California : Safety by City
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Southern Californians have known the beautiful secrets of Santa Barbara, California, for years, but now the city is getting global attention with a top ranking on the “Hot List” of Conde Nast travel magazine.
Santa Barbara is known as The American Riviera.
This is a city where you don’t have to choose between the beach and the mountains because you can do both.
You can enjoy a daiquiri by the water or the finest wine from local wineries.
You can eat fresh seafood in a sundress or dine on a fine steak in your fanciest dress.
It’s a culture built on being car-free with an easily walkable area and eco-friendly transportation if you want to get off your feet.
This isn’t your typical California beach town.
Spanish architecture takes your breath away with white-washed walls and dark red or brown roofs that sparkle against a crystal blue California sky.
The first warning I’ll give you about this hamlet of a town is that you might just fall in love and stay—it’s ranked as one of the best places to live and retire by U.S. News and World Report.
Warnings & Dangers in Santa Barbara
OVERALL RISK : MEDIUM
There's a medium overall risk in Santa Barbara. Crime statistics from 2020 show burglary and theft are higher than the national average, while homicides, robberies, and aggravated assault are lower, according to reports from the Santa Barbara Police Department.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
There's a low risk of transportation in this area as it's encouraged for everyone to ditch the car and use the various methods of public transportation. The central part of the city was designed to be walkable. There are pedicabs available as well. There's a downtown waterfront electric shuttle that goes to some of the major attractions. Even some of the nearby wineries offer a shuttle service, so you don't need to drive. We're not saying "Don't rent a car", we're just letting you know it might not be necessary.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
There's a one in 256 chance of being a victim of theft in Santa Barbara. We've seen cities with much higher theft rates. We're going to call it a low risk but keep your guard up. With more public transportation, there are more eyes looking at your purse or bags, so don't give crooks a crime of opportunity.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
Even Conde Nast in its puff piece about Santa Barbara mentioned the natural disaster risk, saying, "Santa Barbara is the Madonna of small-town reinvention, rebuilding itself after wildfires, mudslides, and the pandemic." In a city with such beautiful weather, it's hard to imagine the tragedies that can happen here went wicked weather hits. Wildfires can lead to evacuations and the resulting gutted land is prime for mudslides when it rains. Santa Barbara is also impacted by the notorious Santa Ana winds. I begrudgingly give it a medium risk just because of the potential destruction. The average day is quite stunning, however.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
There's just a one in 5300 chance of getting mugged according to 2020 FBI data, so we'll call it a low risk.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
No terrorism concerns here. The worst acts of disaster come from mother nature. There's a low terror risk here.
SCAMS RISK : MEDIUM
It was disappointing to research this topic, as there are a lot of scams that happen in this area. We'll call it a medium risk. Now, most of the scams prey on the locals via phone or email, but there are some rental scams. If you are renting a home or room in this area, be sure the provider is licensed to rent (ask for proof) and never wire cash ahead of time.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
In this beautiful, walkable community, women have a low risk of being a victim of a crime. However, it's worth noting that you shouldn't walk around at night in dark areas or drink too much of that amazing wine that will dull your sense of safety.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
The annual report for the city of Santa Barbara shows it meets or exceeds all safety standards in tap water, and even tests and removes the COVID-19 virus. This is a very low risk.
Safest Places to Visit in Santa Barbara
We’re going to start at the beach and work our way to the mountains and vineyards.
Some of the best surfing in California is found here, and that’s also a plus for people who want to SUP (stand-up paddleboard).
A stroll down Cabrillo Boulevard could find you joining an impromptu game of beach volleyball or just enjoying the sound of the waves.
There’s a craft show every Sunday in this area.
Beach options range from strong surf with large crowds to gentle waves with few people around.
Numerous water tours are available along with the beach and wharf areas.
You’ll want to make sure you walk along State Street.
With 10 blocks filled with boutiques, art, architecture, and restaurants, this is a place that could take up a whole day.
On Thursday evenings, local artists come out and sell their works to locals and tourists.
Check out The Funk Zone, with eclectic shops and dining.
This neighborhood colors outside the lines of the traditional shopping areas.
You don’t have to leave Santa Barbara to sample the plethora of local wines, but if you want the real winery experience, it’s just a 45 minute trip to wine country.
The Santa Ynez (pronounced: ee-NEZ) and Santa Maria Valleys house rolling hills of vineyards as far as the eye can see.
The Santa Ynez mountains are just a 40-minute ride away.
There are plenty of hiking trails where you can see wildlife and waterfalls.
Places to Avoid in Santa Barbara
When talking about “bad parts of town” in California, that’s very subjective.
There are really dangerous parts of the state, but Santa Barbara is just not one of them.
There is a large Hispanic community here, so knowing Spanish might help in some neighborhoods.
Overall, I can’t tell you a place to “avoid” other than walking dark streets at night, wandering in strange neighborhoods—you know, typical safety stuff.
What I can tell you is this is a rich town.
People make and spend a lot of money here.
Thieves will know there’s a good chance they’ll get a big score if they act on their impulses.
Don’t flash money around and don’t wear expensive or priceless jewelry while sightseeing.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Santa Barbara
- If you are arriving or departing Santa Barbara from Los Angeles, ignore whatever “estimated time of arrival” your GPS gives you. Traffic to Santa Barbara is one of the biggest complaints. There aren’t many ways in or out of the city, and especially during the high travel season, the traffic gets backed up for hours. The good news is, a lot of it is along the coast, so you’ll have a better view than you would be sitting in a traffic jam in Iowa.
- The sunsets are incredible in Santa Barbara and a lot of people walk to the beach to see it. You have to be aware as a pedestrian and a driver in this community. If you are going to be out after dark, bring a headlight or flashlight with you. Put LED lights on a bike if you travel that way. If you need to cross Highway 101, use a pedestrian bridge.
- To get people out of their cars and on foot or bikes, this community has a lot of strict rules about bicycling safety. Talk to the vendor who rents you your bike to get a full understanding of the rules of the road.
- Santa Barbara is a smoke-free city. This doesn’t mean you can step outside and smoke. There are many limits to where a person can light up. Parks, beaches, sidewalks, parking structures, restaurant patios, public events, and bus stops are all areas where smoking is banned. Great time to quit, eh?
- If there’s a risk of wildfires, the city can shut down power to the area. This generally happens during the summer months when it’s dry and windy. The power gets shut off so if a wildfire burns in an area where there is a transformer, that device can’t explode and cause a bigger fire. Rolling blackouts and brownouts are common in Southern California during wildfire seasons.
- There is a large homeless population in Santa Barbara, so you might get asked for money. There is a law banning aggressive panhandling, so they can’t block your path or get in your face. If this happens, report it to the police.
- If you want to fish here, you’ll need a license if you are over the age of 16. There are many ways to get one, but our research shows the most convenient way is to call 1-800-565-1458 and choose the one-day fishing license option. Follow instructions from there. You can also go to the California Fish & Wildlife website or visit Big 5 Sporting Goods when you get to town.
- If you are going to visit one of the wineries, don’t drive yourself. Get a shuttle or rideshare. Even if you just want to sample some wines, you don’t want to risk getting legally intoxicated and driving on the roads.
- Most Santa Barbara beaches are open from sunrise until 30 minutes after sunset. After that, you must leave the beach. Some beach campground locations offer overnight stays if you want to spend the night beachside.
- Do not feed any wildlife you see. It’s tempting to lure a bird with some bread or cookies, but that can be dangerous to the animals and also to people, as the birds will come back for more food.
So... How Safe Is Santa Barbara Really?
I’ve researched a lot of cities for a lot of travel businesses, and Santa Barbara always comes in as one of the safest, assuming you are staying in the tourist-focused areas.
Property crimes, burglary, and theft are the highest crime categories.
That all makes sense given how flush this area is with wealth.
It’s an easy target.
How you handle yourself while there is a big factor of how at-risk you’ll be.
Use credit cards as much as possible, don’t wave around cash, don’t wear your Rolex to watch the sunset.
Things like that will help you stay safer at your vacation getaway to Santa Barbara, California.
How Does Santa Barbara Compare?
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- Visas - All Visa requirements will be handled at the airport or port of entry. There's no additional ID needed to get into Santa Barbara. If you are indulging in the vast array of local wines, bring a legal ID that shows you are at least 21 years old.
- Currency - The U.S. Dollar is the currency in California and Santa Barbara. Again, we encourage you to use a credit card instead of a debit card in the event of identity theft or a lost card. Don't carry a lot of cash with you.
- Weather - The highs in Santa Barbara range from 65°(F) to 76°(F) throughout the year with lows in the 40s and 50s. You'll want a jacket with you for those chilly evenings. Rain is pretty much non-existent in this area from May through October, and the wettest month is February with more than 4.5" of rain. You'll never see snow here.
- Airports - Santa Barbara does have an airport, but it's not that big. A big "get" was when Southwest Airlines started flying into SBA. Many people chose to fly into Los Angeles International Airport, which is about 2.5 hours away (assuming traffic is flowing normally). Central Coastal Shuttle offers rides to LAX every four hours.
- Travel Insurance - That dry weather in the summer makes for great beach days, but also means wildfire risk is high. You'll want travel insurance just in case a wildfire causes roads and power to be shut down.
Santa Barbara Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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