California : Safety by City
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Palm Springs is a desert hideaway with hidden treasures waiting to be explored.
Some of the biggest names in Hollywood history would retreat (and still do) to Palm Springs in search of either excitement or relaxation—and Palm Springs has plenty of both.
Known as one of the most LGBTQ+ friendly cities in the country, there’s a little something for everyone to feel comfortable and welcome in this arid climate ripe with outdoor and indoor activities.
You can sit with your toes in the water at luxury resort pools or have your toes 8500 feet above sea level on the world’s largest aerial rotating tram.
The city has a broad appeal with its architecture, art scene, foodie possibilities, shopping options, and spa choices.
Don’t miss getting a photo op at the giant Marilyn Monroe statue.
One of the aforementioned hidden treasures is a speakeasy that is designed just like the inside of a luxury jetliner reminiscent of the Pan Am era.
Where is this speakeasy?
Maybe we’ll give away the secret by the end of this article.
Warnings & Dangers in Palm Springs
OVERALL RISK : MEDIUM
This is a tough one. The crime data shows it's about 1.5 times more dangerous than the average U.S. city, but there's such a great posh vibe that makes you feel comfortable. There's a gang problem in parts of the Coachella Valley, where Palm Springs is located, but the average tourist isn't impacted by it. The weather can be beautiful or it can be brutally hot. We'll go with a medium risk just to keep you from getting too relaxed in this desert getaway.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
There's a low risk as all rides are carefully regulated by the city and the state. The city is very walkable in the downtown area but some of the sites, like the tramway, will require you to leave the city limits. Even just being 6 miles away, with the desert sun, you'll want to catch a ride (and there isn't a shuttle service to and from).
PICKPOCKETS RISK : MEDIUM
There's a 1 in 42 chance of being a victim of theft based on population vs. the number of thefts reported in 2020. However, the population triples during snowbird season and more than a million visitors come to Palm Springs each year, so factoring in those numbers, there's an exponentially lower risk. Still, let's stick with a medium risk, as tourists are easy targets.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
Oppressive heat, earthquakes, wildfires, flash flooding, and strong winds are just a few reasons this area has a medium risk for natural disasters. That said, there are more than 350 days of sunshine a year (nope, not a typo). On an average day, there's going to be a low risk, but when disasters get bad here they go from bad to worse fast.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
There's a 1 in 755 chance of being a robbery victim here. Again, that's a number retrieved by doing the math of the population vs. crime rate. It's going to get exponentially lower considering seasonal residents and tourists. Even at the basic level, it's much lower than the theft rate, so we're going to call this a low risk.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
There's not much of a terrorist draw in Palm Springs, so there's a low risk. Outside of Palm Springs, there's just a lot of desert until you get to Los Angeles about two hours west and Phoenix about 5 hours east.
SCAMS RISK : MEDIUM
There is a 30% elderly population just based on the census, and that number can triple when snowbird season starts, so we want to give this a medium risk because seniors are prime targets for scammers. On top of that, Palm Springs is a posh community and there's a lot of money to potentially be swindled out of people. Check the Palm Springs Police Department website before you come to see any trending scams.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
There's a low risk for women here. 40% of the residents in town are female and it's one of the largest lesbian communities in the country per capita. Women should take traditional precautions, like not taking a drink from a stranger and using the buddy system when walking home after a night at the bar or on a hike.
TAP WATER RISK : HIGH
Ewww. That's the risk level of tap water in Palm Springs from this writer's perspective. First things first, it meets state and federal requirements and any deviation from those requirements will mean a warning gets issued. But, and it's a big BUT, the Coachella Valley Water District lists some of the challenges you might find in tap water, like being warm (because it's so dang hot in Palm Springs), murky, particle-ridden, or stinky. CVWD explains why all these issues happen, but it would catch me off guard as a tourist, so I'm sure it would catch you off guard too. That's giving it a high risk just from shock value alone. Thank goodness you read this article, eh?
Safest Places to Visit in Palm Springs
Downtown Palm Springs is a haven for food, drink, and fun.
From open-air restaurants to shopping boutiques, to nightclubs, you can enjoy the fruits of the labor of those who built this town.
The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is a must-see according to every single person I’ve asked about Palm Springs, and apparently, even people like me who are terrified of heights should give it a chance.
You’ll be on a two-and-a-half-mile ride over the Chino Canyon cliffs to Mt. San Jacinto State Park.
Once you’re there, after kissing the ground and strongly considering walking back, you can get breathtaking views from observation decks, take in a documentary in an air-conditioned theater, visit the natural history museum, or hike along 50 miles of trails
Back in town, you can go on architecture tours, visit Melvyn’s, where celebrities like Joan Crawford and Marilyn Monroe once went to hide away from the hustle of Hollywood, or relax in one of the many spa retreats.
Plan your trip for a Thursday night stay if you can, as that’s when VillageFest takes over downtown.
The streets are closed off and the atmosphere is revved up with art vendors, fresh market items, jewelry, and snack booths are set up along the street.
Placess to Avoid in Palm Springs
Let’s talk about the safety of where you stay.
Palm Springs is a unique community where you can choose a typical hotel, of course, but there are boutique hotels, rental houses, resorts, timeshares, and about a dozen ways to find a place to stay.
The city strictly regulates rental housing, and it posts a list of banned rental locations year-round.
Check out the website before booking.
There is a gang problem in the Coachella Valley with so many gang names it would blow your mind, but a gang is a gang, and they are up to no good.
While Desert Hot Springs is more of the epicenter of gangs in the area, Palm Springs does have some gang activity as well.
Crime maps show the nearby Cathedral City has a higher crime rate (and gangs there too).
Safety Tips for Traveling to Palm Springs
- You just need to drink a lot of water in this desert city. You don’t sweat when it’s so dry, because the sweat evaporates right away, so you don’t even realize how dehydrated you are getting. Especially if alcohol is in your plans, you’ll need to keep hydrated with water infused with electrolytes.
- You’ll want to have a date shake while you are there. Any guess what that is? Nope, it’s not a dance. No, not a secret handshake on a date. It’s the “unofficial drink of Palm Springs”, a milkshake made with dates (the fruit). Sounds a little different, but people I spoke to swear by it and say you will be hard-pressed to find a casual food joint that doesn’t offer this unique shake experience.
- There is an 11.5% “Transient Occupancy Tax” (TOT) on short-term rentals for less than 28 consecutive days. If you are considering a longer stay in Palm Springs, it’s wise to stay at least 29 days so you don’t have to pay the tax. You aren’t considered “transient” if you stay that long.
- Download the myPalmSprings app before your trip for maps, airport information, community events, and much more.
- There are plenty of resorts to visit in Palm Springs to get a slice of the good life, but it’s worth noting some of these resorts are clothing-optional gay resorts. That’s not a pro or a con, it’s just something to be aware of if you end up in a place where everyone is naked but you.
- For those looking to enjoy the LGBTQ+ party scene, Arenas Road is the place to be. There are nightclubs, drag shows, lounges, restaurants, and shopping just for this crowd and those who support them. Everyone is welcome in this area, so don’t feel weird if you want to check it out but happen to be straight. It’s a very welcoming and inclusive community.
- For those walking around downtown, there’s an aggressive community plan to cut down on the dangers of pedestrian accidents. Between 2016 and 2020, 8% of accidents in this area involved a pedestrian. Be careful when crossing the street and only do so in a crosswalk. If you are driving, give pedestrians the right-of-way.
- The COVID pandemic brought about changes to the way people dine in Palm Springs. To accommodate the spacing issues, restaurants created what are called “parklets”, which are just like patios outside the restaurant. Some businesses didn’t have a whole lot of space so they butted right up against the road, causing safety concerns. Now parklets are so popular, businesses are making them permanent but must comply with city rules. If you want to dine at one of these parklets, make sure you are at one that has a barrier from traffic and reflective tape to alert motorists.
- There are snakes in Palm Springs and they come out in the spring. There are six types of rattlesnakes in this area and each one has its toxic sting, albeit at different levels of danger. Any snakebite should be treated immediately at urgent care or hospital. May 15 – June 15 is peak rattlesnake season.
- OK, lean in close. We’re going to share the speakeasy secret with you. Bouschets looks like a wine store, but it’s so much more. There’s a deli and shopping area inside, but there’s also PS Air, a speakeasy designed in the spirit of luxury travel around the world. You don’t need a secret key to get in, but reservations are recommended. Just know you can only enter via Bouschets.
So... How Safe Is Palm Springs Really?
Here’s how the crime statistics break down based on 2020 FBI data:
- Larceny: 1 in 42 chance
- Robbery: 1 in 755 chance
- Aggravated Assault: 1 in 268 chance
- Violent Crime: 1 in 173
- Property Crime: 1 in 26
The property crime chance is high, but since you don’t own property there, that’s a good thing.
It does mean you need to review the rental policy if you choose to stay in a rental home to know how insured your belongings will be.
There is an active gang crime scene in this region, but it shouldn’t impact you in the tourist areas, which will be well monitored by security and police.
Overall, it’s a safe place to visit if you practice personal safety standards and keep drinking that water to avoid dehydration.
How Does Palm Springs Compare?
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- Visas - Palm Springs has no separate Visa requirements from the United States as a whole, so once you're set at the airport you are free to travel to and from this desert oasis. Tijuana and Mexicali, Mexico, are both about 3:00 from Palm Springs, so if you get the urge for a day trip, make sure you bring your international travel identification of choice.
- Currency - You'll only use the U.S. Dollar currency in and around Palm Springs. There is a currency exchange at the airport and several locations in town.
- Weather - Palm Springs gets very hot in the summer. It's a "dry heat", yes, but it is still averaging above 100°(F) from June to September. The coldest winters usually don't drop below the mid-40s and only three times in history has this area gotten below freezing. You'll want a jacket in the winter but chances are you won't wear it much.
- Airports - The Palm Springs Airport is smack dab in the center of the city and serves more than two million passengers yearly. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is 2:30 west and San Diego's airport (SAN) is 2:30-3:00 southwest.
- Travel Insurance - Travel insurance is a great idea for a trip to Palm Springs. This vibrant, unique community is worth seeing and you don't want a weather or wildfire travel delay to ruin your trip.
Palm Springs Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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