New York : Safety by City
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The Big Apple.
The City That Never Sleeps.
Or, as Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton puts it, “The Greatest City in the World.”
However you refer to it, Manhattan is one of the most popular tourist destinations on the planet.
From the Freedom Tower to Central Park, to the bright lights of Broadway, vacationers have endless opportunities to experience the culture, entertainment, fashion, and amazing food in a buzzing city environment unlike any other.
Located off the Atlantic coast of New York State, Manhattan is the heartbeat of the American East Coast.
In general, Manhattan is overwhelmingly safe for a city of its size.
That said, with 8 million people crowded onto one tiny island, there are bound to be some safety concerns.
Read on to learn how to make the most of your trip to Manhattan, while ensuring you stay safe and protected.
Warnings & Dangers in Manhattan
OVERALL RISK : LOW
Manhattan is one of the most vigilantly policed and regulated cities in the world. While there are sometimes violent crimes in Manhattan, they usually occur in residential neighborhoods, and tourists are rarely targets. The biggest risks to visitors in Manhattan are generally pickpockets and curbside scams.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : MEDIUM
Manhattan’s transportation system, the Metropolitan Transit Authority, is comprised of a comprehensive subway and bus system that traverses every Manhattan neighborhood. The MTA is generally safe, but it can be confusing to visitors. Be sure to review a map before boarding the subway, and when in doubt, ask an MTA employee for help. Pro Tip: Panhandlers and would-be assailants often target lone riders in empty subway cars. Board crowded subway cars to avoid becoming a target.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : MEDIUM
In high-density tourist areas such as Times Square, Rockefeller Center, and the area around Penn Station, pickpockets can be an issue. To remain safe, don’t place your wallet, phone, or important documents in outside pockets of your clothing or bag. Secure all valuables in inner pockets and keep bags in front of you in high-traffic locations.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : LOW
The risk of a natural disaster occurring during your trip to Manhattan is low. While the island does experience winter weather, including the rare blizzard, the city is excellent at treating roads and sidewalks, removing snow, and maintaining reliable transportation during winter weather events. Rarely, a hurricane can make a weather impact, causing flooding and power outages in neighborhoods bordering the rivers, but this is very uncommon. The last impactful storm to touch Manhattan was Hurricane Sandy in 2021.
MUGGING RISK : MEDIUM
Due to the city’s constant police presence, potential muggers don’t have much opportunity to get away with a violent crime such as a mugging in most parts of town. However, muggings are possible in quieter residential neighborhoods such as Harlem and Inwood, in neighborhoods that shut down at night, such as the Financial District and Central Park, and in empty subway cars or stations.
TERRORISM RISK : MEDIUM
Unfortunately, for many, one thing that comes to mind at the mention of Manhattan is 9/11. Since that dark day, Manhattan has become one of the safest large cities to visit, due to the NYPD’s Counterterrorism Bureau, and hypervigilance by police, federal officers, and Manhattanites alike. There is no avoiding the fact that as a prominent global city, there will always be some level of the terrorist threat to Manhattan, but currently, there are no credible or specific threats.
SCAMS RISK : MEDIUM
While there are some common scams targeting tourists, they’re easily avoidable if you know what to look for. Don’t buy “designer” goods from street vendors. They’re almost always counterfeit. Refrain from buying secondhand concert, theatre, or sporting event tickets on the street. They are usually overpriced, and there isn’t a way to confirm they’re real. Finally, don’t get into a cab or hire a car with a “broken meter.” Drivers use this excuse to overcharge unsuspecting tourists.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
Manhattan doesn’t pose a higher risk to women travelers than any other major city. However, women should practice basic safety. Don’t board an empty subway car. Don’t walk through deserted neighborhoods alone, especially at night. Keep an eye on drinks at busy bars to make sure they aren’t tampered with. Avoid secluded areas of Central Park. Don’t ever go anywhere alone with a stranger.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
NYC.gov calls Manhattan tap water, “some of the best... in the world.” Although Manhattan water is unfiltered, it undergoes rigorous daily treatment and testing to ensure it remains safe to drink. Many public buildings in Manhattan offer bottle filling stations where you can fill up your reusable water bottle with fresh, cold tap water.
Safest Places to Visit in Manhattan
There are endless places to visit safely in Manhattan.
Theatre lovers must check out Times Square.
With 41 Broadway theatres dotting midtown between 41st and 54th Streets, it’s the undisputed mecca of the theatrical world.
For foodies and shoppers, Chelsea Market, located in the Meatpacking District, is a must-see.
Fashionistas will love window shopping in SoHo or along Fifth Avenue.
Those interested in paying their respects can head downtown to the 9/11 Museum and Memorial, located where the Twin Towers once stood.
Nature lovers can’t miss Central Park, where you can relax in Sheep’s Meadow, admire diverse statues, and even find a castle.
(As a bonus for music lovers, visit the park’s Strawberry Fields to see the “Imagine” peace sign tribute to John Lennon.
It stands just across the street from the Dakota, where he lived with Yoko Ono until his death in 1980.)
Places to Avoid in Manhattan
As a rule of thumb, visitors to Manhattan should avoid quiet, deserted, or extremely residential areas, particularly at night.
For example, the Financial District, while bustling during business hours, becomes dangerously quiet in the evening.
Additionally, while Central Park is breathtaking during the day, it’s not safe after dark.
This holds for other city parks, as well.
Again, never board an empty subway train car.
If a car looks empty, it’s usually for a reason.
Find an occupied car or wait for the next train.
While not necessarily unsafe, some residential neighborhoods are less desirable for travelers.
Neighborhoods like Harlem, East Harlem, Washington Heights, Inwood, and extreme eastern Alphabet City are areas where tourists are more likely to stand out, making them easier targets for opportunistic criminals.
These neighborhoods also have a more subdued police presence, so it may not be as easy to find an officer to help during an emergency.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Manhattan
- Research your accommodations. Manhattan offers a huge variety of accommodations, from five-star hotels to quaint apartments. Before booking, do your research. Is your hotel in a safe neighborhood? Is it convenient for your must-see attractions? If you’re renting an apartment, make sure the unit you’re renting is legal and above-board.
- Protect your valuables. Much of Manhattan is extremely crowded, making it easy for pickpockets to snatch a wallet or phone out of a bag or back pocket, undetected. When in crowded areas, keep valuables in interior pockets.
- Keep bags in sight. In congested areas, keep a hand on your purse, and hold backpacks in front of you. This makes it harder for thieves to rifle through your bags.
- Don’t buy things from street vendors. Avoid buying things like designer bags, high-end watches, and theatre or sporting event tickets from people on the street. These items are often counterfeit, overpriced, and a waste of your money.
- Avoid public parks at night. While beautiful during the day, city parks aren’t safe at night. Refrain from visiting these locations until you can go in daylight.
- Never board an empty subway car. Boarding an empty subway car can make you a sitting duck for criminals. Always board a busy subway car. If this isn’t possible, wait for the next train.
- Don’t use unmarked cars. Unmarked black cars may pull up to tourists, asking if they need a ride. These cars are unregulated, which means at best, drivers can charge any price, and at worst, you may not make it safely to your destination. While not all are dangerous, there’s no easy way to tell which are safe, so it’s best to avoid them altogether.
- Stay away from secluded neighborhoods. Some neighborhoods, like the Financial District, are busy during the day but empty at night. Other neighborhoods, like Harlem, Alphabet City, and Inwood are very quiet, making it easy for tourists to stand out as potential targets. It’s best to avoid these areas and stick to the beaten path.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. The NYPD has a very visible presence throughout most of Manhattan, and most officers are friendly and ready to help. If you are lost or need assistance, don’t hesitate to reach out to them.
- Pay attention. Manhattan is an urban metropolis, and while it’s generally safe, there’s always a risk that something could go wrong. For this reason, always pay attention to your surroundings. Note the closest exits in public buildings. Beware of individuals acting unusual. Live by the NYPD’s motto, “If you see something, say something,” and report anything that seems suspicious.
So... How Safe Is Manhattan Really?
Like any other major city, Manhattan will always have a baseline level of crime that is higher than that of a quiet suburb.
That said, compared to other large global cities, Manhattan is quite safe.
Throughout most of the 21st century, crime rates in New York City as a whole, and Manhattan specifically, have been trending downward.
This is due to increased police presence throughout the city, a focus on counterterrorism efforts, and the vigilance of Manhattanites.
However, 2021 saw a rise in crime rates across the city.
It is speculated that this was caused by the stress and hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic, which hit New York City especially hard at its onset.
Officials are hopeful that as the city regains normalcy, and residents begin to get back to work, these numbers will once again drop.
Even with rising crime rates, Manhattan remains a safe place for tourists to visit.
Most tourist destinations in the city are heavily policed, well-regulated, and equipped with a variety of visible and invisible safety measures.
The risk of violent crime against visitors is low, especially in busy areas popular with vacationers.
There is a risk of falling prey to petty crimes like pickpocketing or being scammed, but these are easily avoided by taking basic safety measures.
A natural disaster remains unlikely during your visit, and while Manhattan will always be somewhat of a terrorist target, there are currently no credible threats to the city.
How Does Manhattan Compare?
- Visas - American citizens are free to travel to Manhattan without a passport or visa. International travelers should check USA.gov to see if their home country participates in the Visa Waiver Program. If so, visitors can stay in the United States for up to 90 days without a visa. If traveling from a country not included in the program, a visa may be required.
- Currency - Manhattan, like the rest of the United States, uses the U.S. dollar. Tourists visiting from abroad may choose to exchange currency at home before departing on their trip. Alternatively, there are many banks and currency conversion shops that can handle this upon arrival in Manhattan.
- Weather - New York City has a continental climate, and Manhattan experiences four distinct seasons. Summers can be very hot and humid, with an average high temperature peaking at 85 degrees in July. Winters can be cold and snowy, with the average January low temperature dipping to around 24 degrees. Spring and summer are usually milder and feature impressive spring flowers and beautiful leaf colors, respectively.
- Airports - Manhattan is served by three major airports. International travelers can choose between John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) located in Queens and Newark International Airport (EWR) in nearby New Jersey. For domestic travelers, LaGuardia Airport (LGA), also in Queens, offers a third option.
- Travel Insurance - If you’re concerned about protecting your trip in the event you need to cancel, it may be worth looking into travel insurance. There are a wide variety of companies that offer different trip insurance plans. Be sure to do your research and choose the plan that makes the most sense for your group.
Manhattan Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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