How Safe Is Tampa for Travel?

Tampa, United States
Safety Index:
52

Tampa, Florida, is surrounded by water that leads right into the Gulf of Mexico in an area known as the Sun Coast.

It’s just across the bay from St. Peterburg and the pale sands of Clearwater Beach.

While on a national scale, this part of Florida is referred to as the Tampa/St. Pete area, locals know the two cities bring a wealth of different activities on each side of the bay.

Tampa is the larger sibling, with nearly 385,000 people compared to St. Pete’s nearly 260,000 people.

You can also refer to the greater region as Tampa Bay, which is home to nearly four million people.

Tampa feels like a bigger city too, and stretches from the bayfront to the northwest into wilderness areas and is home to a popular spot for tourists and locals – Busch Gardens.

While St. Pete is full of art districts, Tampa has cultural amenities like historic Ybor City, which feels like a trip to another country.

Ybor City once earned the nickname the “Cigar Capital of the World.”

Winters bring retired people in droves to this part of the state.

They’re called snowbirds and have part-time homes here to escape the harsh winters in the northern part of the country.

That means tens of thousands more people descend on the region from late October through April.

MacDill Air Force Base sits on the Tampa peninsula and oversees more than 15,000 American troops.

Several other large military operations are based at McDill as well.

Several cruise ships port and depart here as well, so we’ll go through things you need to know if you’re spending a day or two here on either end of a cruise.

Warnings & Dangers in Tampa

Overall Risk

OVERALL RISK : MEDIUM

Due to a lack of transparency in the crime data from Tampa Police, we're going to give it a medium risk. While the 2020 numbers give some insight, and recent newspaper articles help, there's little official information about the city. Searching for news headlines can also make it seem a little more dangerous than it really is. That's why you need to know the safest and most dangerous places in the city.

Transport & Taxis Risk

TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW

TBARTA is the public transportation entity that oversees the bus systems in Tampa Bay and surrounding counties. For tourists, you are likely to use the water taxis or TECO Line Street Car to get around downtown and to Ybor ("ee-boar") City. Electric scooters and bicycles are available for rent. Taxis and rideshares are other options, and rental cars can be picked up at the airport or in town.

Pickpockets Risk

PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW

The 2020 theft rate in Tampa was actually lower than the national average by 15%. Without specific pickpocketing numbers, you should treat it with the same risk that comes in any major city - but those low theft numbers are more reassuring that people are using good safety measures. Carry a small purse with just bare necessities and keep wallets in front or inside jacket pockets.

Natural Disasters Risk

NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM

June through November is the hurricane season, with heightened activity from August through October. Summers bring almost daily thunderstorms that are short-lived but potentially dangerous. Winter is nearly picture perfect with warm to cool temperatures, and you never have to worry about snow.

Mugging Risk

MUGGING RISK : MEDIUM

The robbery rate is just above the national average, but another reassuring statistic from 2020. However, when looking at 2021 information from the interactive crime map offered by the police department, the robbery rate was up about 15%, and the vast majority were against individuals - not businesses. Treat this with a medium risk, especially if you are out after dark.

Terrorism Risk

TERRORISM RISK : MEDIUM

The large population and heavy military presence bring both a medium risk and a healthy amount of security for tourists and residents of the region. Customs, Border Patrol, Homeland Security, and top military officials conduct ongoing protection, training, and prevention.

Scams Risk

SCAMS RISK : LOW

Rental scams are increasing in the Tampa area as scammers take advantage of housing demands and the various ways to post fake listings. You should avoid any third-party sites, like Craigslist or Zillow, to look for a vacation rental - just to be safe. Use either a local tourist agency or stay at a well-known hotel chain. Scammers offer fake rentals in the hope of getting your deposit money and then disappearing. Any deal that seems too good to be true certainly is.

Women Travelers Risk

WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW

This is a fun and safe town for women, provided they stay out of the more dangerous neighborhoods and use extra caution after dark. Don't walk around alone at night and stick to main roads and highways.

Tap Water Risk

TAP WATER RISK : LOW

The 2021 Water Quality Report shows full compliance and no violations. If you have water quality questions you'd like to ask before your trip, call (813) 274-8811, and select option #2. After flooding or a tropical storm/hurricane, check city websites and social media for water quality issues before you use tap water.

Safest Places to Visit in Tampa

Visittampabay.com is the official tourism website for the city.

Do Not Use VisitTampa.com as it’s not a legitimate website for tourism here, nor is the website secure.

For information about the cities across the bay, go to visitstpeteclearwater.com.

The Florida tourism website is visitflorida.com.

Let’s talk about Busch Gardens first, as it’s one of the most popular stops in the city.

It’s a theme park that is so much more than beautiful gardens with animals.

It’s a zoo, amusement park, theater, and unique experience wrapped up into one.

Before you buy tickets, look at the options for multi-park passes.

Adventure Island is just across the street, which is a water park with extreme water slides, lazy pools, and kids-only areas.

A few notes:

  • You can get a discount on the two parks if you buy them together.
  • The two-park pass also includes Seaworld and Aquatica options, which is in Orlando, if you are visiting both cities.
  • There are three and four-park passes as well.
  • Tickets can be purchased with or without a meal plan, which includes an entree, dessert, and drink every 90 minutes per ticket.
  • Explore all the upgrades, like safari tours or “skip the line” passes to the most popular rides.

ZooTampa is more than your traditional city zoo with rides and upgradable experiences with animal encounters.

Use the “Plan My Zoo Day” feature if you’re a first-timer to get the best deals and a full list of options.

The Florida Aquarium faces Tampa Bay and houses more than 8,000 aquatic animals with a massive aviary with birds flying above and around you.

You can touch a stingray, watch a movie in the 4D theater, or head to the rooftop for sweeping harbor views.

The American Victory Ship & Museum is a military marvel where you can hop aboard a steamship from the 1940s.

You’ll get to tour even the most inner workings of the ship.

Tours are available as self-guided or docent-led, but having a tour guide costs extra.

Ybor City is a National Historic Landmark District and definitely a “must-see” location in Tampa.

For safety, it’s smart to visit during daylight hours.

This neighborhood built by immigrants still feels like a bygone era but is a vibrant celebration of culture.

Watch cigars being rolled, sip some Cuban coffee, or eat your way through different ethnic foods (try the Tampa Cuban Sandwich).

There are Ybor City ambassadors to help you during your stay.

Email them at YborAmbassador@tampagov.net or call (813)274-7936.

International Plaza sits in a great location right next to the airport but feels like a world away with luxurious shopping, dining, and entertainment in a massive location.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers stadium is right across the street too.

(Note: airport traffic, game day crowds, and shopping crowds can make traffic crazy in this area.)

Plenty of tours are available to get more value for your time.

You can select from food tours, downtown tours, wildlife tours, haunted tours – the list goes on.

Places to Avoid in Tampa

I lived in the Tampa Bay area, so I can give some perspective on the city as well as the data.

I think one feeling that resonated most, especially when I first moved there, is that it’s such a beautiful place that you forget you’re in a big city with associated crime.

Common sense and situational awareness go a long way here.

The city is laid out in a way that tourists are likely to only stick to the entertainment districts and attractions, which means the average trip isn’t going to take you through some of the more dangerous cities.

That said, you aren’t going to wander into a neighborhood that is way too risky.

The story looks different when you search for headlines.

In October 2022, there was a call for action along the Franklin Street entertainment area, with gun violence happening three times throughout the year as popular hot spots.

Ybor City has its share of crime, especially at night.

Since I write these articles for tourists of all ages, I don’t want to tell you to avoid going out at night.

I can tell you that more crimes happen at night, especially in the overnight hours.

With the bar closing time in Tampa being 3:00 am, there are more people out in the middle of the night than in some other cities.

Also, avoid the region if a hurricane is heading that way.

While hurricanes can make quick turns, like we saw in October 2022 with Hurricane Ian, Tampa Bay was looking at a “worst-case scenario” for the days leading up to that storm.

In the days and the week before a storm, supplies sell out, businesses board up, and emergency operations are in full force.

Don’t risk it – stay out of the region during tropical weather.

Safety Tips for Traveling to Tampa

  1. You can use the Tampa Police Department’s (TPD) community crime map for an interactive search of crimes in a certain area. This will help you see crime trends closer to your visit. You can search for car break-ins near your hotel, or check the theft rates in your top neighborhood attractions.
  2. Look for the “Connect” section of TPD’s website. You can see how to submit a crime tip, get access to social media accounts, and send an online message with a safety question of your own.
  3. Sign up for AlertTampa emergency notifications so you can get quick info about traffic delays, road closures, criminal emergency situations, and other civil issues. For weather alerts, I’d recommend getting Hillborough County Florida alerts (HCFL alerts), which can be signed up for at hillsboroughcounty.org. This will cover a larger area with storm, tornado, and tropical weather risks. Sign up for AlertPinellas notifications if you’re heading to St. Pete or the beaches as well. That way, you’ll be fully covered for the entire Tampa Bay region.
  4. Since I lived in the area, I always had my own car. I also spent a lot of time on the verge of road rage due to the insane amount of traffic, especially going over the bridges into Pinellas County. Tampa is well-designed with water taxis, a trolley, bikes, rideshares, etc – you really can get by here without a car if you are sticking to the Tampa area. The city has a website with parking information for every district and neighborhood, so review it if you have your own car.
  5. Cruise passengers should look at the “Tampa Cruise” section of the tourism website, visititampabay.com. It’s a one-stop shop with information about hotels, parking, and proximity to the main attractions.
  6. January brings Gasparilla to Tampa Bay, which is a huge pirate-themed celebration. The city is packed day and night with a lot of activity on the water. It’s like a Mardi Gras for pirates and pirate lovers. This event has been happening since 1904. You’ll find hotel rooms sell out faster and prices go up during this festival. I just thought you should be prepared for those crowds and it’s not typical but incredibly fun!
  7. FL511 is the website and app to have for navigating the Tampa Bay area. You can see where there are traffic delays, road construction, and accidents. There are live cameras along the routes as well.
  8. Some highways in Tampa and the express lanes will require a toll. Rental car owners should have a SunPass on their vehicle or have the SunPass costs built into their rental agreement. Confirm when you rent a car how the tolls will be paid.
  9. Any lake or pond in Tampa should be assumed to have alligators in it. Alligators live in freshwater, so don’t go for a swim in a pond or walk too close to the shoreline. While alligators aren’t aggressive unless provoked, they will react quickly to anything in their space. One of the most laughable warning signs I saw when I parked in Tampa was “Do not molest the alligators.” I’m just passing that sage advice to you.
  10. Tampa is not on the beach. It’s on the bay. If you want to visit the Tampa Bay area to be close to the Gulf, then stay in St. Pete or Clearwater. It’s at least 30 minutes to the beach when traffic is slow, but during busy times it can take an hour to get there. Beach days should begin early, before 9:00 am, to avoid traffic jams and limited parking. If you want to park for free, head to Manatee or Sarasota counties to the south, both of which have amazing beaches too. Siesta Key is commonly ranked up there with Clearwater Beach as one of the best in America.

So... How Safe Is Tampa Really?

While Tampa has a violent crime rate that is about 30% higher than the national average, it has managed to buck the trend of exponential increase in violent crime – at least from 2020 data.

What little data we have from 2021 and 2022 shows an increase in homicide rates and aggravated assaults.

In April 2022, a new police chief was named, so by the time you get there, plenty of new safety policies should be in place.

You won’t face the crime rates of Detroit and St. Louis here, but you will need to use the same safety precautions as you would in those cities.

While it’s smart to carry as little as you need on a given day – limit to your ID, credit card, and mobile device – the humidity and heat can also exhaust you quickly.

Carry a bottle of water with you wherever you go.

What’s surprising to me is the ongoing low property crime rate – which includes car break-ins and pickpockets.

This could be due to smart safety measures by residents, a push for more eco-friendly transportation options that limit cars to being broken into any way, or an anomaly in data.

Across the Tampa Bay area and surrounding counties, crime rates have been a mixed bag of increases, decreases, and random outbursts of crime in a once safe neighborhood.

If you get lost in the data, it can be hard to make sense of it.

Be smart, be aware of your surroundings, and limit the time you spend out at night, especially if you are drinking.

Just use caution and don’t walk around dark streets at night.

A lot of the seedier places in the city will be easy to stop.

I once needed to get gas before heading to Sarasota, and I stopped at a gas station near the stadium.

That quickly turned out to be a bad idea, so I went somewhere else.

It’s that kind of gut instinct that will also help in your trip to Tampa Bay.

There’s too much to do here to avoid it because of crime rates, and on the surface, it’s actually doing a lot better with crime prevention and control than many other large U.S. cities.

How Does Tampa Compare?

CitySafety Index
Tampa52
Houston59
Atlanta58
St. Louis58
Los Angeles56
Sao Paulo (Brazil)45
Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)43
Sofia (Bulgaria)73

Useful Information

  • Visas - You will need a U.S. Visa if you enter the country from outside the U.S. via an airport or cruise ship. The visa process can take months, so start planning early by researching requirements on the U.S. State Department website.
  • Currency - You can only use the U.S. Dollar here; currency exchange is available at airports and local banks. Avoid using a public ATM to exchange currency, just to be safe.
  • Weather - Tampa's weather is one of the big draws, especially in the winter when temperatures are mild. Most of the year, you can get by with shorts and a t-shirt, but bring some sweatshirts and jeans in the winter for the occasional chilly days. Don't forget bug spray and sunscreen.
  • Airports - Tampa International Airport is on the city's south side, and St. Petersburg/Clearwater International Airport is across the bay. TIA is a large airport, but as someone who has used it several times, it's really easy to get in and navigate the concourses.
  • Travel Insurance - You'll want travel insurance to protect against cancellations, especially during hurricane season. Make sure either your personal health plan covers any accidents or emergency room visits, or buy supplemental health insurance just in case.
Click here to get an offer for travel insurance

Tampa Weather Averages (Temperatures)

Jan 17° C
Feb 19° C
Mar 20° C
Apr 24° C
May 27° C
Jun 28° C
Jul 29° C
Aug 29° C
Sep 28° C
Oct 25° C
Nov 21° C
Dec 20° C
Choose Temperature Unit

Average High/Low Temperature

Temperature / MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
High
°C
222325293132333332302624
Low
°C
121415192224252524201615
High
°F
727377848890919190867975
Low
°F
545759667275777775686159

Where to Next?

2 Reviews on Tampa

  1. J
    Jeremiah says:

    A mix of good and bad

    Indeed a lively city with many good spots to hang out, drink and eat great food and listen to good music. Like it says here, plenty of safe places but also entire neighborhoods that are unsafe and should be avoided.

  2. Amazing destination if you do it right

    I know, I know, you’ve probably watched a millions crime shows where the murder has anything to do with the Tampa area. Or you constantly see Tampa popping on Crime Watch.

    Guys, this is not necessarily relevant if you are just planning to visit the area. Yes, if you plan to move there you have to absolutely check everything, see what areas are safe even at night and so on. But for the average globetrekker that prefers to stay out of trouble, doesn’t do drugs while exercising common sense no matter where he’s at, I see no problem with Tampa.

    I was there once during spring while I was in college and had the best time of my life! Came back several times already, every single time booking one of the hotels on the riverwalk. It’s safe, you get excellent service plus you’re close to a lot of touristy hotspots.

    When you explore the city you can either go for an uber or rent a car, depending on your budget. The added flexibility of having your own car is an obvious choice for me, no matter where I’m at. Parking is a big issue, with costs quickly raking up. Also, I would be super sure that the area is well lit and there’s no shady business around.

    Clearwater is your usual, runofthemill tourist beach with a decent beach and shops selling all kinds of trinkets. Leaving your belongings unattended will sometimes catch the eye of some sneaky guy so beware.

    The USF area is a big no at night, not worth the risk.

    Honeymoon island is an absolute must if you like quiet beaches that don’t tend to be overpopulated during the day.

    To sum it up: don’t do stupid things, avoid sketchy areas and use google to find cool, less-known places.

Rated 3.5 / 5 based on 2 user reviews.

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