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
San Mateo, California, is perfect for those who can’t decide between visiting San Francisco and San Jose because this city is right in the middle of the peninsula that connects them.
The city is home to 105,000 people, but some amenities make it feel bigger, like a robust downtown anchored by Central Park, which itself has a variety of activities.
The downtown area alone has more than 150 restaurants to choose from and more are on the way.
You can feel the buzz of activity in that energetic core or get away from the crowds at the beach or the mountain.
Heck, you might even decide to trek over the coast to Half Moon Bay, which is less than 30 minutes away.
Why not try a round of golf while watching the windsurfers over the bay?
The city is full of younger generations building their families or looking for love, and they make a pretty good living too, with an average income of $125,000.
Does safety live up to its social status?
Let’s find out!
To be clear in case you aren’t sure, the city’s name is pronounced San Muh-TAY-oo.
Warnings & Dangers in San Mateo
OVERALL RISK : LOW
There's a low risk in San Mateo, with a slight edge to some of the crime numbers. Overall, it's nothing to lose sleep over, but we're going to walk you through it.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
You have several options for public transportation here; Sam Trans, which takes you throughout San Mateo County, and Caltrain, which goes through Silicon Valley. Taxis and rideshares are also available. All come with low risk, though some local forums suggest keeping your eyes peeled at the Caltrain stations, just in case.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
There's a low risk, but 20 pickpockets or purse snatching were reported in 2020, which is higher than some other parts of the Peninsula like Sunnyvale and Mountain View. The only concerning thing about the theft numbers, in general, is that they've been on a steady increase since 2015.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
If there's one thing the Bay area is great at, it's getting ready in the event of an emergency. There are so many resources to read on the county website that will make you feel better about the medium risk that exists here. Earthquakes are the biggest, yet a rarest concern. There is a concern about fires and flooding too. Study the best safety practices before you go.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
There's a low risk of being mugged, with only a fraction of the robberies reported impacting travelers. When you're downtown, especially at night, you should still use basic safety precautions.
TERRORISM RISK : MEDIUM
This is a medium risk for San Mateo and the whole Bay area. That's just because there are a lot of major tech, safety, and military properties here and one of the largest United States populations.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
There are no scams that stick out here to concern a tourist. Even the city's website has a scam section that just talks broadly about getting scammed and how you shouldn't ever give someone money for a threat like taking you to jail or deporting you. There's a low risk.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
Women are safe here with low risk, but that nightlife downtown can pose some opportunities of chance if you don't pay close attention. Always watch as your drink is being poured, don't accept one from a stranger, and if you've met someone online, be sure to go to a public place with a security camera to meet them.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
The tap water meets or exceeds all required standards. There's nothing that should make you be concerned with drinking it or using it for bathing. It's a low risk.
Safest Places to Visit in San Mateo
We’ll start in Central Park because it’s a must-see.
At just 16 acres, this park includes a Japanese Garden, Central Rose Garden, Mini Train around the park, playgrounds, and a picnic area.
North and east of the park, you’ll find yourself surrounded by nearly 30 blocks of downtown in a vibrant setting.
By day you can shop and nibble at local restaurants, and for a night out on the town you can dress up and dine at one of the dozens of restaurants.
The only thing harder than finding a parking space will be deciding where to eat.
Coyote Point Recreation Area is right on the bay on the east side of the city.
Much like Central Park, it is more than a park.
There’s a marina, a zoo experience called CuriOdyssey, trails, kayaks for rent, and a beach.
On the west side of the valley, try a morning run at Sawyer Camp Trail along the Crystal Springs Reservoir.
I love driving around and looking at houses when I’m on vacation if it’s safe.
If you are the same, try driving west through Hillsborough and see some of the most jaw-dropping homes known to man.
This is the 5th richest neighborhood in America.
Even the Census stopped counting housing values at $2+.
See if you can get lucky and enter the lottery drawing to get a tour of Carolands, a home so divine it ended up on the National Register of Historic Places.
Places to Avoid in San Mateo
What’s interesting about San Mateo in social forums is the love people have for their downtown.
While most downtown areas are known for crime and safety concerns, people here aim to live near downtown because of walkability.
Crime maps show the area along Highway 101 to have the most crime throughout the length of the city.
Locals tell me that people either love or hate Caltrain.
One thing that resonates is to get ready for a loud ride.
The noise of the Caltrain is heard for miles inland and is downright deafening once inside.
You do get a comfy seat, provided it’s not too crowded.
Other than that, there’s not a habitually bad part of town or a place to avoid.
People comment on walking around late at night after taking a train back from a night on the town in San Francisco.
I’m not suggesting you do that, because that sure sounds dangerous anywhere, but locals here really don’t feel an inherent sense of dread doing it.
Safety Tips for Traveling to San Mateo
- The first thing to do is sign up for Nixle alerts so you can keep on top of crime activity happening. You can also sign up for SMCAlert which sends weather warnings right to your mobile device or email.
- There has been an increase in coyote sightings in San Mateo. This shouldn’t cause fear, but you should be coyote smart. I’ve seen plenty of coyotes in my life, and before I’ve decided if it’s a coyote or a German shepherd, it’s gone. They aren’t generally aggressive toward humans.
- You’ll need to check out the CalTrans website if you’re going to be traveling throughout the Bay area. 511 is a good resource too. They help you see what traffic problems lie ahead and plan a better route if necessary.
- If you are a victim of a non-violent crime in San Mateo, you can fill out a report online. This is for something like a car break-in. Once you fill out the form, the police will contact you.
- If you see a crime happening and aren’t sure if you should get involved, file an anonymous report on the police department’s website with as much information as you can get. Pictures or videos help too. If it’s an emergency, call 911, of course. For things like graffiti, or seeing a theft happen, you can use the online system.
- Traffic safety maps are available on the police department’s website, so you can see where the most accidents are happening at the time of your visit.
- The San Mateo Police Department spent 2021 doing a rigorous campaign to educate people on the safety of the streets, whether you are in a car, on a bicycle, or walking. You can see their advice and some educational videos on the police department website.
- When you’re parking downtown during the day it’s going to cost you. There are different colored zones with different pay tiers based on location. If you use the PayByPhone app, you can take care of payment while still safely in your car instead of having to feed a meter.
- When you’re booking a hotel room, ask if there is a parking fee. Some hotels here charge a daily fee for parking a car. Yes, even if you park your own car. There are some free parking options, so it’s good to ask because those charges can quickly add up.
- If you are planning to swim in the San Francisco Bay while visiting San Mateo, like at Coyote Point Park, do some research on cold water swimming. That water is never going to get above 70°(F), and that’s at the absolute warmest. There are very specific things you need to know about how your body is going to respond to cold water.
So... How Safe Is San Mateo Really?
I’ve still got the chills thinking about that cold bay water.
It does remind me of another of safety.
The bay water is prone to bacteria outbreaks, so be sure to check the water quality before you dive in so you don’t end up with a nasty rash.
San Mateo is a pretty safe city with little reason for pause when considering it as a vacation destination (unless you plan on going windsurfing with no training whatsoever.
Then you’re on your own with safety risk concerns).
The city hasn’t seen more than four murders in a year since at least 2010, and 2020 was the only year that had that many.
2012-2014 and 2017-2018 had no murders.
The risk of being a victim of a violent crime is one in 383.
Property crime risk is higher at one in 45, but when you look at the property crimes that really might impact tourists, that goes down to 117 (and includes how well you secure a car if you have one).
How Does San Mateo Compare?
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|La Paz (Bolivia)||52|
|Sao Paulo (Brazil)||45|
|Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)||43|
|Siem Reap (Cambodia)||63|
- Visas - You're all set with the Visa once you get it okay at the airport. No other ID is needed to spend time in San Mateo.
- Currency - This is a place that only accepts U.S. Dollar, as well as the entire metro area and state. You won't need a lot of cash here, so it's better to only carry one credit card.
- Weather - The coldest you'll get in the winter is a high of 57° and a low of 44°. Summers peak at a high of 74° (in September) and lows in the 50s. You'll need a jacket year-round, and don't expect this to be a warm beach vacation in tank tops and flip-flops. The weather changes appearance throughout the day, like from sunny to foggy, but rarely has large fluctuations in temperature.
- Airports - You are SO close to the San Francisco International Airport in San Mateo. It's just seven miles away. Oakland's airport is 25 miles away with a spectacular drive over the bay. San Jose's airport is about 30 miles south.
- Travel Insurance - It's a good idea to have travel insurance for a trip to San Mateo. Even the smartest technology companies in the world can't make a plane land or take off in the fog, so it's best to protect yourself.
San Mateo Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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