Florida : Safety by City
- Amelia Island
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- North Port
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- Palm Beach Gardens
- Palm Harbor
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- Pembroke Pines
- Pompano Beach
- Port St. Lucie
- Punta Gorda
- St. Augustine
- St. Petersburg
- Vero Beach
- West Palm Beach
- Winter Park
St. Petersburg, Florida, is a waterfront city on the peninsula facing Tampa Bay.
Most people refer to this city as St. Pete, and the St. Pete Beach residents were so adamant about shortening the name that they formally voted to change it.
St. Pete and St. Pete Beach are two different cities, as is Clearwater and the nearby larger city of Tampa.
Combined, the Tampa-St. Pete – Clearwater area is one of the largest metro regions in the country.
While this region is home to 2.8 million people, St. Pete is home to nearly 260,000 of them.
Staying in Tampa and St. Petersburg has two different experiences.
If being close to the beach is important, then St. Pete is for you.
If you want a more urban experience, head for Tampa.
St. Pete is also a little livelier than Tampa, with great entertainment districts on the water, while Tampa offers more cultural amenities and a larger landscape to explore.
St. Pete is closer to Clearwater.
Tampa is closer to everything else that isn’t the beach.
This metro region, including Sarasota County, is a popular place for winter snowbirds looking to escape the harsh winters.
They are usually retired people who spend time relaxing in the warm weather and attending social engagements.
While St. Pete has more senior citizens demographically, it’s known for its entertainment districts downtown on the bay and as a party town.
You really can’t go wrong staying anywhere in St. Pete/Tampa/Clearwater region, but let’s explore St. Pete, and you can review our articles on the other two cities to see which works best for you.
Warnings & Dangers in St. Petersburg
OVERALL RISK : MEDIUM
St. Peterburg is bucking the national trend of increased violent crime at a concerning rate. While there's still work to be done, violent crime is actually down 68% over the past five years. With so much to do and see here, the risk is worth the reward, but there's not much of a risk if you follow along with the advice in this article.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) runs the local fixed-route bus system. You can also use ferries to get across the bay. For those staying downtown, you'll have a trolley to help you get around. The Sun Runner bus has its own lane to take you to the beach faster than driving. You can also use taxis and rideshares or get your own rental car. All options are low risk.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
Just 17 pickpockets were reported in 2021, which is a number that surprised me - and I used to live in this area. There are a lot of crowded spaces and busy restaurants, so just use standard safety advice, like carrying only what you need and keeping your purse or wallet close to you when sitting down. Don't hang your purse over the back of the chair at a restaurant.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
You'll need to be vigilant from June through November because that's when Hurricane Season is underway. August through October tend to be the more active months. Summer will bring thunderstorms, with flash flooding and intense lightning being the biggest risk. Winters are usually low-risk.
MUGGING RISK : MEDIUM
One of the more concerning statistics I found was the robbery rate in St. Pete. While the robbery rate is just 13% higher than the national average, 77% of those robberies were in public places - known as highway robberies. Treat this with a medium risk, just out of an abundance of caution.
TERRORISM RISK : MEDIUM
Any metro area this large will get a medium risk, plus with the port activity, there's another increased value risk. There is a lot of security at the local level, from the Coast Guard, Border Patrol, and federal levels.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
Scams in St. Pete focus mainly on locals and the elderly. Watch out for rental scams, too, if you choose to get a condo or home instead of staying at an established hotel. Don't use third-party websites like Craigslist and book through a local travel agency, so you'll ensure the right rental permits and protected payment methods are available.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
As a single woman, I've been to St. Pete many times by myself. You'll want to use street smarts when enjoying yourself downtown, especially if you are drinking. Go with a buddy, and don't go to a private space with someone you have just met. Of course, use caution when walking around at night and stick to well-lit streets and crowded areas.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
The 2021 Water Quality Report is a thumbs up with full compliance and no violations. Water quality can be impacted by flooding or tropical weather, so always check the city website if you are there during a significant weather event. Sometimes the beaches can be impacted by Red Tide, which causes a terrible smell to come from the Gulf water, but rest assured that this water isn't part of the drinking water supply.
Safest Places to Visit in St. Petersburg
Visitstpeteclearwater.com is the official tourism website, which includes all the attractions on the peninsula side of the area.
To learn about the Tampa side, go to visittampabay.com.
The statewide tourism website is visitflorida.com.
Using official tourism sites is a safer way to search the website and avoid any fraudsters trying to steal your personal information.
You’ll also have people to talk with if you have questions instead of relying on an unknown webmaster.
The art scene is vibrant in St. Pete, with seven separate areas that blend seamlessly into one stellar downtown.
- Waterfront Museum District: High fashion and fine art define this district.
- Uptown Arts District: For those who love locally owned and operated businesses with local flair.
- Central Arts District: Heavy on the art side with live music options, as well as the Florida Holocaust Museum.
- The Edge District: Eclectic and Bohemian style region in this district filled with gastropubs and nightlife options.
- Grand Central District: It feels older because it is, and the cobblestone streets only add to the charm of this area.
- Deuces Live District: Explore the history and culture of the African American influences in this vivacious neighborhood. Also home to the African American Heritage Trail and the Carter G. Woodson African American Museum.
- Warehouse Arts District: A place for serious artists to see art being made and the latest works of brilliance.
You can also view an extensive collection by Salvador Dali at the Dali Museum.
The Sunshine Skyway Bridge looks like just another major bridge over beautiful water unless you look a little closer and see the World’s Largest Fishing Pier.
You’ll have to go onto the Skyway to get to the pier.
There is a pier section at each end of the bridge.
It wasn’t built as a pier.
It’s actually the only remnant of the original bridge to cross from St. Pete over to Manatee County.
That bridge collapsed in 1980 after a freighter hit one of the supporting columns.
35 people died.
You don’t have to share that story with other people if they are scared of bridges.
The Skyway is a doozie.
St. Pete Pier is a great place to enjoy the beach and tour the Tampa Bay Watch Discovery Center with interactive and mind-blowing exhibits.
Several restaurants are located on the 26-acre property with water on three sides.
If you’re heading to the beach, the closest is going to be St. Pete Beach, and it’s worth the trip to the end of the barrier island to see what remains of Fort DeSoto and the beautiful views of the gulf.
There are also tour boats that will take you to Shell Key Preserve to find some of the best beachcombing in Florida.
Places to Avoid in St. Petersburg
St. Petersburg is developed in a way where the main entertainment districts and tourist destinations are near downtown.
While petty crimes and the occasional violent crime will be your main concerns there, it’s wise not to drive through random neighborhoods on the south side of the city.
Use the main arteries and stick to the areas designed to bring people in for fun.
If you travel anywhere else in St. Pete, it should be to get to the airport, to St. Pete Beach, or to Clearwater.
Avoid the city if a hurricane is headed that way.
While meteorologists can’t predict the exact path of a hurricane, the “cone of uncertainty” generally gives an idea in the week leading up to a storm of where an impact zone could be.
Cities will pre-emptively start closing down businesses, schools, and airports for safety.
Hurricane Ian in October 2022 was expected to be a “worst-case scenario” for St. Pete but took a last-minute turn into Fort Myers.
Safety Tips for Traveling to St. Petersburg
- Pinellas County includes St. Petersburg, St. Pete Beach, Clearwater, and Clearwater Beach. That’s why downloading the Alert Pinellas emergency notification system is ideal for any tourist exploring this region. If you want to be covered in Tampa’s Hillsborough County, sign up for HCFL Alert.
- You’ll also need the Pinellas Ready app if you’re visiting during Hurricane Season. This provides all the help you need to prepare for a tropical emergency, including shelters, evacuation zones, and emergency information.
- Sign up for Alert St. Pete to get emergency notifications from St. Pete Police Department. You’ll want to be aware of traffic accidents, road closures, or criminal activity in popular areas.
- There are a lot of homeless people in St. Pete. The city is doing ongoing work to help the homeless, but don’t be surprised if you are panhandled or see a large group of homeless people. It’s better to donate to a shelter than an individual if you are so inclined. The homeless usually aren’t aggressive, but it’s best to avoid crossing their path if you can.
- The Sunshine Skyway Bridge is a massive, tall bridge that will shut down during high winds. This means anyone heading south will have to go “the long way” to get to Manatee or Sarasota counties. The bridge sometimes remains open with a high wind advisory, so it can get a little bumpy on the drive. Keep both hands on the wheel, and don’t speed.
- The beaches of St. Pete and Clearwater are great, but you’ll have to pay for parking. About 30 minutes south in Manatee County, beach parking is free. Sarasota County also has free beach parking. It uses a little more gas but saves a lot in parking costs.
- You can read the annual police report on the police department’s website to see the biggest successes and challenges of the previous year. The report is very detailed, with notable cases and arrest rates for all crimes. You can also learn about the use of force and other important safety details.
- You will have to pay a toll to get to St. Pete Beach or to cross the Sunshine Skyway. The SunPass system will cover the tolls with a device placed in the rental vehicle. Make sure you have one of the devices when you get your car. If not, check the fine print because the toll cost is likely worked into the price of the rental car, and it might be cheaper to pay the tolls one at a time. SunPass.com will give you all the rental car brand details.
- The Sunken Gardens are a popular place to visit near the water in St. Pete, and it’s full of aging plants that are priceless. Don’t touch or pick the plants during your visit. Stay on the path at all times.
- Downtown parking can be tricky, especially during big events. Use the Park Mobile app to see parking locations, costs, and time limits. You can also pay through your mobile device and not worry about feeding the meter on the street.
So... How Safe Is St. Petersburg Really?
St. Petersburg has a broad scope of feedback when you search for safety in St. Pete online.
If you stay out of the neighborhoods, you’re on your way to a safer trip already.
When you’re in the downtown entertainment areas, don’t let the palm trees and blue water make you forget you’re in a big city.
You need to protect yourself and your stuff.
43% of all thefts in the city are related to car break-ins, so don’t leave doors unlocked or windows rolled down.
Leave the car empty, so there’s no temptation for a thief to do a smash-and-grab.
As of August 2022, the police chief gave a report to the city council and touted a 43% decrease in homicides compared to the prior year.
This is a positive change after 2021 saw increased gun violence.
Car thefts were up significantly, giving more support to my previous statement about locking your car and using the utmost safety measures.
Avoid renting a Hyundai or Kia since those are popular to steal, thanks to a social media trend that showed just how easy they are to get.
Also, 65% of the cars that are stolen are due to people leaving the keys inside.
I’ve never understood how so many people do that.
It’s a problem echoed around the country by law enforcement.
St. Pete is built around outdoor entertainment areas, but if there’s a storm brewing or lightning in the area – head inside.
Florida is the lightning capital of North America, and it’s really intense at times.
Don’t risk it – go inside.
If you are close enough to hear thunder, you are close enough to get hit by lightning – even if it’s not raining right where you are standing.
How Does St. Petersburg Compare?
- Visas - You'll need a U.S. Visa or Visa Waiver from the U.S. State Department to get into the country from abroad. As a popular cruise ship launch point, make sure you read the cruise ship policy regarding required documents. The Visa process through the government can take months, so start planning early.
- Currency - You can only use the U.S. Dollar here (USD), and you'll be challenged to find a place that requires cash. Credit cards are a safer way to protect your money and prevent fraud.
- Weather - From late winter to late fall, you'll get warm or hot weather here. T-shirts, tank tops, and sundresses are almost a dress code. Winter can get chilly, and people in Florida will dress in winter gear when the temperatures drop below 65°(F). Bring a sweatshirt and jeans for the cooler days. Sunscreen and bug spray are essential items here.
- Airports - St. Pete/Clearwater has its own airport, but the Tampa Airport is just across the bay. Either one has plenty of destinations. There's a smaller airport in Sarasota, about 45 minutes south, but it's unlikely you'd choose that over the bigger airports.
- Travel Insurance - Travel insurance is important to protect your financial investment in airfare and accommodations, but you also want to be protected in case of hurricane-related cancellations. You also should get supplementary health insurance since there are a lot of adventures here that could result in accidents.
St. Petersburg Weather Averages (Temperatures)
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1 Review on St. Petersburg
We had a relaxing, fun time
Nice place for fishing, sailing or just to hang about on a beach without any worries. Then you can take a stroll and visit some museums, art galleries or craft stores. You’ll have a lot to do for at least a few weeks while here.