California : Safety by City
- Chino Hills
- Chula Vista
- Costa Mesa
- Daly City
- El Cajon
- El Monte
- Garden Grove
- Huntington Beach
- Lake Forest
- Long Beach
- Los Angeles
- Mission Viejo
- Moreno Valley
- Mountain View
- Newport Beach
- Palm Springs
- Rancho Cucamonga
- Redondo Beach
- Redwood City
- San Bernardino
- San Diego
- San Francisco
- San Jose
- San Leandro
- San Luis Obispo
- San Mateo
- Santa Ana
- Santa Barbara
- Santa Clara
- Santa Clarita
- Santa Cruz
- Santa Monica
- Santa Rosa
- Simi Valley
- South Gate
- Thousand Oaks
- Union City
- West Covina
Oakland, California is in the San Francisco-San Jose region known as the East Bay.
This is a culturally diverse and active community with more than 440,000 people.
One of the busiest bridges in the state carries people back and forth between Oakland and San Francisco.
You can drive, walk, or bicycle across the bridge to get between the two cities.
While the two are connected, it’s frowned upon by locals to generalize that Oakland is San Francisco.
Both cities have their own uniqueness, as does San Jose.
A great bonus when visiting Oakland is you are in a perfect spot to enjoy the city and the wilderness, with downtown and redwood forests just 15 minutes apart.
Oakland gets some of the best weather in the Bay Area, with more sunshine and less fog than its neighborhoods across the bay.
Temperatures are also warmer here on average.
Oakland also boasts fun for everyone, from families with young kids exploring the Oakland Zoo to people exploring the Oakland Cannabis Trail to LGBTQIA+ activities to women and black-owned businesses.
The diversity here really sets it apart and the prices are generally more affordable than in some other Bay Area communities.
Warnings & Dangers in Oakland
OVERALL RISK: MEDIUM
Oakland has a long history and an even worse reputation for having a lot of crime. That holds true in 2022 as crime rates are increasing even higher. The places that are safe to explore come with medium risk and certain neighborhoods come with high risk and should be avoided at all costs.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: MEDIUM
Public transportation options include AC Transit, Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), and the San Francisco Bay Ferry. The Broadway shuttle can get you from the other transportation hubs to downtown Oakland. You can also rent a car, ride a bike or utilize taxis and rideshares. There are some public transportation stops that are in potentially dangerous neighborhoods and driving a car can require a lot of patience in traffic. Use any option with medium risk.
PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW
You should assume in any crowded space, like a BART train, that someone is eyeing you to potentially pickpocket. Plan your outfit around a safe, out of plain sight, place to store your wallet. Don't zip or button it in a backpack pocket or leave it in an open purse. Even putting it in your back pocket with a button isn't going to protect you.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: LOW
Earthquakes and wildfires are the biggest risks here, and while the average day in the Bay Area has a low risk, these two events can be catastrophic. Earthquakes you won't see coming, so be sure to research safety practices ahead of time. Wildfires can spread quickly and impact air quality and also lead to evacuations.
MUGGING RISK: HIGH
The robbery rate here is eight times higher than the national average - EIGHT TIMES HIGHER. That's one of the highest robbery risks I've seen in hundreds of research articles about travel safety. In addition to that, there are high violent crime risks here. Don't ever fight back against a robbery or get confrontational. Follow instructions and remember as much as you can to file a police report.
TERRORISM RISK: MEDIUM
Across the Bay Area, there is medium risk. This massive population center and shipping hub has a lot of military presence too. The higher risk also comes with an abundance of safety. Read through the Ready Oakland section of the city's website to learn more about safety and vigilance.
SCAMS RISK: MEDIUM
Treat this with a medium risk so you stay on your toes, but the sad truth is, if someone wants money from you here they aren't afraid to take it by force. Avoid anyone who seems like they are trying to help you because it could be a distraction. Only ask for advice from trusted people like police officers, hotel concierge workers, and managers of local businesses.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW
Women should use extra caution if traveling alone here and stay off the streets at night. If you are going out after dark, stay in well-lit and populated areas. Confirm any driving directions before you go so you don't get lost and end up in a dangerous neighborhood.
TAP WATER RISK: LOW
The 2021 Water Quality Report shows full compliance and no violations for the year. You should always check the city website for water quality issues before you travel, but there's a low risk you'll have any issues during your visit.
Safest Places to Visit in Oakland
Visitoakland.com is the official tourism website for the city.
Visitcalifornia.com is also the state’s official site if you want to look for options outside of the Bay Area.
The Oakland Zoo is a special place with unique animals from around the world and roller coasters too!
You can also take a gondola ride high above the zoo to get great views of the habitats and the surrounding region.
Be sure to stop by the Children’s Zoo section (with or without children) to see an elephant feeding and maybe you’ll be lucky enough to get a chance to feed one!
The Chabot Space & Science Center takes you all the way to space with its NASA Experience and Planetarium with movies and interactive exhibits.
An exhibit called “Touch The Sun” will take you through experiences that change the way you see the sun.
Young children will burn a lot of energy exploring Fairyland.
It’s geared toward toddlers, but it can be fun for anyone who wants to channel their inner toddler.
The park walks you through some of your favorite childhood storybooks and brings them to life in an interactive and fun setting.
The Museum of Children’s Art is another place kids can enjoy by taking an art class or viewing the art created by other children.
The Oakland Museum of California is filled with art, history, and geography of the unique landscape of this region.
You’ll learn about the pre-historical times of this land and how the mountains were formed.
With California having so many unique types of geology and geography, this interactive and informative exploration opportunity is sure to please.
To see historic upscale homes, visit the Dunsmuir-Hellman Historic Estate or take a Pardee Home Museum Tour.
Both locations offer private tours and special event opportunities like tea parties or garden gatherings.
Check the schedules for events happening during your visit.
If you want to spend time on the water, go through the tube (aka tunnel) or cross one of several streets that cross over into Alameda.
You can read our safety review of that city and find it’s a much safer part of the region to visit.
There are kayak rentals and even classes you can take if you want to explore the waters of San Francisco Bay.
Places to Avoid in Oakland
West of downtown and east of High Street contains the most dangerous areas in the city and the country.
Oakland has a long history of poverty, disenfranchised communities, and progressive fights for civil rights.
This was the headquarters of the Black Panthers in the day and Oakland produced some of the top hip-hop artists of our time.
The ongoing poverty combined with the pandemic impact has caused more violent crime in communities that can’t find much-needed help.
You will see a lot of tourist information about Fruitvale.
While it does have an abundance of cultural and cuisine options, including some of the best taco trucks in the region, crime has been rising and in late 2022 the business owners came together to demand action to curb violent crime.
The risk is especially high in the area of the BART Fruitville station.
There is also a strong gang presence in Oakland, with rival gangs throughout, but primarily in east and west Oakland.
Gangs here are relentless, violent, and lack any amount of compassion for your valuables.
Stay away from their neighborhoods and report any suspicious activity you see.
While you can walk and bicycle in this city, for a first-time tourist, you’re safer to take door-to-door options like taxis or rideshares.
You can’t afford to go into the wrong neighborhood, and in many parts of Oakland, it is just a few blocks in either direction.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Oakland
- You can report any crime or suspicious activity using the online form available on the Oakland Police Department website or go to a station in person. You can choose to leave your contact information or remain anonymous.
- If you feel the police have discriminated against you or wronged you in any way, there is also a form to report accusations of police misconduct on the website. This is a city where tension between the community and law enforcement can be palpable.
- Review the latest crime reports on the website before you go. With crime growing at such a high rate and bleeding into once safe neighborhoods, you can’t afford to go on outdated internet information. Crime data is available per year or quarter, and you can also search for the different districts for crime since it’s such a large city.
- Just because San Francisco looks close doesn’t mean it is. The Google Map estimate of 15 minutes from Oakland to San Francisco and back is just that – an estimate. During high traffic, it can be upwards of 90 minutes to cross the bridge.
- Sign up for emergency alerts on the city or OPD website. You can get information about weather events, air quality, crimes and civil disturbances that could impact your visit. The alerts will be county wide and cover any issue in Alameda County. If you want updates from other counties or cities in the Bay Area, you’ll need to sign up for those separately.
- The city of Oakland works with SpotAngels to help drivers find parking spots before they end up driving around endlessly looking for a spot. You’ll be able to find parking lots, garages, and street parking while knowing how much it will cost and how to pay for the meter if applicable.
- Look at the Staying Safe section of the city’s website to read through a variety of crime prevention tips. Pay special attention to the auto theft section, as the rate of auto thefts here is nearly eight times higher than the national average. If you are going to use BART during your visit, please read the “Avoid Being a Robbery Victim” article, as police state “thieves tend to look for victims there (at BART stations)”. It is also suggested you don’t walk around in public using your phone. Social media reports reveal some thieves will just walk up and take the phone right out of your hand.
- Visit as many places as you can during the daytime. With such a cultural melting pot of things to see and do, you don’t want to miss the things that make Oakland unique, but you also don’t want to risk being a crime victim and the risk goes up at night. If you are going to be drinking while you’re here, travel in a group and never try to walk long distances.
- You cannot walk from Oakland to San Francisco, but you can get from Oakland across the bridge to Yerba Buena Island (more than halfway to San Francisco). At some point the walkway will expand, but no set date exists for that. Also, the bridge was impacted by the big earthquake in 1989, but was repaired with special reinforcement for earthquake protection.
- You might feel earthquake rumbles while you are here, and you might be surprised that it’s just not a big deal to locals. You should never run inside if you are outside during an earthquake. If you are inside, don’t run outside. Find a sturdy desk or piece of furniture to hide under until the shaking stops. You can ready Alameda County’s emergency management plan to learn more about earthquake safety.
So... How Safe Is Oakland Really?
Look, all big cities are going to be dangerous in certain parts.
They will all come with an element of danger and certain risks.
Oakland is one of the most dangerous cities in America, but a lot of that risk is due to gangs and drug crime.
There isn’t a rash of crimes against innocent bystanders, but there is little concern from violent criminals about who gets hurt during a crime spree.
Your safety goes up exponentially if you avoid the far east and west sections of town, but there’s still going to be an element of danger.
The city is working to fix some of the progress that was made before the pandemic hit.
That’s when crime soared and started infiltrating once safer parts of the city.
“Since COVID, the connection between the city government and specifically black and brown communities has been really compromised,” Oakland Department of Violence Prevention Chief Guillermo Cespedes said.
“It’s not that the relationship was great to begin with, but COVID exposed the vulnerabilities, so we are rebuilding trust.”
According to the crime data OPD provided in 2021, the violent crime risk was 3.7 times higher than the national average.
The robbery was eight times higher and auto theft was 7.5 times higher.
Theft risks are 2.4 times higher and an average of five cars get stolen every day.
Never leave a car unlocked here and take all belongings, even handicapped placards, and GPS holders, inside with you at night.
You can enjoy so much Oakland has to offer, but you can’t afford to let your guard down.
Use the police resources available to study the safety and talk to an officer in the district where you’ll be staying to learn more about how to protect yourself.
How Does Oakland Compare?
|Santiago de Chile (Chile)
|Hong Kong (China)
You'll need a U.S. Visa or Visa Waiver to get through Customs and a valid passport is required too. The visa process can take months to complete, so make an appointment with the U.S. embassy in your country as soon as possible.
The U.S. Dollar is the only currency allowed here, but it's smart not to carry cash with you. Don't use public ATMs, especially at night. Exchange currency inside banks.
Jeans and t-shirt weather reign most of the year, but you'll want a jacket or hoodie for the chilly days. Bring hiking boots if you are heading into the mountains. Be sure to dress like a local. Don't try to be too dressy or too casual. The less you look like a tourist, the more you will blend in.
Oakland International Airport is 15 minutes from downtown, but you can also take BART to San Francisco's airport. Getting to San Jose's airport by car is fine, but using public transportation you'll have to switch types in several locations. Choose one of the other airports if you won't use a vehicle here.
Travel insurance is just a smart investment for any trip. It might feel like a waste of money if you don't use it, but it's going to give you peace of mind and much-needed protection - just in case.
Oakland Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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