Virginia : Safety by CityUnited States - safety as a country Virginia - state review
Virginia Beach is in the Hampton Roads region of the Virginia waterfront while still being just about 30 minutes from the city of Norfolk.
While Virginia Beach is a popular tourist area, it is so much more than a beach community.
You have colonial history here, lighthouses and theme parks, and various unique neighborhoods to explore.
Nearly 460,000 people live here, so it’s also a larger-than-average beach town.
This is where English settlers first arrived in America, back in the early 1600s, and First Landing State Park is a place where you can walk in their footsteps.
Colonial Williamsburg is also just an hour away if you want to go deeper into that history lesson.
Here are seven of the main districts in Virginia Beach:
- Oceanfront: This is one of the busiest places in Hampton Roads. With a carnival atmosphere and boardwalk spanning three miles, you get immersed in the vibrant vibe. We do need to talk about some safety advice here a little later on in this article.
- ViBe District: As part of Oceanfront, this micro-district is for the creative inspiration of art and imagination. You can peruse local craft vendors or make some art of your own.
- Chesapeake Bay: It’s locally known as “Chic’s Beach” (pronounced: chick) and is more laid back with some of the region’s best sunrise and sunset views. You’ll need to know about the regulations for the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel here. We’ll talk about that too.
- Sandbridge: Outdoor nature lovers looking for some seclusion will choose this part of the city to explore.
- Pungo: An agricultural core of the region, far away from beach crowds and u-pick-them fruits and wildflowers.
- Town Center: Here, you’ll be immersed in art, eateries, and high-end shopping while getting a chance to dress up more than traditional beach attire.
- Inland: A large portion of Virginia Beach isn’t on the beach at all, and there are plenty of places to explore in the non-waterfront sections of the city. You’ll also find some great bed & breakfast inns here.
One of the most Instagram-worthy moments is the 34-foot tall statue of King Neptune, and he can be seen as far as a mile down the beach!
Warnings & Dangers in Virginia Beach
OVERALL RISK : LOW
There's a low risk here, with Virginia Beach being rated the safest large city in America. The crime rates were so low that I had to double-source my information to ensure there wasn't a data error. While we still need to discuss some risks and prevention tactics, this is a safe place for solo travelers or family vacations.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
The Wave Trolley can get you around starting as early as 8:00 am through the middle of the night, with service stopping at 2:00 am. Seasonal shuttles will take you back and forth between busy areas. You can rent bicycles, too, or get a rental car. Traffic will be intense from May through October, even if you use rideshares to get around. The risks are low, but if you're prone to impatience while driving, it might be best to use the trolley.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
One of the first crime statistics to shock me was the 21 pickpockets reported in 2021. In a city of nearly half a million people, just 21 people had their pockets picked or purses snatched? That's an incredibly low number. I'm sure some of that involves people using great safety steps, so follow their lead.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
Hurricanes are the biggest risk, but visitors will have plenty of time to prepare, reschedule, or evacuate. Flooding is another concern, which is no surprise with how much water runs through the city. Severe thunderstorms and the occasional water spout are also possible.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
The robbery risk is almost 1/3 of the national average, and just 19% of those are against strangers. There's a low risk here, but please remember this only holds for Virginia Beach. The risk changes in places like Norfolk or Newport News.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
Virginia Beach itself wouldn't be a likely target, but Norfolk has enough critical shipping and military systems to create an abundance of concern and security. You can review the emergency management plan of the city of Virginia Beach or Norfolk if you want to learn how to be more vigilant.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
Watch out for rental scams here, as tourist hot spots are known for them. Never rent a house or condo from a third-party website like Craigslist. Use a local travel agency, even if it isn't as simple as "click to book." Scammers will post fake rentals at rock-bottom prices and demand you pay the money upfront to secure the deal. Tourists then arrive and find out the place wasn't for rent, and the fake landlord is already gone with the money.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
Virginia Beach is a great place for a girlfriend's getaway or some "me time," with plenty of shopping and spas catering to women. You can feel safe here with low risk, but don't get too relaxed that you let your guard down.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
The 2022 Water Quality Report shows all standards for required tap water testing categories far exceed the requirements, so the water is safe to use. If there is any kind of flooding during our visit, call the water utility to ask about any potential contamination. That number is (757)385-1400.
Safest Places to Visit in Virginia Beach
VisitVirginiaBeach.com is part of the “Virginia is for Lovers” statewide tourism campaign, so you know you’re visiting a secure website ordained by the tourism bureau.
You can have a visitor’s guide mailed to you or download it online without giving any personal information.
If you’re looking to plan a special event here, like a wedding or anniversary party, check out the special section just for those types of events.
If you can get up a little early, you won’t regret watching the sunrise behind King Neptune’s statue on the boardwalk.
He reigns over the boardwalk, which is a great place for a morning run or just to take in the ocean air on foot or by bike.
Grommet Island Park is along the boardwalk with wonderful sea adventures built into a safe and inclusive playground.
Along the boardwalk, you’ll also find:
- Atlantic Wildfowl Museum
- Surf & Rescue Museum
- Virginia Beach Fishing Pier
- 31st Street Park
The Virginia Aquarium and Science Center takes you under the ocean without the risk of all the rip currents and waves.
You’ll see sharks, sea turtles, and seals with enhanced experiences with additional ticket prices that can take you behind the scenes or on a boat tour.
Be sure to reserve your tickets in advance and consider if you want to double up with a ticket to the nearby Adventure Park, where you can zip line and climb rope courses.
The Military Aviation Museum is filled with World War I and II planes restored to mint condition.
Plus, in a seemingly unrelated and nonsensical addition, you can visit “Jerrasic Park” (not a typo – it’s named after Jerry, the owner) on the way in with fabricated dinosaurs hanging out and just waiting to star in your next photo shoot.
First Landing State Park has a beach and miles of hiking trails off the shoreline.
Camping is available here, with cabins and yurts also available for rent.
Fishing is allowed in the park with the proper license.
Nearby, you’ll find America’s first lighthouse at Fort Story.
The Cape Henry Lighthouse was one of the first federal projects in the country and wasn’t a luxury item.
After nearly 60 ships crashed into the bay, our nation’s first President thought, “Hmmm… Maybe we need a lighthouse, eh?”
I am a complete lighthouse nerd, so I won’t get too wrapped up in the amazing history here, but let me just say it’s worth the military background check required to get onto this property.
Of course, you also have traditional beach activities, like swimming, fishing, boating, kayaking, sand volleyball, and surfing.
In fact, the East Coast Surfing Championships are held here each summer as the waves are incredible.
Places to Avoid in Virginia Beach
Oceanfront is one of the most popular places in Virginia Beach, but it’s smart to avoid it at night.
There had been an influx of violent crime, with 1,153 calls to police in the 2100 block of Atlantic Avenue (the main street) between June 2018 and June 2019.
A mass shooting in May 2021 was the last straw for the city and half a million dollars was infused into the area to build a police substation.
However, the substation was in bad shape and needed more funding to renovate it, but just the presence of a police building reduced those calls by half.
All that said, Oceanfront gets a little seedy at night.
Fights are known to break out, and while most of the violent crime is among people who know each other, at least one innocent bystander has been killed.
Police have gotten more funding and installed new lights, but if there’s any danger in Virginia Beach, it’s there after dark and gets worse the later the night goes on.
Several massage parlors in Virginia Beach have been busted for crimes related to human trafficking.
These aren’t the nice spas at hotel resorts.
These are the strip mall parlors that don’t close and look seedy.
If you have any suspicion about human trafficking while visiting here, call the nationwide hotline at (888)373-7888.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Virginia Beach
- A weekly “WAVES” report is issued by the Virginia Beach Police Department. You can view it on the department’s website and see crime for the past week, month, and year. This is a great way to see trends building in the city.
- The boardwalk is a great way to get around on foot without worrying about road traffic. The boardwalk is between the buildings and the beach and even has separate lanes for bicyclists and pedestrians.
- Several of the parks, like First Landing, have limited parking. If you don’t get there early, you likely won’t find a place to park. If all the spots are filled, you won’t be able to get in.
- You won’t be able to get to Old Cape Henry Lighthouse or Cape Henry Memorial National Park without going through a military checkpoint. You’ll need an ID and a quick background check. If you want to confirm you’ll be able to pass the background test, look at the Preservation Virginia website to see the eliminating factors.
- Local leaders will send messages through VB Alert, a free app, if there is a weather emergency or disaster. This app now also covers police emergencies or big crime scenes.
- A few other apps might be helpful for your trip. Passport Parking will help you navigate the parking scene at public lots, the beach, or parks. You can also get VB Connect for direct contact with the city. VB Go is an app dedicated to all the local events throughout the different neighborhoods in Virginia Beach.
- Most hotels in Virginia Beach offer wristbands to children 10 and younger. The “Find-A-Kid” wristband program will help connect parents and their children should they become separated. This is a free program, but confirm your hotel takes part in it before booking if this is a service you want to use.
- If you are traveling during the busy summer season and want to find places that are less crowded, check out the YouTube channel VBParksRec. The series “Hidden Treasures” gives you information about secret spots off the boardwalk.
- Anglers will need a fishing license here, and there are separate ones for freshwater and saltwater. There’s also a combo license if you’d prefer that. Some fishing charters will offer a license as part of the fee, so check ahead of time.
- Purchase a GoPass to ride any public transportation in Hampton Roads for one low price. A 7-day pass is $22. Some routes are only available seasonally, so check the schedule before you buy the pass.
So... How Safe Is Virginia Beach Really?
Virginia Beach isn’t immune to the crime wave happening in many large cities across the country, but it’s managing to stay safer than almost all of them.
Does that mean it’s a “safe” city?
By and large, the biggest crime concerns here are gun violence, especially in that Oceanside area after dark or late at night.
However, in 2022, another crime wave that’s happening nationwide hit here – car thefts.
They were up 24% year-to-date in September of 2022.
Police here are doing all the right things.
They’re putting officers where the crime is, improving lightning, and installing gunshot detection technology.
2021 data shows that 26% of violent crimes are against strangers, meaning there’s a pretty low risk you’d be a victim.
Lower that risk even more by avoiding conflicts, as the mass shooting here was due to a fight breaking out in the street.
Don’t get into verbal altercations here, either.
The risks do go beyond the streets.
The ocean brings dangers of rip currents and sea life – like painful Jellyfish.
Pay attention to beach flags and use beach areas where lifeguards are present.
Don’t try to surf a big wave if you’re a “grommet” (young and/or inexperienced) surfer.
If tropical weather is headed toward the area, leave.
Don’t think twice.
The crowds that happen on highways during evacuations are immense.
Trying to “ride it out” could leave you in the dark without clean water.
The water can still be cold, no matter how great the beach looks in winter.
You can get hypothermia if you don’t wear a wetsuit.
Winter here is better for walking on the beach wrapped in a warm parka, not swimming.
There’s so much great stuff to see in Virginia Beach.
Your common sense, situational awareness, and basic safety precautions will go a long way.
How Does Virginia Beach Compare?
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- Visas - The U.S. State Department oversees the Visa process. You can apply for one of several types of visas, depending on why you are coming to the U.S. and how long you plan to stay. Use the Visa Wizard on the department's website to see which one suits you. Don't wait until the last minute, as this process is rather lengthy.
- Currency - The U.S. Dollar will be the only currency accepted here, but credit cards are widely accepted, and there isn't much need to carry cash. Save your receipts, and don't throw them away in public trash cans to protect your sensitive financial data.
- Weather - Just because this is a "beach" doesn't mean winter is warm and sunny. While you'll get a milder form of winter, you should bring long pants, sweatshirts, gloves, and a hat for the coolest days. Summers are very hot and humid, and you can dress casually here. Fall and spring can fluctuate, so layers of clothing lengths will accommodate any weather pattern shift.
- Airports - Virginia Beach is less than 30 minutes from Norfolk International Airport, but plan for more time if you're traveling during rush hour.
- Travel Insurance - Travel insurance is a smart investment, even for those trying to save money on travel costs. The out-of-pocket expense risk is substantial compared to the cost of insurance, not to mention the peace of mind it provides.
Virginia Beach Weather Averages (Temperatures)
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