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Is San Francisco Safe to Visit?

Updated: March 13, 2023
 By Britt

San Francisco's beautiful skyline, charming neighborhoods, and nearby natural beauty make it a wonderful destination.

With a nickname like Golden Gate City, one may not think about safety when visiting.

Photography Locations Marin Headlands

But when traveling to any big city, you should always educate yourself about safety basics.

Fortunately, San Francisco, and the entire Bay Area, are safe for tourists, even solo travelers.

This post covers 7 safety tips on how to stay safe in San Francisco.

Is San Francisco Dangerous For Visitors?

Like most large cities around the world, San Francisco does experience its share of crime.

However, the violent crime rate is lower than in other popular tourist destinations like New Orleans, New York City, Las Vegas, and Washington, DC.

It's certainly lower than other cities in California, particularly Los Angeles.

San Francisco Painted Ladies IMG 0526

Locals experience property crimes (burglaries, robberies, and motor vehicle thefts), but tourists do not need to be too concerned with these crimes.

While San Francisco is relatively safe to visit for tourists, you should be aware that you may be a target for petty theft like pickpocketing.

San Francisco Police Department's crime statistics show that crime rates vary by neighborhood which is why below we list neighborhoods that are safe and those you should avoid.

The bottom line to staying safe in San Francisco - or anywhere - is to always pay attention to what’s going on around you!

Most of all, do not leave your common sense at home! 

And remember, we are giving tours to thousands of visitors to San Francisco every week for a decade and haven't heard any guests tell us of issues.

Oh, and we don't consider natural disasters, such as an earthquake, in this post, due to the very low probability of an occurrence.

7 Safety Tips

1. Try to blend in with the locals.

As best as possible, try to blend in with the locals.

Don't stop in the middle of a crowded street to take photos. You will stand out as a tourist for sure.

Look like you know where you are going (even if you don't!).

Powell Street San Francsico

Get a lay of the land in advance so you have some sense of where you are and don't end up somewhere you shouldn't be.

Take a few minutes before you head out of your hotel to look at a map of the neighborhood you are visiting.

If lost, ask someone for directions. They will most likely be happy to help.

2. Do not leave your bags unattended.

If you put your bag down somewhere, such as under your feet or on the back of your chair at a restaurant, you may find it has disappeared quickly.

Always have your bag and belongings in sight.

3. Don't flash your valuables around.

Don’t casually handle your valuables like wallets or expensive jewelry when in public. 

Make sure your bags, purses, and backpacks are zipped closed at all times except when you are getting something from them.

Open purse

Do not flash your phone around more than needed, especially at night. Phones are an easy grab for a petty thief. 

4. Never stray into dark, unpopulated areas.

Always stay on well-lit and fairly populated streets.

empty street at night

Even during the day, if you wind up in a neighborhood that looks run down and there is no one else there, don't stick around.

5. Be especially alert to pickpockets.

Pickpockets love crowded areas, especially crowded tourist areas like Fisherman's Wharf.

Some pickpockets are so good, you will never even know someone has been fishing around in your pockets!

In crowded areas and at tourist attractions, stay alert to your surroundings, who is next to you, and where their hands are.

6. Don't leave valuables in your car.

San Francisco has experienced a high number of car break-ins recently. Do not leave anything of value in your car.

Don't leave anything that might look like it is valuable but isn't! Someone may be tempted to find out!

car window smashed

Put everything in the trunk or take it with you.

You may want to consider a parking garage instead of street parking.

7. Understand the homeless situation.

Like many major cities around the world, San Francisco has a lot of homeless people. You may be unsettled at first by the large homeless population.

Most of these people are harmless.

You might see some individuals displaying signs of mental illness or drug addiction.

Don't be alarmed, but do not linger in the area. Avoid confrontations.

San Francisco is making inroads to resolve homelessness and drug use in the city, but it’s a part of life that most residents are accustomed to.

Which Neighborhoods Of San Francisco Are Safe For Tourists?

Most if not all of these neighborhoods are ones you likely plan to visit.

Painted Ladies San Francisco

You can feel comfortable in these areas, but always keep our safety tips above in mind.

Consider taking one of our pay-what-you-like guided walking tours, where you will be able to see the highlights of these neighborhoods with a guide who knows where to go and where to avoid.

If you are a solo traveler, group tours are one way to meet people as well as see the city's sights and attractions without any safety concerns.

San Francisco Neighborhoods To Avoid

The Tenderloin District

The Tenderloin is in downtown San Francisco. It's bordered by Geary to the north, Market Street to the south, Taylor Street to the east, and Van Ness to the west.

The Tenderloin should be avoided. It is a neighborhood with a high crime rate as well as illegal drug dealings.

Mission District after Midnight

The Mission District is known for its great restaurants and nightlife, especially along Mission Street and Valencia Street. 

But there is an area around 16th Street and the Mission BART stop that is a little rough, especially at night. Best to avoid the area after dark.

Western Addition late at night

This is where the famous Fillmore Theater is, and also Japantown. You may end up here as part of your exploring the city. 

But wrap up your activities by midnight and rather than use public transportation to get back to your hotel, use taxis instead.

SoMa and Market Street

It's likely that you will be on Market Street during your visit, as it is a public transit hub with stations for the Bart system and the cable cars.

The stretch of Market Street between Powell Street and the Ferry Building is not bad.

SoMA (South of Market Street) has some of the city’s upscale restaurants as well as some great music venues. Also, Oracle Park is here. 

In SoMa, the streets are numbered. The area in the lower-numbered streets (4th Street and lower) is fine.

Towards the higher numbers (5th to 10th) as it is a bit sketchy and should be avoided at night.

Golden Gate Park at Night

Golden Gate Park is an expansive park that is really nice to visit during the day.

At the park's west end is Ocean Beach where you can get a lovely view of the water.

Note that before it gets dark, it's time to leave Golden Gate Park as you may encounter some unsavory characters.


About The Author


Britt is a San Francisco Bay Area native, and has spent 25 years in this magical city. He has traveled to over 30 countries, and has never found a place he loves as much as this one! If you come to San Francisco, you might join one of Britt's tours of the city. A graduate of the University of Maryland and University of Southern California, he has been leading tours for Free Tours by Foot since 2015.
Updated: March 13th, 2023
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