Skip to Content

10 New York City Travel Safety Tips: Advice from a Local

how to stay safe in NYC, Bryant Park

The first time I told my mom I was moving to New York City, she immediately began to panic. She assumed NYC wasn’t safe. Plot twist: countless studies have shown NYC is one of the safest big cities in America, but many first-time visitors (understandably) can be nervous about exploring the city. In this article, I’ll give you some local tips for staying safe in New York City. Let’s get to it!

Visiting New York City? If you haven’t decided where to stay (yet) check out our helpful guide on Where to Stay in New York City (The best neighborhoods for first timers +3 to avoid). Don’t have time? Here’s our favorite hotel in NYC, hands down.

Safety Tips for Visiting New York City

Table of Contents: NYC Safety Guide

Weird NYC Laws, safety tips NYC

Use Reputable Transportation

The first potential pitfall visitors can encounter in NYC is using unlicensed transportation while traveling from the airport into Manhattan. Occasionally (usually at night), unlicensed drivers hang around airport exits, offering rides to unsavvy travelers. They’ll tout discounted prices or claim they’re Uber/Lyft drivers who just had their rides canceled and are available “off the books” at a discounted rate.

A confident and straightforward “no, thank you” makes them move on. To stay safe while visiting New York City, follow the signs for the transportation you will use. Directions for the subway and taxi are posted all around the airport. Each terminal also has a designated rideshare app pickup area with clear markers.

Gray's Papaya on the Upper West Side, Safety Tips NYC

Stay In Well-Lit Areas at Night

New York City is dubbed the City that Never Sleeps, but if you’re going to safely explore NYC at night make sure you’re in high-traffic, well-lit areas. Luckily, this will be easy for most touristsFamous attractions, vibrant nightlife, and most hotels are in densely populated and well-lit neighborhoods. To stay safe in New York City, trust your gut. If the road looks dingy and dark, opt for a different route.

Tourist Scams New York City, Pedicab, Safety Tips NYC

Beware of Scams

Like most big cities, New York City is ripe territory for scammers. My general rule is to avoid anyone peddling on the street (it can seem harsh, but it’s often not worth possible future headaches). Some scammers sell mixtapes, bracelets, or knock-off designer products and then charge you a ridiculous price, hoping you’ll avoid confrontation and pay.

These vendors aren’t necessarily dangerous; however, if you refuse to pay, some will get loud and begin berating you, trying to get you to cough up the cash. It’s better to avoid the situation by educating yourself on common tourist traps. Make sure to ask about and agree on pricing before receiving any goods or services, whether a souvenir or a ride on a pedicab.

Living in New York City, New York City Safety Tips

Be Mindful of Pickpockets

Pickpocketing crimes have steadily risen in New York City since 2021. Luckily, there are a few tips and tricks to stay safe in NYC and prevent falling victim. Keeping your valuables in interior pockets, putting your phone away on the subway, and slinging purses and fanny packs across your body are good ways to deter thieves.

Your valuables are most at risk in crowds. The Rockefeller Christmas Tree, Times Square, and other attractions that draw shoulder-to-shoulder crowds are hotbeds for thieves. Luckily, the NYPD has created a pickpocketing unit to help mitigate the issue and keep your belongings safe in New York City.

Ludlow Coffee Supply, safety tips NYC

Stay Hydrated and Take Breaks

Most folks who opened this article were probably hoping to read crime-related safety tips in New York City. Having said that, there’s a silent threat that can ruin your trip: the heat. You’ll be doing a lot of walking, and when it’s hot, that usually means a lot of sweating.

Staying hydrated and well-rested isn’t just a suggestion; it’s one of the best travel safety tips for an enjoyable and safe visit to New York City (especially for older folks). Keep that water bottle handy and stop often for breaks; conquering NYC starts with taking care of yourself.

Link NYC, how to stay safe in new York CIty

Use Free City Resources

For a city of more than 8 million residents and 66 million tourists annually, New York City does an impressive job equipping itself to answer questions and help folks where it can. That’s why one of the best safety tips for visiting New York City is using the available resources.

Those unsure of what subway to get on can ask the booth attendants, and if someone is making you uncomfortable, tell one of the thousands of NYPD officers spread across NYC. If your phone’s dead, charge it at one of the LinkNYC‘s stands peppered around the city (that also have WiFi, maps, and a phone to call 911).

best shoes to wear in NYC, staying safe in New York

Watch Where You Step

It’s all but impossible not to trip while exploring NYC; the city is old, and the sidewalks are uneven. Maybe that’s why “unintentional falls” are the number one reason for emergency room visits in NYC. To avoid adding to the statistics and stay safe in New York City, watch your step (look up from your phone!).

This is especially crucial on cobblestone streets or when you’re going up stairs at subway stations. You can do yourself a favor by wearing comfortable shoes to maximize shock absorption and keep you steady as you log miles exploring the city.

Ride the Subway, visiting New York City on a budget, staying safe in NYC

Practice Proper Subway Safety

The biggest subway safety tips revolve around being aware of your surroundings. For example, stay away from the platform edge during rush hour. There have been people pushed onto the tracks, but most of the people who get hurt often trip and fall accidentally.

If somebody is making you nervous on one of the subway carts, don’t hesitate to switch to a different one at the next stop. And my last tip: don’t try to be the cool guy who doesn’t need to hold onto the pole. The last thing you want is for the conductor’s heavy foot to slam on the brake and send you flying. 

NYC with kids, staying safe in New York City

Stay in the Right Neighborhood

The days of a wild, crime-ridden New York are long gone, but that doesn’t mean all neighborhoods are created equal. Most tourists will stay somewhere in Manhattan, the borough with the second-least violent crimes (the first is Staten Island, but that’s not a convenient place to stay).

If you’re choosing where to stay in New York City and safety is your top priority, I’d opt for the Upper West Side.

New York City Safety Tips (Post Summary)

  1. Use Reputable Transportation
  2. Stay In Well-Lit Areas at Night
  3. Beware of Scams
  4. Be Mindful of Pickpockets
  5. Stay Hydrated and Rested
  6. Use Your Resources
  7. Watch Your Step
  8. Get Comfortable with the Subway
  9. Prepare for the Fast Pace
  10. Trust Your Instincts

Frequently Asked Questions: NYC Safety Tips

How do you stay safe while visiting NYC?

The best ways to stay safe in New York City include being aware of your surroundings, staying in well-lit areas after dark, hydrating when it’s hot outside, and being aware of common tourist traps

Is NYC safe to visit right now?

New York’s safest than you might think! Stats say NYC’s crime rate is actually lower than pre-pandemic levels, and it’s consistently ranked one of the safest big cities in the US.

Should you carry a wallet in NYC?

Pickpocketing crime rates have steadily increased since 2021 in New York City. This is especially true around holiday attractions that draw shoulder to shoulder crowds. Keep your valuables in your front pocket, or even better, in a pocket with a zipper to avoid falling victim.

Is it safe to walk around Manhattan at night?

Most parts of Manhattan are safe to walk around at night. Stick to well-lit areas, keep your phone tucked away, and embrace the City that Doesn’t Sleep.

Is it safe to ride the subway at night in NYC?

Riding the subway at night is statistically safe in NYC, but in my personal opinion it can be eerie. In Manhattan before 1 AM there’s usually still a crowd of travelers that make it feel safe, but any later than that and I prefer to take a cab.

How can we avoid trouble in NYC?

The best way to avoid trouble in New York City is to avoid peddlers and panhandlers. A simple and kind, “no thank you” will suffice and they’ll usually move on.

Is it safe to carry a backpack in NYC?

New York City a very safe place to carry a backpack, in fact a large portion of the locals do. The one tip I’ll offer is to wear it on your front in a crowded subway to avoid hitting people with it.

Is Central Park safe at 10 PM?

While Central Park isn’t deserted, after 10pm it’s wise to stick to main paths and well-lit areas to avoid potential bumps in the night. The park officially closes at 1 AM.

Is New York subway safe for tourists?

NYC’s actually ranked one of the safest big cities in the US, with crime rates lower than ever. Just stay street-smart, keep valuables zipped, and you’ll be conquering the city like a pro in no time.

How to Blend in With the Locals: 10 Things That Will Make You Look Like a Tourist in New York City
How to Have the Best Trip: 20 HELPFUL Tips for Visiting New York City (Local’s Guide)
Don’t be a Victim: 12 Terrible Tourist Traps in New York City (And How to Avoid Them)
Equip Yourself With the Best: 10 Helpful Apps To Download When Visiting NYC (For a First Trip)
How to Sound Like a Local: 10 New York City Slang Words You May be Unfamiliar With

I hope this New York City safety guide provided tips you can use during your visit. Enjoy the city!

Until next time,