South Dakota is a land of natural wonders and traditionally has been an agricultural state.
In recent years, it has attracted more tourists.
It is most famous for Mt. Rushmore, the huge carvings of four presidents.
Wind Cave National Park is one of the most complex and largest caves in the world.
Badlands National Park has one of the world’s largest fossil beds.
Places like Custer State Park have incredible scenery.
Crazy Horse Memorial is a carving on a mountain that has been in the works for a long time.
Sioux Falls is the largest city with almost 200,000 people, and no other city in the state has more than 75,000.
The town of Deadwood is famous for being an old west town and is a national historical landmark.
It has the fifth lowest population density in the nation at 46 people per square mile.
Winters are very cold and harsh, summers are pleasant.
Warnings & Dangers in South Dakota
OVERALL RISK: LOW
The state has had a 25 percent increase in overall crime in the last couple of years, but it is still mostly safe. In a national survey, 74 percent of the state's residents said they felt safe, seventh-best in the nation. Basic safety precautions you would take anywhere should keep you safe in South Dakota.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: MEDIUM
We say medium because of the lack of public transportation. It does not exist in rural areas and it is not plentiful in larger towns. What there is, is safe, but finding it is the problem. Taxis are licensed and will take you from the airport to your hotel, but for travel, you are better off renting a car.
PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW
This crime is fading as people carry less cash and credit cards are harder to hack. There might be a few of these types of crimes in tourist areas, but they are rare. There are few crowded areas in South Dakota, and that is where this type of crime happens.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM
There are a lot of mountains in this state, and there is a risk of earthquakes. Weather is a bigger concern, with tornados in spring and summer. The winters can have a lot of snow and ice, making travel difficult if not impossible. You are more likely to be in danger from nature than you are from other people in almost all of the state.
MUGGING RISK: LOW
South Dakota ranks low in this type of crime. There are some areas where it is more likely, but it does not happen often. Most theft crimes are when items that are not secured are stolen. Property crime is a bigger concern than being mugged.
TERRORISM RISK: LOW
International terrorists are not likely to hit a state as sparsely populated as South Dakota. There has been growing concern about domestic terrorism from extremist groups but there have not been many incidents.
SCAMS RISK: LOW
Most scamps target elderly residents where there is attempted identity theft. Most scams are electronic, either telephone or Internet-based. Scams on the street are rare, but keep in mind that any deal that seems too good to be true is usually not true.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW
Women travelers are common in South Dakota and there is no more risk than there is for men. Even women traveling alone are safe. There are some rapes reported, so even though it is safe, don't go into strange areas at night alone. Also, do not take drinks from strangers in bars.
TAP WATER RISK: LOW
Water is plentiful in South Dakota. Cities and towns provide excellent water in safe environments. There is no reason to be concerned about the water in this state. Health officials still recommend not drinking from streams or rivers.
Safest Places to Visit in South Dakota
The safest places in South Dakota for travelers would be the national parks, like Mount Rushmore, Cave Wind, and Badlands national parks.
National forests and state parks are also very safe.
The greater dangers in these places are dangers from nature.
The many small towns around the state are very safe as well.
The 10 safest towns, all small, combined had no murders and only one robbery last year.
The safest small towns include Brandon, Lead, Sisseton, and Madison.
There are not very many, if any, unsafe areas.
Crime is often a matter of opportunity.
Rural areas where there are not a lot of people have the lowest amount of crime.
These areas might have more danger from mother nature than other human beings.
Places to Avoid in South Dakota
Aberdeen, with a population of 28,000, is one of the most dangerous cities in the state.
Mitchell has the highest crime rate.
The second-largest city in the state, Rapid City, with 75,000 people, had 492 violent crimes last year.
There were 99 rapes and 326 aggravated assaults in that city last year.
Sioux Falls is the largest city in the state and has the sixth-highest crime rate.
There were 121 rapes and 107 robberies there last year.
Still, it is a safe city for the most part.
Some high-crime areas are very small.
Ask local people about specific places to avoid, but most areas of the state are safe.
The most common crimes are property crimes.
These happen when things are not locked up, and no location is worse than any other location.
Safety Tips for Traveling to South Dakota
- Lock your car and hotel room. The No. 1 safety precaution, no matter where you are, is to keep your car and hotel room locked. Criminals are looking for easy targets and usually will not bother with a locked door.
- Watch the weather. Storms can come quickly, but things like big snowstorms can usually be predicted. The weather can also change fast in South Dakota. There have been examples of a 50-degree temperature drop in just a couple of hours. Winter weather can make travel impossible.
- Extra clothing. Especially in spring or fall, the weather can change a lot from daytime to nighttime. It is good to have some warm clothing, no matter what time of year it is. In summer, loose-fitting light clothing is best, but nights can get chilly at times.
- Use sunscreen. It is not hot any time of year, and that can make people unconcerned about the sun. You can still get a sunburn, or skin damage due to the sun, even in mild and cold weather. Wind can also be a problem, so it is a good idea to have some protection there as well.
- Check out your car. Some rural areas are very remote. Make sure your car is in good shape before leaving because there may not be any help or repairs available. Check tires, fluid levels, belts and hoses, and anything that could need maintenance. Check your gas gauge as well, because in some areas it is a long way between gas stations.
- Remain watchful. In sparsely populated areas where there is not much of a reputation for crime, it is easy to relax and stop paying attention. There are still some criminal types around, and people who will only steal if something is left unprotected. It is safe, but still, keep your eyes open and your property secured.
- Watch for wildlife. Many traffic accidents are caused by animals like deer running out in front of a car. Watch for wild animals. Slow down if you see one near the road. Even smaller animals can be a road hazard.
- Careful of natural wonders. There can be some danger from nature itself if you are out in the wilderness. Snakes are rare but they are around. Large animals can attack if they feel threatened. Wild animals are fun to see, but don’t get too close, or put yourself in danger by trying to interact with them.
- First aid kits. It is a good idea to keep a first aid kit in your car, or with you as you travel around. Accidents are rare but they do happen, and the severity can be lessened considerably if you can administer or give yourself first aid.
- Safe in remote areas. In some remote areas, there may not be a phone signal available. Just being aware of this can help you stay prepared. Keep paper maps with you, because your GPS could lose a signal in remote areas. Check out road conditions before you leave your hotel.
So... How Safe Is South Dakota Really?
South Dakota is an example of how statistics can be misleading.
With a small and sparse population, crimes per 1000 make it seem worse than it is.
According to one government agency, South Dakota has the eighth-most violent crime per 100,000 people in the nation, at 501.
There were 40 murders and 27,000 violent crimes, both among the fewest in the nation.
When property crimes are added, the state is in the bottom third nationally.
Another survey showed only 28 percent of the state’s residents felt concerned about violent crime, which was among the lowest in the nation.
Seventy-three percent of state residents felt safe in their home, the seventh-best in the nation.
At the same time, 15 percent of residents had experienced violent crime, which was among the highest in the nation.
Most of the state is rural, and a lot of it is within national and state parks.
In those areas, there could be some natural dangers such as wild animals, or sudden weather changes.
There are not many big cities and no huge ones, and that is where the most danger lies from criminal activity.
The rural nature of the state results in fewer crimes being committed, but there is a higher percentage of crime per 1000 people.
The poverty rate is relatively low and that too tends to decrease the amount of crime.
The bottom line for South Dakota is that most residents feel safe, and are not very worried about violent or property crimes.
With basic safety measures in place, you should not have problems.
How Does South Dakota Compare?
Visas are required to enter the United States. You will not likely enter South Dakota directly from another country, so you won't need it in this state. Visas can be used for identification, however.
The standard currency is the U.S. Dollar. You may make an exchange of currency at any bank, but most businesses won't accept cash that is not a dollar. You may use credit cards from other countries and the currency exchange will happen automatically.
Winter can be very harsh, with a lot of snow and temperatures well below freezing for weeks at a time. Summers are mild with little humidity. Weather can change fast, so it is a good idea to keep an eye on weather reports.
The airport in Sioux Falls is the only international airport and it is close to town. Taxi service is available. There are 71 public airports in the state, with several smaller towns having regional flights within the state.
Even in a small state like South Dakota that is overall safe, things can still go wrong. Travel insurance will give you some peace of mind that you will have some help if something bad happens.
South Dakota Weather Averages (Temperatures)
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South Dakota - Safety by City