How Safe Is Bethlehem for Travel?

Updated On January 15, 2024
Bethlehem, United States
Safety Index:
80
* Based on Research & Crime Data

Nestled in the heart of Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, Bethlehem whispers tales of industrial might and Moravian grace.

Founded in 1741 by a band of peace-loving Moravians, the city witnessed some of America’s defining moments.

Walk with ghosts of revolutionaries in the 18th-century Gemeinhaus, where the first colonists celebrated Christmas with twinkling lights.

Feel the pulse of the industry at the SteelStacks, where Bethlehem’s past as a steel giant lives on in vibrant concerts and art installations.

Bethlehem hosts vibrant districts, each with its own charm.

Wander through the cobblestone lanes of Historic Bethlehem, where colonial buildings tell stories of Moravian ingenuity.

Marvel at the 1740 Gemeinhaus, America’s oldest surviving community house, or peek into the apothecary’s dusty shelves holding secrets of centuries-old remedies.

Venture into South Bethlehem, where Bethlehem’s steel heart has been transformed into a hip haven.

Sip craft beers at gastropubs, browse eclectic shops, and catch world-class music at Musikfest, the largest free music festival in the nation.

For serenity, explore the tree-lined streets of Monocacy Manor.

Admire the stately mansions, remnants of Bethlehem’s wealthy past, or stroll through the picturesque Moravian College campus, founded in 1742 as the first institution to educate women in America.

Bethlehem is more than just a city; it’s a journey through time.

From colonial charm to industrial grit to modern flair, each district offers a taste of its multifaceted identity.

It’s also known as Christmas Town and exudes that idyllic holiday charm from early November through late December each year.

Warnings & Dangers in Bethlehem

Overall Risk

OVERALL RISK: LOW

There's a low risk in Bethlehem coupled with some pretty incredible things to do in safe places. Holiday visitors should use a little extra caution just because of the crowds.

Transport & Taxis Risk

TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW

It can be really hard to find the "how to get around XX city" information sometimes. I have at least two gray hairs from it. However, the Bethlehempa.org website offers a "Getting Here and There" website page that covers rental cars, highway routes, public transportation, taxis, and parking information. You'll have plenty of ways to enjoy and explore the city, the Lehigh Valley, and get to the larger cities like NYC and Philadelphia.

Pickpockets Risk

PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW

You're more likely to have your car broken into than get pickpocketed, and 2023 saw no pickpockets or purse snatchings. While the risk is low, the theft rate is around the national average. Use the same precautions.

Natural Disasters Risk

NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: LOW

The risk here is low, but any type of severe weather is possible. That includes severe thunderstorms, winter storms, flooding, extreme heat/cold, and tropical storms that move inland. The low risk shouldn't be taken as a reason to ignore the weather forecast. It just means there isn't an ordinary natural disaster like you'd find in the Midwest's tornado alley.

Mugging Risk

MUGGING RISK: LOW

The robbery risk here is nearly half the national average, with about one-third of those being highway robberies. That's a low risk but not low enough to let your guard down, especially at night.

Terrorism Risk

TERRORISM RISK: LOW

This is another low risk, especially with the major cities of New York and Philadelphia within an hour or two. You can still report any suspicious activity to the police to help keep the risk low.

Scams Risk

SCAMS RISK: LOW

The city sees the garden variety scams, but if you visit the county website or review local police social media, you'll get more awareness about what those are and how to avoid them. The risk is low, but always use extra vigilance when booking and planning a Christmas trip. Any deal that seems too good to be true probably is.

Women Travelers Risk

WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW

Nothing in the crime data suggests women are at a greater risk than anyone else. The great thing about Bethlehem is that so many of the attractions are in museums or historic districts, where crime is less likely to happen.

Tap Water Risk

TAP WATER RISK: LOW

The 2022 Water Quality Report shows full compliance and no violations of state or federal requirements. Since the water quality requirements are so strict in America, you'll be hard-pressed to find a place where the water isn't safe to drink.

Safest Places to Visit in Bethlehem

You have two great websites to use to review things to do in and around Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

First, “Visit Historic Bethlehem” covers the city, downtown, events, and activities.

Then, “Discover Lehigh Valley” broadens the views to other cities nearby, like Allentown.

We also have a collection of things to do there on this website.

Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, nicknamed “Christmas City,” boasts a rich history, charming neighborhoods, and unique attractions waiting to be explored.

Immerse yourself in Bethlehem’s 18th-century roots in the living history museum called the Colonial Industrial Quarter.

Explore restored buildings like the Gemeinhaus, a communal living quarters, and the Single Brethren’s House, once home to unmarried men.

The Moravian Museum of Bethlehem is where you can delve deeper into the Moravian community’s heritage.

It showcases faith, art, and everyday life with artifacts like needlework, handcrafted furniture, and historical photographs.

If historic buildings or architecture are your thing, I strongly recommend you stop by the Historic Bethlehem Visitor Center & 1810 Goundie House.

The list of places to visit is extensive, and I’m even having a hard time whittling them down to the “best of the best” because they all have such amazing views.

You know a museum is going to be good when it’s associated with the Smithsonian.

That’s what you’ll get at the National Museum of Industrial History.

Journey through America’s industrial past at this fascinating museum.

Explore exhibits on steelmaking, transportation, and technology, and even climb aboard a real locomotive.

SteelStacks is another impressive exterior with a vibrant arts and entertainment complex inside.

It’s housed in the remnants of Bethlehem Steel and offers something for everyone.

Catch a concert at Musikfest, browse the art galleries, or grab a bite at one of the many restaurants.

Downtown Bethlehem is as charming as it is historic while still offering modern amenities and unique shops – including the country’s oldest bookstore.

For those booking a Christmas trip to Bethlehem (Pennsylvania), the tourism website keeps the activity and event list up throughout the year.

One of the merriest places to visit is the Christmas Village.

Places to Avoid in Bethlehem

You won’t find any places in Bethlehem too dangerous to visit, but there’s a stark contrast between the southside of the city (south of the river).

That’s also where Lehigh University is, so if being around college students during meals and night outings isn’t your thing, pick downtown, north, or west Bethlehem.

You’ll find a handful of hotels downtown and another group just south of the river near some of the major attractions.

The largest collection is closer to Allentown, right along the highway near the airport.

Again, there isn’t a “bad” place to stay, but it very much matters what type of experience you want.

Using standard caution will help keep you safe anywhere you choose in the Bethlehem region.

Also, there is a Bethlehem City and Bethlehem Township.

This article focuses mainly on the city.

The township borders the city on the east with lower crime rates but a much more suburban area.

Then you’ll have Bethel and Bethel Park, which have nothing to do with these locations.

Just be sure you’re always in the right Bethlehem.

Safety Tips for Traveling to Bethlehem

  1. Bethlehem has its own police department. If you have specific safety questions, call (610)865-7187 or email bethlehempolice@bethlehem-pa.gov. You can also follow them on Facebook @BethlehemPolice.
  2. Sign up for CodeRED notifications about severe weather or public safety emergencies. Look for the Ready Lehigh County registration online. This will cover the whole county. When you sign up, be sure to use the address of your hotel since the alert comes based on the location provided during registration.
  3. You can also sign up for city alerts through the Bethlehem City website. Choose Public Safety, Public Works, and Weather & Other Emergencies as the main categories that most likely affect a tourist.
  4. Use the ParkMobile app to find parking and pay for it in downtown Bethlehem. Several parking garages are available downtown, such as the New Street Deck and the Walnut Street Deck. Consider using garages for overnight parking or in bad weather.
  5. The police department offers a Gang Guide on its website that shows the common signage and colors of certain gangs in the community. If you are unfamiliar with gang activity, you should review this before visiting.
  6. The state police department offers crime mapping for each community, which is a great tool to use for more recent crime trends. For example, you can search for car break-ins or assaults within a mile of your hotel over the past three months. Make sure you’re looking at the right location. Use the code PA0480300 – Bethlehem City.
  7. If you’re renting a car, avoid Kia models. Those have been targeted for break-ins across America. The police department does offer free anti-theft devices, but it’s easier to avoid the make of the car from the start.
  8. Depending on what time of year you’re visiting, check the snow emergency routes, snow plow priority maps, and street sweeping maps. Those could all impact where you can park on a given day.
  9. Download the Bethlehem Service Center app from the online store of your choice. Through that app, you’ll have direct access to numerous city departments and be able to report issues like potholes.
  10. If you plan on fishing while you’re here, you’ll need a license from the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission. Licenses can be purchased online or at local outfitters.

So... How Safe Is Bethlehem Really?

Bethlehem might have some rough edges, but compared to nearby Allentown, it’s definitely a safer choice.

Also, Bethlehem’s crime is trending down, which is a feat considering most cities in America have dealt with crime surges since the pandemic.

In addition, many people don’t realize that Pennsylvania has a violent crime rate that is 40% lower than the national average.

It gives a great context of how the most dangerous parts of Philadelphia don’t define the whole state.

In Bethlehem (city), crime rates are another 41% lower.

Your biggest concern here is going to be property crime in the form of a car break-in or a car accessory theft, like those pricey catalytic converters.

About eight cars are stolen each month, which is on the low end for an eastern Pennsylvania city.

Bethlehem Townships is significantly lower in all crime categories than the city of Bethlehem.

Even the more sketchy parts of town shouldn’t concern you too much, especially if you’re used to living in an area with property crime.

How Does Bethlehem Compare?

CitySafety Index
Bethlehem80
Dallas64
Memphis54
Orlando64
Las Vegas62
San Francisco61
Philadelphia60
Vienna (Austria)88
Hong Kong (China)70
Manama (Bahrain)54
Tianjin (China)67
Brussels (Belgium)60
Shanghai (China)66

Useful Information

Visas

Visas

International visitors need a visa or visa waiver to get into the country by Customs or Border Patrol. Make sure your passport is also valid for at least six months from the day you leave the U.S.

Currency

Currency

The U.S. Dollar is the only currency accepted here. Your bank might charge a foreign transaction currency when using a credit card. The major international airports will have currency exchange options on location. You really don't want to carry a lot of cash with you in this region.

Weather

Weather

Nothing stands out as a "must-have" when visiting Bethlehem other than preparing for the seasonal weather. The area doesn't get a lot of snow, but a big winter snowstorm shouldn't be ruled out. Summers will be hot and humid. You'll want bug spray for outdoor activities.

Airports

Airports

Lehigh International Airport is just five miles away. For the larger airports near NYC and Philadelphia, plan for about 90 minutes to an hour on the road.

Travel Insurance

Travel Insurance

Comprehensive travel insurance that covers your flight, health emergencies, rental car issues, and any other unforeseen circumstances is best when traveling internationally.

Click here to get an offer for travel insurance

Bethlehem Weather Averages (Temperatures)

Jan -3° C
Feb -1° C
Mar 5° C
Apr 11° C
May 16° C
Jun 21° C
Jul 24° C
Aug 23° C
Sep 19° C
Oct 12° C
Nov 6° C
Dec 1° C
Choose Temperature Unit

Average High/Low Temperature

Temperature / MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
High
°C
241017222729282418115
Low
°C
-7-5-14101518171361-4
High
°F
363950637281848275645241
Low
°F
192330395059646355433425

Pennsylvania - Safety by City

CitySafety Index
Allentown78
Altoona82
Bethlehem80
Doylestown78
Erie62
Gettysburg83
Harrisburg54
Hershey82
Kennett Square84
Philadelphia60
Pittsburgh63
Pittston74
Reading58
Scranton66
Stroudsburg82
Uniontown59

Where to Next?

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