The home of Amazon, Bill Gates, Frasier, Starbucks, Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, grunge in general, the Space Needle, a mile-long monorail, and a whole lot of amazing food, Seattle is one of the most interesting cities to visit in North America.
What isn’t so cool about Seattle is that it’s not always safe. Some of its areas are pretty rampant with crime and get a lot more dangerous after dark, and it experiences a growing homeless population.
To help you with getting around this northwestern city like a pro we have created this epic insider’s guide to staying safe in Seattle. We’re all about smart travel, which isn’t just about knowing how to avoid pickpockets and petty crime, but also about picking the right sort of accommodation if you’re travelling as a solo female traveller, or coming to the right time of the year.
Whether you’ll be reading our in-depth guide from start to finish, or if you’re just looking for a few tips for your next backpacking adventure to Seattle, you’re going to find all the information and tips you need to help your adventure to this city go super smoothly!
How Safe is Seattle? (Our take)
Seattle is a very cool backpacking destination. It’s chilled, it’s diverse, it’s pretty liberal – all good things when it comes to a pretty open-minded city to explore and discover.
It’s not without its issues though…
There’s a sizeable homeless population in Seattle, which isn’t great whatever way you look at it. Panhandlers, as they’re known, live in large communities and can get a little aggressive.
Overall, however, Seattle has a pretty low crime rate. The normal stuff applies for cities though: after dark, you probably shouldn’t go wandering around by yourself. Especially not in quiet and/or poorly lit areas.
Basically, we’re going to say Seattle is pretty safe – much safer, in fact, compared to other US cities. But don’t just take our word for it; let’s get into the cold, hard facts.
Is Seattle Safe to Visit Right Now?
Known as the “Emerald City”, Seattle is the most populous city in Washington state. Only 725,000 people live here though, which puts it at a medium-sized city level.
Seattle is pretty compact and is made up of various neighbourhoods. Most of them, if not all, are home to distinct cultures; for example, there’s a Chinatown here, a Little Saigon, and a significant population of Japanese Americans, too. Though multiethnic, the population of Seattle, on the whole, is predominantly European.
With plenty to see and do in Seattle, which draws loads of tourists, it is less of an unsafe place and more the sort of place where, if you go looking for crime, you will find it.
Other than that, there’s nothing pressing about Seattle that’s going to keep you away from it currently. It gets pretty rainy, and pretty cloudy – and pretty windy, too – but nothing like a tropical storm or hurricane, so you’ll be fine!
Statistics show that, so far in 2019, there have been 12,439 crimes – of all kinds. This is not so bad at all, compared with other major American cities. That’s considering that the USA as a country is rated 121st on the Global Peace Index (which lists 163 countries), just above Myanmar (122nd).
Don’t worry though: it’s safe to visit Seattle right now.
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Safest Places in Seattle
As we said above, some places in Seattle are safer than others. With a growing homeless community, loads of tourists and one or the other sketchy character, it’s always a good idea to play your cards right and opt for staying in the right neighborhood. To help you out a bit, we’ve listed the best ones below.
Waterfront is a compact neighborhood that can easily be explored on foot. Take a short walk in any direction and you’ll find yourself experiencing the best of Seattle. It’s known to be super family-friendly, which also makes it one of the safest neighborhoods in Seattle
In addition to its central location, Waterfront is the hub of Seattle’s transportation system. With buses, light rain, ferries and more, you can easily explore all corners of the city. It’s a great base if you want to a safe home but a lot of action and adventure during your stay.
The Waterfront District is the heart, soul and centre of Seattle. You can stroll around and enjoy the beautiful pier. It’s also where you’ll find world-renowned landmarks, including Pike Place Market and the 11-story glass library.
Capitol Hill is by far the coolest neighbourhood in Seattle. Located north of Downtown, this central district boasts a diverse, young, and friendly atmosphere. It’s where you can find incredible shopping and very fun nights out.
It is the heart of Seattle’s infamous music scene. Capitol Hill is packed with nightclubs, bars, cafes, theatres, and venues where you can see world-famous and upcoming acts. Whether you’re into pop, trance, alternative, or Seattle’s favorite grunge, there’s something for every music fan here.
As one of the coolest and most unique neighborhoods in Seattle, Capitol Hill is a great place to base yourself. Whether you’re into arts, nightlife, historical attractions, or cool music, there are endless activity options in Capitol Hill.
Queen Anne is a haven for sightseers and culture vultures. This centrally located neighbourhood is home to Seattle’s most iconic landmarks and attractions. It’s where you can enjoy the best views of the city, and is our pick for where to stay if you’re visiting Seattle for the first time.
Notable Queen Anne attractions include the Seattle Space Needle, Museum of Pop Culture, the Seattle Monorail, the Children’s Museum and Discovery Park.
This super cool district is the perfect base for first-time visitors and people that want to see as much of the city as possible. Super well connected to the rest of Seattle, Queen Anne is the ideal place to start exploring.
Places to avoid in Seattle
A recent poll showed areas of the city in which Seattle residents don’t feel safe.
- The area surrounding Pike and Pine Streets are known for violent crime – especially at night time
- South of Dearborn Street, all the way to Yesler Way (near the I-5 and I-90 Interchange), is where you’ll find “The Jungle”; with its sizeable homeless camp, it’s not a nice place to find yourself at any time of the day.
- The area between Blanchard and Bell in Belltown is known for drugs, robbery, and assault
- The road that runs between Lake Washington and Puget Sound, on the I-5, has been the scene of homicides and robberies as well as assaults
- Then there’s the M L King Jr. Way all the way to the South Boeing Access Road, where you’ll find issues surrounding violent crime (high crime statistics)
But that shouldn’t scare you. This is where even residents themselves won’t be hanging out, so why would you? Just be aware that these issues do exist in Seattle and keep yourself well away from them. It goes without saying that you should steer clear even more (if possible) after dark.
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 Seattle, 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!
Seattle is one of the safest cities in the US. People here are pretty chilled (and reserved) but are, basically, friendly. There’s a cool alternative scene here, a huge LGBT community, and a lot of different races living together. While all of this sounds pretty cool, there are still a couple of things you need to be careful with. We’ve got a few tips…
- Don’t walk around with large sums of money – if someone sees a big wad of cash every time you pay for something, you’ll be more of a target.
- Photocopy your passport – and keep your passport safely locked away. It’s not worth the headache of losing that…
- Stay somewhere with secure, lockable doors – and always make sure you lock your door when you head out for the day.
- Don’t leave your bag(s) unattended anywhere – it could very easily go missing.
- Keep belongings close to you – around tourist sights and on public transport. Here’s where you’re most likely to encounter a pickpocket. Wear a money belt to hide your cash.
- Know about distraction techniques – overfriendly strangers, someone bumping into you, dropping something in front of you – often a precursor to petty crime.
- Be aware of your surroundings – be vigilant; know what’s going on around you; don’t be oblivious to shady characters.
- Walk with purpose – looking like a lost tourist is just going to make you stand out like a lost tourist – and an easy target.
- Ask for directions if you’re lost – but ask someone official: a police officer, a bus driver, someone like that.
- Careful when withdrawing money from ATMs – take note of who’s around you, who’s watching, and make sure the machine itself hasn’t been tampered with.
- Don’t look flashy – especially at tourist sights, it will attract the wrong sort of attention.
- Avoid giving money to panhandlers – It’s up to you, of course, but Seattle police advise against it. If someone gets aggressive or intimidating, cross the street, and find a police officer to report the incident.
- It’s legal to buy marijuana – from licensed places if you’re over 21. Know your limits though…
- And don’t drive when you’re high – it’s illegal and unsafe.
- Don’t take shortcuts at night – stick to well lit, busy streets, even if it’s longer to walk.
- Get yourself a sim card – you can get around without worry, find nearby food and drink, call people. All the benefits.
- Notify people if you head into the mountains – make sure you check in; don’t go off-grid.
- And be prepared – the landscape and weather can get pretty drastic out there.
So that’s it. Basically, it’s all about using your common sense when travelling. Seattle is the sort of place where most likely, YOU will be the one to put yourself in danger – travel smart and you’ll be fine!
Some General Safety Tips from the OG Broke Backpacker
We’re definitely all for travelling by yourself. There are the obvious things, like getting to see the world by yourself at your own pace (for you, basically), but then there’s other stuff – like having to do everything by yourself, challenging yourself, overcoming obstacles and so on.
But we’re here to help with a few cherry-picked tips for solo travel in Seattle!
- Finding a good place to stay in Seattle is where you should start. Choose somewhere that will suit you, in a decent, non-sketchy area that’s close to stuff you want to see and do. It goes without saying that you should read reviews to find somewhere that other solo travellers have recommended.
- Seattle has its fair share of good social hostels. These are, obviously, somewhere you can get to know other travellers who are doing what you’re doing.
- Know what “Seattle freeze” is. It’s a reputation for Seattle residents not being very open or friendly to strangers. Don’t let that put you off though. People are welcoming and kind and won’t hesitate to help you out. That said, you may have to initiate the contact, so get your best conversation starters ready!
- Get yourself booked on a tour. A walking tour, a food tour, a day trip to somewhere like Rainier. The likelihood is you’ll meet some people, if not for the day, then maybe even a new mate.
- Walk around the city! Seattle is a super walkable city – being by yourself shouldn’t put you off having a stroll. You can walk along the waterfront, Green Lake in the north of Seattle, or even Broadway up on Capitol Hill – which is where you’ll find the LGBT community. Basically, it’s all fair game; just heighten your awareness after dark.
- Don’t ghost your friends and family. Tell them if you’re going out for dinner, or if you’re on a day trip, update them about the hostel you’re staying in, what you’ve seen – anything! It’s nice, keeps you sane, and safe too.
- Keep an eye on your money and bank cards. You may want to stash them in different places. Trust us: having everything in one bag is a nightmare if that bag goes missing. So spread it around.
- Don’t pack too much. Since it’s a city, one bag will probably do you fine anyway. Having loads of stuff is not a good look in a city – plus you end up feeling pretty out of place lugging a load of baggage around when no one else is.
- Ask at the reception for advice on the local area. A cool bar to have a few drinks at, a restaurant recommendation, or just a hidden gem of sight that they might know of. It’s here you’re going to find actual, interesting, cool stuff that probably won’t be in your guide book.
So there you have it. Some pretty simple tips and information to keep in mind if you’re planning on a solo travel trip to Seattle.
Is Seattle safe for solo female travellers?
Seattle is a cool place for solo female travellers to visit. It’s a big city with a ton of stuff to see and places to visit. Then again, it’s a big city. That means it’s not only got all the benefits of a big city but the hazards and outright dangers that come with it, especially for lone travellers.
Most of the time though, that’s at night. And if you’re used to a city any way you’ll have your own safety routine down to a T anyway. Even so, we’ve got together a handy list of our top tips for solo female travellers in Seattle to help you stay safe and have an awesome time!
- Before you travel, make a few contacts. Get online and ask for some advice. We’d recommend a Facebook like Girls Love Travel. Even hitting up hashtags like #girlsabroad on Instagram will uncover some cool lady travellers who will more than likely respond positively to a DM. Go for it!
- Make sure the accommodation you’re booking comes highly reviewed by other solo female travellers. Doing your research is a big part of choosing somewhere to stay; don’t just book the cheapest option.
- As a woman in Seattle, it’s pretty easy to blend into the background. It’s a big, modern city, obviously. We would say, however, to avoid looking like a traveller. Avoid hiking shoes, Day-Glo daypack, windproof raincoat, you’ll just look out of place. Try and look like you belong in the city and you’ll end up having a more comfortable time in Seattle.
- Seattle’s large homeless population may worry you. And we get it. You’ll most likely see people begging, and the tents that house the cities homeless dotted around. It can be daunting. Know that it’s ok to say no. If someone turns nasty, cross the street, go into a shop, tell somebody (even a police officer) if you’re really freaked out about it.
- Take extra caution after dark. When everyone goes home after the business day (and happy hour) is done, the Downtown area actually gets pretty quiet. It seems everyone clears out. You may want to take extra caution wandering around here after dark, though we’d say it’s best avoided if you’re by yourself as a woman.
- Don’t be afraid to go out by yourself. Somewhere like a sushi restaurant would be good for that since you can just take up a single seat at the bar. You could easily strike up a conversation with someone – if you want to, that is. It’s fine to eat alone!
- You don’t have to tell people everything about yourself. If someone’s asking too much, don’t tell them. A complete stranger does not need to know your full name, where you’re from, where you’re staying, or even what your travel plans are.
- Trust your gut. If a situation feels a little bit like it’s getting weird, then it most likely is. And if a person seems like a bit of a weirdo and you don’t like it, then trust your gut and remove yourself from their company.
- Be careful if you’re going out hiking. Not in the city, obviously, but in one of the National Parks like Rainier for example. You can’t always get good phone service and things can go wrong. Inform people that you’re going, be prepared, or – if in doubt – take a guided tour.
Like we’ve said already, Seattle is actually a pretty safe city. As a solo female traveller, you’re going to feel secure in this city. In fact, it’s a GREAT place to go by yourself. For one thing, there’s an amazing food scene to get involved with. That’s reason enough to go to Seattle!
More on Safety in Seattle
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 Seattle.
Is Seattle safe to travel for families?
Seattle is a safe place to travel for families. In fact, it’s a great place to go with children in tow.
There’s a cool waterfront area to run around, fun boat trips to take, an interesting aquarium, and even a cool music scene, plus some baseball and American football, to take older children to. There’s a ton of stuff to do here and to add to your Seattle itinerary!
We’d say avoid staying in the downtown area however, as a lot of the hotels here are not so family-friendly and geared towards those on business.
Keep in mind: some bars and pubs have “no minors” policy, whilst other establishments have a “no kids” policy after 10 PM.
Basically, Seattle is safe to travel with children in tow. 100%.
Is it safe to drive in Seattle?
Like with most cities in developed countries, it’s safe to drive in Seattle, but why would you?
There’s some pretty heavy traffic going on here for such a small city. Parking, as you might imagine, can be a real headache as well.
You will also have to contend with a confusing mix of grid-system, hills and one-way streets that can make navigating your way around Seattle frustrating, to say the least; especially around Downtown.
That said, the best way to get to see what’s on offer in the area around Seattle is by car.
Day trips by car from Seattle are, we’re going to be honest, very cool. You get some picturesque drives: spectacular lakes, cute towns, winding forest roads… This will all be your scenery.
If you do choose to hire a car in Seattle, you should make sure it’s up to scratch – especially for mountain driving. Make sure you also purchase solid rental car insurance before you pick your car!
We wouldn’t recommend driving in Seattle itself; though it’s safe to drive in Seattle, the traffic and parking just make it kind of not worth it. Then again, if you’re planning on renting your own wheels to drive around the surrounding and quite stunning nature that’s on offer just on the doorstep of the city, then go for it!
Is Uber safe in Seattle?
Yes, Uber is safe in Seattle.
In fact, you have a choice: Uber or Lyft. You should have no problems at all, with either.
It’s generally cheaper to get one of these than a taxi (except during surge times) and you also won’t have to worry about tipping. Wait time for your Uber/Lyft to actually arrive is between around 8 to 15 minutes, so you’ll never have to wait for ages for your ride.
You can’t get Uber from the airport, but you can get UberBlack, which is cheaper than a cab.
Are taxis safe in Seattle?
Taxis in Seattle are, aside from Uber, the best way to get around quickly without too much hassle.
You can hail a taxi on the street, but it can be a little tricky sometimes, mainly if there aren’t any going by where you are. The best bet? Call one.
All taxis in Seattle have the same rates, which are set by the county. But one good company to use is Seattle Yellow Cab. Yes, the cars are bright yellow.
The Downtown area has a whole load of different companies operating, including Farwest Taxi and Orange Cab.
If you’re unsure about getting a taxi, you should ask at your hostel, hotel or guesthouse for a recommended company you should use. You could even ask them to call your cab for you if you wanted.
Is public transportation in Seattle safe?
If you don’t want a taxi, there is a selection of comprehensive public transport options to try out, most of which are safe and stress-free. On certain parts of this system, however, you will have to watch out for pickpockets – and shady characters – at night time.
However, that’s pretty much the norm when it comes to using public transport, in any city, late at night.
First of all, let’s take a look at Seattle’s buses. This comprises a county-run service that has a flat rate across the city; there is a peak and an off-peak price. To pay, you will need exact change or get yourself an ORCA Card.
Then there’s light rail. The light rail system in Seattle runs from the airport all the way to Seattle University, with stops also in the Downtown area and other busy neighbourhoods.
Then there’s the really exciting one: the Seattle streetcar. This was a historic way to get around, but it went away only to come back in a revived form in 2017. It’s got two lines, with more planned for the future. The streetcar stops every 15 minutes, making it pretty convenient.
Finally, there’s the train. The regular old train provides a commuter service that runs north and south of the city. The trains are clean, convenient, and pretty safe to use.
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 Seattle safe?
Seattle is known as a top destination for foodies and it’s not hard to see why. Its location close to lots of freshwater lakes and rivers, as well as the sea, means you get a ton of fresh fish and seafood going on here.
Let us also not forget that Seattle is the birthplace of Starbucks: coffee is king here. So to help you traverse the food and drink landscape of Seattle, here are a few tips…
- If you’re travelling on a budget head to one of Seattle’s many bakeries. Pair with a take-out coffee and enjoy the coupling in a nearby park. This is an easy (and very tasty) breakfast option.
- For more bargain advice, we’d say head to somewhere Italian for a lunch deal. Not only is the Italian American food here very tasty, but it’s also affordable.
- Don’t be afraid to try Chinese food in Seattle – it’s amazing. You won’t have to worry about food hygiene at all because a) it’s a developed city with rules and regulations and b) Chinese food is often cooked hot and fast, which is good for you.
- Be aware that portion sizes can be huge. If you’re travelling as a couple (or more) you can order just one dish, and maybe a side salad, to share. Easy – and cheap.
- Don’t get stuck in tourist traps. These sorts of restaurants are to be found around the Space Needle and just won’t be offering up the same sort of quality that you’d find in, say, a normal restaurant not geared towards charging tourists over the odds what you can get a couple of blocks away for much cheaper.
- If you’re feeling overwhelmed of just what you should be trying, book yourself onto a food tour. There are a whole lot of places to try out, so getting a tour around when you first arrive will put you in a better position to explore the food scene afterward.
- Wash your hands. Exploring a city all day, touching handrails, opening doors, your hands can get pretty grubby. Wash them before you eat and avoid you being the one who upsets your stomach.
Go easy on the food when you first arrive because you probably will want to eat everything. Be kind to your stomach, otherwise, it won’t be kind to you. Discover different street snacks, avoid gaudy tourist restaurants, explore different international cuisines – it’s awesome.
Can you drink the water in Seattle?
You can drink the water in Seattle!
It’s treated with chlorine and fluoride even though Seattle water almost exclusively comes directly from the Cedar River and South Fork Tolt River. But it’s pretty good!
If you’re in a house older than, say, 1910, lead pipes could slightly contaminate the water. Check with your accommodation and ask if the water’s potable. Chances are they’ll have a water filter anyway.
To conclude: the water is safe to drink in Seattle. You might want it filtered, but we don’t think it’s necessary. Bring a refillable water bottle and fill it up wherever you want. If you don’t have one, we’ve put together a list of the best travel water bottles to help you out.
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Is Seattle safe to live?
We have mentioned it quite a lot already, but one thing you probably won’t have to worry about in Seattle is crime. This city has a pretty low crime rate and as a result, has a ton of safe neighbourhoods to choose from.
You’re more likely to experience crime to do with property, rather than violent crime, in Seattle. Things like car break-ins are not uncommon. Residents of the city are often told to lock their car doors, keep valuables hidden and park in well-lit parking spots. However, cars even get broken into in broad daylight.
The homeless population, which we’ve already spoken about, and the panhandlers, are not altogether dangerous and will mainly leave you alone if you choose to live in Seattle.
Hassle can occur, but it’s not usual. However it is illegal, so you can choose to report to the police.
There’s also the “Seattle freeze” that we mentioned for solo travellers earlier. People may thaw to a traveller passing through, of course, but the “freeze” – apparent unfriendliness – is a thing and you’ll notice it if you live there. However, you’ll also notice that it stems from people just getting on with their lives. Make friends with people, and they’ll be as friendly as anybody else.
To summarise there’s a pretty low crime rate, some quirky locals, some amazing food, a great location for getting out into nature. Not only is Seattle a safe place to live, but it’s also a pretty awesome place to base yourself, too!
Is it safe to rent an Airbnb in Seattle?
It’s perfectly safe to rent an Airbnb in Seattle. Not only do you get plenty of homes to choose from, you can also enjoy a very safe and easy booking process. You can check each home for ratings and reviews from previous guests, so you’ll know exactly what to expect before you arrive.
Of course, it pays off to do a bit of research on the neighborhood you’re going to stay in. Obviously, if the area isn’t safe, your Airbnb might not be as safe as you want it to be. Again, check the ratings and reviews from previous guests to see if anyone has issues during their stay. If you can’t find anything, you’re good to go!
Is Seattle LGBTQ+ friendly?
You’ll be pleased to know that Seattle is one of the gay-friendliest cities in the country. There are plenty of LGBTQ+ bars, clubs, and accommodations. Of course, you’ll always come across one or the other idiot that thinks it’s okay to leave a nasty comment, but you’ll definitely be safe and welcome in Seattle as a member of the LGBTQ+ community.
FAQs on Seattle’s Safety
Planning a safe trip to Seattle can get quite overwhelming. That’s why we’ve listed and answered the most frequently asked questions on safety in Seattle.
So, is Seattle Safe?
Seattle is one of the safest of America’s larger cities. It’s a pretty walkable place where you’re not likely to encounter a high level of violent or even petty crime. However, that sort of statement always needs to come with a “but”…
Which is that crime can happen anywhere. Seattle can get a fair few pickpockets and strange individuals on public transport, and travelling around late at night can be a good way to attract the attention of oddballs and potentially dangerous characters. There’s also its big homeless community. The best way to avoid all of this stuff is to go nowhere near “The Jungle” and avoid travelling late at night.
That’s the main thing about Seattle. Danger, or more to the point petty crime, is only likely to come to you if you choose to put yourself in a more risky situation. After dark = sketchy. Homeless areas = sketchy. Busy tourist areas = maybe pickpockets. Be smart with how you travel around. Keep our safety guide for Seattle in mind, be aware of things that can happen, and most likely you’ll be 100% fine!
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!
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