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.
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 side to 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.
So let’s get right into what you need to know staying safe in the Big Apple.
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If you see any outdated information in this guide, we would really appreciate it if you could reach out in the comments below.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. 🙂
Updated January 2023
- Is it Safe to Visit New York Right Now?
- Safest Places in New York
- 13 Top Safety Tips for Traveling to New York
- Is New York safe to travel alone?
- Is New York safe for solo female travelers?
- Is New York safe to travel for families?
- Getting Around New York Safely
- Crime in New York
- FAQs on New York’s Safety
- So, is New York Safe?
Is it Safe to Visit New York Right Now?
If you’re looking to plan a trip to the Big Apple but are wondering how safe New York is, the answer is that New York is safe for travelers.
The city 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 8.46 million people, New York is the biggest city in the USA. And people aren’t afraid to go – Americans even less so!
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 daytime.
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 a 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.
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 neighborhood that seamlessly blends history and modern times. One of the oldest neighborhoods in the city, the Lower East Side was, for many decades, home to a thriving immigrant population.
- Greenwich Village: Filled with parks, famous universities, and numerous tourist attractions, this neighborhood in Lower Manhattan is one of the safest in the city.
- Williamsburg (Brooklyn): Williamsburg isn’t just the coolest neighborhood in New York City; it routinely ranks as one of the trendiest neighborhoods in the world, characterized by its thriving arts scene and vibrant nightlife. This is the place to see and be seen in New York.
- Upper East Side (Manhattan): The Upper East Side is a classic New York neighborhood. With its iconic architecture, tree-lined streets, and quintessential Brownstone townhomes, this is the New York that most people recognize from movies and TV.
Midtown Manhattan and the Financial District (including Wall Street) are also both very secure when it comes to violent crime.
Places to Avoid in New York
In order to have a safe visit, it’s important to know which areas in New York 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 your personal safety, and be aware of pickpocketing and petty theft.
This also means that most of New York is pretty safe. Things only change at night – this is when you’ll have to start being very careful. To help you plan a successful trip, we’ve listed the neighborhoods with the highest crime and assault rates below.
- South Bronx (Bronx): Rife with drug addiction, crime, sex work and homelessness, South Bronx should be avoided altogether. Hunts Point–infamous for prostitution AND drug and alcohol use–and Mott Haven are both located here and are two of the most dangerous places in NYC.
- Brownsville (Brooklyn): Due to widespread poverty, crime is rampant in Brownsville, which is located in Brooklyn. While Brooklyn has many great areas to visit, Brownsville is not one of them.
- Theatre District / Times Square (Manhattan): This isn’t really a place to avoid but rather a place to be extra cautious of your things. As the most famous tourist spot in NYC, pickpocketing is common.
In the 80s, Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant (aka Bed-Stuy) was one of the most dangerous places in New York. Nowadays, crime rates have lowered significantly and gentrification is in full swing. The artsy neighborhood is safe to visit these days, though as per usual, don’t walk alone after dark.
You should be careful when using 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.
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 your New York itinerary 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 – there are so many amazing things to do in New York at night, but be sure 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 sit in 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 in New York – 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–the violent crime statistics do not usually involve tourists.
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 definitely 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. These days, there are even hostels only for women.
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!
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!
Getting Around New York Safely
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.
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 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). You’ll also want to keep valuables close on crowded subway cars.
Public transport is safe in New York – just not as safe after dark.
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. Cycling in New York is dangerous for the inexperienced as the infrastructure is far from great. You can enjoy cycling safely in places like Central Park though.
Crime in New York
The media has recently made NYC out to be a place rife with crime, but in reality, the crime rates aren’t too different from other major US cities. In 2022, the city saw 56 million tourists, and the overwhelming majority of those didn’t have any issues with crime.
Major felony crimes (rape, murder, assault etc.) are significantly down from the early 2000s–and people were still visiting New York then. However, petty theft is becoming more and more common in every borough. Anywhere from a few hundred to more than 1000 robberies are reported across the city daily.
Laws in New York
As a tourist, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about laws in NYC. There are no specific rules here that don’t apply to other cities. Do be aware that the drinking age is 21, and that while marijuana is legal, you legally can’t smoke it publicly. Tbh, this isn’t vehemently enforced in some areas, but do be discrete about it and never light up in a super public place like Times Square.
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.
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!
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!
nyc is getting safer to visit all the time? that is not true, and we see the horrible crimes being done to others on videos and many do not know what to avoid if they must travel there for work
I am an essential worker and have worked throughout the whole pandemic and lockdown. In just one year, DeBlasio destroyed the safest big city in America. On my way to work and at my job I must deal with violent shoplifters, homeless, and mentally ill. The city is not safe and the subways are downright dangerous. The crime and streets now are becoming more like when I was a teenager in the 1980’s. While I love the city, it is just becoming unlivable.
Saying crime has dropped over the past couple of years with a pandemic is absolutely false and disingenuous. Crime has been rising in New York for the past couple of years it is definitely less safe than it ever has been I was born here I live here I know what I’m talking about. Your article is mistaken. And the people to thank for it are the X governor who was removed from office due to criminal scandal and the X mayor who was potentially the worst mayor in New York City history creating bail reform while simultaneously telling the police to stand down and releasing thousands of criminals.
New York Rican
I have been living in Florida for the lasted 11 year’s. l find myself reading different storys about things and trying to keep up. lt gets my juices flowing. Thinking about the food makes my mouth water.
Since “catch and release” has been instigated in NYC (end of 2019), NYC has become a complete poop-hole. Unless you have serious money to avoid the daily grind, stay away from NYC.
Terrorism is low risk, random violence is moderate risk as is biking.
Former NYC resident. Lived and visited Latin America, Europe and Middle East.
Thanks but my 2 main concerns were not really addressed. Pickpockets would be the least of my worries because its a known fact it happens in every large city.
How safe is it to cycle a bicycle around new york?
How high is a terrorist related threat in New York?
Good point about cycling – we will certainly look at addressing this point in future posts. At this time, none of us at The Broke Backpacker has much experience of cycling in NYC.
As for terrorism, we feel the same way you feel about pick-pockets, it can and does happen anywhere although statistically, the possibilities are remote. Perhaps check out the US State Departments website for up to date guidance.
Just wanted to recommend a party bus service that I used called Safe Rides. I got an amazing price, literally had to call and make sure it was real because it was so much cheaper than everyone else. Anyways, thought I would spread the word and help others save some money!