New York, New York. So nice, they named it twice. The Big Apple. NYC. It is THE city – a world city with a population from all over the world. An icon where about a million movies have been set and filmed. It’s no wonder you’re thinking of visiting this awesome metropolis!
There is a little bit of a problem though. Lots of crime. That’s right: New York City has a bit of a reputation for crime. From petty theft, bag snatching and pickpocketing to outright violence and mugging, there’s a dark sideto NYC that is enough to put you off.
Of course, if you’re now wondering “Ok, so is New York safe to visit? Are the rumors true? Is that reputation for crime actually a real thing?” that makes total sense. So to help you figure all of that out we’ll be exploring it all in our guide to staying safe in New York.
We’ll explore whether or not New York is safe to visit for women, if it’s worth renting a car and driving around on its famous streets, or if it’s safe to catch the infamous NYC subway. Solo travelers, women, families, and foodies will all find their relevant bits in this guide!
How Safe is New York? (Our take)
This city is one heck of a place to visit. The list of landmark sights is endless. Just think: the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, Grand Central Station. That’s not to mention the amazing art galleries and museums.
Obviously, it’s one of the most visited cities in America!
But with all those tourists come pickpockets and other petty criminals out to steal unsuspecting visitors’ stuff.
There are also some pretty sketchy New York neighborhoods that you probably won’t want to be visiting – and trust us: you won’t want to be riding that subway at night by yourself!
But for all the scare stories and potential for crime, New York is pretty much like any other city. As long as you follow your street smarts, New York will be safe.
There is no such thing as a perfect safety guide, and this article is no different. The question of “Is New York Safe?” will ALWAYS have a different answer depending on the parties involved. But this article is written for savvy travellers from the perspective of savvy travellers.
The information present in this safety guide was accurate at the time of writing, however, the world is a changeable place, now more than ever. Between the pandemic, ever-worsening cultural division, and a click-hungry media, it can be hard to maintain what is truth and what is sensationalism.
Here, you will find safety knowledge and advice for travelling New York. It won’t be down to the wire cutting edge info on the most current events, but it is layered in the expertise of veteran travellers. If you use our guide, do your own research, and practise common sense, you will have a safe trip to New York.
If you see any outdated information in this guide, we would really appreciate it if you could reach out in the comments below. We strive to provide the most relevant travel information on the web and always appreciate input from our readers (nicely, please!). Otherwise, thanks for your ear and stay safe!
It’s a wild world out there. But it’s pretty damn special too. 🙂
Do You Want to Travel FOREVER??
Then pop your email address in below and we’ll send you a FREE copy of ‘How to Travel the World on $10 a Day!’
Is it Safe to Visit New York Right Now?
New York has seen a lot of gentrification in recent years.
Many areas that were once practically ‘no-go’ a decade or so ago, are now pretty cool areas. For example, Greenpoint was once a hotbed of crime, but has since transformed into the hipster area it is today.
With an estimated population of 8.74 million people, New York is the biggest in the USA. And people aren’t afraid to go – Americans even less so!
Whilst there is a reputation for crime in New York, this has been dropping radically since 1994 and ex-Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy for crime.
Violent crime has dropped around 50% over the last 10 years; in 2009, the homicide rate was the lowest since 1963. So it’s safe to say that New York is getting safer to visit, all the time!
However, there are still some areas of New York to be aware of right now. These aren’t likely to be visited by you anyway. That said, it’s MOST risky to visit those places at night, like most places in the world. Head there in the day time.
A lot of the popular tourist hotspots – Times Square, the Meat Packing District, Chinatown and also the Garment District – have surprisingly high rates of violent crime. This indicates that criminals may be targeting tourists. It’s best to stay vigilant in these areas.
Obviously, NYC was the scene of the 2001 World Trade Center attack. This left a lasting impact on the city – and the world. There isn’t high alert right now, but it’s important to be vigilant. See something weird that isn’t ‘New York weird’? Report it.
New York IS safe to visit right now though. The most you will have to worry about, we would say, is being pickpocketed in a crowd of tourists.
Do you need Travel Insurance for your trip? Even if you’re only going for a few days, that’s more than enough time to get smote by wrathful angels. Have fun in New York, but take it from us, overseas medical care and canceled flights can be seriously expensive – insurance can, therefore, be a life-saver.
Travel mishaps can and do happen and it is well worth thinking about insurance before you leave home.
We have used World Nomads for years now and I have personally made several claims. Why not get a quote from them yourself?
Do be sure to read the terms and conditions to make sure that the policy covers your needs.
Getting an estimate from World Nomads is simple – just click the button or image below, fill out the necessary info, and you’re on your way!
Safest Places in New York
When choosing where you’ll be staying in New York, a bit of research and caution is essential. You don’t want to end up in a sketchy area and ruin your trip. To help you out, we’ve listed the safest areas to visit in New York below.
Lower East Side (Manhattan)
Eclectic and vibrant, the Lower East Side is a neighbourhood that seamlessly blends history and modern times. One of the oldest neighbourhoods in the city, the Lower East Side was, for many decades, home to a thriving immigrant population.
Today, this southeastern New York City neighbourhood is a hub for art and culture as well as home to hip eateries and trendy bars. Here you’ll find a great variety of lively clubs, stylish restaurants, and fashionable boutiques.
Lower East Side
If you’re looking for staying in New York on a budget while being safe, the Lower East Side offers the best options. There are plenty of sights, accommodations and a thriving immigrant population, which offers a great insight in different cultures.
Across the East River in cool Brooklyn, you’ll find Williamsburg, a hipster hood that oozes cool around every turn.
Williamsburg isn’t just the coolest neighbourhood in New York City; it routinely ranks as one of the trendiest neighbourhoods in the world, characterised by its thriving arts scene and vibrant nightlife. This is the place to see and be seen in New York.
At the centre of Brooklyn, Williamsburg is well connected to Manhattan and easy to reach from the rest of NYC. It’s home to eclectic restaurants, boutique shops, stylish bars, hip tattoo parlours, and rustic rooftop patios.
For the ones that want to be seen, Williamsburg is a great choice. With plenty of stylish cafes, trendy shops and an incredible nightlife and arts scene, you won’t have a boring day here.
Upper West Side (Manhattan)
The Upper West Side is a classic New York neighbourhood. With its iconic architecture, tree-lined streets, and quintessential Brownstone townhomes, this is the New York that most people recognize from movies and TV.
Not only is the Upper West Side adjacent to the immense and expansive Central Park, it is home to world-famous cultural institutions like the American Museum of Natural History. Families with kids will love wandering through its exhibits, learning more about history, culture and the natural world.
Upper West Side
This classic NYC neighborhood is the ideal place for families. With the Central Park right around the corner and loads of other family-friendly attractions around, there will be plenty of entertainment for all ages.
Places to avoid in New York
In order to have a safe visit, it’s important to know the areas in New York that aren’t super safe. Keep in mind that New York is a major tourist city, so wherever you are, you will have to watch out for pickpocketing and petty theft.
Luckily, this also means that most of New York is pretty safe. Things only change at night – this is where you’ll have to start being very careful. To help you plan a successful trip, we’ve listed the neighorhoods with the hightest crime and assault rate below.
- Vinegar Hill (Brooklyn)
- Downtown Brooklyn (Brooklyn)
- Theatre District / Times Square (Manhattan)
- Meatpacking District (Manhattan)
Other areas that you should be careful at are public transport stations at night, especially the subway, dark side streets (this is really a no-brainer), and any area that looks like tourists don’t often go there. Stay away from these areas and you’ll have a great time in New York.
Yes, it may have a reputation for crime – of all kinds – but New York is about as safe as any other huge city in the Western world. That means maybe sketchy areas at night mean assaults; it also means pickpockets and petty thieves in touristed areas.
That’s how these big cities work and there are certain things to have in mind when traveling in them. So to help you stay as safe as possible, here are some top safety tips for traveling to New York to keep you safe and sound.
- Don’t leave valuables unattended – they will LITERALLY disappear.
- Keep belongings secure – dangling bags, SLRs, shoulder straps, all that stuff – make sure it’s ON you not hanging OFF you.
- Limit the amount of money you’re carrying around with you – just more money to LOSE if something bad happens. You can split up your money into different caches and keep some in a money belt.
- Be vigilant – especially at night – this is when most ‘bad stuff’ will happen.
- If you are around at night, stick to well-lit streets – the best idea is to stay with the crowds.
- Know where you’re going before you head out – and try not to look TOO much like a tourist. Just helps a little to blend in.
- Don’t show off all your valuable possessions – even your smartphone. This will make you more of a target.
- People in New York are surprisingly friendly – ask someone if you’re lost. They’ll most likely help you out!
- Don’t use empty subway carriages at night – again, go with the crowds. Or to the conductor’s car.
- Careful when you’re buying tickets for Broadway shows – if they’re super cheap, they’re probably too good to be true.
- Also, be aware of other scams – like buying ‘tickets’ for the Staten Island ferry – because it’s free.
- Be wary of swindlers – people may try to get your money in elaborate ways. If it seems weird, it probably is.
- Watch out when getting money out at ATMs – check who’s behind you, as these are good places to get robbed!
At the end of the day, New York is a developed city. It’s not a warzone. There are things to look out for, but most of the things that you may fall for or be a victim of are easily avoidable and violent crime is not something that often involves tourists.
Some General Safety Tips from the OG Broke Backpacker
We are big fans of solo travel, and New York is a great place for it. Yes, that’s right: New Yorkers may have a reputation for being a little rude (you can thank the movies for that), but people are actually super friendly!
Of course, there are a ton of benefits to solo travel. You get to do what you want, when you want, and maybe you’ll challenge yourself and learn a thing or two. There are downsides though, but don’t worry. Here are our tips to help you stay safe and beat the solo travel blues.
- Stay at one of New York’s cool hostels. These are going to be great places to meet friendly locals working there and cool travelers doing what you’re doing staying there. Obviously, do your research.
- Whilst you could make a travel buddy to explore the city with, you shouldn’t be afraid to explore New York by yourself. There’s plenty to see and do, all of which you can do in your own time. No need to rush. Enjoy yourself: it’s your time!
- But you could always go on a tour! Your hostel might offer up a free walking tour of a certain area, or you could just as easily book yourself on a different organized tour instead. Again though, make sure you do your research and find the BEST tour for you.
- Since you’ll be relying on yourself alone, make sure you look after your money! Stash your cash in different places, don’t keep it all in one wallet, purse or bag – if that goes missing, you’re screwed. Consider a money belt and maybe even an emergency credit card, just in case.
- Don’t party too hard. Being a sloppy drunk in the city is just going to make you a much easier target.
- Keep emergency numbers in your phone – and save them so that they appear at the top of your contacts. Imagine an emergency situation where you have to spend time scrolling through stuff.
- Ask the staff at your hostel about things to do in the local area – or any other kind of local tips that will lead you to some hidden gems of the city.
- Since you’re traveling by yourself, you should keep in touch with people. Friends and family, mainly. This will help you to stay grounded, stave off the solo travel blues, and give you someone to talk to if you’re finding it hard.
There you have it. Some of our best tips for solo travelers in New York. Chances are, safety-wise, you’ll be fine and have an absolutely AWESOME time exploring this iconic metropolis.
Is New York safe for solo female travelers?
Yes. New York is a fun and friendly city that’s great to explore and dive into headfirst as a solo female traveler. You can strut across Brooklyn Bridge, sip cocktails in SoHo, it’s all here. But of course, being a solo FEMALE traveler comes with a little more risk.
So you’re probably wondering if it’s safe to go alone to the city as a female. We think it is. But here are some tips for solo female travelers in New York to make it extra safe for you.
- There has been a rise in drink spiking in New York. We would definitey recommend that you buy your own drinks, don’t accept drinks from strangers, and once you have your drink – don’t let it out of your sight.
- If someone is making you feel uncomfortable when you’re out and about, speak up about it. If you’re on a night out, ask the bar staff for help.
- Don’t tell people everything about yourself. There is no reason to tell a complete stranger personal details just because they’re asking you. Tell white lies or say nothing at all.
- Avoid walking around by yourself after dark. Especially in unfamiliar places and poorly lit, quiet streets. This is kind of a no-brainer…
- Walking in a purposeful way can be a good way to avoid unnecessary/unwanted attention. In order to do this, maybe plan a route ahead of time and know where you’re going. Looking more like a local and less like a lost tourist will help you not look like an easy target.
- Google Maps – or any maps app – is definitely helpful, BUT – don’t follow the directions if they take you down backstreets in shady areas. They find the quickest route, which can mean some questionable shortcuts.
- Definitely research where you’re staying. It helps to read reviews from fellow female travelers. Choose the safest place for you – and if it’s got a female-only dorm too then it’s bound to a be a good shout.
Of course, being a woman anywhere in the world comes with extra risk. It’s annoying, it’s sad, it’s true. And in New York, like most other big cities, you’re going to want to avoid walking around sketchy areas. Walking around at night time. That sort of thing. Simple stuff!
More on Safety in New York
We’ve covered the main safety concerns already, but there are a few more things to know. Read on for more detailed information on how to have a safe trip to New York.
Is New York safe to travel for families?
New York is going to be a pretty epic place to take your children.
For the most part, New York is safe to travel for families.
However, there are a few things to bear in mind when you visit. Like, when you grab a cab, any children under 7 can sit on your lap. No car seats. UberX does provide car seats though!
It’s a good idea to have a chat with your child when it comes to crossing busy city streets. Knowing how to cross the road safely is very important.
The sidewalks themselves can be overwhelming for children. It could be easy to get lost. So maybe organize a safe spot to meet up. Stranger danger goes without saying (have you seen Home Alone 2?).
Be aware of your surroundings when you’ve got children. Easily distracted parents watching street performances with their children are going to be easy targets for pickpockets. Stay extra aware!
Pretty much though, you’ll be fine! It’s NEW YORK. There are a load of city moms and dads doing their thing every day here. So join in and have fun!
Is it safe to drive in New York?
Whilst it IS safe to drive in New York, there are some things you might want to know.
One of the most dangerous things about the city is watching out for pedestrians and cyclists. You’ll have to be aware of what’s happening around you at all times. Bike lanes have been implemented throughout much of the city and you’ll have to take care when you’re turning.
Pedestrians have the right of way. You have to wait for them to cross. Makes sense to us!
About that parking – it’s a headache. You’ll have to make sure you park somewhere secure, too, as break-ins and carjackings do occur. Parking enforcement in the city is pretty hardcore so do pay at the meter – always!
Traffic jams in rush hour (7-9AM and 4-7PM) are a literal nightmare. The bridges and tunnels that connect the city can be super stressful at these times.
Basically, we try to avoid driving in New York. It’s safe, but unless you want to be going on road trips to places like Long Island or Upstate New York, there’s not a lot of point to driving around the city.
Is Uber safe in New York?
Uber is definitely safe in New York, but make sure you check the information on the app against the car (and driver) that turn up.
Getting into a random car can be super dangerous, so definitely check the driver’s photo, car type, registration, etc. That’s even more important if you’re trying to get home with an Uber at night.
But other than that, Uber is a good way to get around.
Are taxis safe in New York?
New York’s famous yellow taxicabs are – as they are in the movies – all over the city. They are easily identifiable, obviously. They’re YELLOW.
Make sure you get a licensed cab though. You’ll be able to tell these are legit from the ID number on the taxi sign on the roof and on the hood of the car.
There ARE other companies, which aren’t yellow, like the street hail liveries, which are light green. Again, IDs are on the sign and the hood.
You can either hail a cab on the street or go to a taxi rank. But you’ll need to make sure you know where you’re going and speak confidently to the driver so they don’t mess you around.
When arriving in New York at the airport, you may be offered a taxi from a tout at Arrivals. But don’t think you’ll be saving any time by doing this – these taxis are often unlicensed and generally not safe – for your money, at least. You’ll run the risk of getting ripped off.
Either queue up at the airport taxi rank or call a New York City car service which will take you to your destination for a flat rate.
Taxis are safe in New York. And you’re bound to have an experience in taxis alone, pretending you’re right out of a movie.
Is public transportation in New York safe?
Another famous sight of New York is its public transport. This has also been featured in films.
It’s very likely you’ll find yourself using it at some point during your trip.
The iconic subway is an intricate web of lines and stations that can take you pretty much everywhere in the city for a snip. Get yourself a metro card and join other New Yorkers, tapping in and out of stations.
Also, get an app to help you navigate the subway. You’ll need help – trust us. There’s also an official website, Subway Time, which has times and any delay reports.
During peak hours, getting on the subway (especially if you’re not used to them) can be overwhelming. It’s common to not make eye contact with people. Keep yourself to yourself. Be aware of your surroundings.
When it comes to using the New York subway at night, a good tip is to stand close to the metro card booth and near to the sign that says “off hours trains stop here” – they tend to be busier spots. Don’t ride in empty carriages – always opt for busy ones or the conductor’s car (the center carriage).
Then there’s a bus service which runs across all five boroughs. You can also use the metro card on this. They are popular with commuters and can get SUPER busy in rush hour.
The downside of buses is that they get affected by traffic. There are over 6,000 buses that ply 320 routes around the city, so you should be able to get wherever you want to go pretty easily.
The same sort of rules apply: watch out on busy buses for pickpockets, and be careful riding the bus late at night.
Public transport is safe in New York – just not as safe after dark.
When moving from place to place, you shouldn’t store travel documents in a bag, even if it’s under your seat or overhead.
A full-sized money belt that stays tucked under your clothes keeps your documents and cash organized during your travels and assures nothing critical gets left behind or stolen.
Is the food in New York safe?
New York is a foodie heaven. We’re talking burgers, pizzas, hot dogs, bodegas, Chinese food, Greek food, tons of diners and coffee joints, Italian food, donuts, cronuts. Man oh man, New York is ALL food.
There are loads of independent restaurants to try, cool hangouts, retro classics, and even high-end dining if you’ve got the money to spare for that sort of thing. Of course, not all establishments are created equal, so here are some foodie tips for eating in New York.
- Follow the locals. They’ll know where the best food stands are. Whether you want a falafel pitta bread or a big ol’ slice of pizza, New Yorkers are going to have their favorites, so if there’s a queue at a particular street vendor – and you’re hungry – definitely stop to see what all the fuss is about.
- On the theme of street vendors, watch out for dirty-water dogs. These are hotdogs that have been cooked in water which hasn’t been changed in a while.
- There’s a grading system that evaluates eateries based on their health and safety. If you see anything that’s B- or C, you may want to avoid it. This means they don’t have the best sanitary conditions going… If you’re REALLY worried, you can find out the restaurant’s health credentials online at NYC Department of Health Restaurant Grades.
- New York City has a load of chain restaurants. These MAY grab your attention when you’re hungry, but don’t give up looking for a good place to eat.
- Times Square is the tourist mecca of New York, but it’s not a good place to find good food. In fact, it’s going to be tourist trap galore. This means less quality, more making money.
- And last but definitely not least – WASH YOUR HANDS. You may have found a good place to eat that’s clean, but you still may get ill if you don’t wash your hands.
So there you go. There are so many tasty things to eat in New York. So many things! Pretzels, bagels, New York cheesecake for crying out loud! Pastrami. Breakfast sandwiches. Kebabs. Just get involved. There are a ZILLION places to choose from in this big city.
Can you drink the water in New York?
The water in New York is safe to drink, don’t worry. If you’re particularly sensitive to chlorine, you can filter it with a carbon filter.
No matter what, have a refillable water bottle with you (insulated, if it’s summertime) so you can stay hydrated on the go without buying environmental-murdering single-use plastic bottles!
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.
Read our full review of the GRAYL GEOPRESS!
Is New York safe to live?
Living in New York isn’t like living in any old city. It’ll mean a change in lifestyle in a city that’s absolutely teeming with different cultures and communities all tangled together across the five boroughs.
Contrary to what you may think, NYC isn’t a scary place to live. Over 8 million people already live there anyway.
It’s literally overflowing with arts, food, business, creativity – all sorts of things to keep you interested. A city of endless possibilities.
Of the twenty safest neighborhoods in New York, the borough of Queens has nine of them. It’s a pretty low key place in general, lacking in tourist attractions – which is a GOOD thing if you’re planning to live here.
Wanting to avoid crime? Steer clear of neighborhoods known for alcohol, nightlife, and tourists. This always seems to be the best cocktail for crime in New York.
As long as you do your research, you’ll be safe living in New York. Make friends, join Facebook groups, involve yourself in the creativity and get swept up in all the excitement of the city!
Wonder how to spend a weekend in New York? Head over to our insider’s Weekend in New York guide!
Is it safe to rent an Airbnb in New York?
Yes, it’s perfectly safe to rent an Airbnb in New York. While you might not find the cheapest options, you can choose from incredibly unique and charming homes. With the reliable rating and review system of the booking platform, you can be almost always sure that you get exactly what’s been promised on the website. Just make sure you read the reviews from previous guests beforehand.
And if anything goes wrong during your stay, you can always contact the reliable Airbnb support service.
Is New York LGBTQ+ friendly?
New York is considered to be one of the most open-minded and LGBTQ+ friendly cites in the US. There’s a massive gay bar and club scene in NYC, where members of the community can safely socialize and meet like-minded people.
Overall, NYC is a very friendly city, but just like anywhere in the world, you might come across one or the other idiot that thinks it’s smart to leave a rude comment. Simply ignore them, and get on with exploring the city!
FAQs on New York’s Safety
Planning a safe trip to New York can get quite overwhelming. That’s why we’ve listed and answered the most frequently asked questions on safety in New York.
So, is New York Safe?
Yes, in our opinion, New York is pretty safe. NYC may have a reputation for crime. But that’s sort of a hangover of the ’80s and ’90s movies and TV series that are basically embedded in everyone’s psyche.
It’s not as bad as most think. Of course, there is crime. Petty crime – pickpockets in busy tourist areas, crowded public transport and transit hubs. However, that’s not any different to any other big city. Common sense plays a big part.
That goes for more serious crime too. If you’re walking down a poorly lit street at night and there’s no one else around, it’ll feel scary. And if something feels scary, that’s because you imagine that something BAD could happen to you on streets like this. So what’s the best thing to do? Don’t walk around NYC on deserted streets at night.
Other than that, there isn’t much about New York that you should be worried about. It’s safe. And if you look like you know what you’re doing, avoid tourist traps, and steer clear of dodgy neighborhoods, you’re going to have an awesome time here.
And have you thought about getting Travel Insurance for your trip? You can get a quote from World Nomads by clicking on the link below.
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!
Find out how YOU can support the site.
We’re a big site with a big team and this job isn’t always easy. But we do it because we love it – we love providing epic and free content. We love the knowledge that our content keeps you adventuring. We don’t ask for money, but if you’d like to find out how you can help the site in more organic ways, click the button below.
Thank you for your support 🙂
And for transparency’s sake, please know that some of the links in our content are affiliate links. That means that if you book your accommodation, buy your gear, or sort your insurance through our link, we earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you). That said, we only link to the gear we trust and never recommend services we don’t believe are up to scratch. Again, thank you!