How Safe Is Berkeley for Travel?

Berkeley, United States
Safety Index:
64

History will remember Berkeley, California, as a city of hippies fighting for free speech and civil rights, a spirit that spans many generations.

The same spirit is alive and well today in Berkeley, and as the tourism video for the city says, “We’re a cultural center, with a counterculture soul.”

UC Berkley is the pride and joy of this east San Francisco Bay area, and it brings a lot to the community for everyone.

From Flower Power to power players in technology and government, Berkeley is a smart town ready to move into the future while holding on to its strong roots.

The food scene is strong here with more than 250 options to satisfy every palate and options for every food preference you can imagine.

Whether you choose to dine near campus, on the bay, or downtown, you’re sure to have a unique dining experience.

This is a place to let your inner artist out.

More than 100 cultural art options fill this city, from performance to fine art.

Nearby Oakland offers a variety of tourism options as well, making Berkeley a perfectly positioned city for a trip to the East Bay.

Warnings & Dangers in Berkeley

Overall Risk

OVERALL RISK : MEDIUM

I've retyped this sentence three times, going back and forth looking at the numbers. The artist in me wants to tell you Berkeley is safe and low risk, but in reality, there's a medium risk and we'll talk through why.

Transport & Taxis Risk

TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW

Two of the most popular public transportation systems in the Bay Area go through Berkeley — Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) and Caltrain. You have AC Transit as well for bus service through Alameda and Contra Costa counties. There are taxis and rideshares as well. Berkeley also has a popular car-share program, where people who don't have cars actually share a vehicle for commuting. All options come with low risk.

Pickpockets Risk

PICKPOCKETS RISK : MEDIUM

Wow, there are a lot of thefts in Berkeley. The numbers have also been pretty consistent for the past decade. There were 47 reports of pickpockets or purse snatching in 2020, but my spidey senses told me to check 2019 since 2020 was a pandemic year. I was right. 135 were reported in 2019. That's still just a one in 920 chance of being a victim, but it's higher than any other city I've researched in California. We need to call this a medium risk.

Natural Disasters Risk

NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM

Earthquakes and wildfires are two disasters that could impact Berkley. The city has complete readiness guides to review on its website, so you can feel more prepared when you visit. There's a medium risk, not because they happen often, but because when they do happen it can be really bad.

Mugging Risk

MUGGING RISK : MEDIUM

The robbery rate is almost three times the national average. 46 of the 453 robberies reported were listed as "highway robbery", which is most likely to impact tourists. While it doesn't seem that dangerous in a city of 124,000 people, some of my other research online from locals persuades me to give this a medium risk. We're going to get more into this topic in a little bit, so stay tuned.

Terrorism Risk

TERRORISM RISK : MEDIUM

There's a medium risk here with such a prominent university near military installations and with a large population. That natural disaster risk website also discusses terrorism preparedness, so you can learn specifics there under the Berkley Ready section.

Scams Risk

SCAMS RISK : MEDIUM

From towing scams to housing scams, there are a plethora of them going around Berkeley, giving it a medium risk.

Women Travelers Risk

WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : MEDIUM

There were 47 rapes reported in Berkeley and 4 on the campus. When you do the crime math, that's slightly above the national average. I'm going with a medium risk here just because there are so many other high crime numbers. It's important to be vigilant and practice good safety protocol wherever you go in Berkley.

Tap Water Risk

TAP WATER RISK : LOW

There's no worry about tap water in Berkley. It's a low risk and meets or exceeds all requirements.

Safest Places to Visit in Berkeley

No matter if you have a connection or not, you need to visit UC Berkeley (nickname “Cal”).

The stunning architecture with rolling hills behind it sits high enough that you can see a full view of the bay from campus.

Don’t miss the botanical garden.

Telegraph Avenue is where the real flower power resides, in a Bohemian neighborhood that will free your spirit with every step.

This is a very affordable part of town too, as it caters to college students on a low budget, without sacrificing the quality of food.

The marina is a great spot to see the water and visit Cesar Chavez Park.

With seven miles of trails through 100 acres, this is a great place to burn off the calories of all the great food in town (feel free to eat as many carbs as you want!).

Another outdoor treasure is Tilden Regional Park just north of UC Berkeley.

Here you’ve got a lot of trails and nature, but also an antique carousel and feeding farm.

There’s also a train that goes around the park if you’re tired of me telling you to do even more walking.

There are also several great rock climbing locations in Berkley, including Indian Rock Park, and it’s perfect for those just starting the sport.

Places to Avoid in Berkeley

Crime maps (and history) show the south side of town is more dangerous than the north side.

The closer you get to the Oakland border the more concerns you might have about driving around, and certainly don’t walk around there at night.

There’s concern about being west of the interstate and near the marina after dark, so do that tour earlier in the day.

People’s Park has a lot of homeless people and isn’t the safest place to be night or day.

You really don’t have a reason to go there unless you think you need to call my bluff (only I’m not bluffing).

Berkeley is a diverse city in culture, politics, arts, and gender identity.

You’re going to have some of the most inspiring conversations of your life here, but these topics can also spur dissension.

Keep your calm and learn a different viewpoint, or just stop talking about whatever is heating up the discussion.

Safety Tips for Traveling to Berkeley

  1. You can sign up for emergency alerts in Berkeley through the city’s website. This will notify you of severe weather, civil emergencies, or evacuations.
  2. If there is a high wildfire risk in or around Berkeley, the power company might shut off power in what’s called Public Safety Power Shut-offs (PSPS). These are for general safety and are highly inconvenient. There is no way around them. Locals are used to them, but tourists get caught off guard sometimes. The city warns, “Shutoffs may last as long as six days. Once the fire danger has passed, PG&E must inspect all power lines and electrical infrastructure before restoring power. If your power goes out during a PSPS event, be prepared for an extended outage.”
  3. If you want to visit UC Berkeley, use public transportation or be prepared to walk. There is little parking for visitors on campus. The university encourages people to use BART to get there.
  4. For parking in the city of Berkeley, most spots are metered and will charge 50 cents an hour. You can pay with coins or a credit card (no cash). You can also pay by phone by using the ParkMobile app.
  5. If you’re going to be rock climbing at one of the many parks in Berkeley, there’s some specific safety advice. Don’t blare loud music while climbing if there are homes nearby. Also, you will want to take all the valuables out of the car and be with you while climbing or while someone you trust is watching them. There have been reports of break-ins in the parking lots of climbing parks.
  6. While UC Berkeley is beautiful, the area around it can be a little sketchy. People’s Park is especially a place to avoid on the south side of campus. There is a campus police department and escorts available if you don’t feel safe walking where you need to go.
  7. If you want to spend money without having to run a credit card or pull out cash, you can buy Berkeley Bucks. It’s an eGift card that is used at many locations around town. There’s no app to download. You get a text or email and that’s how you make purchases.
  8. If someone tells you to go to the Gourmet Ghetto, they aren’t sending you to a dangerous place. That’s the nickname for the area near Rose Street and Shattuck Avenue filled with amazing restaurants.
  9. Get familiar with 511.org. It’s your key to traffic in the Bay Area. You can see delays and detours along with construction projects and carpool information.
  10. Public transportation is popular in the Bay Area, but you need to keep focused when waiting for a ride. Don’t get lost in your own head with earbuds in, looking down at a mobile device. This could make you a great crime of opportunity.

So... How Safe Is Berkeley Really?

Berkeley was ranked the 64th Most Dangerous City by roadsnacks.net in 2021.

What’s odd about the crime statistics is that the homicide rate is incredibly low while the violent crime rate is higher than the national average.

There were 6 homicides in 2020, but none in 2019.

No more than 2 in a year were reported going back to 2015.

This is a city that built its reputation on free speech and speaking your mind, but hate speech is unacceptable.

In February of 2022, a crime spree left anti-Semitic messages throughout a local community and there was outrage.

The city issued a statement saying, in part, “As the center of the free-speech movement, Berkeley has always supported people’s rights under the first amendment.

But let’s be clear – the Berkeley City Council and our community soundly reject and condemn ANY hate-filled messages and any inference to discrimination of any kind to any person or group.”

It’s a city where 74% of people have a bachelor’s degree or higher, yet 19% of the population lives in poverty.

The average income is $85,000 yet the homes average $1,000,000.

It’s a city of contradictions and soaring crime levels, with some really cool parts to visit.

Stay in the tourist spots or popular hang-out areas when you go.

Try to do as much sightseeing as possible in the daytime.

Check crime maps on the police department website before you go to get the most recent crime information.

How Does Berkeley Compare?

CitySafety Index
Berkeley64
Philadelphia60
Houston59
Atlanta58
St Louis58
La Paz (Bolivia)52
Sao Paulo (Brazil)45
Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)43

Useful Information

  • Visas - You don't need an additional ID to be in Berkeley other than what you took care of at the airport or port of entry.
  • Currency - The U.S. Dollar is the currency here, but don't pull out cash in public. Use a credit card or find the most discreet method of payment you can, be it through your mobile device or a small wallet with just your necessities in it.
  • Weather - Berkeley's weather is pretty consistent throughout the year. The lows are in the 40s or 50s and the highs are in the 60s to 70s. There is more sunshine here than you'd expect, leaving the fog for the San Francisco neighborhoods. Bring a jacket and plan to dress in layers.
  • Airports - Oakland's airport is the closest, but it's still a 30-minute drive before you even think about the traffic. Plan for an hour if you are getting there during rush hour. San Francisco International Airport is 45 minutes away. San Jose's airport is a good hour or more drive time.
  • Travel Insurance - You'll want travel insurance for a trip to Berkeley to avoid any weather delays or fog cancellations.
Click here to get an offer for travel insurance

Berkeley Weather Averages (Temperatures)

Jan 11° C
Feb 12° C
Mar 13° C
Apr 14° C
May 15° C
Jun 17° C
Jul 17° C
Aug 18° C
Sep 18° C
Oct 17° C
Nov 14° C
Dec 11° C
Choose Temperature Unit

Average High/Low Temperature

Temperature / MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
High
°C
141617182022222223221814
Low
°C
788910121213131197
High
°F
576163646872727273726457
Low
°F
454646485054545555524845

Where to Next?

1 Review on Berkeley

  1. A
    Anthony Marzo says:

    Unexpectedly Dangerous & Excessively Political

    We’ve lived in Berkeley for 13 years. First, if you have children, it is a dangerous place and unless you are extremely political and activist oriented, expect your children to be indoctrinated into extreme ultra liberalism from day one. If your black or female, they spend and pander to you. If not, expect to be marginalized. If your white (Asians are treated almost as bad as the other white meat) and male, expect to have your children taught you are the cause of all the worlds problems.
    As far as safety, gangs, criminal, thugs and those who emulate them abound. Of course, this is serious urban life, but your won’t expect it to be so bad here. If your moderate or leaning conservative, there is a hostility that permeates every aspect of life here. You need safety in numbers her. It’s too bad the good of Berkeley is so heavily out weighed by the bad. I wish I could fully detail our negative experiences here. If the City and School District continue to implement ultra progressive policies, the city is doomed to be a haven for the bad of urban life.

Rated 4 / 5 based on 1 user reviews.

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