Maine : Safety by City
- Bar Harbor
- Carrabassett Valley
- Presque Isle/Caribou
- South Portland
Bethel is known as “Maine’s Most Beautiful Mountain Village.”
This four-season destination near the New Hampshire border is a great getaway while not being too isolated from basic amenities.
If you love the great outdoors, you won’t be able to resist the many options throughout Bethel and Oxford County.
The list is almost endless: skiing, hiking, rafting, dogsledding, sleigh rides, camping, fishing, and waterfalls.
While the town is home to just 2,500 people, the crowds can be much larger during the best part of skiing season and summer vacation time.
Bethel is 90 minutes from Portland to the south, the Canadian border to the north, St. Johnsbury, Vermont to the west, and Augusta to the east.
While you come to Bethel for the mountains, you also can’t resist its quaint New England charm.
The walkable downtown offers unique shopping, dining, and spa pampering before or after a mountain adventure.
Hotels range from mountain resorts to small bed-and-breakfast inns.
Whether you want to strap on ski boots, hiking boots or put your feet up in a mountain cabin, this mountain region of Maine is truly an escape from the hectic world.
One research note – there are cities named Bethel in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Alaska, so confirm with any internet search that you are looking at Bethel, Maine.
You can also tell a location is in Bethel if the area code is 207.
Warnings & Dangers in Bethel
OVERALL RISK: LOW
Bethel has low risk due to low violent crime rates and very few crimes involving tourists. The major risks are acclimating to the climate, especially in winter, and knowing safety rules regarding wildlife.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW
You'll need your own vehicle here to get to the ski resorts and hiking areas. Electric charging stations are available around Bethel. You won't need a taxi or rideshare because the town is so small they aren't necessary, but Uber is available. Use New England 511 to navigate the roads, closures, winter weather delays, and traffic accidents.
PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW
This is low risk, with no pickpockets reported in the county in 2021. 34% of the thefts reported were vehicle break-ins, so you'll still need to lock your car while you're here. No community is safe enough to skip that risk.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM
Bethel gets an average of nearly eight feet of snow each winter, and that's before you even get to the mountains. You'll need smart winter driving skills, plus a four-wheel drive vehicle. Spring is a very muddy season here, with dangerous roads and trails. Severe thunderstorms can happen in the summer, too.
MUGGING RISK: LOW
Oxford County hasn't seen more than four robberies in a year since 2014, so there's a very low risk of being mugged. The wilderness dangers far outweigh any criminal danger.
TERRORISM RISK: LOW
This is another low-risk category as it's a remote region without a military presence or large population. The nearest city that could be a target would be Portland.
SCAMS RISK: LOW
Oxford County reports brazen scammers that confront people saying a relative has been in an accident and demands money on the spot. Don't trust anyone who tells you information like this. Also, confirm any rental home or cabin is legitimate before making a reservation, and never wire money or send cash to an international bank account. The Bethel tourism website lists Vacation Rental Agencies that are much safer than an online general search.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW
Women enjoy a low-risk here with a great getaway for mindfulness and relaxation. They should know wilderness safety and be prepared to let someone know where they are going, as mobile phone service in the surrounding area is scarce. Never go outside the city without telling someone where you are going and when you plan to return. Learning how to change a tire or get a car out of a snowbank or mud pit is helpful.
TAP WATER RISK: LOW
MaineWater.com is the website that oversees water quality in the state where you can learn more information. Towns like Bethel generally have their own private wells, and the owner must do testing. Ask the proprietor of your chosen hotel or inn for information about the latest water quality tests.
Safest Places to Visit in Bethel
To avoid confusion about which Bethel you are researching, use BethelMaine.com to get access to the official tourism website.
BethelMaine.org is the official city website with more travel information.
Start at the Museums of Bethel Historical Society to learn about the history of this town, established in 1768.
The museums hold hands-on activities, demonstrations, and memorabilia from decades of history.
Find them on Facebook @bethelhistorical for a list of upcoming events.
Somehow the largest piece of Mars on earth ended up in tiny Bethel, Maine.
You can see it at the Maine Mineral Museum in Bethel.
This region was also home to one of the largest recorded tourmaline loads.
Not only can you see various gems and minerals in this museum, but you can also order custom jewelry or choose from pre-made options.
The Androscoggin River runs through Bethel, with walkways and scenic vistas along the way.
You might have heard the stories of how polluted the Androscoggin River is, and the stories aren’t made up.
The river was once so polluted that the stench and chemicals from the water were strong enough to peel paint from nearby homes.
This river help prompt the Clean Water Act, and 50 years later, the water is much cleaner than it used to be.
When you’re looking for a hotel, you can find locations in Bethel or the mountains with activities on site, like golfing, ice skating, playgrounds, spas, or direct access to ski lifts.
Figure the room price value to adjust for the bonus activities you get for staying there.
To explore the trail options in and around Bethel, visit woodsandtrails.org.
This local organization is dedicated to helping visitors navigate the trails and teach safety.
Bethel Community Forest is nearly 1,000 acres of space with newly formed hiking and biking trails.
To emphasize the previous point I made, summer visitors staying at The Bethel Inn will have direct access to the Bethel Village Trails.
In less than an hour, you can be in Errol, New Hampshire, for whitewater rafting on the Androscoggin River.
Summer rafting trips are available four times a day.
For summer swimming, the tourism website lists “Swimming Holes & Waterfalls,” where you can enjoy clean water without worrying about the aforementioned pollution.
Bethel has plenty of watercraft outfitters, and they can also guide you to the safest and best part of the river to explore.
If you don’t want to plan your own adventure, use Bethel Adventure Tours.
They can set you up with the best activity for the season and provide all the safety equipment you need, along with that expert local advice that is priceless.
You’ll have two ski resorts within 15 minutes drive time from Bethel.
Sunday River and Mt. Abram are in separate directions from Bethel.
Sunday River is a resort, so you can also get a hotel room there if you’d like. Mt. Abram is just a ski resort.
Places to Avoid in Bethel
You won’t have to worry about dangerous parts of town since the crime rates are so low here.
For every major risk, like weather, road conditions, and wilderness, there are guides to help you learn the safest practices.
The only thing you should avoid is assuming you’ll be fine or that you know enough to figure it out yourself.
This is also a very friendly town that relies on tourism.
That means you’ll be able to safely ask locals and business workers questions, so don’t avoid “bothering” them.
This is truly a unique and off-the-radar location, so people who live here are proud to tell you about it.
You should still limit any personal or sensitive information just to be safe.
You should review the water quality updates for the Androscoggin River before considering entering it or fishing on it.
Maine.gov is a home base website to get you all the safety information you need.
The river, in recent years, has been at the lowest acceptable quality level, which is much improved from previous decades.
That doesn’t mean you’ll want your children playing in it.
Those outdoor outfitters can also tell you the cleanest stretches of the river.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Bethel
- The Oxford County Sheriff’s Office is located in South Paris, Maine, so you might want to swing by if you are driving from Portland to ask about recent crime trends or safety advice. The phone number is (207)743-9554.
- Oxford County Emergency Management Agency is on Facebook @OxfordCountyEMA. The department offers emergency information and great safety tips for each weather event.
- Don’t take a road trip in this region without a gallon of water for each person in the car, a spare tire that is fully inflated, blankets, sand/kitty litter for traction if you get stuck, flashlights, flares, and a red garment to use as a warning flag. Follow tire chain restriction rules even though you’ll have to drive slower with them on.
- Yes, there are moose in this region. You might even see one or two in the city. Do not feed or bait a moose. Aside from the obvious reason, you could also upset the moose by not feeding it enough – then you’d have a mad moose way too close to you. Enjoy the view from a distance, but never get close enough that it notices you. Moose can easily stomp a person and cause serious injury or death.
- Use the same advice for black bears in this region. If you do come across a bear or cub, back away slowly the way you came. If the bears notice you, say “Hey Bear!” in a loud but not panicked voice. Make as much noise as possible. Don’t climb a tree because the bear is better at it than you. Be sure never to leave food out, and bring bear-proof containers with you into the wild. Bear spray is available at outdoor stores to help in a worst-case scenario, but people can get confused and use it as a perfume. This is not proper use. Only spray it if a bear attack appears imminent.
- You’ll need a fishing license from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. Starting in October 2022, Bethel authorities stopped issuing licenses to non-residents, so purchase your license online. You should have it with you any time you are fishing, along with a valid photo ID.
- You can purchase Mountain Money gift cards for use at all local businesses in Bethel. You could also ask loved ones to purchase gift cards for your trip to help with the costs. Since all businesses here are locally owned and operated, it’s a great way to help the community while adding a layer of safety to payments.
- For the most recent information in the city, including road construction, parking bans, and event details, follow @WhatsUpInBethelMaine, which is the city’s Facebook page.
- Uphill skiing is a trendy new way to tackle the snowy mountains, but the ski resorts will limit the times and places it is allowed. It is also referred to as skinning or alpine skiing. You can read each resort’s website for specific rules for uphill skiers. You’ll generally ride the side of the mountain, and downhill skiers will be told to stay away from the edges. Confirm you have the right equipment for uphill skiing before you start the journey. The resorts will also have ski lifts if the concept of skiing uphill sounds as exhausting to you as it does to me.
- When driving in Maine, you’ll come across many two-lane roadways. If you’re an international traveler, you should research what the lines on the road mean. You can’t just pass any car or semi at any time. You must have a dotted line in the center of the roadway to pass. You cannot use the shoulder to pass. You cannot ride in the left-hand lane when you’re on four-lane or larger highways. It is to be used for passing only, and violators will be issued a ticket if caught.
So... How Safe Is Bethel Really?
Bethel is a very safe city in a very safe county located in the second-safest state in the country, at least as far as crime is concerned.
The little crime that does happen is generally between people who know each other and rarely is a random act of violence.
You should know a lot about wilderness safety and survival and have good winter driving skills if you visit from fall through early spring.
The spring mud can catch people off guard, and never try to drive down a muddy dirt road.
Even hiking in mud can be dangerous.
Summers will be warm and enjoyable, but then there are the water risks like cold water that can lead to hypothermia and drowning.
No matter how well you think you know wilderness, wildlife, and cold weather safety, there’s bound to be something unique in Maine – like the Browntail Moth that has poisonous hairs which can become airborne and make you sick.
Study Maine.gov for all safety steps involving your chosen activities.
Once you understand this wonderful and unique landscape, you’ll be able to enjoy the mountains of Maine and the charming community of Bethel.
How Does Bethel Compare?
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You'll need a U.S. Visa and passport that is more than six months from expiring if you are entering through the U.S. Those entering from Canada must follow Canadian border crossing laws, which can vary from U.S. requirements. You can learn about the visa process in America by visiting the State Department's website. Don't forget the Border Patrol website to learn about crossing into Canada and returning to the U.S.
You can only use the U.S. Dollar here, and Canadian dollars won't be accepted. Exchange currency before you leave your home country to get the lowest conversion fees. In a place this remote, you can't assume credit cards will be widely accepted, so bring some cash with you. Just keep it hidden in a safe spot.
Bethel's summers don't go above 80°(F) on average, and summer nights can get into the 50s. You will need sunscreen and hiking boots. Don't forget bug spray too, so you can keep mosquitos away (but it won't help with Browntail Moths). Temperatures can change as you go up in elevation, so always dress for the coldest location you'll visit. The National Weather Service in Portland/Gray is the best tool to use for outfit planning. Winter requires full outdoor gear with base layers, insulating layers, and a waterproof layer. Don't leave any skin exposed if you'll be outside for an extended period of time.
Portland International Jetport is 90 minutes from Bethel. Check the New England 511 app to see which route is the best for your trip, especially during winter weather, as the roads can be treacherous.
We strongly recommend travel insurance for a trip to a state with such intense weather. You should also explore insurance for the outdoor activities you plan to do, especially if you get hurt since the U.S. doesn't have any kind of free health care.
Bethel Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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Maine - Safety by City