The first thing people often think of when they hear the word Illinois is Chicago.
It is one of the largest cities in America and has some great things going for it.
It also has recently gotten a reputation as being an even more dangerous place than it was in the gangster days of Al Capone.
There is a lot more to the state though.
It is nearly 400 miles from Chicago to the southern end, and nearly 200 miles wide in places, so there are a lot of areas to consider.
There are several state parks with lots of walking trails and fun things to do.
Shawnee National Forest is called the garden of the Gods because of its scenery.
The lower two-thirds of the state is relatively rural with a lot of farmland and small towns to explore.
Warnings & Dangers in Illinois
OVERALL RISK : MEDIUM
It really depends on whether you are talking about Chicago or the rest of the state. The Windy City has had an upsurge in violent crime and is one of the most dangerous cities in the nation. The rest of the state, which involves a lot of areas, is relatively rural and not very dangerous at all. You could say Chicago is very dangerous and the rest of the state is not, leaving it with a medium rating. Even so, there are areas of Chicago that are very safe.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : MEDIUM
In Chicago, there is more danger of taxi drivers being robbed than drivers doing wrong. The big city transport systems are dangerous at night but safe during the day. The lower two-thirds of the state do not have as much public transport, but what there is remains safe.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : MEDIUM
Chicago can get crowded, and in those areas, there are pickpockets lurking around looking for a victim. In more rural areas, pickpocket criminals are rare.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : LOW
Illinois is pretty much flat, and does not have a lot of mountains or other geographical features that create disasters. Snow can get heavy and cause problems in winter. There are rare tornadoes that cause a lot of damage, but in general, there is little risk.
MUGGING RISK : HIGH
Especially in Chicago, there are areas where muggings are rather common, especially where there is gang activity. The rest of the state is not as bad, but some other cities in the state have had issues with muggings and robberies.
TERRORISM RISK : MEDIUM
The rise in anti-government extremists, both far-right and far-left, has caused officials to be more concerned about domestic terrorism in recent years. A big city like Chicago would be a place where terrorists might try to cause problems. It is not a great impending danger, but something to be aware of.
SCAMS RISK : MEDIUM
Again the greater risk is in Chicago. There are fake taxies that charge extremely high rates, as well as other con games in the city. Out in the country, scams are not as common. Car repair shops might try to sell you repairs you don't need, or overcharge you for repairs.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
It is dangerous for a woman to be out alone, or use public transport at night, in Chicago, but it is safe during the day just about anywhere. The rest of the state is very safe for women.
TAP WATER RISK : MEDIUM
Several areas of Chicago have tainted water that may contain lead or other contaminants. It is a good idea to drink bottled water in Chicago and pay attention to any warnings. The rest of the state's water supply is in good shape and you should not have any issues.
Safest Places to Visit in Illinois
One of the safest places in the state is the Shawnee National Forest, which is 300,000 acres in the southern part of the state.
There are countless trails, great scenery, and a lot of nature to explore.
The Bahai Temple in Wilmette is the largest such temple in the world and is a great, safe place to visit.
The town of Springfield is the home of the Lincoln Museum and Presidential Library, and it is a very safe and fun town to explore.
The small town of Alston, near St. Louis, is home to the museum of torture devices, but it remains a safe town.
Much of the southern part of the state is farmland and has a lot of charming small towns that are very safe.
While Chicago has a bad reputation, there are areas of the city that are very nice and very safe.
The north side, where all the tourist attractions are, is very safe during the day, and as long as you are not alone, relatively safe at night.
Placess to Avoid in Illinois
Some would say Chicago, and there are conflicting reports about the downtown area.
It is OK during the day, but iffy at night.
Public transportation is also dangerous at night because there are not as many people and stations are not as well patrolled by police.
The west and southern parts of Chicago have crime rates far above the national average with lots of gang activity.
East St. Louis, just across the river from the big city in Missouri, is a dangerous town with a high crime rate and a lot of poverty.
Peoria is another city in the state with a high crime rate and is considered dangerous from both a violent crime and property crime standpoint.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Illinois
- Study the area carefully. Educate yourself about bad areas, especially in Chicago, so you can avoid them. If you stay in good areas, you should not have any problems even in Chicago. Once you arrive, ask people at your hotel about where the safer, and more dangerous, areas are.
- Don’t look like a tourist. Blend in as much as possible. Criminals look for people who might be disoriented to victimize. Don’t be an easy target by letting everyone know you are in unfamiliar territory. Avoid letting people see your money and keep expensive electronics out of sight when you are in public.
- Don’t carry much cash. Most hotels have a safety box to lock your valuables up. Carry only what you need when out exploring on day trips. Use credit cards as much as possible.
- Be aware of your surroundings. Even when not in Chicago, it is a good idea to pay attention to what is going on around you. Watch for gang members or people who might be dangerous. Don’t go far from the beaten path, especially in cities. If you are using earbuds to listen to music, use only one so you can better hear what is going on around you.
- Lock your car and hotel room. Don’t be an easy target and don’t provide petty criminals with an opportunity. Criminals will often avoid locked cars, and won’t break into hotel rooms. If a door is left open, however, they may look for something to steal.
- Watch the weather. Especially in the winter, keep an eye on the weather reports. Snowstorms can move in quickly and you can get a lot of snow fast. Heed any other weather-related warnings as well.
- Listen to your gut. If your instincts tell you there might be a problem, you should listen to that feeling. If you feel uncomfortable, get out of the situation a fast as you can and don’t offer any explanations.
- Check out your car. Check the fluids, tire pressure, lights, belts, and hoses, to make sure everything is road-worthy. This is especially true if you are going to be out in the countryside.
- Don’t go it alone. Don’t go out at night alone, or go exploring areas you are not familiar with at night. Criminals are out there, and they are much more likely to go after a person who is alone than they are to attack a group.
- Take guided tours. Often you can see just as much, and it is more convenient to book a tour and let someone else do the driving and navigating. It may cost a little more, but you will be safer and it will be much more convenient.
So... How Safe Is Illinois Really?
Again, it all depends on whether you are talking about Chicago or the rest of the state.
There are some very bad areas in Chicago, but some say the national media reports of shootings and other violent crimes are exaggerated.
There are very nice areas in Chicago that are very safe, and if you stay in those you should be fine.
Other areas of the state are very safe from a crime standpoint.
Chicago ranks well above the national average in crime, as does the city of Gary, but the rest of the state is closer to and even below the national average at times.
According to FBI figures, Illinois had the 18th highest crime rate in the nation, compared to the rest of the states in the nation.
Illinois has seen a slight reduction in the population over the last few years, and the crime rate has risen.
In 2020, there were 426 violent crimes in the state per 100,000 people.
The national average, also up a little, is 338 violent crimes per 100,000 people.
While crime going up makes the news, it should be kept in mind that crime was higher in the 1990s, and is still not back to that level.
Even so, murder cases rose 38 percent in 2020 over the previous year.
Much of that crime centers around the Chicago area.
The southern two-thirds of the state is more rural and has a much lower crime rate.
Crime did increase in Chicago and other cities in 2020, but it also increased nationally as well.
Normal precautions, and little street smarts, should keep you safe.
How Does Illinois Compare?
- Visas - If arriving from another country you will need a Visa or a Passport to enter the country. You can get this in your own country. Once in the country, you will not need it until you leave, so keep it in a safe place.
- Currency - The standard currency is the U.S. Dollar, and that is what is expected if you are spending cash. Credit cards are fine in any country. The exchange will be made when you make the transaction. You may do currency exchange at almost any bank in the state. Don't do money transactions with people on the street.
- Weather - Summers are mild, but winters can be very cold. Chicago is called the windy city for a reason, and the wind makes the cold even worse. Snow can be heavy in winter all over the state, so dress warmly and pay attention to the weather report if you are there in the winter.
- Airports - Chicago has a world-famous international airport. There is transportation to Chicago hotels readily available. Many other cities have airports, and there are several good-sized cities in the state. Regional airports offer flights between cities around the state. Airports in Illinois are very good and have a very safe track record.
- Travel Insurance - Things can go wrong, and in a big city like Chicago, the chances of having trouble increase. Of course, in rural areas, you can have trouble too, and have a hard time getting help. This is why travel insurance is a good idea.
Illinois Weather Averages (Temperatures)
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