How Safe Is Madison for Travel?

Madison, United States
Safety Index:
77

Madison, the capital of Wisconsin, is one of only two major cities in the US located on an isthmus.

Situated between lakes Mendota and Monona, the city of Madison is a bustling and vibrant city that boasts a population of 273,469 people.

The city also happens to be a busy, thriving college town, with 45,317 students enrolled at the University of Wisconsin—Madison.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Madison’s population as a whole is quite young, with more than half of its people being under the age of 30.

Incorporated as a city in 1856 and named after President James Madison, the capital of Wisconsin is filled with things to see and do

From its art institutions to its historical attractions to its food festivals to its nature parks, the city always has something to offer.

If you’re thinking about paying a visit to “The City of Four Lakes”, there are some things to keep in mind, and we have a wealth of information to help you prepare for your trip.

Warnings & Dangers in Madison

Overall Risk

OVERALL RISK : LOW

Reports about safety in Madison appear to be mixed. Neighborhood Scout claims that the city is less safe than (or just as safe as) 88% of US cities. On the other hand, US News and World Report have included Madison on its list for the top ten safest US cities (2021). The differences could be due to the crime disparities between the different parts of the metro. While one’s chances of being victimized in the neighborhoods in the metro central parts are as high as 1 in 10, where tourists aren’t very likely to be found, they’re only 1 in 38 in the west part of the city, where tourists are more likely to stay. Based on these reports, Madison has a low-to-medium overall risk for visitors.

Transport & Taxis Risk

TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW

According to WalletHub, Madison ranks among the five US metros for the highest quality public transportation systems. WalletHub determined the rankings using 17 metrics across 3 different dimensions: 1) Accessibility & Convenience, 2) Safety & Reliability and 3) Public Transit Resources. Not much is known about safety when it comes to taxis, but with the findings above, we can conclude that Madison has a low risk when it comes to transport and taxis.

Pickpockets Risk

PICKPOCKETS RISK : MEDIUM

No data is available about pickpocketing specifically, but according to Neighborhood Scout, Madison has a theft rate of 20.35 per 1,000 residents. Compare that to the national average of 13.90 incidents per 1,000 people. Thus, it can be concluded that Madison has a medium-to-high risk for pickpockets.

Natural Disasters Risk

NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM

Wisconsin, as a whole, is known to experience floods, severe storms, tornadoes, landslides, and winter storms. From 1953 to 2019, the state saw 50 major natural disasters. According to FEMA, storms and floods were the most common types. Lightning strikes the ground about 300,000 times per year in Wisconsin, averaging one fatality. In 2018, a massive flood caused around $206 million worth of damage. The reports above indicate that Wisconsin has a medium-to-high natural disasters risk.

Mugging Risk

MUGGING RISK : LOW

There are no data about mugging in particular. However, a report by Niche shows that Madison has a robbery rate of 81.1 per 100,000 people. This is notably lower than the national average of 135.5 per 100,000 residents. Therefore, we can say that Madison has a low mugging risk.

Terrorism Risk

TERRORISM RISK : LOW

There have been no recent terrorist attacks in Madison. The Sterling Hall bombing on the UW-Madison campus took place on August 24, 1970. It was carried out by four men as a reaction to/protest against the institution’s research connections with the US military during the time of the Vietnam War. Since the last terrorist attack took place half a century ago and since no other attacks have been committed ever since Madison has a low terrorism risk.

Scams Risk

SCAMS RISK : LOW

As of March 2021, there were 218 reports of identity theft, impersonation, and telephone, wire, and welfare fraud in Madison. This surge in reports prompted the Madison police department to issue a warning about scams occurring in the area. That being said, residents have been the primary targets, with tourists rarely, if ever, falling victim to these crimes. As a result, the risk of scams for visitors is quite low.

Women Travelers Risk

WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW

No information about traveling to Madison as a woman can be found; however, the city’s rape statistics might be of help. A September 2021 report by Area Vibes showed that the city had a rape incidence rate of 28.2 per 100,000 people. This is noticeably lower than Wisconsin’s average of 34.8 and the national average of 38.4. With this information, it can be concluded that Madison has a low women travelers risk.

Tap Water Risk

TAP WATER RISK : LOW

Most residents of Madison say that the local tap water is safe for drinking. There are, however, reports that the tap water is “hard,” meaning it has high mineral content. This mineral is mostly calcium, however, and is believed to be harmless. And the city has no active violations of the Safe Water Drinking Act. So it can be deduced that Madison has a low risk when it comes to drinking tap water.

Safest Places to Visit in Madison

With its central location, fairly low crime rate, and bike- and pedestrian-friendly lanes and sidewalks, Downtown Madison is a safe place with many things to do for tourists.

Historical attractions in Downtown Madison include the Museum of Contemporary Art, where visitors can catch a glimpse of works by Dalí, Henry Moore, and many others, and the Capitol of Wisconsin, a stately structure made in the likeness of the US Capitol.

Bars, pubs, and restaurants abound in Downtown Madison, giving the city an active nightlife and a plethora of entertainment options for its mostly young, active crowd.

Outside of the downtown area, tourists can visit East Madison, where they can view the Olbrich Botanical Gardens.

They can also take a trip to West Madison, where they can take a tour of the UW-Arboretum campus, stroll around the 6.5 acre Camp Randall Memorial Park, and check out the UW-Madison Geology Museum.

Placess to Avoid in Madison

The most dangerous neighborhoods in Madison include Wexford Ridge, North Lake Mendota, Brentwood Village, Emerson East, Eken Park, and Prairie Hills.

According to Crime Grade, it’s best to avoid the central part of the Madison metro area, where one’s chance of being a crime victim can be as high as 1 in 10.

Compare this statistic to the west part of the metro, where one’s chance of falling victim to a crime can be as low as 1 in 39.

As long visitors stay in the west part of the metro, as well as the touristy areas (such as Downtown Madison and East Madison), they should be reasonably safe.

Safety Tips for Traveling to Madison

  1. Dress warmly. Although the state of Wisconsin sees all four seasons of the year, the winter months can be brutally cold, especially for those coming from the lower latitudes. The coldest month is January, with an average low of 14°F.
  2. Avoid driving in the snow. If you’re not accustomed to driving in the snow, avoid doing it in Madison. With all the pedestrian and bike traffic, driving in the snow can make for a very uncomfortable and potentially dangerous situation.
  3. Don’t walk alone at night. Madison may be considered a safe city for tourists, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to practice caution when walking the streets. Avoid walking by yourself at night. If you have to go somewhere after dark, walk with friends or take the city’s high-quality public transportation.
  4. Follow COVID-19 protocols. Until February 2022, everyone over the age of 2 is required to wear a mask in “any enclosed building where other people, except for members of the person’s household or living unit, could be present.” Places where masks are required include public buses and paratransit vehicles.
  5. Stay in the safer areas. Areas with comparatively low crime rates include Downtown Madison and East and West Madison.
  6. Keep your valuables locked. Theft isn’t very likely to happen in the safer areas, but it’s always wise to keep your valuables in a secure place, like a hotel safe. If you have to bring them with you, keep them close to you, e.g., on your lap.
  7. Stick to the bike lanes. The fact that Madison is an extremely bike-friendly city doesn’t give people the excuse to bike recklessly. The bike lanes were designated for a reason, so stick to those lanes to ensure your safety.
  8. Only drink on private property. Madison may be filled with yearly festivals and parties, including the Mifflin Street Block Party, but bear in mind that it isn’t legal to drink on the streets. Otherwise, you’ll run the risk of getting arrested!
  9. Be watchful of crowds. Besides parties and festivals, Madison also has a fair share of concerts, sporting events, dance performances, and firework shows, to name a few. If you happen to be in a large crowd, which is quite likely if there’s a big event, stay with your group and keep your belongings safe.
  10. Consult with locals. You can ask locals about the safest places to visit and stay as well as read traveler reviews online. The important thing is to do your research before traveling to Madison.

So... How Safe Is Madison Really?

Madison is very safe for visitors, especially for those staying in the tourist-friendly parts of the city.

Those places include Downtown Madison and East and West Madison.

Each part has something unique to offer, from historical attractions to art institutions to top-notch restaurants to food festivals to nature parks.

Every kind of tourist, ranging from the foodie to the nature lover, will always have something to keep them occupied.

When it comes to weather, Madison does have its share of natural disasters.

Severe storms, floods, and heavy snow (in the winter) are fairly common, so visitors must check the forecast and plan accordingly when organizing their visit to the city.

Overall, Madison is quite safe for tourists in terms of crime and weather as long as they’re being careful and always practicing safety measures.

How Does Madison Compare?

CitySafety Index
Madison77
Los Angeles56
Oakland57
New Orleans57
Baltimore56
Siem Reap (Cambodia)63
Phnom Penh (Cambodia)61
Niagara Falls (Canada)87

Useful Information

  • Visas - All travelers to the US from other countries are required to present a passport upon arrival. Visas aren’t required for visitors traveling to the US for business or tourism for up to 90 days. However, visas may be required for permanent residents.
  • Currency - The US dollar is the official currency of the US. No other currency is accepted, but you can exchange currencies at various ATMs, kiosks, and businesses (such as Madison & Austin) throughout Madison.
  • Weather - Since Madison has four seasons throughout the year, what you wear on your trip will depend on the time of year. Winters are known to be snowy and cold, with the average low in January, its coldest month, being 14°F. People traveling to Madison in the winter, especially from the lower latitudes, should pack warm clothes.
  • Airports - If you’re coming from anywhere in the continental US, you’ll likely be able to fly directly into the Dane County Regional Airport (MSN). If you’re from outside the country, you can fly into the Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport, the closest international airport to Madison, and take a connecting flight to MSN.
  • Travel Insurance - One of the most important travel purchases you can make, travel insurance protects you against risks associated with trip cancellations, medical emergencies, and lost, damaged, or stolen possessions, to name just a few. Unexpected situations while traveling are inevitable, so to curb financial losses and have peace of mind, you should take advantage of travel insurance.
Click here to get an offer for travel insurance

Madison Weather Averages (Temperatures)

Jan -8° C
Feb -6° C
Mar 1° C
Apr 8° C
May 14° C
Jun 19° C
Jul 22° C
Aug 21° C
Sep 16° C
Oct 10° C
Nov 3° C
Dec -5° C
Choose Temperature Unit

Average High/Low Temperature

Temperature / MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
High
°C
-3071421262827231680
Low
°C
-13-12-51712151493-3-10
High
°F
273245577079828173614632
Low
°F
91023344554595748372714

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