Virginia : Safety by CityUnited States - safety as a country Virginia - state review
Arlington, Virginia, sits across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.
While technically a county, this area is home to nearly 240,000 people and many major government and civil areas, like Arlington National Cemetery, The Pentagon, and Ronald Reagan National Airport.
Since this is a county, there are more neighborhoods than you’d find in a typical city.
It’s not all about the government here, though you are close to some of the most notable and influential places in the United States Government’s current and past history.
You can explore attractions on either side of the Potomac, with Theodore Roosevelt Island in between.
There are many shopping and dining districts within this area, and you’ll have Alexandria, Virginia, just to the south.
This county is so versatile you could bump into a member of Congress on the street and minutes later be touring the oldest Colonial home in Arlington.
A benefit of staying in Arlington is lower hotel prices with the same accessibility to public transportation that is widely used.
Politics aside, Arlington has a little bit of everything that makes America unique while still showing Virginia pride.
Warnings & Dangers in Arlington
OVERALL RISK : LOW
Arlington has a low overall risk and is much safer than the District of Columbia. While it does have its share of crime, it's lower than the state and national averages in every category. Add to that all the things to do, and Arlington is a great choice for any visit to the nation's capital.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
With Reagan National airport so close by, you can get to and from your hotel easily using the rail, bus, rental car, or taxi/rideshare. Amtrack is another option to get to other East Coast cities. DC's Metro comes to Arlington, and you have local options for Arlington Transit (ART) or DC Circulator. The city has a Capital Bikeshare program if you'd rather explore on two wheels. There's low risk with any option.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : MEDIUM
There's a medium risk here with 35 pickpockets and purse snatching reported in 2020. Each theft had an average value of $550, a good reminder to avoid carrying a lot of cash or valuables with you.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : LOW
The biggest risks in Arlington would be major snowstorms or hurricane/tropical storms. Flooding is possible, and there's a slight earthquake risk. While overall, there's a low risk, be on high alert during the fall and winter. If a snow storm or hurricane is moving toward the region, you might have to reconsider your plans or lock yourself down in the hotel for a few days.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
35% of the robberies in 2020 happened in public places, but the overall robbery rate is 40% lower than the national average. There's a low risk it will happen to you, but if it does, don't fight back against a robber. While it's not that common, it's not worth risking your life to protect a purse or mobile device.
TERRORISM RISK : HIGH
Being the nation's capital and already being a target in 2001, there's a high risk here. Don't let that deter you, because there's also incredible security at all government locations, and Homeland Security is extra vigilant in this area. If you see anything suspicious, call (703)558-2222 to report it.
SCAMS RISK : MEDIUM
The Arlington County Police Department warns about common scams or new twists on old scams. While many of the specific scams will be focused on locals, you should still be wary of any deal that seems too good to be true. Never trust that an email or text warning of fraud is legitimate unless you can confirm separately with the financial institution. If you suspect a scam or have been a victim, call the police to report it at (703)228-4300.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
The sexual assault rate is half the national average here, and there are many safe ways to get around. While you'll still need basic personal safety precautions, like avoiding walking around at night alone, there's overall a low risk for women. In fact, women are less likely to be victims of violent crime, with 37% of violent crimes happening against women.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
The 2021 Water Quality Report for Arlington County shows no violations, and all standards were met or exceeded according to state and EPA laws.
Safest Places to Visit in Arlington
The “Stay Arlington” website is a great resource for travelers, as it goes beyond the big attractions – like The Pentagon – to the neighborhood and unique attractions here.
You can get a breakdown of the neighborhoods and even some off-the-beaten-path options.
There are pieces of history to see here that nobody should miss.
- Arlington National Cemetery
- The Marine Corps War Memorial with the iconic Iwo Jima sculpture
- The Air Force Memorial
- The National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial
Theodore Roosevelt Island is a memorial and a park wrapped up into one.
You can drive here or take the Metro.
You’ll still have a 15-minute walk from the Metro station.
You can also walk or bike here as part of the Mount Vernon Trail or the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail.
Download the National Park Service app to get a look at the trails, parking information, hours, and other important information.
Pentagon City is much more than a business district near our nation’s defense center.
This is a shopping, dining, and entertainment district that is just as popular with the locals as it is with tourists.
This is the upper echelon of shopping and dining, so it’s not your average American mall.
You’ll also find the Drug Enforcement Agency Museum and Visitors Center.
For the Millennials in your travel group, Ballston calls itself “Millennial Heaven,” and more than two-thirds of the people who live here are under 45.
Ballston Quarter is the local gathering spot in an open-air shopping and dining center.
If you get a chance to visit Arlington Ridge, you’ll see majestic homes and an even more majestic view of the Potomac.
Keep an eye out for the safe house used in the 1987 Kevin Costner movie No Way Out (I probably just lost the Millennial with that reference.)
This is also the neighborhood where Al Gore once lived.
Westover has a great wall of beer on top of the urban forest vibe of the electric district.
If you can only visit one farmer’s market while you’re here, this might be the best one for you.
Glencarlyn has a home from the 1740s, perfectly restored to its original design.
You can tour the home and see what colonial life was like for a family of seven.
Places to Avoid in Arlington
There aren’t any dangerous neighborhoods in Arlington or places too risky to visit.
That said, staying in the tourist areas and on main roads or interstates is always the safest option.
The Metro runs through most of the wealthier neighborhoods, so you shouldn’t have a concern about public transportation.
You do need to stay aware of your surroundings.
I’ve been writing these research stories for quite a while, and I never know if it’s better to have a dangerous city, so I can tell you all the ways to protect yourself or risk saying how safe something is and possibly lead you to let your guard down.
This is part of a major metro area, and there is a crime.
This is just among the safer large cities.
I’ve been to the Washington, D.C. area once, and I was too intimidated to learn about public transportation, so I chose to explore on foot throughout DC and Virginia as much as possible.
Don’t be me. My feet hurt, and I was so exhausted I finally called a cab.
Don’t be afraid to call the visitor’s center or look up “how to” online to find the best ways to get around.
Avoid walking right up to the Pentagon for a tour.
While tours are allowed, they are only available on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10:00 am and 1:00 pm (EST).
You must register at least two weeks in advance, and tours are first-come, first-served, while limited to groups of 20.
You MUST be a U.S. Citizen to go on a tour.
Plan ahead for your Pentagon tour because any information-gathering device, like a mobile phone or smartwatch, will not be allowed on the tour, and there aren’t lockers available on site.
If you try to get in with a device, you’ll be denied a tour and possibly get an interview with Homeland Security.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Arlington
- The Arlington County Police Department has a whole section of its website dedicated to personal safety while visiting the area. Review each tip to ensure you’re taking the best safety precautions possible.
- If you are renting a bicycle while visiting, be sure to use a lock every time you park it. Nearly 300 bikes were stolen in 2020. You can file a stolen bike report at (703)228-4300. Be sure to take a picture of your bike’s serial number as soon as possible.
- If you notice any drug activity happening during your visit, you can call 911 for immediate assistance. You can also file an anonymous report online or by calling (703)228-4111. America is dealing with an opioid crisis fueled by deadly Fentanyl added to drugs. Every little bit helps.
- Look for the Mobile Visitors Center in Pentagon City or Crystal City to get helpful information about events happening during your visit. You can call (800) 677-6267 to speak to someone as well.
- Whether you are a pedestrian or a driver, always respect the other person at an intersection. Pedestrians have the right-of-way, but that law isn’t always followed. Don’t just walk because you have a green light to do so – make sure the cars are stopping for you. Drivers, be aware of pedestrians at crosswalks and wait for them to pass across your lane before driving on.
- The Arlington Police Department uses Community Crime Maps for the public and visitors to check recent crime trends. You can search the interactive map by location, crime, and time period to see what crimes are happening closer to your visit.
- If you have a rental car with a key fob, turn the car off every time you get out, even if you are just running inside a business for a minute. A stolen car will still run without the key fob until the vehicle is shut off. Always, ALWAYS, lock your vehicle with the windows rolled up when you are not inside it. More than $5.6 million in vehicles were stolen in 2020, and just $1 million in value was returned.
- Despite the low crime numbers and strong government defense presence, gangs are still a problem in Arlington. If you have any non-urgent information about gang activity, call the Arlington County Police Department Gang Hotline at (703)228-4264(GANG). You can report graffiti, or a sign of gang activity, by calling (703)558-2222.
- A dozen of the busiest intersections in Arlington have red light cameras. If you run a red light, you’ll be sent a ticket (yes, even in a rental car) for $50. You’ll be sent a video and several pictures of the incident, but you can always appeal in court.
- You might notice a bright pink police car. This is a SoberRide vehicle that serves as a reminder to never drink and drive. The SafeRide program partners with Lyft and has provided more than 72,000 rides since its inception.
So... How Safe Is Arlington Really?
I had to double-check the data to make sure I wasn’t missing a “zero” somewhere in my calculations.
(Yes, we calculate our own data to give the most recent information with the context of what it means for tourists.)
Arlington is one of the safer major metro areas I’ve researched, and that’s with crime data that just calculates crimes vs. population.
It doesn’t even consider the millions of people who visit each year.
Since 2017, car thefts have been on the rise in the county, and violent crime has been on a little bit of a roller coaster.
Even with the fluctuations, it’s still one of the safer places to visit that also has a lot of activities for visitors.
Here’s how the risks break down in Arlington:
- Violent Crime: 1 in 643
- Robbery: 1 in 2040
- Theft: 1 in 88
Another important piece of safety advice here is to avoid making any jokes about terrorism, bombs, chemicals, etc.
Not that you would find it funny, but sometimes humor can cause concerns, especially in a county that already had one of the worst terror attacks in this nation’s history.
Even at a security checkpoint, you shouldn’t say, “Nope, I don’t have a bomb! Ha ha!”
Just directly and calmly answer all questions.
That’s yet another way to get an interview with Homeland Security.
Arlington is truly a great slice of American tourism.
Use common sense, and you’ll enjoy the city safely.
We’d love to hear your favorite restaurant finds in the comments below.
How Does Arlington Compare?
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- Visas - You'll need a U.S. Travel or Work Visa to get through Customs at the airport. Interviews for visas are backed up in certain countries, so get your appointment early. You'll also need to provide a list of all the social media accounts you've used in the past five years. Be honest, even if you no longer use an account.
- Currency - You can only use the U.S. Dollar in the Washington, D.C. area and surrounding states. You can exchange currency at the airport or at a local bank, but there's not a real need to carry cash here. If you are going to use an ATM, try to avoid using one in a public place for safety. Go inside a bank or store to use one instead.
- Weather - You'll want to prepare for cold winters with insulated outwear and snow boots. While snow isn't always on the ground, there's a good chance there will be some kind of snow or ice in the heart of winter. Hurricane season heats up from August through October, so bring rain gear during that time. Arlington doesn't take direct hits but does get the tropical mess left over from storms. Winters will be warm and humid. They don't call it The Swamp just for political purposes, if you know what I mean.
- Airports - Reagan National is right in Arlington, making for an easy trip to and from your hotel. One thing to note about Reagan National - the take-off is a little rough. Pilots must avoid the protected air space around the White House and the Capitol. There is an abrupt turn shortly after take-off. Just Google "Plans that violated White House air space" to see how a sitting Governor's plane was almost shot down by the military for violating air space. Dulles International Airport is about 30 minutes west of Arlington, and Baltimore/Washington Airport is about an hour northeast.
- Travel Insurance - You should definitely consider travel insurance. If a winter storm shuts down one airport here, it will shut them all down, and you'll be unable to arrive or depart, possibly for days.
Arlington Weather Averages (Temperatures)
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