How Safe Is Key West for Travel?

Key West, United States
Safety Index:
67

Key West is the southernmost point in the United States and this 4-mile long slice of tropical heaven brings in 5 million visitors each year by car, boat, ferry, and plane.

You had better be in a party mood when you get to Key West because it’s full of bars and nightclubs.

It’s got one of the highest bar rates per capita in the whole country.

It’s also one of the top LGBTQ+ friendly communities in the nation.

The locals here are known as Conchs (pronounced: Konks) and they are ready to show you a good time.

There’s a nightly tradition of gathering in Mallory Square to watch the sunset.

Hundreds turn out for it as it’s said to be one of the best sunset shows in the world.

There are fishing expeditions, ghost tours, open swimming in the southernmost pool, fresh seafood, trainwrecks, glass-bottom boats—the list just goes on.

Before we have too much fun planning the trip, let’s dive into the safety questions of Key West, Florida.

Warnings & Dangers in Key West

Overall Risk

OVERALL RISK : MEDIUM

We've got to go with a medium risk just because there are a lot of drunk people here and it seems like the weather is drunk sometimes too. Crime rates are comfortably low, but high enough to keep you attentive. You've got a small island area with just one road out (unless you are a STRONG swimmer) and thousands of people a day during peak travel times.

Transport & Taxis Risk

TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW

Taxis and rideshares are legal and regulated in Key West, so there's a low risk. If you want a taxi from the airport, book one ahead of time through the TaxiASAP app. This is a very walkable community. It's very flat too—the highest point is 18 feet above sea level. Getting a rental car is a good idea if you want to explore other keys, but if you are staying in Key West, save money and use a bike or walk. Parking can be more of a pain than a convenience. There are only 56 taxis allowed in Key West at any given time.

Pickpockets Risk

PICKPOCKETS RISK : MEDIUM

Looking at crime numbers based on the population of Key West, which is about 26,000, there is a one in 75 chance of being a theft victim. This is medium risk. Add in the tourists and that number goes down exponentially, but the risk also goes up as more tourists mean more chances for thieves to find people not paying attention to their belongings. You know better, right?

Natural Disasters Risk

NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM

Most days are tropically perfect, but when it gets bad, it gets worse here. Hurricane threats can cause evacuations down the Florida Keys. Hurricane Season runs from June 1- November 30. Hurricane Irma devastated Key West in 2017. Storms can kick up at Key West with lots of dangerous lightning and the occasional waterspout or tornado. Due to the possible big threats, we'll call it a medium risk, but there's a good chance your trip will have a risk lower than sea level.

Mugging Risk

MUGGING RISK : LOW

There's a one in 1555 chance of being a robbery victim. This is a low risk. You still need to keep your hotel room locked, put precious items in the safe, and keep your wits about you, especially if you end up drinking and enjoying the nightlife.

Terrorism Risk

TERRORISM RISK : LOW

There's a low terrorism risk here. There are no hard targets and it's so far from the U.S. mainland that even an attack in southern Florida wouldn't impact Key West, aside from a possible travel disruption or road closure. Even then, there are worse places to be stuck in than Key West.

Scams Risk

SCAMS RISK : MEDIUM

The biggest scams in Key West are rental scams. This is where someone posts what looks like a legit rental listing, takes your money, and when you arrive there's no home and nobody answering your calls. Don't fall for this. Make sure the rental is legit by checking with registered rental companies. If a deal is too good to be true, don't take it. It's going to cost a lot to stay in a Key West rental and there just aren't bargain-basement values out there. Also, even if someone does offer a room to rent on a legitimate website, it's against the law. Key West residents can't rent out a room in their homes. It's buyer beware for any traveler who takes this risk. All that said, it's medium risk. There's a shopping scam you need to know about, and we'll dive into that in a little bit.

Women Travelers Risk

WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : MEDIUM

Women, for the most part, are safe in Key West if they use basic common sense. Don't take a drink from a stranger. Don't drink so much you can't safely walk or bike back to the hotel. Don't go down dark alleys, etc. Key West is like a year-round spring break. Rape numbers have been on the rise since 2017 with 23 reported in 2020. We're going to give it a medium risk just because we want you to be hyper-vigilant.

Tap Water Risk

TAP WATER RISK : LOW

Key West's water comes 130 miles from the mainland and a lot can go wrong along the route. On an average day, there's a low risk in the tap water and it meets state and federal standards. Storms, hurricanes, sewage leaks, and water quality at the source can all impact tap water. The Florida Keys Aquaduct Authority is quick to issue a warning or boil order if something goes wrong. If a storm is brewing, it's good to stock up on bottled water just in case.

Safest Places to Visit in Key West

The places for the most fun can be the safest and the most dangerous all at once, depending on how you handle yourself.

Just remember that as you read through this.

Another key rule in Key West is that diversity is accepted with open arms.

This comes from the One Human Family official philosophy of the key.

It’s so official, the mayor signed a proclamation stating, in part, that “We want to proclaim that the truth, as we see it, is that there is no ‘them’, there is just ‘us’, all of us together as ONE HUMAN FAMILY, now and forever…”

In other words, don’t judge the eccentric group of people you’ll meet in Key West.

Listen to their stories and share a few of your own.

Duval Street is the bar corridor.

You won’t believe how many bars and nightclubs one little key can fit into this space.

Party responsibly as this street lives by the motto “It’s 5 o’clock somewhere.”

The 700 Block of Duval Street is where you’ll find the LGBTQ+ crowd.

The Historic Seaport District is where you go to enjoy the water.

Fish, snorkel, dive, boat, kayak, swim—pick your water passion.

Literary fans can tour Ernest Hemingway’s home and a Tennessee Williams exhibit.

The Keys History & Discovery Center is where you can see remnants of shipwrecks and the over-the-seas railroad.

There’s also a History of Diving Museum.

The Bahama Village neighborhood honors the African cultural influence on Key West.

Mallory Square is THE place to be for the sunsets nightly.

It never gets old.

Places to Avoid in Key West

I’m a shopaholic, so when I research a destination, shopping is the first Google.

Key West shocked me.

There are essentially scam artists running some stores in Key West, mostly on Duval Street.

They do a bait and switch with the price of a t-shirt, for example, saying it’s $5, but by the time you get a custom press or design, it ends up being nearly 10 times that much.

The salespeople are also very aggressive in getting tourists into the stores.

There have been complaints about “fine jewelry” at a discount being worthless.

Avoid the pressured sales pitch and “too good to be true” deals at all costs.

Mallory Square’s shopping is said to be a more legitimate shopping experience.

From what locals tell me, you’ll get the “icky” feeling when dealing with one of these snake oil salespeople.

Unless a price is agreed upon and given to you in writing ahead of time, don’t buy it.

We’ve talked about how popular watching the sunset is in Mallory Square, but while you’re watching natural beauty, someone might be watching your purse or wallet.

Keep belongings close or better yet leave them at the hotel.

Duval Street gets wild at night.

If you book a hotel near there, don’t plan on going to bed early.

The loud nightlife will keep you up.

Safety Tips for Traveling to Key West

  1. There are so many great places to eat, drink, and meet in Key West, but there is one “heads up” you need. The Bull & Whistle Bar looks like any other restaurant in the area, but the rooftop bar is called the Garden of Eden. It’s a clothing-optional bar. You’ve been warned.
  2. You must wear sunscreen all the time during daylight hours. The breezes off the water can make it feel cooler than it is, but this is the tropics and that sun can cause sunburn that shuts you down for a few days. Lather up with sunscreen so you can enjoy all the outdoor activities in Key West, Florida.
  3. When you get in or near the water, keep an eye out for jellyfish. They are quite common in this area. The sting is a painful one you can’t soon forget.
  4. Back to that shopping scam. There is now an ordinance in Key West that requires vendors to disclose the full price, labor included, no less than 2″ in height. The ordinance also says “No wearing apparel retailer shall threaten a customer with arrest or criminal prosecution when the customer refuses to accept a wearing apparel item from the retailer because of a dispute over price, quality or[of] work, or other terms of sale, to induce or force the customer to purchase the wearing apparel item.” Again, it’s best to not give these retail monsters any of your money.
  5. Aggressive panhandling is also banned in Key West. This means someone cannot ask you for money to the extent of touching you, threatening you, blocking your path, or following you. Report this behavior to the police.
  6. There is sidewalk poetry all over Key West. Go to the city website and search for “Sidewalk Poetry” for a list of the locations. This was a project started in 2012.
  7. There’s a Danger Charter in Key West. That’s the actual name of the company. How much “danger” there is would be up for debate, but the company touts they go places other charters can’t or won’t go.
  8. Despite the party reputation of Duval Street, you cannot carry around open containers and police will quickly ruin your night of fun if you try to get away with it. Keep the booze in the bar. Grab a bottle of water for the walk. You’ll need it for hydration and the hangover.
  9. You’re most likely going to be woken up by the crowing of a rooster and you can’t do anything about it. You certainly shouldn’t complain to a local about it. Those roosters and chickens are like their family. There are plenty of these birds that roam free in Key West. Just accept it. Oh, and don’t feed them. It’s illegal.
  10. You don’t need a scuba license in Florida to go on a scuba trip, but it’s highly recommended for your safety. There are plenty of local places to get certified. If you want to fish, you’ll need a license for either freshwater or saltwater fishing (or both).

So... How Safe Is Key West Really?

By crime statistics alone, it’s a mixed bag.

The chance of being a violent crime victim is one in 106.

There’s one in 1555 of being a robbery victim and a one in 249 chance of being a theft victim.

How safe it really depends on how safe YOU really are.

You are most likely here for either the water activities or the party.

Both come with inherent dangers.

In the water, wear a life vest, don’t swim while drunk, make sure a chartered boat is licensed, look for jellyfish and sharks, and don’t swim if there are double red flags up on the beach.

In town, don’t get pressured by pushy salespeople.

Know your drinking limits.

Don’t take a drink you didn’t see poured or made.

Don’t make nasty comments about someone who appears a bit odd.

This is such an inclusive yet eclectic community, with as much potential for fun as there is for trouble.

If you are there during hurricane season and a storm is brewing—get out.

This is one time you don’t want to listen to locals.

They are tough and like to hunker down instead of evacuating.

Even if you do stay and survive the storm, you’ll probably be without power, freshwater, and food for days on end.

How Does Key West Compare?

CitySafety Index
Key West67
Oakland57
New Orleans57
Baltimore56
Boston67
Phnom Penh (Cambodia)61
Niagara Falls (Canada)87
Calgary (Canada)82

Useful Information

  • Visas - The Visa or Passport requirements are taken care of on your cruise ship or at the airport. Bring a legal ID with you everywhere if you plan on drinking. The drinking age is 21 in Florida.
  • Currency - You'll only need U.S. Dollar currency here. There are about 20 banks in the Key West area if you need cash or to transfer money. It's wise to let your home bank know you're going on vacation to Key West, so a fraud alert isn't issued when you start spending money.
  • Weather - Key West has two unofficial seasons—beautiful and sweaty. In winter, the temperatures don't usually drop below the mid-60s and highs are a nice mid-70s. Summers are oppressively hot and humid. Bring plenty of loose light-colored clothing. You'll be sweating a lot. August - October are the rainiest months, and during the summer there's a good chance for some kind of rain daily, so bring a raincoat.
  • Airports - There is an airport right in Key West. There are three main ways people get to the key, and the airport is the second most popular. Nearly a million visitors arrive by cruise ship. There is also a ferry from Fort Myers. The Miami Airport is about 3 hours northeast of Key West.
  • Travel Insurance - Rough seas, storms, pandemics, hurricanes, and ripple effects of weather across the country can all impact travel to Key West, so you'll want to get travel insurance so you don't lose money.
Click here to get an offer for travel insurance

Key West Weather Averages (Temperatures)

Jan 22° C
Feb 22° C
Mar 24° C
Apr 26° C
May 28° C
Jun 29° C
Jul 30° C
Aug 30° C
Sep 29° C
Oct 27° C
Nov 24° C
Dec 23° C
Choose Temperature Unit

Average High/Low Temperature

Temperature / MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
High
°C
242426283031323331292625
Low
°C
192021232527272727252221
High
°F
757579828688909188847977
Low
°F
666870737781818181777270

Where to Next?

1 Review on Key West

  1. P
    Pamela J. says:

    Very safe and has a lot of attractions for a family

    Can you believe that Key West is just 90 miles from Cuba? I was shocked to hear this. It’s not the easiest place to go to as you will have to drive a lot over many oversea bridges. I can’t remember with certainty but I think it was somewhere around 40?!

    If you like places where you can sit quietly (mostly) and sip on your martini or even write a novel, this is the place to come to. A few places we’ve visited and liked or even loved are the Duval Street (which you can’t miss), the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory (my little guy really liked the educational film about the life cycle of butterflies) or the Key West Aquarium (if you have kids, then they will absolutely love the “touch tank” found here).

    I highly recommend taking the Conch Tour train as this is a 90-minute narrated tour on which you’ll learn a lot about Key West and also get to see some of the top attractions.

    And if you’re here make sure to check out the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum which has a LOT of treasures recovered from shipwrecks. It’s pretty cool! And if you have time for it, take a day trip to Dry Tortugas National Park – it’s so worth it!

    From what I’ve seen when I was here, this is a very safe place. I was with my husband and the kids so I’m not sure how safe it would be for a woman, traveling alone. We didn’t encounter any pickpocketing but we did hear about it from a woman we met there. Her bag was recently stolen so there’s that.

    For accommodations I recommend the Kimpton Winslow’s Bungalows (which is mid-ranged price wise) or if you’re on a budget then maybe this The Laureate Key West. But you’ll need a car to stay here since it’s further from downtown. We loved the Bungalows because we felt great here, it was relatively close to everything and it was within our budget 🙂

Rated 4 / 5 based on 1 user reviews.

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