How Safe Is Gainesville for Travel?

Gainesville, United States
Safety Index:
67

Welcome to Gator Nation in Gainesville, Florida.

The home to the University of Florida and a popular pit stop on a long drive up Florida’s spine.

This is a university town, but there’s more to do outside the university.

Surrounding Alachua (“Al-ah-chew-uh”) County has some great small towns to visit too.

Gainesville is an inland city, with the closest beach being almost two hours away.

Without any sea breeze to provide relief, the temperatures can be warmer here – or downright oppressive – in the summer with a high humidity level.

I usually save this advice for much later in these articles but bring bug spray – a lot of it.

I went on several road trips to Grainville when I lived in the Tampa area, and it’s a great town with a lot of history and fun.

Gator Nation is really a great fan base, and it’s hard not to get sucked into the energy.

That is until you sit in Gator Nation traffic.

Or any Gainesville traffic.

Be sure to have some Gatorade to sit in that traffic because you’ll sweat a lot in the humidity.

Gatorade was invented here in 1965, which is how it got its name.

Once you find a place to park, you have many artistic and entertainment options – on and off campus.

The downtown is quite charming, and the campus is easy to navigate, with a mix of modern buildings and historical architecture.

When you’re ready to get away from the city, you’ll find plenty of fishing, paddling, and hiking trails to explore.

If you’ve ever wondered what the phrase “Florida Crackers” means, you can visit Dudley Farm, which takes you through a replica of a cracker farm in the pioneer days.

Some of the best food in town comes from places that don’t look anything fancy.

You have a wide variety of dining options and great farm-to-table restaurants.

Warnings & Dangers in Gainesville

Overall Risk

OVERALL RISK : MEDIUM

There's a medium risk in Gainesville with a violent crime rate that surged during the pandemic and has been on the rise since. You can still enjoy all the offerings of the city, but you'll need to really pay attention to your surroundings and use ongoing safety practices.

Transport & Taxis Risk

TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW

RTS is the public bus system in Gainesville. Taxis, rideshares, and rental cars are available. This is a big city for bicycling with warm weather throughout the year. You'll see a lot of college students on scooters too. There's low risk with any option, but just know if you're driving, there is a lot of traffic here, so be patient.

Pickpockets Risk

PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW

Unless it's a game day weekend, there is a low risk as long as you're keeping your stuff secure and out of plain sight. Don't put down backpacks or purses while eating or ordering food. Most pickpockets or snatched purses are going to be from crimes of opportunity, so reduce the opportunities.

Natural Disasters Risk

NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : LOW

During the summer, thunderstorms will happen just about every day. Not all day, every day, but daily - usually in the afternoon or evening. Tornadoes are rare, but even if they do form, they aren't always that large. The remnants of hurricanes could hit Gainesville, but since it's a good hour or so inland, it won't get a direct hit. Flash floods will be the biggest concern. There is rarely a winter event here, but should it happen, it could shut down the city's transportation services.

Mugging Risk

MUGGING RISK : LOW

This is an area where crime is growing and is at twice the national average, but a tourist should only face a low risk if they stay in the safer parts of town or near the tourist attractions.

Terrorism Risk

TERRORISM RISK : LOW

Only on a big game day would there be a bigger concern about terrorist activity. Jacksonville is an hour away and a much larger city with an important port. It would be more likely a target than Gainesville.

Scams Risk

SCAMS RISK : MEDIUM

There's a medium risk here due to several factors. It's a transient town, with travelers coming and going off the freeway. This has led to an increase in credit card skimmers at gas stations. Be sure always to use one of the front pumps or pay inside if you can. A skimming device isn't always easy to spot, but visually inspect it to see if it looks like a device has been placed on top of the PIN pad.

Women Travelers Risk

WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : MEDIUM

The sexual assault rate is one of the growing concerns in this community, yet law enforcement and residents can seem to figure out why. Avoid walking around at night, and if you do, don't walk alone. Always use the buddy system, even on campus.

Tap Water Risk

TAP WATER RISK : LOW

The 2021 Water Quality Report shows no violations and full compliance with Gainesville's tap water. You can use it at low risk.

Safest Places to Visit in Gainesville

Visitgainesville.com is the official tourism website for the city.

It’s worth noting that if you go to Gainesville.org, you’ll be in Georgia’s city of Gainesville, not the one in Florida.

This even confused me as I was starting this article (and I’m familiar with the Gainesville area!).

Downtown Gainesville is a great place to start, and it’s not too far from the university.

Here you’ll find a mix of breweries, boutiques, historical attractions, and hotels.

There’s a large grouping of hotels near I-75 at the main Gainesville exit, but it’s worth considering a downtown location to be in a safer part of town.

The Archer Railroad Museum teaches visitors about the importance of Gainsville to the railroad industry, especially with so much agriculture that needed to be moved out.

Don’t miss the Butterfly Rainforest with the calming sound of waterfalls filling the air while dozens of butterflies surround you.

Be sure to look down because turtles and fish are in the lush landscapes below.

Fresh fruit is put out throughout the day so the butterflies can eat, and you’ll get a front-row seat.

The Old Florida Heritage Highway spans nearly 50 miles and takes you through unique Florida pathways and outdoor attractions.

There’s an audio tour where you dial (352)327-9005 and then press the number of the attraction you are visiting.

You’ll get to hear the history at your own pace.

I’m smiling ear-to-ear as I write about the Carson Springs Wildlife Conservation Center because there’s a giant tiger on the website sticking his tongue out at me.

Tours are available to see some of the most dangerous predators of the jungle being cared for at this conversation center.

You can walk or ride the tours, and private tours are available by request.

Dudley Farm is like a theme park for Florida Crackers.

You can wander around while workers dressed in era-appropriate clothing do chores and tend to the livestock.

There’s a good chance you’ll get convinced to help with the chores, so wear comfortable clothing.

Places to Avoid in Gainesville

The neighborhoods that straddle I-95 are best left alone.

Those have higher crime rates, and violence keeps growing, mostly fueled by juveniles and young adults.

Avoid any part of town after dark unless you’re with a group or another person.

Stick to the downtown and campus areas as much as possible, but don’t let your guard down.

There are alligators this far north in Florida, and if you see a body of fresh water, you should assume there is an alligator in it.

Many of the parks will have elevated boardwalks where you can watch the Gators in all their glory.

Never, EVER, try to feed a gator.

Keep out of the wilderness areas near water at sunrise and sunset, when alligators are most active.

They won’t mess with you if you don’t mess with them, but you never know when an alligator is just under the surface, and they can pop up quickly.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has a slew of information about alligator safety and some videos that explain the dangers and safety steps.

Many times, you don’t need to call FWC to complain about an alligator unless it’s being a “nuisance.”

You should call if you see an alligator in a neighborhood.

The number for the alligator nuisance hotline is 866-392-4286.

Safety Tips for Traveling to Gainesville

  1. Sign up for AlertAlachua notifications so you won’t miss any emergency notifications while you’re visiting. This will mainly cover weather events, but there could also be road closures or civil issues. You can text “ALACHUA” to 888777 to receive information during a major emergency.
  2. As of this publication, in the fall of 2022, the Gainesville, Florida, Police Department website isn’t working. There’s a 404 error whenever you try to visit the website. I have alerted the city, so hopefully, they will get it fixed soon. You can follow them on Facebook @GainesvillePolice.
  3. Hurricane season runs from June through October, so you should always keep an eye on the tropics during this time. Hurricanes are slow storms, so there’s a lot of time to prepare in advance, but there’s always a risk it will turn away. Never assume the storm will turn, no matter how much someone in Gainesville tells you “it always does.” Don’t go to the coast to “see” a hurricane, and know that Gainesville will be one place people will evacuate to if a storm does threaten the coast. If a storm does hit one of the coasts, it will weaken but still bring a lot of rain over Gainesville with the potential for storms that spawn tornadoes.
  4. If you are driving I-75 to or from Gainesville, know that Florida Highway Patrol runs radar for several miles in both directions. I’ve driven from Tampa through Gainesville several times in my life and never saw a state trooper until I reached the Gainesville area. Slow down to the speed limit in this area if you have a lead foot.
  5. Download the Gainesville Police Department app to have a direct line of contact with officers. There’s a section for crime and safety tips, too, with a detailed list of ways to stay safe while doing different activities.
  6. You can report information about a crime (a non-urgent crime) through the Crime Stoppers program. There’s a link in that app mentioned above, but you can also call (352)393-7700. You can remain anonymous but be eligible for a reward at the same time if your tip leads to an arrest.
  7. University Avenue is a very busy stretch of road for drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists. Please pay attention to your surroundings here and always stop for pedestrians at crosswalks. The police have enacted several new safety programs and accountability events to give tickets to drivers who break the law. As someone who has driven down this street many times, I can tell you it feels like a three-ring circus with so much going on around you.
  8. Florida overall has some crazy drivers, so don’t get baited into road rage. If you are on the interstate and choose to drive at the speed limit, stay as far right as you can. Respect the semi-trucks on the roadway, and don’t tailgate them or cut them off. Use extra caution at Dawsonville Highway and EE Butler Parkway, which is where the largest number of car crashes happened in 2021.
  9. Lock your car doors here and keep the windows rolled up, even on hot, sunny days. Auto break-ins were down 30% from 2020, but the ones that did happen were mainly cars that were left unlocked or with a valuable item inside.
  10. Stay inside if you hear thunder, and don’t go back outside until 30 minutes after the last thunder. The storms can move in and out of here quickly, but they pack a lot of lightning when they strike. You don’t want to be caught outside in a storm.

So... How Safe Is Gainesville Really?

In 2021, the city had the highest violent crime rate since 2014.

If 2022 keeps up its current pace, that record will be set again in 2022.

Sexual assaults dropped between 2018 and 2020 but spiked again in 2021.

The Police Department teamed up with the city to launch a One Community initiative to counter the effects of gun violence in the community and create better relationships between residents and law enforcement.

Gainesville Police also work with University of Florida police, statewide law enforcement, and the narcotics task force to crack down on violent crimes related to guns and drugs.

If you’re visiting campus, follow @UFAlerts on Twitter or sign up for notifications that are campus-specific.

You can also download the UF GatorSafe app to get more safety help.

You really shouldn’t avoid Gainesville because of the increasing violent crime rate.

This is an issue facing the majority of American cities in 2022 and beyond.

As long as you use common sense and always have situational awareness, you’ll be able to avoid the bulk of potential risks.

Stay on the main roads and don’t drive through any neighborhoods where you don’t know people.

Also, if you’re going to do the Gator Chomp arm gesture, use your right arm on top.

Some people will correct you for this.

If someone asks you to go to The Swamp, that’s not a real swamp.

It’s the football stadium.

How Does Gainesville Compare?

CitySafety Index
Gainesville67
Las Vegas62
San Francisco61
Philadelphia60
Houston59
Brussels (Belgium)60
Shanghai (China)66
Belize City (Belize)37

Useful Information

  • Visas - You'll need a U.S. Visa to get into the country through Customs. Certain countries are also available to get Visa Waivers through the State Department. The visa process has several steps, so research the process at least three months ahead of your trip.
  • Currency - You can only use the U.S. Dollar here and through Florida. Try to use a credit card for as many purchases as possible for the best fraud protection. You don't really need to carry cash here.
  • Weather - The weather is warm to hot most of the year, and summers are sweltering. Bring comfortable clothing that's light-colored and loose-fitting. You'll want comfortable walking shoes too. Winters can get chilly by normal stands (the good people of Florida start wearing coats and sweaters once the temperatures get into the 60s, but you wear what's comfortable for you). Bring sunscreen and bug spray as you'll need to apply both often.
  • Airports - Gainesville has its own regional airport with flights on Delta and American Airlines available. Jacksonville's airport is about an hour away, which is much larger and has more flight options.
  • Travel Insurance - You should definitely get travel insurance for a trip here, where even a hurricane in the southern part of the state can impact travel on the northern side.
Click here to get an offer for travel insurance

Gainesville Weather Averages (Temperatures)

Jan 13° C
Feb 15° C
Mar 18° C
Apr 21° C
May 24° C
Jun 27° C
Jul 28° C
Aug 28° C
Sep 27° C
Oct 23° C
Nov 19° C
Dec 15° C
Choose Temperature Unit

Average High/Low Temperature

Temperature / MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
High
°C
202225283133333332292522
Low
°C
671113172122222116128
High
°F
687277828891919190847772
Low
°F
434552556370727270615446

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