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Is NYC Safe For Travelers? 9 Things You Need To Know (From A Local)

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Is NYC safe for tourists? If you believe everything that the news and social media tell you, you might be concerned about safety in New York.

But as a native New Yorker, I'm here to tell you that the city is perfectly safe for travelers — as long as you use common sense and keep a few tips in mind, you will be fine!

Woman in front of subway in New York

(Also, don't miss reading my list of common NYC tourist mistakes to avoid!)

Here's what you need to know about safety in NYC right now:

1. “Dangerous” Areas Aren't Where Tourists Go

Tourists with bicycles in NYC

Every city has its sketchy neighborhoods, but they typically aren't areas where tourists go.

Most tourists in NYC stay in Manhattan below 96th Street and in waterfront neighborhoods of Brooklyn like Williamsburg, DUMBO, and Brooklyn Heights, which are right across from Manhattan.

These areas are perfectly safe. As a tourist, it's highly unlikely you'd ever end up in a neighborhood with a higher crime rate, such as Brownsville, Brooklyn, or the South Bronx because there's simply not much for tourists to do in these areas.

2. Isolated Crime Happens, But It's Rare

Plane flying over NYC

If you listen to sensationalized news reports or social media posts, you might think that New York is a crime-ridden city where you can't walk down the street without being mugged or attacked.

The truth is that most crimes are still isolated incidents.

While it's factually correct that crime has increased in New York since 2020, it's still not at a rate where you should feel unsafe — and crime in the city is still lower than it has been historically.

3. Don't Be Afraid To Take The Subway

NYC Subway

A lot of tourists are scared to take the subway in New York, and that really shouldn't be the case.

Taking the subway is a lot more efficient (and less expensive) than taking a taxi or Uber.

A few words of advice, though: Stay alert on the subway platform and on the train itself. Keep a tight hold on your belongings, especially during rush hour when it's crowded.

Oh, and never get in an empty subway car — it's empty for a reason.

4. Be Aware Of Your Surroundings At All Times

Crowded street in Little Italy

If you walk around New York looking clueless or not paying attention to your surroundings, you're more likely to become a target for a crime like pickpocketing.

Stay aware of your surroundings at all times.

Don't walk down the street staring down at your phone or looking visibly lost — if you aren't sure where you're going, take a moment to step aside or duck into a nearby store to get your bearings.

5. Keep Your Belongings Close

Woman walking through New York City

In addition to staying alert and aware of your surroundings, you should also keep a close eye on your belongings at all times.

You don't need to do anything extreme like wear a money belt or one of those travel scarves with a hidden pocket (that's a little overkill) but you should just take standard precautions like not keeping your wallet in your back pocket or walking around with a handbag that's unzipped.

Sometimes you might find yourself in a crowd and this is when you need to be extra vigilant about your belongings because it's a good cover for pickpockets.

6. Don't Walk Alone In Unfamiliar Areas At Night

NYC Street at Night

This is common sense advice for any city in the world, but you shouldn't walk around by yourself in unfamiliar areas at night in NYC.

Most of New York is perfectly safe to walk around at night — it's the city that never sleeps after all, and many neighborhoods are lively at all hours with plenty of other people walking around.

However, some neighborhoods and streets do get kind of desolate at night, so you should avoid walking around alone whenever possible.

7. Avoid Central Park At Night

The lake in Central Park

Another area you should generally avoid at night is Central Park.

The park is perfectly safe during the day (and sandwiched between some of the safest neighborhoods in NYC, the Upper East Side and the Upper West Side) but you shouldn't walk through it at night because it's technically closed and many areas of the park become empty and desolate at night.

If any crime happens in Central Park, it's definitely going to happen at night.

That being said, the southern end of the park closest to Midtown is in a touristy area and there will often be people in that part of the park, even at night, and it's also well-lit.

You just want to avoid wandering off on random dark pathways at night.

8. Know The Common Tourist Scams So You Can Avoid Them

times square nyc

Tourist scams are easily avoidable in NYC. Basically, you should be overly suspicious of anyone acting way too friendly or helpful or trying to give you something for “free.”

  • Don't be afraid to walk right past these people and ignore them — it's what the New Yorkers do.
  • Don't take photos with the characters in Times Square (they'll ask you for money afterward.)
  • Don't ever play street games like three-card monte or the shell game (you will lose your money.)
  • Ignore people who aggressively try to get you to sign a petition or contribute to a fundraiser (it's fake.)
  • Be wary of anyone who approaches you on the street (they're probably trying to scam you.)

Basically, just have some street smarts and you'll avoid falling prey to scams.

9. Try To Blend In As Much As Possible

Woman in New York City
New York, NY, USA – December 21, 2015: A large crowd of shoppers and tourists in Herald Square near Macy’s in New York City.

Finally, you should try to blend in as much as you can in New York to avoid drawing attention to yourself. Truthfully, it's pretty easy to spot a tourist in NYC, no matter what.

But there are things you can do to make sure you don't stick out. For one thing, walk quickly and with purpose, and whatever you do, don't stop and block the middle of the sidewalk.

When it comes to clothing, avoid the fanny packs and flip-flops, but other than that — it's New York, and anything goes. No matter what you wear, you'll be far from the craziest-dressed person in the city.

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