How Safe Is Tucson for Travel?

Tucson, United States
Safety Index:
48

Tucson, Arizona, is known as the Old Pueblo and sits in the southern part of the state just an hour from the Mexican border.

The city is in the heart of the Sonoran Desert with incredible views from anywhere in the city and a winter that is so warm that many retired people choose to spend winters here.

Tucson has a totally different vibe than Phoenix to its north.

This is a laid-back college town with just enough city and just enough space to make you feel totally relaxed.

The prestigious Canyon Ranch spa is just north of town, making for one of the most relaxing (and expensive) places on earth to reconnect and recharge.

Tucson (“Two-sahn”) is a college town too – being home to the University of Arizona.

It’s also a military town with Davis-Monthan Airforce Base on the southwest side of the city and plenty of military museums to explore.

To add to that, Raytheon, a missile defense system maker, is also a prominent business here, along with Bombardier Aerospace.

I’m excited to walk you through Tucson’s safety landscape as I lived here for two years and there’s just nothing quite like desert life.

Warnings & Dangers in Tucson

Overall Risk

OVERALL RISK : MEDIUM

The average risk for a tourist sticking to the areas designed for entertainment, history, or attractions is low, but the crime rate in Tucson overall is enough to consider it a medium risk. Homicide rates nearly doubled from 2019 to 2021. Theft is two and a half times higher than the national average. However, you're unlikely to be exposed to that if you stick to the safer sides of the city.

Transport & Taxis Risk

TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW

SunTran is a public transportation system with fixed-bus routes throughout the city and express routes. You can also explore the Sun Link Streetcar options to get between the most popular parts of the city. Taxis and rideshares are available and rental cars are perfect for those who want to explore the nearby wilderness areas on their own. There are parts of downtown that are walkable, but to get around the whole city you'll need a vehicle.

Pickpockets Risk

PICKPOCKETS RISK : MEDIUM

With more than 17,000 thefts, just 84 of those were pickpockets. Still treat it with a medium risk, especially if you're there on a game day or during a popular event like the Gem & Mineral Show. Carry as little as you need with you, but due to the heat, make sure a water bottle is always among your belongings.

Natural Disasters Risk

NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM

Tucson's biggest risks are wildfires and flash flooding. Extreme heat is another concern, but that's really dependent on how you react and prepare for the heat more than the heat itself. Summer thunderstorms can be intense, but short-lived. There are also dust storms, known as "haboobs," that can sweep through and limit visibility.

Mugging Risk

MUGGING RISK : MEDIUM

While the robbery rate is two and a half times the national average, the risk of a stranger in a public space being a mugging victim is 34%, according to 2021 crime data from the Tucson Police Department (TPD).

Terrorism Risk

TERRORISM RISK : LOW

Normally, a city with half a million people wouldn't be considered too high on the risk list, especially with a major metro area like Phoenix nearby. However, the presence of the air force base and missile manufacturing company plus the aerospace industries raise that risk level. It also brings a lot of security, including from border patrol with the border town of Nogales just 70 miles away.

Scams Risk

SCAMS RISK : LOW

TPD reports in 2022 that scams are on the rise, but they are generally started via phone or email to local residents. Scammers like to prey on the elderly, so use extra caution if you're in that category. You might be approached by people who speak broken English or broken Spanish, and if you don't know what they are saying, learn the phrases for "I cannot help you. Call the police" so you can walk away.

Women Travelers Risk

WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : MEDIUM

Tucson can be a very fun town, especially with the college atmosphere on Congress Street. It can also be dangerous for women who overindulge and become easy targets for thieves or more sinister criminals. Always travel with a friend or in a group. If you are alone, text a friend or check in on social media with every step you take so you'll be traceable - just in case. Don't go hiking alone if you can avoid it in the Sonoran desert. It's very easy to get lost if you aren't an experienced hiker.

Tap Water Risk

TAP WATER RISK : LOW

The 2021 Water Quality Report shows full compliance and no violations in Tucson. The biggest water challenge here is having enough of it, as Arizona, California, and Nevada share a water supply that is dwindling. You can learn more about important water conservation steps on the city website.

Safest Places to Visit in Tucson

VisitTucson.org is the official website for the city’s tourism bureau.

People are known to spell Tuscon wrong, interchanging the C and S.

I checked the URL, and even if you type it in wrong, it will redirect to the correct website.

When in doubt, look for the “2022 Tucson Conventions and Visitors Bureau.

All rights reserved.” at the bottom of the page.

Tucson has a large landscape, with I-10 running the north/south length of the city (even though it’s an east/west highway in the big picture) and I-19 also resumes south of downtown.

There is also a city-within-a-city here, as South Tucson is its own entity right in the center of Tucson.

South Tucson is heavily Latino/Hispanic and has services for the 5,600 people who live there, from ethnic grocery stores to street tacos to community services.

Let’s start at the perimeter of the city to look at the outdoor adventures that await:

  • Saguaro National Park: This is on the northwest side of the city and is filled with giant saguaro cacti. You can only see a cactus like this in a small part of America, so seize the change while you can.
  • Santa Catalina Ranger District: This is part of the Coronado National Forest and Mt. Lemmon is one of the top tourist attractions outside of the city. You’ll get stunning views of the desert floor mixed with a high desert landscape. You can take a tram or shuttle up Sabino Canyon at night too, for great stargazing and a look at desert nightlife.
  • Pusch Ridge Wilderness: This is a little closer to Tucson and part of the Coronado National Forest. I lived on the road across from this area, and it was a great way to explore morning sunsets or evening sunrises without having to climb a mountain.

I highly recommend taking the drive up to Mt. Lemmon, so you can see the different ecosystems and topography change with the elevation.

Mount Charleston up by Las Vegas has the same amazing transition during the drive.

Just outside of Tucson to the southwest is Karchner Caverns State Park.

Reservations are required and there are cabins and campsites available, plus a cool cavern to explore.

Watch out for the bats.

A Mountain (that’s the name – “A Mountain.” It’s not “a mountain.”) is right on the east side of town and is an easy hike with worthy views for those who don’t have the time to hike the outlying parks.

Since traffic is so intense in Tucson and there aren’t a lot of highways to help you get around, let’s start near Pusch Wilderness for the museums in that part of the city:

  • Valley of the Moon: A whimsical art-inspired fairyland, of sorts. Hours are limited, so check the schedule.
  • Tucson Art Museum: Get a look at the artwork inspired by and made from the elements of the desert.
  • Trail Dust Town: An Old West/Pioneer’s trip back in time in this replica of a town from a bygone era.

Downtown is where the University of Arizona (U of A) is located, along with the bustling Congress Street for restaurants and bars with eclectic shops along the route.

The Children’s Museum of Tucson is also here.

On your way to the southeast side of the city attractions, you can visit the Reid Park Zoo.

Around Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, you have several great attractions to choose from.

The Airplane Boneyard is the largest of its kind in the world and includes rows of different military aircraft as far as the eye can see.

The retired aircraft thrive in the desert climate and tours are available, but read the website for specific information about safety and tour requirements.

The Pima Air & Space Museum is an 80-acre site with six indoor hangars to explore with some of the most unique and interesting aircraft the U.S. military and government have used.

The Aerospace exhibit gives you an unprecedented look at the race to space and the use of drones in modern military action.

Also, the Wild West town of Tombstone is just an hour southeast.

You can read our article on that city to learn more about the safety guidance and attractions there.

Places to Avoid in Tucson

When you look at crime distribution maps, you’ll see higher crime areas in the northern part of town, but south of Oro Valley.

There are some midtown and east-side neighborhoods that aren’t very safe.

A handful of southern neighborhoods aren’t ideal either.

The reality is, Tucson is built in a way that you can have new homes with HOA-handpicked property designs, and then be a poverty-stricken area around the next corner.

Just stay on the main roads between the different tourist attractions and entertainment districts and you shouldn’t have to worry.

Alvernon Way is one road that connects to some of the more dangerous neighborhoods, so use that just as a reference point, not a “stay off it no matter what” statement.

Before you consider a day trip to the Mexican border, check out the travel warnings from the U.S. State Department.

Nogales is in the state of Sonora, which comes with a “Reconsider Travel” advisory.

The State Department limits its own employees with the following travel restrictions: “U.S. government employees may not travel to the area north of Avenida Tecnologico, west of Bulevar Luis Donaldo Colosio (Periferico), and east of Federal Highway 15D (Corredor Fiscal) and the residential areas to the east of Plutarco Elias Calles. U.S. government employees may not use taxi services in Nogales.”

Safety Tips for Traveling to Tucson

  1. Just about every place you visit and all the research you do on official websites here will have English and Spanish versions. That’s very helpful for the bilingual people visiting this great city.
  2. TPD has one of the best crime dashboards I’ve seen in the hundreds of websites I’ve researched. You can limit searches to certain types of crime in different neighborhoods and you can choose your own timeline (a week, a year, etc.) Use this to see which neighborhoods have higher crime rates closer to your visit.
  3. Let’s talk about Javelinas. These are wild boar-like animals that wander the city – mostly the outskirts. Don’t mess with them. They can become angry and charge you. If you feed them, which is a no-no, you risk being bitten. I once was late for work because a group of the animals was blocking my stairwell to get out.
  4. You also need to be on the lookout for scorpions here. I got a very eye-opening look at the dangers when I moved out. When all the furniture was gone and I was cleaning, I found no less than a dozen dead ones below my baseboards. Scorpions look for cool, dark places to hide. They won’t sting unless threatened, but that can include sliding a shoe on where a scorpion is hiding. Always shake your shoes before putting them on. It’s a habit I still carry to this day.
  5. The heat in Tucson is oppressive in the summer, even though it’s a “dry heat.” You should do all your outdoor activities, like hiking, in the morning hours and be back in the city or at the destination by 11:00 am. With temperatures well into the triple digits and relentless sun, you can easily get heat stroke or dehydration.
  6. You can use several apps here to be better connected. The MyTucson app allows you a direct connection to the city and a way to report things like graffiti or potholes. You can also use See. Click. Fix. to report issues. You also want to sign up for MyAlerts through Pima County to get information about weather conditions and threats.
  7. If you are in a wilderness area and you see a wildfire start nearby, get out of there. If you know a fire is burning in a certain area, go to a different park. The changing winds of the desert can cause a fire to quickly change direction and you will have a hard time outrunning a charging fire.
  8. The GoTuscon mobile app will help you purchase passes for the public transportation system. Even if you don’t want to ride the city buses, there’s a good chance you’ll want to use the trolley to get around to the most popular entertainment districts.
  9. For those who go stargazing at night, bring a flashlight with a red filter so you don’t create light pollution for others nearby. It’s also a good idea to bring a black light, as this will help spot scorpions nearby. The creatures glow under blacklight, making them all the more creepy. It’s safest to go on a tour so the guide can help you avoid the activity of the desert night – including rattlesnakes.
  10. Use the Google Maps traffic layer to see delays around the city. This city isn’t easy to get around in any kind of timely fashion. The interstate is great if you want to go from north to south, but going from northwest to southeast is going to take about an hour with high traffic.

So... How Safe Is Tucson Really?

Tucson is seeing an increase in crime, much like other American cities.

It’s also facing a repeated issue of poverty-stricken and minority neighborhoods seeing the greatest increases in crime.

While the violent crime rate was 80% higher than the national average in 2021, it’s even growing during 2022.

The biggest problem in communities like Tuscon is the influx of illegal guns on the street.

This issue continues to face American’s second amendment right to bear arms and leaves a solution hard to find.

Here’s what Ward Six Council member Steve Kozachik told local station KOLD, “I think most major cities in the country have a gun problem.

And the state of Arizona, ours, is exacerbated by the fact our state legislature has completely tied the hands of local jurisdictions.”

There are gangs here and drug problems, even more so because of the proximity to the border where drugs and guns are brought in.

29% of thefts are related to car break-ins, so lock your doors and keep the windows rolled up when you park.

Leave nothing inside either.

Make it as empty as if it just came off the factory line.

Six cars are stolen each day here too, and many end up across the border – never to be seen again.

In reality, a smart tourist using common sense and safety precautions is more likely to get a bad sunburn than be a victim of a crime.

Just avoid the neighborhoods that clearly aren’t a place you should be visiting.

For the utmost safety, stay in Oro Valley to the north, which has a much lower crime rate.

How Does Tucson Compare?

CitySafety Index
Tucson48
St. Louis58
Los Angeles56
Oakland57
New Orleans57
Sofia (Bulgaria)73
Siem Reap (Cambodia)63
Phnom Penh (Cambodia)61

Useful Information

  • Visas - Whether you cross the border or fly into Tucson, you'll need either a Visa issued by the State Department or a Visa Waiver. This process can take several months, so start planning early. Use the Visa Wizard function on the department's website to confirm you are getting the right visa for your trip.
  • Currency - You still can only use the U.S. Dollar (USD), even though there are a lot of Hispanic/Latino businesses and it's very close to the border. While some locations might take Pesos under the table, you should be prepared to always use USD. Avoid public ATMs and exchange currency inside a bank.
  • Weather - Most of the year will be warm to hot. I'll warn you, if you show up in winter wearing a t-shirt and shorts while the "locals" are in jeans and hoodies, you'll stand out as a tourist. This could make you more likely to get targeted, but who cares? Enjoy the nice weather and just be aware of your surroundings. I was mortified when my mom showed up to visit me in summer clothing for the New Year holiday. "Mooooom! YOU LOOK LIKE SUCH A TOURIST!" I bellowed. Bring sunscreen with a high SPF, like 50 or above. There will be some cooler days in winter. I was even there one Easter when it snowed about two inches (but quickly melted). Checking the 10-day forecast for your travel city is the best way to help pack properly.
  • Airports - Tucson does have its own international airport and it's very easy to navigate without long wait times. You can also use the larger Phoenix Sky Harbor airport, but it's about 90 minutes away. There are bus shuttles that run back and forth if you don't have a car. Those will cost around $50 a person.
  • Travel Insurance - You'll want travel insurance here in case of delays or wildfires that shut down highways. Health insurance is necessary too, as you don't want to pay out of pocket if you suffer heat stroke and you don't want to treat that on your own.
Click here to get an offer for travel insurance

Tucson Weather Averages (Temperatures)

Jan 12° C
Feb 13° C
Mar 16° C
Apr 20° C
May 25° C
Jun 30° C
Jul 31° C
Aug 31° C
Sep 28° C
Oct 22° C
Nov 16° C
Dec 11° C
Choose Temperature Unit

Average High/Low Temperature

Temperature / MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
High
°C
202225293439393836312419
Low
°C
3471015202323201373
High
°F
687277849310210210097887566
Low
°F
373945505968737368554537

Where to Next?

30 Reviews on Tucson

  1. Safe if you don't go outside

    It is very hot outside, and it has some very dangerous animals in the wild. I recommend to not go outside when it’s hot, and be prepared to meet scorpions and some other creatures, although if you are in a hotel, there is a high chance that it will not happen. Also, make sure to return to your home/hotel when it’s dark.

  2. L
    Lee Hendricks. says:

    No problems ever in Tucson!

    I used to live in Phoenix and would drive down to Tucson all the time on weekends. I have never ever had any problems in the center city, 4th ave, or hiking the desert trails outside of the city! This time was from 1997 thru 2014…..I love Tucson!!!!

    1. j
      jay grant says:

      Statistically insignificant!

      1. I’ve lived in Tucson my whole life. LOVE IT.

  3. Make Safe Tucson Again

    I have visited Tucson over the last 55 years. As a youth it was so safe. I have seen an increase in homeless, drugs and street walkers. The City needs to take a tougher approach to these problems. The liberal attitude is at the core of the problem. Lock up the thieves, druggies and prostitutes. Because the weather is so temperate the homeless run the streets. Get tough on crime. Vote out Liberal council members. Make Tucson safe again.

    1. t
      tucsonan says:

      how do homeless people or “prostitutes” make you unsafe? get a grip, buddy.

      1. W
        Wannasee Tucson says:

        Just saying

        I can’t say much for Tucson itself, but when you ask the question about how does the Homeless, prostitutes, etc. make an area unsafe, I am thinking you must be on Meth.

      2. When and if people become desperate they do desperate things. This leads to a potential safety issue. Common sense.

      3. M
        Monique says:

        I love Tucson I lived here my whole life it usto be so safe now everyones on drugs …. It breaks my heart you hear shootings, people pulling out guns its sad it makes me scared for my kids

    2. D
      David McCord says:

      GOP Cannot Win Here

      I have lived in Tucson for 40 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else. Crime? It’s high in every city of our size and is fueled by meth and opiate addictions. This claptrap about “liberals” is a tired, old right-wing load of nothing. See, Republicans can’t win jack in Southern Arizona, Pima County, and especially in Tucson. Mayor? Democrat. City Council, all Democrats. The gop can’t win here because no one buys their lies.

      1. M
        Mr.Tony says:

        Please, get your crazy “left-wing” head out of the sand and look around you David McCord! ALL of Tucson’s crime, drug and illegal immigrant problems are a directly related to Tucson’s extremely liberal agenda and policies. It doesn’t have anything to do with, what you say is a “right-wing load of nothing”.
        If you blind “libs” had your way, you’d completely do away with all the jails and police. Oh yeah, lets just get them all “help” for their addiction and criminal behavior, right? Because it’s not their fault that they do drugs, deal drugs, and rob and kill people, right? Now that’s a load of bulls**t! Most of them will get out of rehab and go right back to their old ways, for the most part. Not always, but most of them do.
        And yes, you’re right, Republicans/GOP can’t win in Tucson, which is exactly why you have such a huge drug and crime problem there! Republicans believe in Police/law enforcemtnt, “legal” immigration, and putting criminals in prison so they don’t harm or kill innocent, productive members of society! So, what the hell is wrong with that?
        I’m not right or left, but I did live in Tucson from 2009 – 2012. What a pit! Crime is insane there. The roads are absolutely horrible, and it’s not a cheap place to live, unless you compare it to L.A. or N.Y.C. or S.F.
        It seems like most of the population in Tucson are non-english speaking Mexicans or illegal immigrants, UofA liberals who pretent everything is fine, crazy meth/drug heads and lots of homeless people who were not just good people who were down on their luck. Most of them were scary, crazy, drunk agressive types. This is what I saw there. I’m sure there are some good people living there, I just never saw or met any of them in three years, unfortunately. My neighbors were all unfriendly and bizarre. Three years and they still wouldn’t even say hello or wave. They just pretend they don’t even see you. Now that’s just weird!
        The first month I lived there, there was a triple murder directly across the street from our new house. A month later a drive-by shooting at 9 am in front of our house while my wife was on the computer and looking out our front window – no joke! And this was in a newer neighborhood ($200,000 houses, HOA, etc.). These were Sinaloa drug cartel related (two rental houses in the neigbhorhood had Mexican drug dealer/gang members living there). Police had been called out several times before, but did nothing. Welcome to Democrat run Tucson. I decided to move to Florida, and the crime in Florida was noticably less than in Tucson. And that’s saying something, since FL isn’t exactly a low crime state.
        Tucson is a horrible place, unless you have loads of money and can live in Oro Valley or way out east near the mountains. These are the places where all the wealthy liberals live – so they don’t have to deal with all the crime and problems in the rest of the city, which they created!
        It’s really unfortunate because Tucson is located in such a beautiful part of Arizona, and the climate there is great most of the time. Unfortunately, these are the only two good things I can say about the place.

        1. A
          Anonymous says:

          It’s unfettered capitolism that leaves these people out in the streets at night. Stay in Florida with the swamp creatures.

        2. M
          Mr. Jim says:

          Mr. Tony, you watch too much Fox News. Phoenix actually has higher crime rates than Tucson. You haven’t lived in Tucson for a decade.

        3. R
          R. Jones says:

          Right on Mr. Tony

          Well said Mr. Tony and I agree with you 100%. Your comments are applicable to all the blue-run cities in the U.S. I was born and raised in Portland, Oregon (I no longer live there) and it probably is worse than Tucson to such an that I will longer venture into the city. It is just plain dangerous.

      2. LOL- well with all the people leaving California and thousands going to AZ, guess what??? The majority are Republicans and those Democrats in office will be pushed out. Biden and his puppet masters are a joke and they’re ruining the Country.
        Watch and see Tucson and other AZ cities make the change to BETTER and get those darn disgusting Democrats out!

        1. A
          Anonymous says:

          Most of those from California are Democrat

  4. A
    Anonymous says:

    I agree about the homeless and drug epidemic there, however they need help. Not jail

    1. j
      jay grant says:

      who’s money are you spending?

  5. O
    Owlephant2 says:

    Devil's playground

    Tucson is the devils playground. I lived here about 25 yrs ago. Absolutely fell in love with it. Wanted to come back here so badly. Biggest mistake ever. I lost my job and fell into homelessness for 8 months. Once there it is so hard to climb back up. The street lives by totally separate rules. Cops harass ya. I have no criminal background nor drug use and I was constantly being stopped. They say there is all this help to re-home. Not true. Not true at all. It was a living hell being homeless. I don’t wish it on my worst enemy. Thankfully I made it out. Taught me I am so much stronger than I ever thought I could be. Once in a better position I am leaving this place. To many weird and unexplainable things happen too.

    1. K
      Karin Sis says:

      I’m sorry, there are so many different Agencies that practically feed the homeless 3 meals a day and plenty of shelters. If you are not able to find help, google help for the homeless, you have your choice.

      1. A
        Anonymous says:

        With your homeless phone?

    2. God bless you. It takes courage to overcome such dire circumstances.

  6. G
    Garth Garthly says:

    A good life for ordinary people

    For ordinary Brits like me, life in Tucson is safer than life in, say, Cambridge, UK, where I came from 20 years ago. In Cambridge, I came up against quite a lot of criminal behaviour, whereas in Tucson, I have only once had a problem when some young people through a brick through my bedroom window. I called the police and they quickly came and were very courteous and professional. If you are an ordinary employed person, life in Tucson is safe and problem-free. Of course, if you fall into the homeless life here, it is pretty bad, as it is anywhere in the US.

    1. Sceptical

      Only good review was of yours, they scared me out with this much “high criminal rate” & scary depiction of Tucson

  7. J
    Just saying says:

    Something about the State of AZ

    My experience is that AZ, and the politics of the state are a growing disaster. They can’t even run a straight election.

  8. R
    R. Jones says:

    Right on Mr. Tony

    Well said Mr. Tony and I agree with you 100%. Your comments are applicable to all the blue run cities in the U.S. I was born and raised in Portland, Oregon (I no longer live there) and it probably is worse than Tucson to such an that I will longer venture into the city. It is just plain dangerous and a human cesspool.

  9. D
    Dianna lytsell says:

    Driving

    I have driven to Tucson from Portland Oregon 3 times. Getting ready to go again. Never had any problems. I took my puppy with me. Stopped at the rest areas with no problems at all. But I am very aware of my surrounding. If I don’t feel comfortable. I don’t get out of my car. You have the same B.S. in every state.

    Right now we are dealing with a lot of shootings. If you are afraid to go outside of your home. I’m sorry. But you have to live your life. Just remember when it is your time to go that’s God’s choice. Not ours. Hold your head up and smile.

    Oh by the way I am 68 years old. So if I can drive all by myself to Tucson anyone can. God Bless you all.

  10. Tucson is not that bad.

    I came here from California 39 years ago. I’ve had a good life here, in spite of the multiplying liberals. You will find that there are more of them around the center of town near the University. Oro Valley is conservative, well run and more expensive. Far east and north & northeast are more peaceful although the crime & homeless camps are spreading our way. The city government is corrupt and the quality of life continues to deteriorate with the help of the liberal mayor, & city council.
    Illegal aliens & homeless veterans are everywhere, and everywhere you look you will find homeless camps. Some live by breaking in to homes, & mugging seniors.
    I stay away from downtown, & carry a gun, which is legal. The mayor is refusing to prosecute drug related crime. As for unfriendly people, that just is not true. Tucson is a very friendly place. Tucson is a better place to live than most.

  11. Riverstone im not happy the way they keep the appartments. They dont have any more trees or any lovely flowers. dont keep up with the trash on there propatey.they dont clean up around there garbegs bins. There people are to lazy . when we want some thing done they are not on the ball. This place are not a happy place. They dont paint there walls happy colors. I think its run bys Cockroches

  12. Drugs gangs shootings homeless everywhere

    Even areas that are “nice” have a horrid problem with gangs and homeless. Yesterday in a super nice area we saw a naked man totally cracked put sunbathing in the middle of the shopping center by target…. It just feels so unsafe to be out and about with young kids here.

Rated 3.33 / 5 based on 30 user reviews.

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