How Safe is New York for Tourists?

Updated: 20 febrero 2024

If you are thinking about coming to NYC, but are wondering “Is New York safe?” 

As local tour guides who live and work throughout New York City, we can say with first-hand knowledge, that yes, the city is safe to visit.

We lead thousands of people each day on our tours and hardly ever have our guests encounter any serious crime issues, other than the rare pickpocketing or tourist scam (which we go over below).

Think about it. Roughly 65 million people visit NYC each year. This number alone should tell you something.

Keep in mind that crime rates vary by neighborhood and your itinerary most likely won't include traveling to neighborhoods that are off the beaten track, so you should be quite safe in New York City. 

That's not to say that you should walk around Times Square with your purse open or your wallet or cell phone in your back pocket! 

Crime can happen anywhere in NYC - to visitors and locals alike. 

Know the lay of the land before you go somewhere, and always pay attention to what’s going on around you. Don’t leave your common sense at home! 

We are here to reassure you that NYC is safe, provided you follow some rules along with your common sense.

When we crafted this post we relied on the collective knowledge of our local guides, some of whom are native New Yorkers.

We also considered some of the tips and suggestions from members of our popular New York City Travel Tips Facebook group.

This group of over 200k members consists of locals, like our tour guides, regular visitors, and newbies to NYC who are happy to share their insights with others.

You don't need to become a member to read the posts, comments, and recommendations.

Now, onto answering your questions about safety in NYC and 8 tips on how to stay safe here.


And remember, you could also join other travelers on one of our pay-what-you-like walking tours.

New York Walking Tours

8 TIPS TO STAY SAFE IN NYC

1. Blend in with the locals

Many of you have heard this advice before. But it’s worth repeating. Locals can often pick out the tourists in a crowd.

While most of us mean visitors no harm and love welcoming them to the city, some folks will welcome the chance to pick your pockets or scam you.

When we travel abroad, we take our own advice! Here’s what to do to blend in.

Look like you know where you are going

To avoid looking lost (and getting lost!) in a new city, we review a map of the area we are going to before we leave our hotel.

We don’t over-plan, but having a general sense of the lay of the land means we don’t have to check a map every 5 minutes - something a local would never do.

Consider how locals dress and dress similarly

This advice is a bit controversial. After all, there's no one way that tourists dress!

Luckily for you, in NYC you’ll see people wearing every kind of clothing which means you can too.

Still, many New Yorkers do pay special attention to what they wear in certain circumstances.

For example, you might want to look a bit sharp when going to the theater. Though there isn't a Broadway dress code, we certainly wouldn't wear sneakers or flip-flops.

Practice proper camera etiquette

One big non-no: if you use an automatic camera, don’t hang it around your neck, as inconvenient as that may be.

Next, don't stop in the middle of the sidewalk to take a picture. No sane New Yorker would do that.

If you do, you will easily be identified as a tourist and a target of pickpockets.

For more than 100 thoughts on how to avoid looking like a tourist see what our Facebook Group members had to say!


2. Keep bags closed and valuables tucked away.

This is true for every big city in the world. It's second nature for us here in NYC to zip our purses and backpacks.

But some of you may live in a city or town where there is no need for concern that someone may stick their hand right onto your bag!

Well, having experienced the unusual feeling of stuff moving around in your bag on its own, we simply must remind you to adhere to this advice all the time.

Pickpocket Wallet

Many of us locals alert someone if their bag is unzipped. Not only are we safety-savvy, but we also are concerned for others!

More obvious but important advice: do not flash your phone around more than needed, especially at night. Cell phones are easy to grab and easy to unlock making them desirable to petty thieves.

Again, just use your common sense and keep your eyes on your bags. Never leave them unattended!

Recommended bags to defeat pickpockets

Crossbody bags are very popular in NYC. If you take one of our pay-what-you-like walking tours, you'll see many of our guides wearing one.

Men's styles are called messenger bags, whereas women call them crossbody bags.

When worn, the openings and pockets on the bag are in front of your body rather than to your side.

If you use a backpack, you might want to wear it facing front in very crowded places.


3. Don’t wander into dark, unpopulated areas at night.

It's especially important to point this one out to you since, in NYC, one street can be very busy and brightly lit and then you'll turn a corner and it will be desolate and dark!

It's not highly likely that something bad will happen to you if you find yourself on a dark street.

empty street NYC

But we can almost guarantee you will see a rat!

During the day, if you find yourself in a nearly empty neighborhood that looks run down, you shouldn’t linger.


4. Pay extra attention on the subway.

You should have no hesitation in riding the subway. As we said above, always ensure your valuables are out of sight and your bags are closed.

Don’t keep your wallet or phone in your back pocket since anyone who wants to could brush past you and take it.

Stay aware of who is around you in a crowded subway car.

The subway is most crowded during rush hours (8 am to 10 am and again from 5 pm to 7 pm).

crowded subway in NYC

Even when the subway is not crowded, don't let your guard down and leave your backpack or bag open with valuables in plain sight.

Most of us guides do not use earbuds or headphones on the subway. You can listen to that song later. Better you hear what's going on now.

Avoid riding the subway very late at night. While we feel very comfortable taking the subway until midnight after living here for many years, we feel that newbies to the city should take a cab after 10 pm or 11 pm at the latest.

We like to ride in the conductor’s car if on the subway late at night. You can find it in the middle of the train. Another option is the first car of the train where the train operator is.

When waiting for a train, stand back from the platform by at least a few feet. You'll see a raised yellow band on the platform. Stand behind that for safety.

TIP: To learn the ins and outs of taking the subway, check out our guide on navigating the subway.

In the video below, Katie, a local tour guide with Free Tours by Foot, explains 10 tips for using the NYC subway.


5. Don’t hesitate to ask for help.

Many of us New Yorkers love to help tourists. It’s our way of proving to you that our city is the best!

For example, if we see someone on the subway staring at the subway map on the wall, we know that means the person needs some help figuring out which stop to get off or what train to transfer to.

Not only will someone ask if you need help, you may get two people asking!

If no one volunteers to help, ask. We are usually happy to help -- unless we are rushing somewhere.

If you need directions or other kinds of assistance, don't be shy about asking for help.

For more serious concerns, NYC has a large police force and there is a police presence, especially in crowded touristy neighborhoods and outside big venues after a concert or sports event.

New York Police Officer
Image by Chanh Nguyen from Pixabay

If you have a question or safety concern, ask a police officer.

If you don’t see one immediately, you can ask a local or even head into a store and ask the counter person.

Also, many of the larger subway stations, like Times Square, have small police stations inside.


6. Taking a taxi or Uber in New York City is safe.

Yellow taxis are very regulated by the city and are safe to take. Taxi drivers for the most part are very friendly.

Some like to talk quite a bit, and it's one of the nicest things about taking a taxi in NYC.

If your ride is long enough, you will have gotten to know someone a bit!

But, if talking is distracting the driver, just say politely that you need to text someone even if you don't need to. Then take out your phone and look down.

Police cars in Times Square

If your driver is talking on their phone, even a hands-free phone, it's okay to ask them to end the call while they can focus on driving.

The official Taxi Passenger Bill of Rights says that drivers must not be talking on a phone while driving!

Lastly, it’s best not to advertise you are tourists since it is possible - though rare - that a driver might take a longer route than necessary so that the meter runs longer and they earn a higher fare.

We've all heard stories of a tourist who paid hundreds of dollars to get from the airport into Manhattan when it shouldn't have cost more than $100.


7. Airports and Safety.

Speaking of airports, here are some things to keep in mind when you arrive at any of the city’s three airports JFK, LaGuardia, or Newark

Don’t leave your bags and suitcases unattended, even if you head into the restrooms. Though the stalls aren't large, they do have enough room to squeeze a suitcase in them.

Don't accept an offer from a stranger to carry your bags for you. They may walk off with them!

Don't accept offers for a ride to your destination, even if the person says they will charge you less than a taxi.

Always use a yellow cab, an Uber, or a Lyft.

If you haven't booked your flight yet, see our post to help you decide which airport is best for you.


9. Solo Travelers

It’s normal to be concerned with safety when traveling alone, even more so in such a big city like New York.

Naturally, all of the above tips apply whether you are traveling alone or with others.

To read more about solo travel and safety for solo female travelers, read our post on traveling solo to New York City


Which Neighborhoods Of New York City Are Safe For Tourists?

As a tourist, you will likely spend your time in Manhattan, perhaps some in Brooklyn.

We cover some neighborhoods in these two boroughs below.


Manhattan

When it comes to safety in Manhattan, it’s important to note that it is made up of many neighborhoods.

There is no quick answer to the question "Is Manhattan safe?"

Each neighborhood has its own persona. Manhattan is safe to walk around in the areas you will likely want to visit. 

We emphasize that this is during the day as a safe neighborhood during daylight hours may not be so safe at night.

Many parts of Manhattan are safe at night as well, though you should not wander into neighborhoods you've never heard of nor have read up on.

See our post about Manhattan neighborhoods for an overview of parts of Manhattan that you might end up visiting or even staying in.

If you take one of our pay-what-you-like walking tours, you will be able to see the highlights of these neighborhoods with a guide who knows where it is safe to go and where it is not.


Midtown Manhattan 

Midtown Manhattan includes several neighborhoods, some safer than others, depending on the time of day or night.

Its borders are the Hudson River on the west, the East River on the east, 14th Street on the South, and 59th Street on the north.  

The closer you get to the river, on either side, the more residential it is, and there isn't much to do unless you have a specific destination like a theater or a restaurant in mind. 

map of Midtown New York

Midtown Manhattan is safe, generally speaking. One thing to note is that pickpockets love the crowded streets around tourist attractions. 

But this is no reason to skip these attractions! Just keep a close eye on your wallets, bags, and phones.

How safe it is to walk around Midtown Manhattan at night depends entirely on where you are.  

Midtown Manhattan is safe at night in certain neighborhoods. Stick to populated neighborhoods (read more below about specific neighborhoods). 

A good rule of thumb is to not wander around late at night, especially on the west side of Midtown Manhattan past 9th Avenue, as you won't see much and it is not very populated at night.

You can see all the highlights of Midtown Manhattan with our guides on one of our many pay-what-you-like walking tours.


Times Square 

Times Square is a lively and fairly busy area both day and night. It is also a magnet for pickpockets and other petty thieves who blend into the crowded streets. 

Always be aware of your surroundings and keep your valuables tucked away and out of reach.

Check out our posts ranking the 70 hotels in Times Square.


Chelsea and the High Line

Both areas are fairly safe during the day, especially the High Line Park as there will be tourists and locals enjoying the park

The High Line is safe during official park hours. 

At night, the area is safe generally. Stay on the avenues and not the side streets as there are a lot of residential blocks that won't have an ongoing flow of people.


Hell's Kitchen

Many wonder if Hell’s Kitchen is dangerous as the name suggests.

Hell’s Kitchen was infamous for gang violence from the 1960s until the 1980s.

Now the neighborhood is generally safe during the day, but at night use some caution.

Stay on the avenues, like 8th and 9th Avenues where there are many restaurants and even a few hotels.


Union Square, Gramercy Park, and the Flatiron District

These neighborhoods are all safe during the day but at night Gramercy Park and the Flatiron District quiet down.

Stick to the avenues and avoid dark, quiet residential streets. 


Lower Manhattan

Lower Manhattan (also called Downtown Manhattan) encompasses many neighborhoods that both tourists and locals love.

Other than Midtown, this is an area you will likely be spending some time exploring. 

For most of these neighborhoods, the same safety etiquette for Midtown applies, with a few exceptions.

map of Lower Manhattan

Financial District

During the day the Financial District is very safe. It is heavily populated with business people and tourists. 

Still, keep valuables out of sight and your eyes on your purses and back pockets. 

At night, when offices are closed, some parts of the neighborhood area can be desolate so best to avoid the area unless you have a specific destination.

The Financial District also includes the neighborhoods of the South Street Seaport, Battery Park Cityy TriBeCa which are safe during the day, but quieter and less populated very late at night as they are residential.


Greenwich Village

The Village is also quite safe during the day and night.

Though crime rates in Greenwich Village have seen an uptick since 2020, the majority of crimes are burglary and theft such as shoplifting or apartment break-ins.

As a visitor, you don't need to worry about those types of crimes. 


East Village

During the day, the East Village is fairly safe, though you probably shouldn't go farther east than Tompkins Square Park which can be sketchy sometimes.

After dark, pay attention to your surroundings and follow all the safety tips above in this post. 


Chinatown, Little Italyy SoHo

These neighborhoods are very popular with tourists both day and night.

This is a mixed blessing. While densely populated areas in NYC are safe for the most part, petty thieves love tourist neighborhoods that are crowded. 

During the day, you should be fine walking down the small streets of these neighborhoods.

In the evenings, especially in Chinatown, stick to the main streets. Read more about these neighborhoods here.


Lower East Side

Generally, this neighborhood in NYC is safe by day. At night, it is best to stay on streets that have restaurants and bars.

We have a post on staying safe in the Lower East Side.


Uptown Manhattan

The neighborhoods we cover below are generally fine to visit. However, not all neighborhoods of Upper Manhattan are safe.

Best to stick with neighborhoods that have attractions you want to see or are, at a minimum, highly populated.

Map of Uptown Manhattan

Central Park

Central Park is safe, provided you don’t stray too far off the main paths, and even then you won't typically encounter any issues. Central Park at night is a different story.

You do not want to walk around Central Park past midnight

Read our post on “Is Central Park Safe?” for tips to stay safe and about exploring Central Park.


Harlem

For decades, tourists - and even some locals- thought Harlem was dangerous. The answer is not as simple as a yes or no.

Read our post, “Is Harlem Safe?” for a fuller answer about which parts of Harlem are safer than others, such as East Harlem.


Upper West Side

The Upper West Side is bordered by Central Park on the east the Hudson River on the west, 59th Street on the south, and 110th Street on the north.

This part of Manhattan is safe, though not as much late at night. Be careful in Riverside Park and don’t spend time there after dark.

Check out our guide to the Upper West Side.


Upper East Side

This part of Manhattan is safe during the day. Its borders are 5th Avenue to the East River, between 59th Street and 96th Street.

There is a busy nightlife but If you are there for some reason late at night, avoid the side streets as they are quiet, residential, and not very populated. 

Check out our guide to the Upper East Side.


Brooklyn

Brooklyn is a very large borough and there are many neighborhoods.

Some Brooklyn areas have the highest crime rates in NYC, but these neighborhoods are not destinations of interest to tourists.

We offer several pay-what-you-like walking tours of Brooklyn you might like to join.


The Brooklyn Bridge 

Walking over the Brooklyn Bridge is pretty safe during the day as tourists and locals cross the bridge all year round.

Don’t cross the bridge too late at night, up until 11 pm it should be fine.

Read our guide to walking the Brooklyn Bridge for other tips.


Brooklyn Heights

The stunning neighborhood is very safe during the day.

But, at night it is very quiet as the area is almost exclusively residential so be on alert when walking around after dark. 


DUMBO

During the day DUMBO is safe to visit, but at night fewer people are out as it is mostly a residential building with a few streets of shops.

Stick to well-lit streets and have a map of sights with you.

See our post on things to do in DUMBO for guidance on what to see there.


Williamsburg

During the day Williamsburg is safe if you stick to its main streets.

At night, don’t stray from its few main streets or wander into areas that are not lit well or are desolate.

Our post on things to do in Williamsburg will give you a lay of the land.


Neighborhoods to Avoid

A good rule of thumb is to not travel to a neighborhood in NYC when 1) there are no tourist attractions or you otherwise have no reason to go there and 2) they are impoverished.

Unfortunately for the residents, crime statistics tend to be higher in poor neighborhoods.

Avoid these areas:

  • In Brooklyn, East New York and Brownsville
  • In the Bronx, Mott Haven, Fordham, Highbridge and Hunts Point
  • In Manhattan, East Harlem, though there are a few points of interest there. Read more about safety in Harlem.

This list is not complete as there are dozens and dozens of neighborhoods in New York City.

Use the above tips in this post and always use common sense.


Scams and Other Unwanted Interactions

Here are just a few scams that tourists fall victim to, and a few that both tourists AND New Yorkers fall for.

1. The Staten Island Ferry Scam

The ferry is FREE to take. There is no ticket to buy. You just walk onto the ferry at the terminal. 

Anyone outside the terminal saying that you can purchase your tickets from them is a scammer. 

Even if they look professional, they just want your money. Don’t stop and just go into the terminal.

Read more about taking the Staten Island Ferry.


2. The Statue of Liberty Scam

Similar to the Staten Island Ferry scam, individuals around Battery Park where the Statue of Liberty Ferry departs from will try to sell you tickets. 

They dress as if they are affiliated with a company and they often have a brochure about the Statue of Liberty.

There is only ONE place to buy tickets in person and that is inside Castle Clinton inside Battery Park.

These sellers are so convincing that even Alec Baldwin fell for this scam! 

Don’t be like Alec! Read our post on how to safely buy tickets to the Statue of Liberty.


3. The Pedi Cab Scam

Pedicab rates are not regulated by New York City. Vendors can charge whatever they want. 

But there are laws to protect you from greedy Pedicab services. The law requires that:

Rates must be based on time calculated as “per minute” for the total ride.

Also, the “price per minute” must be on signs on the outside of the pedicab at all times.

Next, the per-minute rate is usually between $3 - $7 per minute. Each minute must be charged at the same rate.

Drivers will find ways around these laws so you end up paying way more for a ride than you should have.

You can avoid getting ripped off by booking a pedicab tour through a reputable company.


4. The “I love your hair” scam

This is one that we locals have fallen for more than once!

Let's say you are walking down the street and someone comes up and says that they love your hairstyle.

Sorry, they aren't complimenting you. It’s a salesperson from a salon who will try to convince you to buy an expensive package deal’ for their services. 

Say you are not interested and walk away.


5. The “Can I ask you a question?” Scam

If anyone stops you and says nicely, “Can I ask you a question”, 9 times out of 10, this is someone who will then ask for money and often more than sme change.

Once you stop, the person will continue asking for money, explaining what it is for, most often for subway fare, or food.

You are certainly free to engage with them but it is okay to keep walking, or as some of us guides do, just say “Sorry” and keep walking.


Thoughts on Safety in NYC from Locals and Travelers

The comments below are from both locals and tourists who are members of our popular New York City Travel Tips Facebook group.

Some of these concerns may apply to you but please do take the comments with a grain of salt.

Everyone has a different comfort level when it comes to feeling safe.

New York Safety in General

Three perspectives with the same answer…NYC is safe! Even more so when you follow the advice in this post!

Subway Safety at Night

Taking the subway is the easiest way to get around New York City and you should not hesitate to do so. (See what we wrote above in Tip #4).

Ana Rose, a  member of our Facebook group, asked about taking the subway very late at night.

While there were some commenters in the thread, mainly long-time locals, who would consider taking the subway at 2:00 am, most replies had sound advice for Ana Rose that we agree with.

Is NYC Safe for Women Traveling Alone?

This group member asked one of the most common questions about safety in New York City and the replies were filled with reassurance and some savvy suggestions to stay safe.

Safety Traveling With Kids in NYC

While some people might think of NYC as an “adult-only” city, there are plenty of fun things to do in New York City with kids.

The same safety tips in this post apply whether or not you are traveling with kids, though you will have to have an extra set of eyes to keep an eye on them

In NYC older kids take the subway to school alone so that says something about how safety is regarded by local parents. 

Still, we are not suggesting you send your child off on a subway adventure alone! 

Here are just some of the thoughts that travelers and locals had on the subject of traveling with kids in NYC.


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About The Author

Courtney Shapiro

Courtney is a lifelong New Yorker fascinated with the city’s history, culture and cuisine. She loves exploring the world, as well as sharing her travel expertise with others. She joined the Free Tours by Foot team in 2011, first as a guide and then as a writer. She has a law degree, a teaching degree and a worn-out passport. Her motto is “Have backpack, will travel”.
Updated: febrero 20th, 2024
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