New York : Safety by CityUnited States - safety as a country New York - state review
Two things might come to mind when you think of Buffalo, New York – either Niagara Falls or snowbanks higher than the average home.
Buffalo is so much more as the city is going through a reimagining, with the arts and culture taking over while still preserving the history of this unique city.
The city is divided into unique and eclectic neighborhoods.
To name a few:
- Elmwood: A vibrant district with urban shops and cafes in a neighborhood setting
- Allentown: Artsy vibe with bohemian flair
- Parkside: Nature and architecture blend together for a laid-back, luxurious vibe
- Five Points: Diverse neighborhood of arts, dining, and shopping
- Michigan & Broadway: Perfect spot to appreciate and celebrate African-American culture and history
- Old First Ward: What’s old is new again, with modern amenities in one of the oldest, most cherished neighborhoods
- East Aurora: More shopping and dining in a traditional American Main Street setting
You’re also just 30 minutes from Niagara Falls and the Canadian border, but you shouldn’t let a trip there take away from exploring Buffalo.
There are a lot of new places to see and be seen in Buffalo, and you can experience all of the region’s top draws with careful planning.
Buffalo also offers plenty of water activities that don’t involve monumental waterfalls.
The Niagara River offers tourism opportunities, including a chance to pedal a pink flamingo as long as you’d like.
In a rare twist of creativity, you can also ride a bike on the river.
(Yes, you read that right, and no, I haven’t been drinking.)
Just walking or driving around Buffalo is a site to see with color-popping murals covering the walls and so large they seem to swallow people walking by.
Buffalo also offers a wide range of nightlife, from dance clubs to theater performances to Las Vegas-style casinos.
Every season brings new and exciting things to do.
Warnings & Dangers in Buffalo
OVERALL RISK : MEDIUM
Much like people are surprised at how dangerous the buffalo animal is, Buffalo, New York, is also surprisingly risky. While crime numbers are dropping, it will take a while to get the city to a safe level. There's definitely a medium risk here. Crime is generally fueled by poverty, drugs, and gangs. The city has a 28% poverty rate with an average income of less than $40,000. It's still an amazing city to see, but there are definite warnings that come with it.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : MEDIUM
Metro Bus & Rail is the public transportation system. There's a trolley to Niagara Falls and an express route to the airport. It is overseen by the NFTA Police Department, so for safety, you can feel safe that there's a localized police presence in addition to Buffalo police. Taxis and rideshares are available. You can also choose to rent a car. Buffalo drivers can be aggressive, and you'll need to know how to parallel park. There's a medium risk because of high crime rates, aggressive drivers, and winter driving challenges.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : MEDIUM
24 pickpockets or purse snatchings were reported in 2021. The theft risk is one in 52. On top of that, the robbery rate is nearly three times the national average, so if someone can't take something from you nonchalantly, there's a chance they'll take it from you by force. There's a medium risk, and please don't carry more than the absolute essentials and try to keep your purse from being a magnet for thieves.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
Buffalo gets more than seven feet of snow each year, and people there are just used to it, making it even more dangerous for a tourist who might feel an unjustified sense of bravery going out in the heavy snow. While tornadoes aren't all that common, they do happen - as one hit near here in July of 2022. Flooding is also a concern during heavy rain or snow melt, but snow is really the big issue. There's a medium risk because it's really an overwhelming experience for those who aren't used to it.
MUGGING RISK : MEDIUM
There's a medium risk here too. As mentioned earlier, the robbery rate here is high, although the numbers have been cut in half since 2014. 65% of the robberies happened in public places, making it all the riskier for tourists. Don't ever fight back against a robber. You shouldn't risk your life over a mobile device or wallet. Be sure you write down the serial numbers of your phone ahead of time and enable any system that can track and shut down your phone if stolen.
TERRORISM RISK : MEDIUM
Being so close to a major tourist attraction and near a major waterway will put it at medium risk, while it's not the largest potential target in the state. We've learned too sadly how prone New York City is to attacks.
SCAMS RISK : HIGH
While most of the reported scams are generally targeting the public, there are too many opportunities for scammers to target international crowds here. You should never have to buy gift cards to pay for anything, and you should never wire money ahead of time to reserve a rental. Only buy tickets to attractions directly from vendors, no matter how good the deal is.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : MEDIUM
Sexual assault rates have plummeted since 2018, but it's one crime area that is actually less than the national average. However, the high violent crime rates, in general, will make this a medium risk for women, especially with the wide variety of nightlife. Don't go out alone after dark and never walk alone. Use the buddy system and always tell someone who isn't with your group where you are going and when you plan to be back.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
The 2021-2022 Water Quality Report shows full compliance in all the required areas for water quality. This is the only area in the Buffalo review that will get a low risk.
Safest Places to Visit in Buffalo
When visiting Buffalo, it makes the most safety sense to visit the tourist attractions and do as much during the day as you can.
If you’re visiting during warm weather, Canalside is a great way to start with a variety of activities on the water.
You can also take your pick of tours on the water, whether you want a historical tour or just to enjoy the ride.
Some tours are water and land-based.
Seeing a Buffalo sunset from a boat is a great opportunity too.
The Martin House Project is one of the finest examples of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie-style period, and tours are available to see the architectural master’s work.
You can choose from various tour options, including a private tour that will set you back $500.
If you want to see more architecture, download the “Buffalo On Foot” app to get a walking tour map with audio details along the way.
Niagara Street is a cultural experience that is the Hispanic population’s core of the city.
Brilliant murals cover the road that leads to Niagara Falls.
Many foodie experiences line the road, from fine dining to food trucks.
There are so many neighborhoods to explore in Buffalo.
You can review them all at VisitBuffaloNiagara.com to see which one suits your needs.
Some are more family-friendly while others are top places for nightlife.
Art lovers have so many options here.
The jewel of the art crown is the Buffalo AKG Art Museum.
It’s undergoing renovation and will be open in spring 2023.
The Burchfield Penney Art Center brings the artsy spirit of Western New York to life over more than 84,000 square feet.
You can visit the Squeaky Wheel Film & Media Art Center for a more multi-media art experience.
While you have a seemingly endless supply of performance art options, you simply can’t miss Shea’s Performing Arts Center, even if it’s just to take a peek inside.
The Tiffany-designed theater is a true marvel and comes with a history that makes the city lucky it still stands today.
The Buffalo History Museum is one way to learn about the extensive background of the city, and you can also visit the Buffalo & Erie County Naval and Military Park.
Old Fort Niagara dates back to the 1700s and was one of the battlefronts in the War of 1812.
Look for a small park downtown called Nickola Tesla Park.
There’s an Instagram moment waiting to happen with a Tesla statue.
Buffalo was the first city powered by electricity in the world.
Saving the biggest for last, Niagara Falls is 30 minutes or less from Buffalo.
You’ll need a passport to cross over to the Canadian side, but there’s plenty to do on the U.S. side.
You can enjoy the falls from a distance or from a boat tour just a few feet from the bottom of the falls.
Devil’s Hole State Park is also here, with challenging climbs and a foreboding-looking cave.
Places to Avoid in Buffalo
The far north, east, and south sides of the city have the lowest crime rates, but everywhere in Buffalo is going to require excellent personal safety steps.
Crime is just so spread out here.
You should avoid going off of the main roads or into neighborhoods as much as possible.
Stay on the main streets and opt for guided tours when you can.
Genesee Street east of Moselle Street is historically an extremely crime-ridden neighborhood and should be avoided, even when in a locked vehicle.
The east side is the most dangerous of all sections of the city.
In 2022, 10 African-Americans were killed in a hate crime mass shooting at a grocery store.
This was also on the east side of the city.
While there’s a morbid curiosity about crime scenes, please avoid this area and don’t go to the scene.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Buffalo
- The Buffalo Police Department has one of the best transparency portals I’ve ever seen, and I worked for the local news for 25 + years. You can search for crime by year, type, location and get specific details. It’s really worth sorting through the details closer to your visit, as all crime is up to date.
- Crime Stoppers is a local program that takes anonymous crime tips. You can fill out a form online through the police department’s website or call (716)867-6161. There is also an app for the program where you can send in tips. You can remain anonymous, and rewards for information leading to an arrest go as high as $7500. Turning in a drug dealer is worth $2500.
- NY-Alert is a notification system you can sign up for and get alerts on your mobile device. While this is a statewide program, you can select a specific region. These alerts cover everything from severe weather to public health issues and consumer concerns.
- If you are visiting during the winter, please review the detailed snow emergency plan from the city. Parking rules change, road closures can go into effect, and there is a myriad of other issues that can come with snow falling by the foot.
- The hotel concierge is going to be your best friend when it comes to safety. You should ask specific questions about safety and voice your concerns. The concierge will be able to tell you where to go, how to get there safely and follow up with you when you return. Never just go on your own to any place in Buffalo.
- There’s a section of the tourism website called “InTheBuff.TV.” This section includes videos of all the major tourist attractions and the background of the different parts of town. This is a great resource for the plane trip to Buffalo.
- If you plan on crossing into Canada while visiting Niagara Falls, you must download and fill out the information on the ArriveCAN app at least 72 hours before entering Canada. This is now MANDATORY.
- While large bodies of water and rivers freeze over here, and ice fishing is a popular activity, several times over the past few years, there have been mild weather patterns making the water unsafe. Check with the Coast Guard or the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) before you attempt it. Avoid any ice that is less than two inches thick. The DEC has a series of videos for beginning ice fishing adventurers.
- There are panhandlers in Buffalo, and they are known to be somewhat aggressive. If you see panhandlers ahead of you on the street, try to cross or go out of your way to avoid them. If you can’t, just give a firm NO and keep confidently walking forward.
- If you rent a car here, especially in winter, get an all-wheel or four-wheel-drive vehicle. It will be much easier to navigate new streets with better car control. In the warmer months, watch out for potholes. They can be quite large and dangerous enough to pop a tire.
So... How Safe Is Buffalo Really?
On paper, nothing looks safe about Buffalo.
Talk to a local, and they’ll say it’s all media hype.
While it’s always true that if you go looking for trouble you’ll find it, Buffalo takes it to a new level.
Don’t get into a verbal argument, flip someone off when driving, or yell at a driver who isn’t respecting pedestrians crossing the road.
Mind your own business, stay aware of your surroundings, and don’t wander around distracted by a mobile device or earbuds.
There are racial tensions in Buffalo, while at the same time, resources for all cultures and LGBTQIA+.
The city is still amidst a renovation and renaissance, taking steps to not only make it more entertaining but safer for the people who visit.
Here’s how the risks break down in Buffalo:
- Violent Crime: 1 in 122 risk
- Robbery: 1 in 463 risk
- Theft: 1 in 52 risk
While many of the crimes are centered around drugs and poverty, they will not always be violent crimes against people who know each other.
Innocent people can be victims, but that’s true for any city.
The numbers can be intimidating, but a lot of the potential fear is strongly connected to what size of the city you live in and how much crime you are used to seeing.
Many people in Buffalo can easily say, “It’s a safe city, even though I got mugged.”
You should always secure a car when parking and try to spot a surveillance camera nearby, as the city has a great extensive camera network with businesses connected to the police department’s system.
Don’t leave any personal belongings in a vehicle when you park.
Nearly 40% of all thefts are related to car break-ins.
If you’re thinking, “Is Buffalo too dangerous to visit?” fill in the blank with New York City, Boston, Atlanta, or Chicago.
There’s no reason to avoid a city, especially when Buffalo and those other cities have so many amazing things to experience.
Just be sure to use an abundance of caution every step of the way.
How Does Buffalo Compare?
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- Visas - You'll need a U.S. Travel Visa to cross the border or to enter the U.S. by air or boat. That's in addition to your passport. Be sure to keep it in a safe place for the return trip, as reporting a lost visa is a lengthy process.
- Currency - You can only use the U.S. Dollar here. If you cross into Canada, you can actually buy some duty-free items, but be sure to check the rules of Border Patrol about that point. Avoid carrying cash. There's really no reason to be in Buffalo.
- Weather - There's a lot of winter to soak in on a visit to Buffalo. Even March, which is traditionally thought of as spring, is when the frozen lakes and rivers are at their hardest points. Snow can sometimes shut the city down briefly as crews dig out of it, and temperatures can be dangerously cold. Bring plenty of warm layers. Summers are warm but not always hot, and you'll still want your favorite jacket or hoodie for cool nights and mornings.
- Airports - The Buffalo airport is on the northeast side of the city, just 15 minutes from downtown. You can get there by car or rail line.
- Travel Insurance - You should consider travel insurance, but it's a must in the winter. Winter storms can shut down air traffic across the northeast and leave people stranded at airports for days.
Buffalo Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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