Alabama : Safety by City
- Gulf Shores
- Muscle Shoals
- Phenix City
Montgomery, Alabama, is the state capital and a cradle of history for the state of Alabama and the South.
Everything about this city exudes Southern hospitality, from the food to the live music to the historical sites to the growing community that isn’t too set in its ways to see the future.
It was here that Civil Rights Activist Rosa Parks famously refused to give up her to move to the “colored” section of a bus.
That set off a Civil Rights firestorm with Montgomery dead center at the right for equal rights among white and black people.
The Alabama River weaves through the northwest side of the city, offering opportunities to ride a riverboat and enjoy live music while soaking in the thick Southern air and smell of magnolias as you cruise along.
I’ve taken this boat ride before, and if you see Riverboat Dan playing music, tell him I said hello.
Exploring this city is like bumping into different eras at every corner.
You can be in a world-class spa one moment, at the Rosa Parks Museum an hour later, and in Old Town Alabama, among landmarks dating back to the 19th century.
Warnings & Dangers in Montgomery
OVERALL RISK: LOW
Montgomery comes with low risk, but that risk can change exponentially between different neighborhoods or parts of town. In 2020, the city had below-average violent crime rates, but through 2021 and 2022, those rates skyrocketed. It is one of the safer cities to visit in Alabama.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW
The public transportation system experienced major delays in 2022, and a fix for the problem is still pending. It's best to avoid that route unless you want to risk waiting an hour or more for a bus. Rideshares and taxis are available, as are rental cars.
PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW
Unless you're in one of the crowded spaces for a festival or crowded restaurant, you have a low risk of being pickpocketed. You should still carry only the bare necessities. I've walked around downtown Montgomery after dark, but it's apparent where the well-lit, welcoming areas are and where you should avoid them as you explore.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM
There's a medium risk because of the challenges you can face throughout the year. Severe thunderstorms and dangerous tornadoes are possible starting in spring, and hurricane season can bring remnants of a tropical storm up the Alabama spine. I was in Montgomery when Tropical Storm Nate swept over in 2017. It wasn't a bad storm, but it was quite rainy and windy for several hours on end.
MUGGING RISK: MEDIUM
There's a growing risk of robberies in 2022 due to the influx of violent crime. While most crimes are between people who know each other, it's smart to stay out of the areas that aren't along main roads and are well-lit. One thing I noticed about Montgomery is that there's excellent street lighting, or you're in the dark. There isn't much in the middle.
TERRORISM RISK: LOW
There's a low risk here, even with it being a state capital. It's a medium-sized, if not small, city with just under 230,000 people, and it's surrounded by small-town Alabama for miles.
SCAMS RISK: LOW
Most fraud cases here involved residents getting IRS, utility, or fake police officer calls. You shouldn't have to worry about tourist scams, but you will likely get panhandled downtown.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW
There's a low risk for women here, but it will require using common sense and situational awareness. For example, I went there as a 40-something-year-old woman in 2017 and 2019. I was alone and had my own car. I felt safe downtown in the parking garages and main roads, but when I went to get some necessities, I had to pass two stores that didn't seem safe, even with a tropical storm approaching. There were neighborhoods off main parkways that were clearly not meant for visitors. You just have to trust your gut.
TAP WATER RISK: LOW
The 2022 Water Quality Report shows full compliance and no violation, with a great statement from the utility company, "During 2021, all of Montgomery Water Works’ water and wastewater plants were recognized for the excellence of operation. These awards demonstrate our continued commitment and dedication to provide the best possible water and wastewater service to you."
Safest Places to Visit in Montgomery
Visitmontgomery.com is the official tourism website for the city.
While it’s not the most robust tourism website I’ve seen, it does cover the basic attractions and gives specifics for categories like “family-friendly,” “girlfriends getaway,” and “golf lovers.”
The Civil Rights History here is not to be missed.
You have so many options to explore:
- The Legacy Museum: Preserving the story of the civil rights movement, slavery, and racism through stories, artifacts, and photos.
- Free Rides Museum: The site of a brutal attack on Freedom Riders outside the Greyhound Bus Station is now preserved to honor those who risked their lives in the name of civil rights.
- The National Museum for Peace and Justice: A place to honor those who were victims of systemic racism and an educational forum to bring peace and stop racial hate.
- Rosa Parks Museum: A museum with kid-friendly exhibits to understand why Rosa refused to move and how it led to more people demanding equal rights.
The Hank Williams Museum celebrates the father of contemporary country music with recordings, photos, and exhibits of Williams’ life in Montgomery and beyond.
If you aren’t humming, “There’s a tear in my beer cause I’m crying for you dear,” when you leave, you didn’t stay long enough.
The Mongomery Zoo offers a lot to see and do for adults and children.
With a new sloth and snow leopard exhibit, you’ll be able to explore many global habitats from the comfort of central Alabama.
You can pay extra for animal encounters like feeding a giraffe or watching an elephant make you a homemade souvenir.
Old Alabama Town is a series of historical buildings preserved to showcase life here going back to the late 1800s.
Tours are self-guided, and pets are welcome.
You can also schedule a guided tour.
The Harriott II is a riverboat that can take you for a dinner cruise or sunset ride up and down the river.
If you’re celebrating a special occasion, look for the anniversary or birthday package.
You’ll need to book reservations at least two days in advance.
You can also check the schedule for Riverside Park events, which is right by the riverboat launch.
This park along the river is home to festivals and concerts throughout the year.
Normally, I’d tell you to avoid alleys in any city, but The Alley in Montgomery is a fun place with string lights hanging from open-air restaurants and shops.
It’s fun both day and night and in a safe part of downtown.
Places to Avoid in Montgomery
Outside of the immediate downtown area with all the attractions and hotels, you’ll want to use extra caution if you go south, west, or due north.
The further east you go, the safer it gets.
Nearby Prattville is a very safe suburb.
I’ve stayed in that city before, and let me tell you – if you love golfing, that’s the place to be.
Robert Trent Jones golf courses are among the best in the nation.
If you head east on the Atlanta Highway, you’ll be in a safe part of town and run into a bunch of stores, restaurants, strip malls, and churches.
I’m a confident driver in any neighborhood across the country.
I love road trips, and I’ve seen a lot of places.
Let me tell you – the streets in Montgomery neighborhoods are some of the narrowest I’ve ever seen.
I found myself doing the shoulder hunch, seemingly as a way to make me smaller to fit my car in the roadway.
Avoid losing focus on any of the neighborhood roads.
They are narrow, curvy, and not always well-lit at all.
Montgomery neighborhoods can also be hit or miss.
I was driving to a friend’s house, and I was creeped out a little in one neighborhood and had some cat callers making me nervous.
I wondered why my friend lived in this neighborhood.
Two blocks later, I was among the plantation-style homes of the upper class.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Montgomery
- Montgomery Police Department (MPD) has an app you can download with all the information available on its website. This can provide you with the ability to report crimes, look up important numbers, and read the latest news releases.
- You can also check out the crime mapping function on MPD’s website. This provides interactive searches by types of crime, dates, and geographical range. While the crimes aren’t official crime numbers, they do show the latest calls to the police with a summary of why they were called.
- Sign up for emergency alerts through Alert Montgomery. There’s a link on the county’s emergency management website. This will get you critical weather or other safety information through email or text messages.
- Downtown Montgomery has more than 2,500 spaces within a quarter mile of The Alley, so you’ll likely be able to get a close spot. For those who arrive after 6:00 pm, all parking is free in city lots and garages. For times when you have to pay, use the ParkMobile app to feed the meter without having to go to your car.
- There are three entertainment districts, one of which is downtown, where you can open carry drinks on the streets while you explore the different businesses. The city has a map of the locations, so you can be sure you’re in the right place. Also, look for signs with the color green apples with an “M” or star on them to confirm it’s an entertainment district. You can not bring in your own alcohol, but you can carry around alcohol you purchased from a business in the district.
- The city of Montgomery offers e-notifications if you want to be in the know about local events happening during your visit. You sign up on the city website and choose which categories you want updates from.
- This is the South, so Sundays are God’s Day. You’ll find some businesses might be closed or have limited hours. Visitors are welcome to any church in Montgomery, and you won’t have trouble finding one as there are a lot of them.
- Anglers need a non-resident license from the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. You can’t fish without a license. Also, make sure you don’t buy a saltwater license unless you are heading to the coast. You’ll be in freshwater throughout this section of Alabama.
- One of the concerns fueling the violent crime increase is people being too scared to report information to the police for fear of retaliation. As a tourist, you have a leg up because you aren’t known by anyone here, and you get to leave. You can call Secret Witness at (334)625-4000 to report any crime information, and you will remain anonymous.
- For those taking the riverboat cruise, you should know the boat has a minimum limit of 35 passengers, or else it might not launch. Be sure to ask when you’re booking how many other people are on the list.
So... How Safe Is Montgomery Really?
When I first started researching the last official crime numbers for Montgomery, which was 2020, I was impressed at the low rates across the board.
Digging deeper, I see the same fate many United States cities are facing – increasing crime rates and record-breaking homicide rates.
One of the positive notes for a tourist is that these crimes are likely among people who know each other, leaving the real risk of simply being at the wrong place at the wrong time.
“The majority of the folks committing crimes in the city of Montgomery is a very small amount of folks that we’ve seen before, folks who have criminal records, folks who are trying to make and take control of the city, and we will not have it, and we will not allow it,” said Montgomery Police Chief Daryl Albert to local news station WSFA.
Another issue is the influx of narcotics into the community, which leads to more violent crimes.
Police are steadily making arrests, and convictions are being upheld, but whether or not it’s enough to slow down the violent crime increase remains to be seen.
You’ll instantly know when you’re in the bad part of Montgomery.
I even had someone say to me at a stoplight, “Lady, what are you doing in this neighborhood?
GET OUT OF HERE.”
If you stick to the main areas designed for sightseeing and entertainment, you shouldn’t notice much of a risk at all.
Make sure you have a working GPS and your phone is charged because getting lost is hard to navigate out of with just your sense of direction.
How Does Montgomery Compare?
|Santiago de Chile (Chile)
|Hong Kong (China)
The U.S. State Department issues visas, and you'll need either a work visa, travel visa, or visa waiver to get through Customs. The visa process can take months, so start planning early. Check your passport to ensure it's not within six months of expiring.
The U.S. Dollar is the only currency you can use here, and I can't think of a single thing I had to use cash for when I was there. There are some older barbecue restaurants or other eateries that only accept cash, but they are few and far between.
Montgomery beats the winter blues with mild temperatures throughout the year, but every now and then, a cold spell sends people searching for coats and boots. One thing to note here is how humid it gets. During winter, it's more tolerable, but when that summer sun kicks in, and the humidity fires up, you're just going to sweat a lot. With a lot of walking to do here, bring comfortable shoes.
Montgomery Regional Airport is nine miles from downtown. It's a commercial airport but isn't very big. You should be able to find flights to Washington, D.C. since this is the state capital. If you choose to fly out of Birmingham or Atlanta, you'll spend no more than two hours on the road.
Travel insurance is a smart investment, especially with the ongoing risk of severe weather or tropical storms. Even a storm on the coast can shut down flight paths for hundreds of miles inland or disrupt air traffic altogether.
Montgomery Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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Alabama - Safety by City