Watch just one episode of Law and Order, and I can see why you’d begin to wonder, “Well gee, is New York safe?”.
And not gonna lie.
If I was bombarded by images of fictional women getting murdered in Central Park, I’d be a bit concerned too.
However, putting fictional police officers and criminals of the most devious kind aside, I can assure you that New York is a pretty safe city, at least as far as major cities go.
I mean, is it 100% safe?
No, of course not! But I’d also argue that most major world metropolises are not 100% safe and have some inherent risk associated with them.
Frolic through parts of the Bronx, Harlem, and Brooklyn at 3:00 am and yes, you might run into more than a few problems.
Which is why I’m here to help!
Because as someone who has lived in New York City for well over twenty years (If I say anymore, then you may be able to accurately guess my age), I have never personally run into any issues when it comes to my safety.
Shocking I know, but, thankfully, 100% true.
Sure, I’ve encountered catcalling and always watch my belongings like a hawk when I’m in public places (This is probably why I’ve never had anything stolen).
But in general:
I’ve never personally never be affected by a violent crime while in NYC.
Which is one of the many reasons why I’ve created this post for you.
I want to help you answer the question, “Is New York Safe? and give you actionable, insider, NYC safety tips so that the Big Apple doesn’t take a big BITE out of you while you’re visiting.
That beyond lame pun was 100% intended, so feel free to throw some pity laughs my way.
Enough of my incessant rambling because you’ve got places to go and things to do.
Let’s, swan dive, with the utmost enthusiasm, into this post, which is filled with (hopefully) helpful, NYC safety tips from a local.
Since I am incapable of making it rain money, there’s a high chance that this post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure for more information. As an Amazon Associate, I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases.
***Not sure where to stay in NYC? Then check out 414 Hotel (Rooms at this chic, Hell’s Kitchen hotel start at $159 per night and include fridges, flat-screen TVs and iPod docks. There’s even a working fireplace in the lobby!), The James New York(Chic, modern rooms at this Soho hotel start at $177 per night and feature high ceilings, floor to ceiling windows, glassed-off bathrooms, plush linens made from natural materials, and more), The Bowery Hotel, (Rooms at this 5-star, Nolita hotel start at $300 per night and are cozy, but stylish, with free Wifi, free bike rentals, exquisite city views, and more). and Pod 39 (Located in Murray Hill, this pod hotel sits inside a residential home from 1918. Rooms here start at $120 per night and are cozy and outfitted with queen-size beds or stainless-steel bunk beds with individual TVs and bedside shelves).***
But Wait, How Safe is New York right NOW?
So while I may be a bit biased because I am indeed, a local New Yorker, I personally don’t think that New York is City is any more or less dangerous than any other major city in the United States.
Will you need to be on the lookout for pickpockets and keep your eyes on your personal belongings at all times?
Should you ride the subway alone after 12:00 pm at night?
Should you walk around alone, at night, in some of the sketchier parts of the city?
Again, probably not.
This is all common sense stuff that you probably wouldn’t do in most major cities.
If you stay vigilant, remain aware of your surroundings, keep an eye on your belongings, and avoid walking around the city alone at night, then your visit to New York City should be just as blissfully uneventful as any other trip you take.
Because in truth:
YES, New York is a very safe place.
So much so that you might actually be a little be disappointed by just how safe it really is.
Much of the grit and grime that people one associated with New York is from decades past and is now, thankfully, no longer (much of) an issue.
As a result of horrific tragedies like 9/11, there is still a very strong police presence across the city.
If you do run into any issues, your problem will, more than likely, be resolved fairly quickly.
Let’s stop talking in abstractions and start looking at some facts and figures just so that I can REALLY put your mind at ease.
Because, as of right this minute, New York City has a population of 8.623 million people (thanks Google), making it THE single largest city in the United States.
And with any big city comes some semblance of crime.
After former mayor, Giuliani’s crackdown on crime in 1994, violent crimes in New York City actually plummeted, between 1994 and 2004, by more than 50%.
And as of 2019:
Only 318 homicides were actually reported throughout the city, a statistic that may seem a bit high to some people but that is in actuality quite low, especially when you consider the size of NYC’s population.
Current crime rates (which actually rose from 2018 to 2019) are just as low as they were in the 1950s.
According to the numbers, New York City really is an incredibly safe place to visit.
That also doesn’t mean that you should totally throw caution to the wind and do whatever the hell you want while in the city that, quite literally, never sleeps.
Here are some local, NYC Safety Tips that I myself have used while going about my daily life in NYC.
NYC Safety Tips from a Local!
1. Avoid Sketchy Neighborhoods, Especially at Night.
Kind of obvious as far as NYC safety tips go.
Alas, you know me, I like to keep it real.
And if I’m being brutally honest:
Not every place in New York City is totally safe.
Because while some parts of New York City have undergone quite a bit of gentrification within recent years (for better or worse), there are still some areas in NYC that you 100% do NOT want to visit.
While some formerly not-so-nice areas like Greenpoint have now become total hipster heavens, places like Alphabet City can still be shady AF in the evening.
And while I personally have never encountered a problem walking around the Lower East Side at night, I have heard of people getting mugged in places like Hell’s Kitchen.
Moral of the story? Just be extra careful when walking around some of these neighborhoods at night.
Also, some other parts of New York City that you might want to avoid include:
Hunts Point (in the Bronx), Mott Haven (again, the Bronx), Tremont (do you see a pattern here because this neighborhood is also in the Bronx), Fordham (Still in the Bronx and filled with tons of drug dealers in the evening), Woodlawn-Nordwood (In the Bronx and it really depends on where you are since I used to hang out in Woodlawn ALL THE TIME and felt totally safe), High Bridge (on the border of Manhattan and the Bronx), Bedford Park (the Bronx), Brownsville (right near Crown Heights in Brooklyn), Soundview (the Bronx), and the South Bronx.
Trust me when I tell you that these are parts of New York that you probably wouldn’t want to add to your NYC itinerary anyway.
Which is why:
It won’t really be a huge loss if you don’t visit.
***Brief Aside: Okay, so I know I made the Bronx sound HORRENDOUS and totally un-safe with the above list. But I promise, not all parts of this Borough are totally unsafe. Because in reality, the Bronx has some amazing places to visit like the Bronx Zoo, the Botanical Gardens, Arthur Avenue (for Italian food), Yankee Stadium (There’s a reason why the team was known as the Bronx Bombers back in the day), and so much more!***
2. Be EXTRA Careful When Crossing the Street (Because this Sh*t is Bananas, B-A-N-A-N-A-S)
If I know one thing about New York City, it’s that both the traffic and drivers are next-level crazy.
It is not at all unheard of for a rogue taxi to totally blow through a red light at 40 mph, regardless of who is and is not walking through the crosswalk.
Add in a population of locals who routinely cross the street against lights and who dart in and out of traffic like a real-life version of Frogger, all while having their faces buried in their iPhones, and you have a recipe for disaster, at least if you’re not from the city and don’t do this on the reg.
Even though I know you’re not actually a five-year-old and probably really did learn how to cross the street in first grade, I would still suggest playing it safe by a) always looking both ways and b) waiting for the signal to change before EVER crossing the street.
Because unless you’re used to instantaneously bolting across the street as soon as there is a break in traffic, you may, in fact, not be able to do so.
Which is why:
You may just end up in the hospital instead.
WOMP, WOMP, WOMP.
Which is never fun since let’s be real. ain’t nobody got time to spend their entire NYC vacation in either a full-body cast or an iron lung.
3. Remain Vigilant in Tourist Hotspots That are Frequented by Pickpockets
Not surprisingly, I’ve been a New Yorker my whole life.
And as such:
I’ve always been told to keep a close eye on my personal belongings and never let them out of my sight, not even for a second.
Unless of course:
I desperately need to go to the bathroom and have a close friend handy.
Heeding the call of nature aside, I suggest that you do the same.
And this holds especially true for areas like Times Square, the Meat Packing District, Chinatown, Madison Square Garden, and the Garment District; places that routinely receive a high number of tourists and as such, are routinely frequented by pickpockets.
Some of whom will try and rob you while you’re watching a street performance.
Others still will work in teams where one pickpocket will cause a disturbance while the other separates you from your belongings as you stop and stare at all the commotion that is going on around you.
Which is just one of the over 10,000 reasons why you should never carry all of your credit cards and cash on you at any given moment (or anything in your back pocket for that matter).
Always leave some cash and credit cards tucked away in the safe, back at your hotel room.
If the worst should happen and something does get stolen, you’ll still have some access to money while you’re in a foreign city.
This is also why…
4. Use Top Travel Safety Gear to Keep You (and your money) Safe in New York City!
I think one of the many reasons why I’ve never had an issue with petty theft in New York City is that I’m uber-paranoid and never leave the house without rocking some of my fave safety gear, items that I personally think are total travel essentials for women.
“And what are these safety items of awesome that perpetually protect me (Look at that fancy schmancy alliteration I just threw in there! See, now I really can say that my college education is finally paying off) from anyone who would like to separate me from my precious valuables?” you may be rightly wondering.
In addition to doing some very, DUH, common sense type of things, like watching your belongings, carrying anything of importance on your person (Unless of course, you don’t need it for the day. Then, be sure to store any non-essential valuables in your hotel safe), and always using anti-theft travel products, you could also use the following, uber-helpful products.
- Pacsafe messenger bag – Sure, it may not be the most stylish bag on the planet, but that doesn’t really matter since this bag does a superb job of keeping your valuables safe. See, this fantastic little day bag actually has a wire that runs through the strap, to help prevent anyone from slashing your strap and running away with your bag! It also comes in a variety of different neutral colors (to help you avoid unwanted attention), has locking zippers, and multiple, hidden pockets that block RFID readers from scanning your personal information (When carrying large cameras and laptops, try using a locking electronics bag instead, Just be sure to wear this bag in front of you so that you can see your valuables at all times).
- A Personal Safety Alarm – Since you really can’t bring mace and pepper spray with you on a plane, this personal safety alarm is a good, TSA-approved, alternative. I mean, it’s small, easy to wear, easy to use, comes with three triple A batteries, and makes a loud noise when you press it during an emergency, thereby notifying others that you need help. Like, ASAP. Not that you will need this since violent crime against strangers is incredibly rare in New York City. But, it never hurts to be prepared for any eventuality, especially if you’re a solo female traveler!
- A lock to help secure your personal belongings (Just do yourself a favor and don’t forget the combination).
- RFID Blocking Wallet – So, while you probably won’t get pick-pocketed in NYC, it is possible that a thief may try and steal your credit or debit card information electronically, while all of your valuables are still safely tucked away in your bag. That’s why, an RFID blocking wallet is a total must-have when visiting New York City, especially since there is some uber-special, VooDoo magic about it that makes it totally immune to the very latest in scammer technology. Okay, in all seriousness, there’s really nothing super magical about this wallet. Instead, there’s just a special material inside the wallet’s exterior that helps block RFID scanners. And if you find yourself in the market for an RFID blocking wallet, then I personally recommend this Itslife, large, Women’s Wallet. I mean, not only is it big enough to hold all of my shi…I mean stuff, but it also comes in almost any color of the rainbow (or 30 different colors to be more precise), is totally multifunctional (so yes, it really can hold your cellphone), has RFID blocking capabilities, and is pretty fashionable too. Because, let’s be real, finding something stylish, yet functional, is always incredibly difficult to do. Plus, this wallet comes with a one year, money-back guarantee! So, if you’re ever dissatisfied in any way, just send it on back and you’ll get a full refund. That’s why, when you think about it, you really have nothing to lose and only Fort Knox level security to gain.
- Money Belt – Since I believe in complete honesty, I’m gonna be totally upfront with you and let you know right now that I don’t actually use a money belt. I mean, it’s not like there’s anything wrong with them since they keep your money out of sight, hidden beneath your clothing, and securely fastened to your person. However, I personally find them beyond annoying since I feel like I have to straight-up fondle myself any time I want to find my belt, unzip it, and grab enough cash to pay for that Diet Coke that I probably should not be drinking. A process that I will then have to suffer through again, five minutes later, when I suddenly get a wicked awful craving for a Twix. But, in spite of my personal grievances with them, they can be quite effective at protecting your belongings, So, if you can get over the minor hassles associated with using them, then they can be an incredibly handy safety device for anyone traveling to New York City. Conversely, you could also try the Active Roots Security Belt, which is basically like a regular belt, except that there is a zippered hidden pocket where you can store any extra cash that you may have on your person. Plus, this belt is just $16.00 and is, IMO, way easier to use and infinitely more stylish than any moneybelt that I’ve ever seen.
- A Good VPN – If you’re traveling to New York City from abroad and plan on using free Wi-Fi networks, rather than secure data connections, to navigate through the City that Never Sleeps, then a VPN is a fantastic way to help protect your electronic information. And Express VPN is a really great virtual private network that will help prevent identity theft and help keep your private information safe.
5. Don’t Forget Your Travel Insurance!
One of the first things that many of my readers ask me is, ” How is healthcare in New York?”
And the overly simplified answer to that more-than-a-little complicated question is, “Good, but it can be really pricey”.
Because unlike many countries in Europe:
Healthcare in the USA is private and, as a result, quite expensive.
While the overall quality of the care that you receive it quite good (Because in all seriousness, NYC is home to some of the best hospitals in the world) the bill that you get for those services can be shockingly steep.
Like, the debt of a small, developing country steep.
Just to put things in perspective, I was hospitalized for a week in 2011 for a kidney infection. I received nothing more than IV antibiotics during my stay and racked up a medical bill of over $30,000.
Because foolishly enough, I was uninsured at the time.
Moral of the story? For the love of God and all that is holy, ALWAYS get travel insurance BEFORE you visit the United States.
Also, make sure that the insurance that you do get explicitly covers travel within the United States since some policies do not. Or, if they do, they may require you to pay a higher premium.
That being said though:
If you do have a small problem or just need some over the counter medical advice, or medication, then you can always visit one of the many 24-hour pharmacies that are scattered throughout the city (Popular chains include Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid, Duane Reade, etc.).
They really aren’t all that hard to find and are quite literally on almost every other street corner.
Like I mentioned earlier, if you do need a medication that requires a prescription, you’ll definitely want to purchase travel insurance since the fees associated with a doctor’s visit and the purchase of prescription medication can be quite exorbitant (Understatement of the century. Think HUNDREDS of dollars).
And while you can avoid long hospital wait times by visiting an Urgent Care Clinic (They’re basically privately run walk-in clinics where staff can perform small medical procedures like run tests for common diseases, do x-rays, and put on a cast. FYI, they cannot do stitches since I went to one and they couldn’t help me), one visit can still easily cost you hundreds of dollars, depending on the treatment that you receive.
That being said though:
They are a great option if you have a relatively minor medical issue and would like to see a doctor as quickly as possible.
Most Urgent Care Clinics are quite accessible and can be found almost anywhere in the city (If you’re not sure where to go, just ask someone behind the front desk of your hotel).
If you have a SERIOUS medical emergency of any kind, skip the Urgent Care Clinic altogether and head straight for the emergency room of a local hospital.
If you are physically unable to get to a hospital then immediately dial 9-1-1.
In doing so:
You will instantly be connected to an emergency, medical operator who will ask you about your condition and then dispatch an ambulance to your location.
This service is NOT free and will usually cost you upwards of $1000, even if you don’t have a serious medical problem that requires surgery.
Which is why:
I’ve said before and I’ll say it again. You absolutely should get travel insurance before you visit New York City.
Because God forbid something unexpected happens:
You really don’t want to be stuck with an insanely expensive medical bill that you’ll then be paying off for the next ten years.
Yes, my friends:
We sarcastically call this the vacation gift that keeps on giving.
If you’re at all unsure of what travel insurance to buy (which makes total sense since there are about 10,000 different companies that offer it), then why not give World Nomads Travel Insurance a try?
Because believe it or not?
World Nomads travel insurance covers just about any destination that you could possibly want to visit (besides SUPER offbeat places like Pakistan), gives you an amazing level of coverage that includes almost any travel disaster possible, short of being impaled by a unicorn, is super customizable, and can be extended or changed while you’re still traveling.
However, the real question is, which plan should you get? Well, thankfully, World Nomads makes it incredibly easy.
Because If all of your gear is worth less than $1000, then get the basic plan.
If you’re a not-so-fancy travel blogger like me and your camera, laptop, tablet, and phone EASILY cost over a $1000, then the explorer plan is the way to go, especially since both plans offer $100,000 worth of emergency medical coverage.
What if you’re traveling the world long term, as a digital nomad, and just can’t afford the mildly high premium for World Nomads travel insurance EVERY SINGLE MONTH?
Luckily for you, SafetyWing Travel Medical Insurance is here to help!
Because just like many other brands of travel insurance:
Purchasing a policy from this amazing company means that you’ll be fully covered, even if you develop an unexpected illness or injury while you’re away from home.
All eligible hospital, doctor, and prescription drugs expenses will be paid for in full, by Safety Wing, if you happen to get ill, or injured while traveling (for a list of exclusions, please refer to their Description of Coverage).
SafetyWing also offers you comprehensive protection against various emergency, travel-related events like emergency medical evacuation, bedside visits, travel delay, lost checked luggage, trip interruption, political evacuation, personal liability, and more!
Pretty sweet, am I right?
But, “Why SafetyWing?”, I hear you rightfully wondering?
That is a totally understandable question since there are a TON of travel health insurance companies out there, and it’s hard to know which one will be right for you.
And one of the most amazing things about Safetywing is that it was created by digital nomads, FOR digital nomads.
Policies purchased through this company are not only inexpensive (Policies can cost as little as $37 per month for travelers age 18-39) and comprehensive, but SafetyWing also has an ongoing, automatic, monthly subscription service that makes it incredibly easy to maintain your insurance policy over a prolonged period of time (So say a fond farewell to continually reapplying for travel insurance at the start of each month).
Just sign up once, and the company will automatically re-enroll you until you choose to discontinue your policy, or until you’ve had your policy for a full calendar year.
And that’s just some of what SafetyWing offers (Check out their full policy to understand exactly what is and is not covered).
Because purchasing a policy with SafetyWing? Yeah, it gets even better!
See, not only will you enjoy coverage in almost any country that you might want to visit (except slightly random places like Iran, North Korea, and Cuba), but you’ll also receive $250,000 worth of coverage (There is also one low, annual, overall deductible of $250), and can even use private health care providers in countries where the public healthcare system maybe, eh, not so hot.
That being said, SafetyWing does have its limitations and will only cover some, non-medical problems, that you may encounter while traveling.
Things like trip cancellation and stolen travel gear are NOT covered with their policy.
If you’re over the age of 69, you will NOT be able to purchase a policy with them.
And if you do decide to visit the US, then you will actually have to cancel your current plan and buy an entirely new one since their basic plan does not include US medical insurance.
Not to worry though.
Because purchasing a new, SafetyWing plan for the United States is incredibly easy to do (FYI: Travel to the US adds $31 to the cost of your policy for every month that you use it).
So, the only question that remains is, “What are you waiting for?”
Go now, and purchase SafetyWing health insurance, at least if you want no-hassle, low-cost, comprehensive medical coverage that will always be there for you, just in case the very worst should happen (Hopefully nothing bad happens, but it’s always good to be prepared!).
6. Avoid Common NYC Scams
Shocking I know (imagine I said that with sarcasm literally pouring out of my mouth):
But like most major cities in the world, NYC to has its fair share of scams.
WOMP, WOMP, WOMP. Thankfully though:
I’m going to share some of the most common ones with you below so that you can stay far, far, far away from them.
Because not surprisingly:
One of my NYC safety tips is to avoid each and every one of the scenarios listed below.
- Pedicabs – Double yuck. I honestly can’t even understand how these man-powered carriages could appeal to anyone in the first place. But alas, it seems as though some of you just can’t seem to stay away. So, if you’re really keen on using one, then fine. However, do pay close attention to the cost of your ride. Because the sad fact is that most pedicab drivers actually charge by the minute. And yes. I really did just type minute. They’re also counting on the fact that you do NOT understand this so that they can charge you an obscene fee and present you with a huge AF bill once you’re done ogling the majestic beauty of Central Park. That’s why, I personally would recommend a scenic Citi Bike ride through Central Park instead, which will cost you a mere $12 per day and $24 for a three day period. However, if you do feel this deep, unrelenting urge to hire a pedicab, then always agree upon a rate before you get in and be sure to keep an extra close eye on that clock.
- Costumed Characters in Times Square – Oh boy, this is yet another phenomenon that I really just don’t understand. Because in all seriousness, any self-respecting New Yorker will never go willingly to Times Square and will always avoid it like the plague. And that’s during the best of times. Throw in some giant weirdos walking around in Elmo costumes and we’d basically do anything and everything in our power to avoid this crowded, overly touristy, super expensive part of the city. For tourists though, Times Square is massively appealing and a total, must-see. And one of the major draws here, oddly enough, are people dressed as costumed characters; ensembles that include everything from Elsa (of Frozen fame) to The Naked Cowboy, in all his glory and nakedness. And while you are absolutely, without a doubt, 100% allowed to take photos of these slightly coo-coo crazy people in public, pose for a picture with anyone of them and you are obligated to tip them. Sure, you could walk away without forking over some cash. But, do so and you’re guarenteed to see Elsa get beyond frozen with rage. Luckily for you though, Times Square is one of the most heavily policed areas in the city. So, if you’re hell-bent on NOT tipping and find yourself being harassed by any one of these enthusiastically dressed individuals, just find a local police officer to help you out and you’ll be good to go.
- Taxis – Thankfully, taxis are pretty heavily regulated throughout New York City and are, as a result, bright yellow in color, And the only time that you will see taxis of a distinctly non-yellow variety are in the outer boroughs, where taxis can vary in color, depending on the company. So yeah, the people who are asking you to hop in their taxi as you walk through baggage claim, are very much, not legit. Therefore, feel free to ignore them and head on over to the taxi kiosk just outside the airport, or any major transportation hub, instead (Personally, I’d skip the taxi altogether and just order an Uber or pre-book a seat on a shuttle bus. Because yes, taxis in NYC really are hella expensive). And, just in case you were wondering, all official NYC taxis come fully equipped with meters that will automatically calculate your fair. So, definitely avoid getting in any taxis where the driver claims that the meter is broken because yeah, it’s probably a scam.
- Buying Tickets to the Staten Island Ferry – Yeah, this iconic, NYC ferry is 100% free. So, anyone who is selling you “tickets” is obviously scamming you.
- Buying Tickets to Concerts, Sporting Events, or Broadway Shows from non-reputable vendors – Go to any ticketed event in New York City and you’ll likely see someone standing outside yelling, “Tickets, tickets here. Really good seats.”. And if you do buy these tickets, one of two things could happen. You could either pay way too much for your tickets, or you could get really cheap tickets for seats that don’t actually exist. Because yes, many of these beyond cheap tickets are totally fake. So, always be very wary of anyone who tries to sell you tickets and stick with reputable vendors like Stubhub, TodayTix, and TKTS, whenever possible.
- Do NOT withdraw money from Independent ATMS – If you see an ATM in a bodega or a store that is NOT affiliated with a bank, do NOT withdraw money from it. Because not only will these ATMs charge you insanely high withdrawal fees, but many of them will also steal your credit card information and PIN number. Therefore, if you’re desperate for some cash, always withdraw money from a reputable ATM that is attached to a bank.
7. Be Vigilant at Night, Especially Around ATMs
Although the likelihood of something bad happening to you while you’re in NYC is pretty slim:
You’ll still need to be extra-vigilant of your surroundings, especially in the evenings, when some less than savory characters may come out to play.
This NYC safety tip is particularly important for anyone withdrawing money from an ATM since many local thieves will actually hang around ATMs and patiently wait for unsuspecting tourists that they can then ambush and steal large amounts of cash from.
And if you do need to walk around NYC in the evening:
Then always stick with the crowds, be sure to keep your valuables well hidden (cough, your smartphone, cough), never get into an empty subway car, always know where you’re going and have a route planned out in advance, avoid looking like a tourist (Read, no “I heart NY” shirts), and always walk along well-lit streets.
I really don’t mean to scare you will all this advice.
Because I promise:
NYC is an incredibly safe city.
I just want you to be extra careful and run into exactly zero problems while you’re there.
8. Never EVER Leave Anything Unattended
I know I’ve said it before, but this is so important that I’ll say it again.
And If you only listen to one of my NYC safety tips, let this be it.
Because if you leave ANYTHING unattended in New York City, even for a second, then the chances of it completely disappearing are pretty dang good.
Which is why:
It’s always important to keep a close eye on your belongings, and to keep them securely fastened to your person at all times.
Bags dangling off the back of your chair or hanging off your shoulder are just not gonna cut it in NYC.
At least not if you actually want to hang onto your possessions.
Yeah, New York is super awesome…just not when you leave your belongings unattended.
So Tell Me, Is New York Safe To Travel Alone?
So while I may be a bit biased since I’ve lived and traveled alone in NYC practically my whole life (without any major catastrophes), I still think that overall, New York City is an incredibly safe place for solo travelers.
Sure, you’ll definitely have to keep an eye on your belongings and yes, you will need to be aware of your surroundings, but on the whole, NYC is a great place to visit for anyone traveling alone.
If you’re still not convinced of the pure awesomeness that is NYC solo travel, then here are some additional NYC safety tips that will help keep you safe as you take a bite out of the big apple (Yes, lamest pun ever. But come on! We all know how I love beyond lame puns).
- Stay at a Wicked Awesome Hostel – First of all, hotels in New York City are next level expensive. So, unless you’re a Rockefeller, I seriously doubt that you’ll be able to afford anything other than a hostel when traveling alone to NYC. However, if you are an uber-awesome, super fiscally responsible person who can afford to rock out in a super-chic hotel, then hostels have the added benefit of being incredibly social places where you can easily connect with other travelers, as well as friendly locals who work there. However, per usual, before booking a room at any hostel, always read their most recent reviews and make sure that it’s a place where you’d actually like to stay. Because if you’re a hardcore introvert like me, then a total party hostel is a place that you may want to avoid. And if you need a little help deciding where to stay, then check out my list of the 10 best hostels in NYC!
- Go on a Tour – If you’re feeling a bit lonely then you can always book an organized tour or join a free walking tour through your hostel. Both are safe and easy ways to learn all about the incredibly diverse history and culture of this amazing city. Plus, you’ll probably make some awesome friends along the way too, So I mean, really, what do you have to lose? Just make sure that you read all of the tour reviews beforehand so that you can book the right tour for you. And if you’re a die-hard foodie like me, then check out my local’s guide to 10 of the best food tours in NYC.
- Watch Your Belongings Like a HAWK – When you’re traveling alone, you don’t really have a built-in wingman (or woman) to watch out for you and help you make sure that you’re belongings are safe. Therefore, you’ll need to be extra careful when it comes to your valuables and always make sure to keep them in an extra safe place. You should also never ever carry all of your money and credit cards on you at any given time. Because if the worst should happen and your belongings do get stolen, you won’t have access to money of any kind. So, be smart, stay safe, and always keep some money and credit cards securely stowed away in the safe, back at your hotel.
- Don’t Party TOO Much like a Rockstar – If you’re walking around alone, at night, and wasted beyond belief, then you’re obviously going to be an easy AF target for any potential criminals. So, keep the drinking to a minimum and try not to walk around NYC late at night, especially if you’re alone.
- Have Emergency Numbers on your Phone – Save all of your emergency contacts on your phone and make sure that they are easily accessible, like at the top of your contacts list, so that you can quickly find them if you encounter a problematic situation.
- Let Your Hotel Know Where You’re Going and When They Should Expect You – This way if something does happen and you don’t make it back to your hotel, staff members can quickly notify the police and send someone to look for you.
- Get Off the Beaten Path and Go Where the Locals Go – Chat with the staff at your hostel and see if you can find some hidden gems to explore. And if you need any help, then read my local’s guide to 30 Unusual Things to do in New York City!
- Keep in Touch with People from Home – Look, it happens. We all get a little bit lonely sometimes. I think it’s just part of the human condition. So, if you’re feeling a bit down, then why not give your friends and family at home a call? I’m sure they would love to hear from you. Plus, it will keep you grounded and help you feel less alone when you’re in a city that puts the ass back in massive.
Is New York Safe for Solo Female Travelers?
The short answer is, absolutely!
I mean, look at the women from Sex and the City. They lived alone in NYC and had one hell of a bangin’ time!
Get it? Anyway, on a slightly more serious note.
I personally have lived in New York City for well over twenty years (It’s been a lot longer but if I give you any more information then you may be able to figure out my actual age) and have never really encountered any serious issues.
And just in case you were wondering:
Yes, i really did spend much of that time both living and traveling alone around the city.
Like with solo travel to any major city, there are some safety issues that you’ll need to consider and certain precautions that you’ll need to to take if you want to get jiggy with the city that never sleeps (Yup, I really did just reference Will Smith a la the early 90s).
If you’re thinking of traveling alone to New York City, then here is a list of NYC safety tips for solo female travelers that will help keep you extra safe.
- Never Leave Your Drink Unattended – I know this is kind of a DUH NYC safety tip, But, it is not unheard of for women in NYC to get more in their cocktail than they asked for. So, avoid any roofie laden drinks by always buying your own drinks, never leaving your drink unattended, and by saying a swift, “no thank you” to any free drinks from strangers. Sure, a complimentary drink may feel like a beautiful gift from the heavens above, but sadly, more often than not, it’s just plain old dangerous and not worth the risk.
- Trust Your Gut – If either a situation or a person is making you feel uncomfortable, then speak up or get yourself out of there. Because nine times out of ten, when your intuition is telling you something, it’s usually for a very good reason and you should 100% listen.
- Don’t Tell People You’re Traveling Alone – Yeah, while that complete stranger that you just met might seem super awesome, in all actuality, he could be a living reincarnation of Jack the Ripper. Therefore, always be careful of what you say and to whom. Because if you go around telling everyone that you travel alone, that leaves you incredibly susceptible to danger. I mean, if people know that no one is expecting you or looking for you, then it is a whole lot easier for them to harm you and actually get away with it. And now that I think of it, you also don’t want to overshare about your plans by giving people explicit details about where you’re staying, or where you’re from because you never when, surprise, a not so welcome visitor might show up on your doorstep.
- Don’t walk around alone at night – This is an absolute no-brainer and you already know this. So, just use common sense with this one, avoid walking along unfamiliar/dimly lit streets at night, and you should be just fine.
- Walk with Purpose – NYers are ALWAYS in a rush, even when they have nowhere to be. So, if you walk quickly, with your held high and like you don’t have time for anyone’s sht*t, then you should be just fine. Because not only will you look a whole lot more like a local, but you’ll also appear way too busy for any unwanted attention from people (Yes cat-calling construction workers, I’m talking about you), which is why rando strangers will be more inclined to leave you alone.
- Meet Your New Best Freind, Google Maps – But again, use common sense. So, if Google Maps takes you down a shady AF neighborhood, then skip it and stick to some busier, well-lit roads instead. Remember, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
- Carefully Read Reviews of Local Hostels – It doesn’t hurt to doublecheck and make sure that any hostel you stay in is a safe place for solo female travelers. Because while a hostel may claim that it is a paradise for solo females, reviews from fellow travelers are likely to be infinitely more honest and will let you know if there are any security issues or if there is a beyond creepy member of staff that you should avoid. Whatever you do though, always book a room wherever you feel the safest, with a female-only dorm likely being the safest option of them all.
Is it Safe to Drive in New York?
I hate driving in New York City almost as much as I hate healthy food.
So yeah…a lot.
But can you blame me? I mean, not only is the traffic insane, but I find myself forever driving the wrong way down a one-way street.
Sprinkle in some insane drivers, copious amounts of traffic, confusing signs, pedestrians who dart out in the middle of the road whenever there is a break in traffic, a distinct lack of parking spaces, and exorbitant parking fees, and you have a situation that resembles something of an absolute nightmare.
While it is 100% safe to drive in New York, it can be a HUGE hassle. That’s why I always use public transportation instead.
If you DO decide to drive in NYC, always:
- Keep Your Eyes on the Road – New Yorkers are always in a rush and as a result, won’t hesitate to dart across the road as soon as there is a break in traffic. So, never take your eyes off the road, even for a second. Especially since many one-way streets will be littered with double-parked cars and rogue bicyclists.
- Adhere to the Speed Limit, which is 30 MPH – Yeah, the speed limit is pretty low in the City. But, that makes sense when you begin to drive around and see that you share the road with crazy AF pedestrians, food carts, buses, taxis, food delivery people, and more. So, go slow because the streets of NYC are a wild, wild, world indeed.
- Technically, Pedestrians Have the Right of Way – Yeah, so while cars are supposed to stop for pedestrians, 99% of them don’t. However, I always suggest that you obey local traffic laws, especially if you’re not from the area. And in this instance, that means yielding for anyone who is crossing the street (FYI, this also means that when you’re walking across the street, you should ALWAYS watch out for cars since they will probably NOT stop for you. Unless of course, they are legit, about to hit you).
- Don’t Expect to Find a Parking Space – Not only are parking spaces incredibly difficult to find, but many streets actually have about twenty different, nearly unintelligible signs that make it almost impossible for you to understand where and when you can actually park there. And when you finally do find a spot, make sure that your car is extra secure because, although unlikely, carjackings and break-ins can occur. So moral of the story? Be prepared to pay upwards of $10 per HALF HOUR for a not-so-luxe parking spot in a local garage.
- Be Prepared for Rush Hour – Talk about the WORST time of day to drive. Because no exaggeration, you can literally get stuck in traffic for hours at a time if you plan on driving, in the city, during a weekday, between the hours of 7:00 am and 9:00 am and 4:00 pm and 7:00 pm. Come to think of it, you really should avoid the bus as well since they too can get caught up in all the traffic.
- Pay Your Parking Meters – Yeah, NYC parking enforcement officials will show you no mercy and will not hesitate to leave you a hefty fine if you either don’t pay your meter or let it expire. So yeah, no matter what, always be sure to have more than enough money in your parking meter.
Is Uber Safe in New York?
I use Uber all the time and love it, especially since it’s WAY cheaper than a taxi.
Your uber driver can sometimes look a whole lot like the driver of a random car.
To avoid getting in a car with someone who is very much NOT your uber driver, always verify the information that you have about the car on your app with the information that you have about the car in front of you, and make sure that they match.
Important things like the name of the driver, the type of car, the license plate number, etc.
This step is even more important if you’re catching an uber early in the morning, after a long night out on the town (Insert a winkie emoji here, you wild child you).
Are Taxis Safe in New York?
Taxis are totally safe in New York City.
At least, as long as you get inside an official, New York City taxi.
Luckily for you though:
Official NYC taxis are super easy to find since they are bright yellow and have an official ID number that sits adjacent to the light-up sign on the roof of the car (It’s the sign that tells you whether or not the taxi is vacant).
You can also look for a license sticker, which will be clearly displayed along the inside of the car’s windshield.
If you do not see this sticker for any reason, IMMEDIATELY get out of the car and find another cab.
Like, this is NOT a drill.
Also, while there are some legit companies that do not use yellow taxis, I always try to play it safe and stick with the iconic yellow cabs instead.
If you do find yourself in need of a cab, you can always hail one from the street (Just stand at the edge of the sidewalk, extend your arm straight out, and wave at the cabs as they pass by so that they know you’re looking for a ride) or grab one at a designated taxi stand.
And while I don’t personally recommend taking a cab, since they are more than a little expensive:
If you do need to use one, they will typically have a set base fare, that additional fees are then added to by a working meter, based on the distance that you travel.
If the meter is “broken”, definitely get out of the cab since any legitimate cab in NYC will have a working meter.
If you can, avoid taking a taxi to and from the airport since it is needlessly expensive.
Try to pre-book a wonderfully convenient, infinitely cheaper, shuttle bus service as you travel in and out of NYC (FYI, the trip may take a little longer since the shuttle bus has to drop off all of the passengers individually).
Trust me, do this and you’ll want to thank me later.
Is Public Transportation in New York Safe?
The short answer is yes, but you need to stay vigilant.
Because of all the public transportation options that are available to you in the city, you’ll probably use New York City’s subway the most (Buses are great but they are forever getting stuck in traffic).
Is it enormous beyond belief and difficult to use at times?
You betcha! But, if you have a working Metrocard and Google Maps handy, then you should be able to navigate New York City’s complex subway system, no problem.
That being said though:
Do always listen to public service announcements made over the speaker system. Because much to everyone’s inconvenience, subway services in New York City can change daily and may be different from what is shown on Google maps (You can also visit Subway Time for real-time information on any NYC subway changes and closures).
And if Google Maps doesn’t provide you with ample subway guidance:
Then you can always download an NYC Subway Map app like Pigeon Transit, SUBWAY: NYC, New York City Subway Map, Citymapper, Transit, New York Subway MTA.
Pay close attention to the subway station that you’re entering since some subway stations don’t provide you with access to trains going in BOTH directions.
Super annoying but totally true. It’s also something that you should always be aware of since finding out you’re going the wrong way on the subway is basically like the worst thing ever.
Especially since a single ride will cost you a hefty $2.75.
Now, in terms of safety, some subway stations are safer than others.
Most petty crimes actually occur at NYC’s busier stations, places like 34th Street-Penn Station, 161st Street-Yankee Stadium, Times Square-42nd Street, Grand Central-42nd Street, etc.
While violent crimes are incredibly rare, you will need to keep a close eye on your belongings since pickpockets are more than a little common. This is especially true during rush hour when the subway is chocker box full of people.
And if you want to look like a super snazzy local while riding the subway:
Always have your Metro Card out and ready to go, because New Yorkers? Yeah, we don’t like to wait for anything. We are also entirely too busy for small talk.
Avoid making eye contact, keep to yourself, and always be aware of your surroundings if you want to look and feel like a real New Yorker.
Not surprisingly, the subway in NYC runs twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year.
Available services do change a great deal between midnight and 6:00 am.
While everything doesn’t magically, POOF, disappear, a la Cinderella at midnight, express trains will become local trains, wait times will become longer, and service to some stations will stop altogether.
If you should ever find yourself at a subway station after midnight, then you should always stand near other people, avoid boarding an empty subway car (You shouldn’t do this during the day either since there’s probably something wrong with it), watch out for any super creepy creepers, and never fall asleep.
Because then when you wake up, you just might find all of your belongings totally MIA.
As a result:
Nine times out of ten, I’d just avoid riding the subway after midnight and order an Uber instead.
***While there are over 6,000 buses that cover more than 320 routes throughout New York City, I never really use them since they can get stuck in copious amounts of traffic. However, if you do want to ride the bus, you can always use your Metro Card to board one and should always be wary of pickpockets since buses can get quite crowded. And if you need more expert advice on how to use the NYC subway like a local, then read this article right now!***
Is the Food in New York Safe?
O-M-G, hell to the yeah it is!
New York is also home to some of the most delicious food that you’ll eat in your entire life. And yes, that is an actual FACT.
If you don’t have visions of cronuts, pretzels, cheesecake, pizza, and bagels swirling through your head, then you really should.
Because spoiler alert:
They are all here and they are all awesome.
The city that never sleeps definitely has that going for it too.
Do try and avoid Times Square, as well as various chain restaurants, since the food is overpriced and the quality tends to be less than stellar.
And if you have absolutely no idea where to eat in NYC:
Then, no worries because, DUH, I’ve got a post for that!
So, if you have a moment:
Feel free to check out my extensive guide to 20 of the best brunch spots in New York City!
Other tips for eating out in New York City include:
- Go Where the Locals Go – Obvious I know, but still true since locals live here, have to stay on a budget, and know where all the good, reasonably priced foodie hot spots are. And if you see one hella epic queue somewhere, be sure to stop because locals are lining up here for a reason.
- Avoid Hot Dog Vendors – Honestly, I’ve never seen the appeal of them and think hot dogs are gross in general. But, I’m also a vegetarian so I’m probably biased. However, even when I did eat meat, I thought dirty-water dogs (AKA hot dogs) were kind of lame. And with so much other delicious street food in NYC, do you really want to waste your precious few daily calories on a mediocre at best hot dog? Yeah, I didn’t think so.
- Try and Eat at Places with a Health and Safety Grade of A or B from the NYC Department of Health – Trust me, you do NOT want to start off your trip to NYC with a beyond awful case of food poisoning. Because, let’s be real, seeing nothing but the inside of a bathroom for days at a time is really no one’s idea of a good time. So, if you see a restaurant that has a health and safety grade of below a B, then play it safe and try to avoid them.
- Visit Independent Restaurants and Coffee Shops That You Can’t Find Anywhere Else – And if you need help finding a wicked awesome coffee shop in NYC, then check out this post right now!
- Wash Your Hands – I’m sure you know this but NYC is beyond dirty and gross. Therefore, you should either wash your hands or slather them in hand sanitizer before you sit down for any meal.
- Read Local Reviews – On the whole, New Yorkers are pretty vocal about anything that they don’t like. Accordingly, they will show no mercy for any restaurant where the food tastes like doo-doo. So, if you’re not sure where to eat in New York City, then you can always just read some of the restaurant’s most recent reviews and see what people are saying and if this might be a good place to eat.
Can You Drink the Water in New York City?
Because New York City actually has some of the highest quality drinking water in the entire country.
We pay exorbitant amounts of money in taxes for a reason.
Before you visit New York City, you should definitely add a refillable water bottle to your New York City packing list.
In using one, not only will you help save the planet, but you’ll also save yourself a boatload of money since bottles of water in NYC can cost upwards of $3.00.
That really is the price for ONE bottle of water.
If you’re not sure what type of refillable water bottle to get, then check out this Baiji Water Bottle right here!
Because this nifty little collapsible water bottle is a straight-up, modern technological miracle that is designed to take up minimal real estate in your bag, at least when you’re not using it,
Say good-bye to bulky water bottles that seem to take up endless amounts of space in your day bag and hello to the collapsible water bottle of your dreams.
Because when you’re not using it:
Just deflate this water bottle, roll it up, and, BAM, you now have a ton of space for other, uber-essential travel items, like snacks!
When you’re not using your water bottle, just take the handle strap, pass it under the rolled-up water bottle, and then hook the strap to the plastic ring that attaches the strap to the water bottle
And that’s it. Poof, you are now an NYC packing pro. PS:
This water bottle is also BPA free, freezable, and incredibly affordable at $14.97 for TWO water bottles (A portion of the company’s proceeds also go towards dolphin rescue organizations. So, see, this really is a company that you can feel good about buying from).
What are the Safest Neighborhoods in NYC?
Like I’ve said before:
New York City is probably a whole lot safer than you might imagine.
Which is why:
Whenever anyone asks me, “Is New York safe?” I can reply, with absolute certainty, “yes”.
And some of the safest nirghborhoods in New York City include:
- Gramercy Park – This is a small residential village on the lower east side of Manhattan. And while there isn’t a ton of stuff to do here, it’s still a nice place to relax and enjoy some of the area’s restaurants. This neighborhood is also right next door to the ever-bustling, Union Square Park, which is a fun place to explore.
- The Upper West Side – Running all along the west side of Central Park, between 59th street and 110th street, this is a vibrant area that has a ton of different things for visitors to explore. So, think restaurants, bars, stores, Central Park, Riverside Park, Lincoln Center, and more. But, it is also a very heavily residential area and is, perhaps, not the most exciting place to stay in NYC.
- Murray Hill – Nestled along New York’s east side, in mid-town, Murray Hill is a very centrally located, residential area that offers visitors easy access to iconic NYC destinations like Times Square, Broadway, the theater district, the New York Public Library, and more.
And there you have it, this concludes my epic list of NYC safety tips and my answer to the all important question, “Is New York Safe?”.
Which is an emphatic, “yes”, just in case you didn’t already get the memo.
So, if you found this post even a little bit useful, then pin this now and read it again later!
Monday 20th of April 2020
Thank you for sharing this helpful information!
Wednesday 22nd of April 2020
Thanks so much for reading.
Sunday 22nd of March 2020
Cat-calling construction workers hahaha! I think in every country they are (negative) legends because of that! Thanks for answering some of my questions since I have plans for NY in 2021 (COVID allowed!). Locals' guides are always handy and trustworthy.
Monday 23rd of March 2020
Oh good! I hope you eventually get there after all this Corona Virus induced madness subsides.
Saturday 21st of March 2020
It's so good to know that you can be safe here! I did myself a solo trip there a few years ago and I can only agree with you! Thanks for all the local tips!
Monday 23rd of March 2020
Happy to help and love a good solo trip to NYC! So much fun!
Saturday 21st of March 2020
You make so many good points! I totally agree and I can't see what the appeal is for the Costumed Characters in Times Square!
Monday 23rd of March 2020
Ugh, me neither. They creep me out beyond belief.
Saturday 21st of March 2020
I was reading along thinking "OK, never go to the Bronx, got it". But then I guess I can't think of any place in the Bronx that I was planning to visit anyway, so it's not a huge loss. And you're right, every city is going to have it's problem areas, and as long as you know what to avoid and where, you should be OK.
Monday 23rd of March 2020
Haha. I swear, there are some incredibly safe places to visit in the Bronx. And there is also a ton to see there like the Botanical Gardens, the Bronx Zoo, and Arthur Avenue, just to name a few. So you can for sure visit as long as you know where to go.