How Safe Is Chattanooga for Travel?

Chattanooga, United States
Safety Index:
69

Chattanooga, Tennessee, sits along the Tennessee River and lines the southeastern border of the state line to Georgia.

The city made headlines for being a “Gig City,” meaning it was the first to offer lightning-fast gigabyte internet service, which is in stark contrast to the slower pace of life in this *almost Appalachia town.

There are mountains nearby, opening up a wide range of exploratory options for travelers, but you’ve also got an urban area with noteworthy attractions like the Tennessee Aquarium.

The downtown area is divided into several districts:

  • Riverfront: Right along the river just off the City Center district. This is where you’ll find the aquarium.
  • Northshore: Just across the river from the Riverfront District, you’ll get great river views and plenty of places to explore.
  • Southside: The neighborhood to find the Chatanooga Choo Choo and plenty of nightlife options.
  • Bluff View Art District: The eclectic and artsy side of the city with unique eateries.
  • City Center: The center of all the action with new businesses and a popular Warehouse Row shopping area.
  • MLK/UTC: One of the largest murals in the country covers a city block here, and this neighborhood is rich with heritage and culture.
  • West Village: Anchored by the Westin, this is a more upscale and elegant city section.

For a closer look at nature, head south of the city to St. Elmo or Lookout Mountain.

Hiking trails were specifically designed for all experience levels, with the 10-mile Big Daddy Loop being the most rugged path of them all.

If you don’t want to go up Lookout Mountain, you can go beneath it to the largest underground waterfall open to tourists.

This section of Tennessee is truly the perfect spot when you can’t decide between an urban adventure or a wilderness retreat.

The center of the action is just 15 minutes from the mountain.

Warnings & Dangers in Chattanooga

Overall Risk

OVERALL RISK : MEDIUM

With overall crime up 13% in Chattanooga from 2018 to 2020, there's a medium risk and growing. In 2020, there were 1926 violent crimes. 2021 data shows more than 2,500. In June of 2022, there were two mass shootings here within a week. This doesn't mean it's too unsafe to visit Chattanooga, but there should be a lot of caution used when doing so.

Transport & Taxis Risk

TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : MEDIUM

CARTA is the public transportation system throughout the city. You can buy unlimited rides for $6, or it's $1.50 each way. Taxis and rideshares are available and rental cars are available. With growing crime on the streets and an increased number of car break-ins and thefts, there's medium risk.

Pickpockets Risk

PICKPOCKETS RISK : MEDIUM

Another medium risk here with 22 pickpockets or purse snatching reported in 2020 and a slew of purse and wallet thefts from vehicles - with that exact number not being released. Definitely avoid carrying anything of value, limit the amount of cash, and don't wear jewelry or other high-priced items that might draw attention.

Natural Disasters Risk

NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM

Severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, flooding, and extreme temperatures are the biggest risks here. Winter weather is possible but not all that common. Since there's some kind of threat throughout the year, there's a medium risk here too.

Mugging Risk

MUGGING RISK : HIGH

There's a robbery in Chattanooga every other day, on average. About 25% of those robberies happen in public places. Nearly 40% of violent crimes happen in public places. Based on recent crime trends, there's a higher risk when going out after dark or late into the overnight hours.

Terrorism Risk

TERRORISM RISK : LOW

There's a low risk here since there's not a large population, hard targets, or nearby military bases. There are some military reserve units here, but it's not one of the large forts or bases that hold weapons or any other kind of rich target.

Scams Risk

SCAMS RISK : LOW

It would be wise not to trust anyone you meet here who asks for personal information unless it's a licensed business or entity. While there aren't any reported tourist-focused scams, you could face rental scams when looking at vacation homes. Always be sure the landlord is licensed and never wire money ahead of time.

Women Travelers Risk

WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : MEDIUM

There's a medium risk for men and women here. The sexual assault rate is two and a half times the national average. While many violent crimes are among people who know each other, too many people are getting caught in the literal crossfire. At least for the time being, it's best to avoid the nightlife here or use a lot of caution if you do go out. Don't stand in large crowds outside and don't walk home from a bar alone (or even with a friend) if you can avoid it.

Tap Water Risk

TAP WATER RISK : LOW

The 2021 Water Quality Report shows no violations and full compliance. You might notice an odd smell in the water, and the report actually includes links to videos where you can understand why this happens.

Safest Places to Visit in Chattanooga

The Tennessee Aquarium is one of the most popular places in Chattanooga.

As the name suggests, if an animal lives in, on, or around water, it’s on display here.

The flashlight fish look pretty cool and I’d love to come eye to eye with a Giant Pacific Octopus.

There’s an IMAX theater with subversive experiences of different movies and underwater adventures.

Still didn’t get your animal fix?

The Chattanooga Zoo is a great place to go.

You can feed giraffes or take in animal shows while listening to lectures on the natural habitat of certain species.

There are more than 650 animals here.

Take a ride on the Southern Belle Riverboat.

Cruises run the gamut from sunrise to sunset with meals available during some excursions.

There’s a full bar with indoor and outdoor seating available.

You can also walk over the Tennessee River by using the Walnut Street Pedestrian Bridge.

The bridge is fully dedicated to pedestrians and bicyclists, so it’s safe to cross without having to worry about the motor vehicle traffic.

This bridge connects downtown and the Northshore neighborhood.

Get a look back at the railroad era at the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum.

Train rides are available and there’s a North Pole Express during the holidays.

The world’s steepest railway is one way to get to Lookout Mountain.

As the saying goes, you can “see seven states” from the sweeping views atop Lookout Mountain.

The incline railway is a trolley on tracks with incredible views throughout the one-mile journey.

At Lookout Mountain, you have plenty of chances to explore, with the two most popular being the Rock Garden and the underside of the mountain at Ruby Falls.

If you want to up your game in the cave, then try Raccoon Mountain, which is one of the most challenging cave tours in this part of the country.

You should be prepared to scramble over rocks and crawl on your belly in some parts to get through.

Tours are available by foot and trolley to learn about the history of the area, or for a darker turn, take a ghost tour of the city and learn about the legends that allegedly still walk the streets.

Point Park Battlefield is a key location for a Civil War fight that was known as the “Battle Above the Clouds.”

You can tour the park or take in a few short movies to learn the history of this region.

Places to Avoid in Chattanooga

The city has an interactive map that you can use to search for crimes in each neighborhood.

You can select the types of crimes you wish to see.

The challenge Chattanooga is facing in 2022 is that even criminals from the “bad” neighborhoods are coming into the downtown area to commit crimes.

The 2022 mass shooting at Mary’s Bar & Grill was just down the road from the zoo and right next to a hospital.

Even the judge presiding over the case said in open court, “It’s clear to me from watching that that this could be not seen as anything other than gangs, criminal violent gangs showing up in my community that I grew up in, in the middle of the night when most people are sleeping.”

Overall, the east side of town has higher crime rates, as do some of the neighborhoods to the south.

This is really a city where you should stay in major tourist areas and don’t go off the beaten path.

Even a woman driving through one of the tunnels was caught up in a shootout and ended up dying from injuries.

She had nothing to do with the crime but lost her life by simply driving down the road.

You can say crime like this happens everywhere, and yes, that’s true.

Chattanooga just has an influx of this crime that rattles the community and no good solution is in sight.

Safety Tips for Traveling to Chattanooga

  1. Chattanooga Police Department (CPD) has an annual report for 2020/2021 that details the crime rates and increases in the community. While many statistics are on the rise in 2022, it’s an easy-to-read document that shows you how much crime is growing in certain areas and where crime prevention efforts are working.
  2. The city has an average of 34 car crashes per day and nearly six of those crashes involve injuries. The annual report lists off the most dangerous roadways for crashes.
  3. To get more information about crime trends closer to your visit, call the Crime Prevention and Community Outreach line at (423) 643-5090.
  4. There are several numbers you can call to report non-urgent crimes. Crime Stoppers allows you to give crime tips anonymously at (423) 698-3333. If you suspect drug activity, call (423) 493-BUST (2878).
  5. BikeChattanooga is a program where visitors can rent bicycles to explore the city. You can buy passes by the hour, day, or year. The website shows where the rental and docking stations are located throughout downtown.
  6. You can sign up for a CHA311 account to create a direct line between you and city services. This is a great way to report issues or ask questions. For example, if there’s a rare snow event here, you can call 311 to ask about road conditions and best practices. There’s also a section on the city’s website to review the procedures.
  7. Before you book a cave tour, ask how challenging the adventure is. Some will take you deep within a cave and to some amazing, yet tight spaces. These tours are going to be hard for someone who is claustrophobic. The caves are going to be 60°(F) throughout the year, so bring a jacket if you are visiting in the sweltering summer. There are also haunted tours offered, so there’s another reason it’s important to know exactly which tour you are booking.
  8. Rock City is a great adventure with some dynamic views. Your Instagram will be full of photos, BUT, please research this attraction ahead of time. There is a very narrow section called “Fat Man’s Squeeze” which is a tight area prone to flooding, and a suspension bridge that is 180 feet. There’s a scenic view from Lover’s Leap, which has a rock wall and/or waist-high railing. As for why is it called Lover’s Leap? I’ll let you learn that on your visit.
  9. HamiltonReady.org is a great website to review all the weather risks that happen here. This is especially helpful if you’re not from a place that deals with tornadoes or winter weather.
  10. If you’re going to spend time on or in the Tennessee River Water, check the flood levels and water warnings daily. Especially after storms, the stormwater can make the water dangerous due to chemicals and debris that leak into the main river.

So... How Safe Is Chattanooga Really?

The police chief and mayor of Chattanooga say they will do whatever is necessary to stop violent crime from taking over the city.

With more than 920 guns taken off the streets in 2020 by law enforcement, gun crimes keep coming.

It’s a story told in many communities across America.

The mayor spoke to FOX News about the recent rash of mass shootings.

“I don’t think it’s what any of us would think of traditionally as gangs, but it has been called that here,” Chattanooga mayor Tim Kelly said.

“The fact of the matter is, you know, we’ve got communities in Chattanooga that have been, you know, grindingly poor for generations and generations.

And that’s the root cause of the problem.”

The biggest risk for a tourist is getting caught as a bystander to a crime.

Many of the major crimes happen in public places but are well after the sun goes down or into the overnight hours.

There’s also the challenge of some crimes being instigated by teenagers.

“I’m standing here in front of you talking about our community’s youth getting shot.

That’s outrageous and it has to stop.

It’s ridiculous that I even need to publicly state that guns have no place in the hands of our kids and that children shouldn’t be wandering around in the middle of the night without supervision,” Mayor Kelly added.

Another challenge is that the crime rates have been static for many years, but surged from 2020 through 2022. 41% of thefts were car break-ins.

The risks in Chattanooga are:

  • Violent Crime: 1 in 72 risk
  • Robbery: 1 in 924 risk
  • Theft: 1 in 22 risk

You need to use all the same safety precautions here as if you were visiting a major metropolitan area like Chicago.

Avoid any group that is involved in a disturbance.

How Does Chattanooga Compare?

CitySafety Index
Chattanooga69
Los Angeles56
Oakland57
New Orleans57
Baltimore56
Siem Reap (Cambodia)63
Phnom Penh (Cambodia)61
Niagara Falls (Canada)87

Useful Information

  • Visas - You'll need a U.S. Travel or Work Visa to enter the country, and a passport is also required. Be sure to plan far ahead of time as the appointments for in-person interviews can be backed up for months.
  • Currency - You can only use the U.S. Dollar here, and you should avoid carrying cash with you. It's just too risky with the current crime trends. Try to limit purchases to one credit card and check your account daily for potential fraud. Never throw a receipt away in public. Local stores like UPS allow people to drop off sensitive paperwork to be shredded.
  • Weather - Summers will be hot and muggy, and you'll need good hiking shoes to explore the mountains. Spring and fall can vary in temperatures, so plan several different layers and lengths of clothing. Winter can be chilly but rarely gets too cold to enjoy outdoor activities.
  • Airports - Chattanooga's airport is 13 miles east of downtown. That should take anywhere from 15-30 minutes. During the weekends, traffic can get more intense as people drive through this area to get to and from places like Huntsville and the uber-popular Pigeon Forge. I was surprised to see how much traffic Chattanooga has on a trip to Dollywood.
  • Travel Insurance - You'll want travel insurance to protect you from any delayed flights, missing baggage, or accidents along the way. Even spraining an ankle in the mountains can cost a lot to be rescued if you don't have some kind of health insurance.
Click here to get an offer for travel insurance

Chattanooga Weather Averages (Temperatures)

Jan 6° C
Feb 8° C
Mar 12° C
Apr 17° C
May 22° C
Jun 26° C
Jul 27° C
Aug 27° C
Sep 24° C
Oct 18° C
Nov 13° C
Dec 8° C
Choose Temperature Unit

Average High/Low Temperature

Temperature / MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
High
°C
101217222630313128221712
Low
°C
1371217212323201383
High
°F
505463727986888882726354
Low
°F
343745546370737368554637

Where to Next?

1 Review on Chattanooga

  1. A nice, calm city good for a short visit

    I didn’t know the Walnut Street Bridge was the world’s longest pedestrian bridge. That’s fantastic! I loved the bridge while in Chattanooga – it’s looking great now after the restoration. The city is a good place to visit for a few days like I did. After that you might be bored a bit.

Rated 3 / 5 based on 1 user reviews.

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