Ohio : Safety by CityUnited States - safety as a country Ohio - state review
The Ohio state capital is in Columbus, and it’s actually the largest city by population in the state.
Yep, even larger than Cleveland.
In Columbus (or anywhere in Ohio for that matter), if someone shouts “O-H” at you, the only acceptable reply is “I-O” shouted back.
This is in tribute to the Ohio State Buckeyes and their massive fan base.
Taking in a game at Ohio Stadium – but please call it “The Shoe” to fit in – is truly an experience you don’t want to miss.
This is a city of 900,000 people with Midwestern hospitality and an urban core with plenty of things to do.
In fact, some people debate about whether they should visit Cleveland or Columbus.
You can read our review of “How Safe is Cleveland for Travel?” if you’re torn as well
Columbus is not only large in population, it has a large land size as well.
This means plenty of different districts to explore:
- Downtown: Innovation, cultural, technology, the statehouse, and a park like no other.
- Arena District: Sports dominate this region with concert venues on top of that.
- Short North Arts District: You’ll know it by the lighted arches that lead the way.
- Grandview: A slower pace of life than the city with a lunch that can parlay into happy hour.
- Franklintown: Creativity around every corner in this artsy and eclectic neighborhood.
- Easton: “The Rodeo Drive of the Midwest,” you’ll find luxurious shopping here.
- Near East Side: From gardens to gastropubs, a mix of activities to see here.
- German Village: Charm and breweries wrapped up in one historical neighborhood.
- OSU/Clintonville: “O-H”… Did you say it? Plenty of places to see with a hipster vibe near the campus.
- Dublin/Bridge Park: As Irish of a place as you’ll find in Ohio, with plenty of food and entertainment options
- Polaris: Shopping and dining core with national brands
That’s a lot to do, right?
The best part is that there’s something for everyone, whether you’re here for gameday, a romantic getaway, or a summer vacay with the kids.
Warnings & Dangers in Columbus
OVERALL RISK : MEDIUM
Columbus is one of the rare cities in Ohio that actually reported the 2021 crime statistics. While much of the raw data leans toward a medium risk, you'll also meet some of the nicest people possible here. You just have to remember this isn't a rinky dink college town. It's a metropolis growing closer to a million people every year.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
COTA is the public bus system here with various routes to get you around town or express routes to get you to places you need to be faster. Download the COTA Connector so you can avoid pulling out your wallet to pay. Taxis and rideshares are easy to find and rental cars are widely available. While COTA has faced some recent crimes on buses, it's not indicative of being unsafe. You just have to use basic security measures.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
91 pickpockets were reported in 2021, which is 0.004% of all the thefts here. While you should always use standard protection of your belongings in public, there isn't a massive pickpocket issue here. Car break-ins are a different story, with 45% of all thefts being related to things stolen from inside or outside vehicles.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
Winters can be rough in Columbus, with snow storms and bitter cold temperatures. Warmer weather can bring severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. There's a medium risk because of the potential throughout the year, but there's nothing here the city hasn't dealt with before.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
31% of robberies happen in public places here, with an average theft of $1400. Lower your risk by not carrying valuables with you, keeping mobile devices out of sight, and putting your wallet in a hidden pocket inside a jacket.
TERRORISM RISK : HIGH
Larger metro areas are always going to be considered a higher risk, and gamedays will have elevated security levels with massive crowds flooding the stadium and city.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
The biggest scam here that would involve a tourist includes Ohio State ticket scams. Even some of the websites set up look legit, but they aren't. Be sure you're buying a ticket from an authorized vendor and the Better Business Bureau recommends using a credit card to pay for tickets instead of apps like Venmo to get better fraud protection.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : MEDIUM
Women should proceed with a medium risk just because of the crime rates here in general, not because of a specific risk. The violent crime trends show men are slightly more likely to be a victim of a crime. If you're enjoying the nightlife here, be sure to use basic bar precautions, like not letting someone buy you a drink unless you see the bartender make it and don't leave drinks uncovered while you're on the dance floor.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
The water utility in Columbus is in full compliance with the Safe Water Drinking Act and there should be no concerns about the water quality. Should there be any risks that happen, the city will notify residents and hotels while posting information on social media accounts.
Safest Places to Visit in Columbus
Experiencecolumbus.com is the official tourism website for the city, and you explore the many neighborhoods and events there.
You can also watch tourism videos on the CVSColumbus YouTube channel.
Experience passports are available for purchase with a discount for buying in bulk.
The German Village is a family-friendly place and walkable neighborhood where you can “Live Like a German” for an afternoon or evening.
Be sure to come hungry because there are authentic German dishes and pastries waiting to fill you up.
The Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens mixes the beauty of art and flowers into one easy to explore location.
There’s a garden just for kids and a glass artwork display that is the largest of its kind.
The Columbus Museum of Art is another great place to see modern artworks with an outdoor sculpture garden.
Columbus Zoo and Aquarium takes you under the sea or to the land down under with a variety of animals to view and some interactive experiences that you won’t soon forget.
The zoo also comes to life with holiday decorations between Thanksgiving and the new year.
LEGOLAND Discovery Center is more than just a place to play with one of America’s favorite toys.
You can also hop on an amusement park ride or take in a show at the 4D theatre.
If you want more fun with the family, COSI is a science center with more than 300 ways to learn about science in an interactive setting.
If you like walking tours, Columbus has more than a dozen options.
You can get a jolt from the coffee trail, try out different options along the food truck trail, explore the Short North Art Trail, or get your live music fix on that trial.
Hop on the Scioto Mile to explore the outdoor parks and trails along the Scioto River.
Several parks can be found along this path and don’t be surprised if you run into a festival or two.
This is a popular gathering spot for Columbus events.
If you’re visiting Dublin and Bridge Park, take a historic walking tour, but don’t miss a chance to walk on the new suspension bridge.
It’s curved and scientifically creative to be a great way to explore without sitting in traffic.
Places to Avoid in Columbus
Crime is spread out across Columbus, and different seasons can change the crime distribution.
For example, more crimes might happen during football seasons because there are more crowds.
Some of the neighborhoods with the highest crime rates include North Linden, Franklintown, and Hilltop.
One bar in South Hilltop, the Spotlight Lounge, had so much crime the city took action to shut it down on certain weekends and require increased safety steps.
“The violent crime and firearm-related offenses at this location constituted an ongoing threat to the surrounding neighborhood,” Assistant City Attorney Zach Gwin told Channel 6.
“We are glad the owners were willing to come to the table and make serious commitments for the safety of patrons and neighbors.”
The higher-crime neighborhoods aren’t in the places tourists are going to frequent, but you should always stay on main roads and avoid cutting through neighborhoods if you don’t know the area.
Driving with your car doors locked is smart, but also basic safety.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Columbus
- The Ohio Crime Victim Justice Center has a website and video explaining what rights you would have should you be a victim of a crime. If you are unfamiliar with the laws and rights in the United States or specifically in Ohio, this is a great tool to review ahead of your trip.
- Gun crime is growing in the United States, and that might make you a bit nervous about visiting different cities. It’s important to note that Ohio does have open carry laws, so you might see people with guns. The majority of people with guns are not criminals. Once someone uses a gun in a menacing or threatening way, it becomes a crime.
- You can file a non-urgent crime report or accident report on the police department’s website. This is a great way to get an accident report if you need it for insurance purposes. For questions about filing a theft online, you can call (614) 645-4545.
- MyColumbus is an app you can download for tourist information, questions about the city, or weather information throughout your trip. You’ll also have access to all social media posts in one place.
- In the app you’ll also find a connection to the 311 service. You can also dial 311 at any time. You can add safety concerns, like potholes or street light outages, without having to spend much time doing so. If there is a weather emergency and you need shelter information, that’s another great reason to call 311. The service is also available in six languages.
- Street parking in Columbus is a touchless process. At first glance, it’s going to look like you can just park wherever you want! HOW COOL, RIGHT? Nope. Look for the “Know Your Zone” sign and take a picture of that so you have the information. You’ll also need to know your license plate number. You can pay at kiosks or by mobile app. Look at the “My Buddy Charles” YouTube channel for a walkthrough of how this works.
- Columbus Warrior Watch is an interactive map that comes to life during a snowstorm. You’ll be able to see real-time information about where snow plows are located while cleaning the streets. The city has various levels of snow emergencies, so review the plan before you visit or at least before it starts snowing.
- Stop by any bike shop to get a Columbus Metro Bike Map. You’ll find the location of bicycle lanes and trails throughout the city and where you can rent bicycles.
- Sign up for weather alerts through Alert Franklin County. That’s located on the website fcemhs.org. While you’re there, review the awareness plan so you’re ready for any wild weather that could happen.
- Follow @ColumbusPublicUtlities on Facebook if you have concerns about water quality. While the information would be shared with all the city accounts, this is a sure way to get the information right from the source.
- BONUS TIP: Don’t wear Michigan State attire or say anything positive about Michigan State unless you are a hardcore fan. There’s a huge rivalry between these two universities. I had a colleague years ago who kept a basket of buckeyes with a “Countdown to Ohio vs. Michigan” on his desk. If I even mentioned it, I got a history lesson wrapped up with an “O-HHHHHH!” and I would be like, “I-O, got it.”
So... How Safe Is Columbus Really?
In the summer of 2022, a string of violent crimes caused a stir in the community.
With violent crime on the rise nationwide, it’s easy to think it is going to get worse in any city.
Local leaders got together and in a news conference said that crime rates are actually down compared to last year, although we won’t know year-to-year comparisons until 2023.
2021 was a record-setting year for homicides in Columbus.
“The deadly and devastating scourge of gun violence stands apart (from other issues) in size, scale, complexity,” Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther said.
“Its damage to our community is evident by the headlines and heartbreak we see on so many days.
It must be stopped.”
Nearly 2,000 illegal guns were taken off the street in the first half of the year, and actions like the aforementioned bar facing infractions for being a crime-ridden business, show the city is taking the epidemic seriously.
In February of 2022, the city declared a Public Health Crisis due to gun violence.
All that said, the crimes in this community are more often than not crimes against people who know each other, related to drug activity, or are part of the gang lifestyle.
I’ve written hundreds of these travel safety articles and this isn’t particular to Columbus at all.
In fact, it’s not even among the worst cities in the country or even the state of Ohio.
If you stay in tourist areas, avoid walking around at night alone, lock your car with belongings out of sight, and avoid any suspicious business or activity, you should be just fine.
If you happen to be a victim of a crime, you can rest assured that the Columbus Police are dedicated to chasing down criminals and holding them accountable.
How Does Columbus Compare?
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- Visas - A U.S. Travel or Work Visa will be required to gain entry into the United States. You'll need your passport as well to get through Customs. Don't wait until the last minute because the visa process can take months to complete.
- Currency - The U.S. Dollar (USD) is the only currency accepted here. As a progressive city, Columbus and its businesses are widely ahead of technology and offer many ways to pay without having to pull out your wallet. Try to buy tickets in advance of your trip to control the fraud risk and keep your credit card from being seen in public.
- Weather - Dress in insulated clothing during the winter, and it can be bitterly cold here. Should you see someone wearing shorts in winter, don't follow suit. That's just part of Ohio culture (and many other cold states) because people become acclimated to the weather. Wear good walking shoes and leave the heels at home, since there's a lot of time you'll spend exploring on two feet. Summers will be humid and can get hot, but not as hot as some places in the South.
- Airports - John Glenn Columbus International Airport is just six miles east of downtown. You can get there by taxi, rideshare, or express bus service if you don't have a car. Check with your hotel first to see if there is a free shuttle offered.
- Travel Insurance - Travel insurance for your flight and ground transportation is a great idea, especially during winter when snow or ice can delay or cancel flights.
Columbus Weather Averages (Temperatures)
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