is public transportation in Chicago safe?
- Is the food in Chicago safe?
- Can you drink the water in Chicago?
- Is Chicago safe to live?
- How is healthcare in Chicago?
- Final thoughts on the safety of Chicago
How Safe is Chicago? (Our take)
Chicago is the third-largest city in the United States and is a popular destination for US travellers. It’s a cultural hub of the Midwest region, the state capital of Illinois. It has a lot of architectural value as well as natural gems to enjoy too. The good news is that Chicago is pretty safe.
Most people will just hang around what is known as The Loop – the area of the city that’s choc-a-bloc with public art and museums. The only thing to really worry about here is pickpockets. Pickpocketing can also occur on the public transport system, and robbery has occurred in the city’s underground walkway system (the Pedway).
Even if you go exploring outside of this central part of the city, you shouldn’t run into too much trouble. You should, however, probably do some research into what neighborhoods are safer than others (but more on that later).
Precautions you would take in any big city apply in Chicago. Mobile phone theft and bag snatching occur. The city has been in the headlines for its relatively high homicide rate although this type of more serious crime happens is concentrated in certain areas and rarely impacts on tourists.
There is, however, a reason why Conde Naste Traveler has voted Chicago “Best Big City in the U.S.” two years in a row: it’s cool, it’s fun, and most visits are trouble-free.
To see how it all works, from the visitor numbers to the crime rate, let’s have a look at the statistics.
Is Chicago Safe to Visit? (The facts.)
Chicago is a big city, made up of 77 communities, covering 234 square miles and is generally safe to visit. It definitely has had its fair share of headline-grabbing crime, but in recent years its high murder rate has reportedly dropped.
In the first half of 2019, murders, shootings, and other violent crimes decreased compared to the same period in 2018. Overall, in 2019 Chicago police reported 490 murders, which is 13% lower than the previous year (564).
This is a big difference from the gun violence that plagued the city in 2016, during which the city saw its highest rate of homicides in 20 years (756).
It is definitely becoming a safer city, with other crimes showing lower numbers as well. Comparing 2018 with 2019, shootings are down by 9.6%, with a 17% reduction in citywide crimes in general. Other robberies, such as vehicle theft and burglaries, are at a 20 year low.
The drop in crime goes hand in hand with the dramatic increase of tourists to the city. The city’s “Choose Chicago” tourism board claimed that the city welcomed 57.6 million visitors in 2018, which is a jump of 4.3% from 2017. Though mainly made up of domestic travellers, people do make their way to Chicago from overseas too.
Even though there have been highly publicized crime rates, it is a policy of the mayor to promote tourism in Chicago. Tourism is important, generating thousands of jobs for Chicago citizens – plus revenue for the city – and help make it one of the most popular cities for tourists in America.
Is it Safe to Visit Chicago Right Now?
Chicago has previously received much attention in the media, mainly thanks to the spike in violent crime in 2016. Many regarded it as one of the most dangerous cities in America.
However, Chicago is a city of two halves: one is the vibrant metropolis with its museums, parks and amazing dining scene; the other is much poorer and affected by crime and gangs.
The peak in violent crime in 2016 led to protests and disputes with the police force of the city, but with the improved crime stats we’ve already spoken about, it seems that things are looking up a little bit.
In short, it is safe to visit Chicago right now.
There is, however, the weather to take into account when you visit. Chicago gets cold – freezing – from December to March, and it can be on the receiving end of snowstorms. While this can be fun for sledding and other wintry activities, this can affect travel, and be risky especially if you have been out drinking. Knowing when to visit, and planning accordingly, is the way to go.
Have you sorted your Travel Insurance? Even if you’re headed to Chicago for a weekend, it is always a good idea to travel with insurance. Have fun while visiting Chicago, but take it from someone who has racked up $1000’s on insurance claims, it is a good idea to get it sorted before you leave home!
The unthinkable can and does happen: hence all the talk of insurance.
For either one, be sure to read the terms and conditions to make sure that the policy covers your needs.
Then you can compare with World Nomads:
To find out why we recommend World Nomads, check out our World Nomads Insurance review.
If you want to shop around a little, then read up on competing companies and what they can offer. There are lots of insurance companies and policies out there, so don’t feel limited.
As have said already, Chicago is a pretty safe city. Still, you should know how to keep safe if you’re planning on going, so here are a few pointers.
- Keep your belongings close to you – There are a high number of thefts that do happen, so it’s important to keep anything valuable close to your person and hidden from sight
- Don’t walk around with expensive electronics and jewellery – Not that it will put you in immediate risk, but the more conspicuous you look, the more you could be targeted
- Limit the amount of money you carry around with you – The more you have, the more you could lose
- Pay attention to your surroundings – Thieves operate especially on public transport, the Pedway, around transit hubs and popular tourist sites, so be vigilant in these places
- Be careful around ATMs – It’s best to use them in malls and in banks, and in daylight hours
- Take care exploring less-visited areas – Research (and asking local advice) on less touristed areas is crucial, as you could be walking into somewhere potentially less safe, too
- Avoid blindly following Google Maps – Finding a hole-in-the-wall eatery in a less central neighbourhood? Following maps may take you on a “shortcut” through potentially sketchy areas, so consider Uber-ing or cycling it
- Don’t resist if someone tries to mug you – Just hand everything over; your wallet is not worth getting potentially injured
- Keep an eye on your luggage – It’s not worth the risk to leave it unattended anywhere, even in hotel lobbies.
- Take care around the Loop at night – Though safe in the day, it can empty out after business hours when office workers go home and certain areas can feel isolated (notably west of State Street).
- Walk with purpose – Try not to look like a lost tourist; looking like you know where you’re going, even if you don’t, is better than appearing vulnerable and open to touts, scams or street crime
- Don’t drink alcohol if you’re under 21 – It’s illegal to buy or drink it underage in the States, so don’t.
- Weed is legal in Chicago, but – Do your research on where you can purchase and where is free to smoke
- Stay away from illegal drugs – Weed may be legal, but nothing else is. It is best to not get involved at all
- Don’t walk around with open alcohol – It’s against the law, but Millennium Park and some other places are ok, so take note of what other people are doing around you.
- Be aware of Chicago’s homeless population – Often a feature around transit hub (Union Station, for example), this shouldn’t pose too much of a threat, but it’s best to keep on more populated streets.
- Keep it chilled – Avoiding altercations with people, especially after drinking, goes without saying. Don’t put a dampener on your vacation.
- Prepare for the weather – Chicago gets seriously freezing, with average lows in winter of 17 degrees Fahrenheit (-8.3 degrees Celsius).
- Get a local sim card – So you can download all the taxi apps and map apps for the city, meaning you can get around easily; plus you’ll be able to contact someone in an emergency
There are over 70 different neighbourhoods in Chicago – it’s highly unlikely that you are going to find yourself in one of the more risky districts. At the end of the day, Chicago is a big city and, especially if you’re not used to big cities in general, it pays to have your wits about you. Common sense, as well as researching safe places to wander around, will go a long way on your trip.
Some General Safety Tips from the OG Broke Backpacker
Keeping your money safe in Chicago
Keeping your money safe wherever you are in the world is something that any traveller will be concerned with. Money is how you get from A to B, how you get to stay in nice accommodation and eat tasty food. It’s imperative to travel.
That is why it is so annoying when it goes missing; it could even end up cutting an otherwise dream trip short.
In Chicago, the best way to keep your money safe – as it is pretty much anywhere – is with a money belt.
This simple solution allows you to have your daily budget for the day safely tucked out of sight. The problem is, however, is that some money belts aren’t up to scratch: they can be uncomfortable, over-complicated and, most worryingly, can look obvious when worn under clothing.
Our recommendation is the Active Roots Security Belt.
One of the best money belts out there, our favourite thing about this belt is how it actually just looks and acts like a belt – with the exception of the hidden zipper pocket at the back. It’s functional, affordable and sturdy.
If you’re not much of a belt wearer, or if a money belt doesn’t sound like your thing, then Active Roots have a few other ingenious solutions for you to consider, such as an infinity scarf with a hidden pocket where you can keep your valuables.
Solo travel anywhere in the world is an amazing prospect: you get to travel around on your own time, and challenge yourself while you do it. On the other hand, we know as well as anybody else that solo travel can also be daunting.
In a big urban hub like Chicago, that could definitely be the case.
However, even though being alone in a city can get lonely, solo travel in Chicago is cool. There are tons of attractions to discover, museums and galleries galore, and new people to meet – and to help you solo travel in Chicago like a pro, we have some tips for you.
- Research your accommodation before you go. There are a load of hotels and budget-friendly accommodation to stay in, but just know that Chicago is huge; picking the right area for you is key. It depends on what you want out of the city, from a cosy stay in a hotel, to spending time at a hostel where you can socialise with fellow travellers.
- Ask for local insight. The staff at your hotel, the hostel owner, or even a friend who might have some great tips on where it’s safe to walk around, where you should be keeping away from, and what recommendations they have on what’s good to do in the city as a solo traveller.
- Try not to make yourself a target. This means things like not carrying your phone in your hand 24/7, leaving it on a table in a coffee shop, dangling your bag on a chair, which could mean they go missing pretty easily. When you are by yourself, no one is there to keep an eye on your things except you, so ensure you keep them safe.
- The city is a big place and it can be easy to feel overwhelmed. A good tip would be to hone in on something you want to do in the city – one of the city’s many museums, for example – and start from there. A tick-list of things you think you should see won’t be half as fun as following a trail of things you actually want to see and do.
- It is ok to join a tour! Guided walking tours around the top sights, a food tour or bar crawl – these are all good ways to see the city safely while socialising with other people at the same time. You should definitely research the guide or tour company, however, and only go with the most reputable ones.
- Do not party too hard. Chicago has great nightlife, especially when it comes to jazz and blues bars, but it doesn’t mean you have to get really drunk – or dabble in a lot of weed – you could put yourself at risk of being in a dangerous situation, or simply not find your way back to your accommodation. Being too intoxicated means bad decisions.
- Make sure you have different ways to access your money. Leave some emergency cash somewhere in your bag, have two separate bank accounts and two different cards that you can use (don’t keep them together), and think about an emergency credit card. Keeping everything in one place is not sensible; imagine your wallet going missing with all your cash and cards in it!
- Keep in contact with your friends and family. Not only is it safer for you to not completely cut contact with people back home and go off-grid, but it will also help you if you are feeling homesick and lonely, which could easily happen in a city.
Any solo traveller interested in culture is going to have a ball when backpacking Chicago. With almost 200 art galleries, around 60 museums, and hundreds of theatres and music venues besides – not to mention the restaurants and food festivals – there is a ton of stuff to do.
Getting bored, then, won’t be the problem. The trick is to not push yourself too much and burn out trying to do absolutely everything; give yourself days off to chill out and take stock, read a book in a cafe, or whatever. Be kind to yourself and you’re likely to have a great time.
Is Chicago safe for solo female travellers?
Just as Chicago is a cool, interesting, never boring, and fun city to explore for males travelling alone, the same goes for solo female travellers. If you are all about music venues, if you love art, or if you love exploring a city’s food scene – it’s all here for you.
Cities are cities though, and like many of them all around the world, spending time in Chicago can pose more of a risk to women by themselves than to men.
That’s not to say that Chicago is not safe for solo female travellers, however – it just pays to know a little bit more about the destination, so to start with here are our curated tips for lone women in the Windy City.
- Don’t get distracted. It is important to be aware of your surroundings at all times, so things like checking your maps regularly, texting while walking, aren’t smart; stay alert, even in daylight hours.
- It is a good idea to dress to fit in. Depending on what you do in the city, you’ll want to dress for the occasion – a night out is different to a walk in the park, for example – but dressing down is probably better than dressing up. Erring on the side of modest is better if you are by yourself and don’t want too much attention.
- If you want to go out drinking and dancing – by yourself – then make sure you do research on the venue before you go there. Some bars are not as solo female-friendly as others.
- Plan your route home if you are out after dark. Know how to get back: will you be getting a taxi? An Uber? Is it a safe district to walk-through? Make sure you know in advance as a spur of the moment decisions after a night out and a few drinks may not be the smartest move.
- Do not be afraid to say no to people if you are a situation that is making you feel awkward or uncomfortable. Remove yourself from the situation.
- Similarly, do not tell a stranger any unnecessary information about yourself. You don’t need to tell them the address of where you’re staying, your room number, your travel plans, or any other personal information that they may ask about.
- Find yourself a group of friends to have fun in the city with. You can find like-minded ladies to meet up with through things like Couchsurfing, or Facebook groups like Girls Love Travel or Host A Sister; even if you don’t meet up, online communities like this can help you with advice.
- It is imperative that you research your accommodation options thoroughly, making sure not to go for out-of-centre budget option; research neighbourhoods, too, as you don’t want to stay somewhere where you don’t feel safe or comfortable. Read what other women have said before you about your options, and go with somewhere well-reviewed what suits your travel style
- Let people know your travel plans. From simply telling the staff at your hostel what you plan to do for the day, to sharing your itinerary with a good friend or family member back home, it is safer that people know where you are and what you’re up to than not at all.
- If you are worried about wandering around Chicago by yourself, then you should consider hiring a guide or joining a tour. It is a good way to see the city safely and learn things about it at the same time To find a guide, you could ask at your accommodation, or source a guide online, just make sure that they come highly recommended or that the tour company is very reputable.
There are tons of ways to store valuables and goods while traveling but a travel scarf has to be the least obtrusive and the most classy.
The Active Roots Zipper Scarf is your run-of-the-mill infinity scarf but with a hidden pocket that’s big and sturdy enough for a night’s cash, your phone, a passport and (hell with it) some snacks too!
As a solo female traveller in Chicago, it’s good to exercise some street smarts. The city is safe to visit, as the many millions of visitors who have trouble-free time here will attest to, but you should still be paying attention to your surroundings and making good judgement calls.
Remember to keep in touch with people back home, research accommodation and guides thoroughly, don’t push yourself too much and take time out when you need to, and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t have an absolutely amazing time in Chicago.
Is Chicago safe to travel for families?
Chicago is a fantastic city for a family break. There is so much packed into Chi Town that you and your children will surely never get bored and have an awesome time.
With over 600 parks to let off steam in, 26 miles of lakefront to explore, 25 beaches to laze on, 8,800 acres of green space in general, and even 200 miles of bike lanes, it’s super fun and – moreover – safe city to explore as a family.
It is a city that is great for all ages. If you have active youngsters who never stop moving, for example, then they will love places such as Millennium Park or Maggie Daily Park, with its amazing playgrounds, or Lincoln Park (complete with free zoo). There’s those beaches, too, which are patrolled by lifeguards in the summer months.
There are also a ton of kid-friendly museums, such as the Field Museum of Natural History which even has an area where you excavate dinosaur bones. Chicago Children’s Museum, which has hands-on, interactive exhibits for children aged 10 and under. the Museum of Science & Industry with its seemingly never-ending exhibitions is always an interesting place to explore.
As an example of just how kid-friendly this city, Chicago even hosts Kidzapalooza, the child-friendly of music festival Lollapalooza!
However, being a city, Chicago could feel overwhelming, especially if you are not from a big city yourself. Therefore it is helpful to know a few things before you go.
On Lake Michigan, for instance, it is important to swim only at beaches that are equipped with lifeguards. Even when there are lifeguards patrolling the beach or area, an adult should always be watching a child when they are in the water. Even though Lake Michigan doesn’t have loads of waves, you should be aware of currents.
If you are going on a boat trip on Lake Michigan or any one of the Great Lakes, make sure that the boat in question has child-sized life jackets and safety equipment available.
Depending on what season you travel to Chicago in, you will need to pack for the weather. In the winter, from November to March, the weather can bring freezing conditions, so layers and making sure everyone’s wrapped up warm is important – as are the potential hazards of getting around a city that’s so cold with children in tow.
On the other hand, summer months can mean sunny days with high humidity; you will want to make sure that you prepare for that, too. Sunscreen, sun hats, and plenty of water to keep hydrated are all musts.
Since it is a busy city, it is a good idea to consider giving your children a meet-up point in case you do get separated on a day out. Whether this is somewhere in a museum, or a landmark in the area you’re exploring, make sure that you all know where to meet if you get split up. Maybe write down your contact details, and accommodation details, and give this information to your child – especially if they are young.
You should be fine taking Chicago’s public transport with children. In fact, children aged 7 and under can ride on the L Train and public buses for free; children will love the L, an elevated train that runs through the city. A tip would be to make sure that you avoid travelling during rush hour as it can be quite overwhelming.
When it comes to accommodation, if you have younger children, make sure you choose somewhere that is relaxing and fun for all of you; a swimming pool may be a good idea, as would be babysitting services, and a good location – so you don’t have to do too much travelling around. You may want to consider an Airbnb, but a hotel is much more convenient for a family.
You should reserve your room well in advance if you plan to travel during summer, as things can get very busy and booked up. It is also a good idea to reserve tickets to attractions in advance, too, as often you get money off and you’ll also get to skip the line (some of the popular museums have very long queues).
There is a lot to see and do for families in Chicago, but you should try and be flexible with what you do; know when to take a break, as it could be overwhelming for you, and think about eating dinner earlier to avoid crowds. Always pack snacks – nobody likes to be hangry!
Is it safe to drive in Chicago?
Chicago is safe to drive in, the fact that it is a big, busy city with a traffic problem to match does not exactly inspire renting a car or self-driving around the city. Driving in Chicago is actually not fun.
That said, there are a number of day trips from Chicago you could embark on – lakeside locales and charming villages to explore outside of the city limits.
One of the things you should know about if you are going to have a car with you, rental or otherwise, is the parking situation. There are plenty of different options for parking, both on and off street, but it can be hard to come by in places like Downtown. It can be very expensive and it can also be confusing, with different rules and regulations in different zones.
An app that may help with your parking woes is parkchicago.com.
Something you should note is that there has been an increase in the number of break-ins of parked vehicles. It is important not to leave anything on display that could tempt thieves into trying their luck, let alone any valuables. Even a map on the seat could draw attention that you are a tourist, and tourist vehicles will be targeted more.
When it comes to navigating the city, it’s a grid system so it’s quite easy, but on the flip side it can get quite clogged; drivers can get very impatient and drive defensively. Taxi drivers can completely get in the way and block the street, while sometimes pedestrians will cross the road without looking.
Some basic rules: the standard speed limit within the city is 30 miles per hour; children under 8 have to use car seats; and everyone must wear a seatbelt, of course.
Cameras at intersections snap photos of drivers who exceed the limit or jump a red light; expect fines if this occurs.
Unless you really want to, driving out of town into the countryside during the winter months could be hazardous if you’re not experienced; though salted in the city, out of town roads can be difficult to navigate, especially when icy.
Nothing is better than going out on a road trip sometimes, but it is definitely easy to explore Chicago without wheels – especially if you are not from Chicago, or even if you are not used to city driving.
Take care if you do: things probably won’t be the same as what you’re used to back home. In 2018, for example, the USA reported 36,750 traffic deaths; this is an equivalent of 11.2 road deaths per 100,000. Compare this to the UK (2.8 per 100,000) and you can see the difference in safety.
In conclusion, driving in Chicago is not overly worth it, but it can be done.
Is Uber safe in Chicago?
Uber is available in Chicago – as are other popular ride-hailing apps, such as Lyft.
Drivers are plentiful and the apps themselves are easy to use. It is advised for people to use things like Lyft or Uber if they are out late in the city and need to get home when they are by themselves.
However, there are some safety concerns regarding ride-hailing apps in Chicago.
There have been several instances in Chicago of people being assaulted by fake drivers. Though the apps are particularly useful to use late at night, it is crucial – if you do use decide to use Uber – that you make 100% sure that the car you are getting into is the one for you.
Uber and Lyft both share the driver’s name, the car make and model, and the license plate number. As well as making sure the car matches up, you should get into the habit of asking drivers their names before you get inside, instead of asking “Is this an Uber for (your name)?”
While official Uber is safe in Chicago (and Lyft, too), it is a good tip to make sure that you get into a legitimate car when you do use it – much like licensed and unlicensed taxis.
Are taxis safe in Chicago?
Put simply, taxis in Chicago are safe and easy to use.
You can hail them in the street, call them in advance or even book them online.
If you want to hail one, note it can take some time before you get a free one, depending on where you are in the city.
You will find many taxis around the Loop; hail taxis by waving your hand out at an approaching cab with a light on, usually near a busy intersection is a good place to catch one.
Licensed cabs have a medallion logo on the hood of the vehicle that indicates it has been licensed by the City of Chicago. Inside the car, the City of Chicago-issued public chauffeur license will be displayed.
Fares are based on the meter. The base fare is $3.25; after that, it is $2.25 per mile after that. An extra passenger costs an extra dollar, just so you know that you aren’t getting ripped off. After the second passenger, it’s an additional 50 cents per passenger.
Outside of the city, in the suburbs, the fare will be different.
Another thing to note is that, since it’s the USA, you will be expected to tip – upwards of 10% is fine.
You can usually use a credit card to pay for your fare but not all taxi drivers will be keen to allow you to do so, especially if it’s a small amount, so cash is usually preferred. In light of that, especially for short distances, make sure you have small bills on you so you don’t make a driver give you loads of change.
Outside of busy areas and in quieter neighbourhoods, it can be harder to find a taxi, but you can call for one to come and collect you. Ask at your accommodation for recommended taxi companies; the main companies in the city are American-United Taxi, Checker Cab, Flash Cab and Yellow Cab.
You can also go online and book through a company website.
Alternatively, you could use a taxi app, which works just like Uber. Many companies offer such an app; it’s convenient, since all you do is download it as an app to your phone, and it has Uber-like perks like being able to track your journey.
You are always allowed to request a receipt from your driver for the journey.
If you have any trouble, or any complaints about your driver and/or the journey, you should ask for the receipt – which includes the driver’s name, number, company and distance of the trip – and then call 311 to lodge a complaint with the city.
Is public transportation in Chicago safe?
Being a major city, there is a lot in terms of public transport on offer in Chicago.
There is a wide-ranging network of buses, trains, public bikes and boats that make up its public transportation network, allowing you to travel around top destinations, the suburbs, and outside city limits.
First of all, let’s take a look at the bus.
It is not quite as quick as taking the train around the city as it has Chicago’s notorious traffic to contend with. But on the plus side, it can take you to destinations that are not served by the train network.
There are more than 100 bus routes that weave in and around Chicago; these run from early in the morning until late in the evening.
Some of the most useful routes for tourists to the city will take you to Hyde Park, Museum Campus and Lincoln Park’s Zoo.
The base fare for getting around on the bus is $2.25, and $2.50 if you are going to transfer. It is a good idea to pick up a Ventra Card, which you can top up and use for the payment; otherwise, you will have to pay the driver with the exact change.
Whilst riding on the buses in Chicago is safe, it is recommended if you are alone on the bus at night to sit up front near the driver; at any time of day, keep your belongings close to you as pickpocketing can occur.
Then there is the icon that is the L Train.
Known simply as the L – short for Elevated Rail – this train network will get you safely and conveniently around the major sights of the city. Again, you can use the Ventra Card on these; simply buy one from a vending machine at an L station.
It is very affordable to get around on the L, at just $2.50 per journey, no matter what distance you are travelling.
The fast and frequent service, which is also run by the CTA, boasts eight colour-coded lines. Two of these, the Red Line and the Blue Line – the latter of which goes to O’Hare Airport – operate 24 hours a day; the rest run from around 4 a.m. until 1 a.m. and run approximately every 10 minutes.
The trains can get very busy during rush hour. Also as some of them run through the night, it is important if you are travelling late of to be careful – some passengers may drunk and disorderly, some may be strange, others may be opportunist thieves. It is a good idea to ride in busier train carriages as opposed to empty ones, which may leave you vulnerable.
After the L, there is the Metra, which is a commuter service with 12 routes serving Chicago’s suburbs; it runs from four terminals located around the Loop.
Though meant for commuters more than anything else, there are some sights that you can reach via using the Metra service; go to metrarail.com for more routes and how to use the service.
Connecting many transit hubs, train stations, malls, and office buildings is the 40 block labyrinth that is the Pedway. This is a wintertime lifesaver as Chicago becomes icy, and sleet falls during the coldest months.
These weaving walkways can be quite confusing to navigate, especially for newcomers to the city; some of the tunnels are fun and filled with amenities like coffee shops and fast food joints – others can be grimmer and smell like public toilets.
Signs can help you navigate it, but there are also free maps you can download to your phone to get around this do-it-yourself public transport. Be careful late at night, as more isolated tunnels can attract petty criminals.
Connecting up the rest of the dots is the city’s public bike system: Divvy Bike. Chicago has hundreds of miles of bike lanes, which are safe to traverse and pleasant to do so using the bright blue bikes in the warmer months. Simply sign up to the service and use like many public bike systems around the world.
Finally, there are water taxis.
These make for a good alternative, especially in summer, to walking around the city. Those that connect to major tourist sights are Shoreline Water Taxi and Chicago Water Taxi. They are safe and they are fairly cheap, with a one way ride costing you $5.
In conclusion, public transport in Chicago is safe – just watch your belongings and be aware of who is around you, especially at night.
Is the food in Chicago safe?
Not only is the food in Chicago safe, but it is also diverse and delicious!
You may be thinking that it is all just Chicago style deep dish pizza, which you can obviously find here, but in fact, there is so much more to Chicago’s food scene than mere pizza.
From Indian food and old school steakhouses to Vietnamese and Thai cuisine, there’s a lot on offer reflecting the melting pot of communities that call Chicago home. Here are some pointers on how to eat your way around the city like a pro – and without upsetting your stomach in the process.
- Don’t skip out on street food. Restaurants may seem like the more inviting option, but street food in Chicago – like most places in the world – can be amazing. Just make sure that the place you are getting it from seems to be practising good food hygiene (wearing gloves, not sneezing, hairnets, etc.).
- On that note, try to stick to things that have to be cooked fresh and hot before your very eyes. Things that look like they have been sitting out all day, accumulating who knows what level of germs and bacteria, are best avoided.
- Avoid tourist traps. Chicago pizza will be on offer in many of these. It can be difficult to see what’s “for tourists” and what isn’t, but generally speaking, big gaudy signs outside the restaurant, touts trying to get you in, and the location right next to big attractions are usually a giveaway. The focus, unfortunately, is often not on quality, nor on hygiene, but on making money from visitors.
- Go where the locals go. One way to do this is to navigate a block away from a big tourist site and see where is busy – going at lunch-time is a good indicator of who is busy with people on their lunch break, rather than with camera-toting tourists.
- Another way to find a gem of an eatery is to look online. There are some very well established places to eat in Chicago, from fine dining to mom-and-pop type restaurants that have been in business for years; research is key if you want to hone in on the city’s specialities.
- Although it will be very easy to do so, sticking to chains and fast food franchises will not be doing Chicago justice. It may be safe, but you would be missing out on a city that has a ton of independent places to get a very tasty bite to eat.
- The West Loop/Fulton Market area is a hotspot for local eats. Many top chefs are setting up shop in former warehouses and making the area a haven for foodies. Logan Square is another good spot to explore.
- It is always important to wash your hands before you eat. This may seem like a basic tip, but when you have been exploring a city all day, your hands can get grubby with dirt and traffic grime, which is easily transferred to food – especially food that you pick up with said hands.
There are so many different types of food to try in Chicago: from rib tips to ramen, and from humble hot dogs to Puerto Rican sandwiches. Anybody interested in food will want to make a beeline to the food blogs to find out just where the best bites are to be found.
In terms of food hygiene, it’s safe to eat the food in Chicago. Read reviews, as you should anyway, and if a restaurant is getting consistently bad reviews (especially from people who aren’t from Chicago) then it is best avoided; otherwise, there’s nothing to worry about.
Can you drink the water in Chicago?
The tap water is, of course, safe to drink in Chicago.
You should be drinking it, too, if you want to be saving the environment; there’s simply no point buying plastic bottles of water to quench your thirst while you’re out and about.
Bring a refillable, reusable water bottle with you – there are water refill stations dotted around town, and your hotel will probably have somewhere you can refill it, too.
Single-use plastic bottles are a huge threat to Marine Life – Be a part of the solution and travel with a filter water bottle.
The GRAYL GEOPRESS water bottle is the ONLY all-in-one filter water bottle setup you’ll need. Whether you need to purify the water from a hostel sink in Kathmandu or a stream trickle in the Andes, the Geopress has got you covered.
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Is Chicago safe to live?
Having in recent years acquired the nickname “Chiraq” for the violent parts of the city saw, and further back once playing host to gangsters like Al Capone with his molls and fedoras, Chicago has not always made the list of most liveable cities in America.
This reputation of “danger”, however, is not necessarily justifiable.
These days Chicago is a safe place to live. Many people do live and work here every day, of course, and whilst there are some neighbourhoods that see relatively high rates of violence and crime, most are absolutely safe.
Most of the time in Chicago, you will be able to walk around without having to worry about your surroundings too much. However, in crowded tourist centres there can be pickpockets and bag snatchers; dealing with these requires common sense.
This sort of thing will become second nature to you if you choose to make the move to the USA’s third-largest city.
The handful of neighbourhoods where crime is relatively high and gangs are active are not advisable to live in, so avoiding them is actually very easy.
People who live in Chicago usually love the area in which they live; neighbourhoods are full of local culture, with many different communities reflecting the immigrant history of the city.
Sometimes Chicago can feel more like a small town than a city, especially in non-central areas, but of course it is a major city with all the perks that come with being a modern-day metropolis.
As with all major decisions, research is imperative. Get online and find people who have made the move to Chicago, people who have always lived there, and seek out their opinions and discussions on safe neighbourhoods, as well as the pros and cons of living in the city.
It is safe to live in Chicago, as long as you pick the right area to live. You will be fine – just be prepared to deal with the cold winters!
How is healthcare in Chicago?
Chicago is a city in the USA, a country famous for its healthcare for the dual reasons of quality and cost, and the facilities in Chicago reflect this: it has excellent healthcare.
There are many hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies that will be able to deal with most – if not all – ailments that you need help with.
Medical treatment in America is, however, very expensive. With no universal system in place, it is integral that you have the appropriate medical travel insurance that will cover your bills. You should ensure that your travel insurance covers you in the USA (separate from other regions on many plans), and that it can cover repatriation if necessary.
Funds that you can access that will cover the cost of any treatment you may need are important to have, as some hospitals will ask for payment upfront. If this is requested of you, ask them to get in touch with your insurance provider.
911 is the number to call if you have an emergency illness or injury. Ask for an ambulance, and it will take you to the nearest Emergency Room (ER).
Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center is a large hospital in Lakeview, whilst Northwestern Memorial Hospital is a facility with a good reputation (the best in Chicago and one of the best in the nation) situated in Downtown; the Stroger Cook County Hospital is a public hospital for low-income patients. There is also the Lurie Children’s Hospital.
Other hospitals may suit different ailments, so if you are in need of medical assistance, ask at your accommodation for advice.
Another option for an emergency is to go to an Urgent Care Clinic. These walk-in clinics are for non-life-threatening treatment and are cheaper than hospital ERs; they can provide services such as X-rays, stitches, high fevers and other minor illnesses and injuries.
You can also go to pharmacies, which are located all over the city; here you can get advice from pharmacists on your health, or pick up prescription drugs that have been prescribed by a doctor or hospital.
For another way to find a medical facility for you, try hospital.uillinois.edu for a comprehensive list of what’s available in the city of Chicago.
Healthcare is very good in Chicago – the only problem that may arise is paying for it, which is why insurance is so important.
Final thoughts on the safety of Chicago
Chicago is an amazing city: there is so much to see, there is so much to do, there is so much to eat. Fans of cities will love the skyscrapers, the L, the Pedway and the lakeside location. Culture-lovers will love the endless museums; fans of nature will enjoy how easy it is to get to beaches and quiet spots away from the city. There is a reputation for violence in Chicago, but chances are you won’t see why firsthand.
As we have already stressed, getting travel insurance before your Chicago trip is super important – never travel without it.
Disclaimer: Safety conditions change all over the world on a daily basis. We do our best to advise but this info may already be out of date. Do your own research. Enjoy your travels! Some of the links in this post are affiliate links which means we earn a small commission if you purchase your insurance through this page. This costs you nothing extra and helps us keep the site going.