Is Chicago safe to visit? A comprehensive safety guide
Chicago, also called the Windy City, is home to world-class restaurants and over 60 local breweries, and its cuisine is just one of the many things that attract visitors from around the globe. With miles of beaches, the beautiful Lake Michigan, several impressive sports teams and a recognizable skyline made of architectural wonders, it really does stand out from any other city.
In 2017 Chicago reached its highest record of tourists with more than 54 million visitors, and the city is busiest between the months of June and September. It is also the third largest city in all of the United States and is home to almost 2.7 million citizens.
It is always wise to do some research about a new city before visiting it and to make your vacation as enjoyable as possible you'll want to stay safe. Keep reading to learn about some Chicago safety tips to ensure an enjoyable time. Our first piece of advice is to stow your bags safely in a Chicago suitcase locker. Feel comfortable leaving your bags with Bounce luggage storage; take advantage of plenty of conveniently placed locations around the city and an attractive protection plan.
Is Chicago safe to visit right now?
Even if you're someone who travels often, you should check in with the guidelines and travel restrictions put in place by your local government before visiting a new city. According to the Global Peace Index, the United States of America has a ranking of 122, making US cities attractive holiday destinations. There are no current travel advisories for visiting Chicago, although you're urged to practice regular safety precautions as you would in any new place.
Chicago is no stranger to crime, which is normal for a big city. Although it does experience some violent crimes, these extreme cases are usually reserved to certain neighborhoods that experience gang related violence. If you stick to the city center and areas that are popular among tourists you should not have any safety issues, and we'll help you stay safe to the best of our ability. Keep in mind there is no perfect safety guide, but if you stay alert and use common sense then bustling Chicago can be a safe city to visit.
When navigating the city, keep an eye out for pickpockets as they are a high risk for tourists. Chicago also experiences natural disasters like winter storms and tornadoes, so you should educate yourself on the best procedure in case you're ever put in that situation.
Top petty crimes and scams in Chicago affecting tourists
Listed below are some problems that contribute to the petty crime rate in Chicago. Read carefully to learn how to protect yourself and your items.
Pickpocketing and purse snatching
Unfortunately, bag snatchers are quite prominent in Chicago and lots of people get their purses, wallets and other items stolen while on vacation here. When traveling on the more populated streets carry your backpack in front of you or even better, store it with Bounce for peace of mind.
Keep valuables like passports and wallets deep in a securely tied pocket. You might also want to be prepared with emergency cash or an emergency credit card so that if the worst case scenario happens and you lose your wallet, you can still get around.
Chicago also sees a fair share of muggers, and there is a medium risk of it happening to you. However, you can greatly lower your chances of being mugged by practicing street smarts and avoiding side streets or alleyways. This crime most often occurs at night so we suggest that you stick to well lit areas and busy streets when you're traveling in the dark.
Chicago is a cultural hub that attracts tourists, and scammers like to take advantage of that. As you walk around the street you might see people trying to sell you things or begging for money, and they can get pushy. Unfortunately, it is safer to assume they are scammers as opposed to actually needing help and to protect yourself and your money, it's best to walk away.
Is Chicago safe to travel alone
It is expected for a major city like Chicago to have crime, but it is not one of the most dangerous cities and you can feel comfortable exploring it on your own as long as you take the necessary precautions. We recommend knowing about dangerous neighborhoods, a few of which we'll mention below, and staying in the areas that are commonly frequented by tourists as they have a much lower violent crime rate. There are plenty of ways to enjoy this amazing city as a solo traveler while being safe, like joining in on walking tours or even a guided food tour.
If you're a solo female traveler we urge you to take extra precautions as there is a higher risk for women traveling alone than men, although the United States is rated 32nd for safety according to the Bounce Women Travel Safety Index. This great city is complemented by an active nightlife that can and should be enjoyed, although you should do research on the place and neighborhood that you'll be in beforehand. Do not give any unnecessary information to strangers or accept drinks or food.
Safest neighborhoods in Chicago
Below are some of the safest places in Chicago, and you can feel safe exploring all of them as long as you're aware of your surroundings. Aside from the ones mentioned below, Rogers Park, Logan Square and the general Downtown Chicago and central business district areas are welcoming to tourists. Union Station area is also in a safe part of town although there are a high number of homeless, but they will not bother you. Areas like River North are often busy, even at night, and safe to frequent after dark.
Edison Park is not a dangerous neighborhood, in fact, it has been listed as one of the safest places in the city. You should check out the hotels and attractions in this part of town as it has a much lower average crime rate than other spots. And great dining awaits on "Restaurant Row."
This area, as well as other spots on the Loop in general, are safe to explore. It has well-lit streets and a higher number of police officers. Don't miss Chicago's famous sculpture, The Bean: Cloud Gate, the outdoor artwork installation by Anish Kapoor.
Home to attractions like the Lincoln Park Zoo, this area is often frequented by locals, tourists and families. You can feel safe here.
Generally, a south Chicago neighborhood will be more dangerous than areas in the other direction. Areas where you'll want to exercise extra caution include both West Garfield Park and East Garfield Park, Englewood, North Lawndale and Washington Park. These Chicago neighborhoods are said to have a higher rate of violent crime, motor vehicle theft and property crime.
Is Chicago public transportation safe?
As a tourist, you'll most likely want to be moving around the city a lot. Chicago's public transport system is the best and most affordable way to do that, and the same general safety rules apply when riding the bus or train. You'll not be in danger when using public transportation to get between the safe neighborhoods in Chicago that are listed above, but you should always remain aware of your surroundings and use caution, especially at night. Be careful traveling through the city's underground walkway system after dark as well.
Some things to keep in mind involve keeping a close hold on your bags to ensure that thieves can't snatch them from you. Keep your wallet in a safe pocket where it can't be stolen, and we recommend not wearing earbuds or headphones so that you can pay better attention to what is happening around you.
Crimes happen most often at night so consider taking a certified taxi if you want to be extra safe. If you do have to use public transport after dark, choose the L train car that has other people on it, or sit near the driver on the bus. To learn more about the bus and elevated train routes, visit the Chicago Transit Authority website.
Important emergency numbers in Chicago
If you ever feel unsafe while you visit Chicago there are some numbers that you can call. The Chicago police department is ready to help you from anywhere in the entire city and all that you have to do is call one of the emergency numbers listed below. Remember, if applicable, to be aware of your embassy number when using your phone in Chicago.
- Emergencies: 911
- Non-Emergencies: 311
- Bomb & Arson Hotline: 773.533.3473
Visiting Chicago safely
Although Chicago has had a higher crime rate than the national average, it is a lovely city that has come a long way in recent years. Come experience a new side of Chicago and you'll see that it is not really a dangerous city as long as you're careful.
Safety in Chicago is definitely achievable, and now that you know how to keep yourself secure you're ready for an amazing vacation. For more information on finding accommodations in Chicago check out our guide on Where to Stay in Chicago: The Ultimate Guide. To become familiar with the city's public transportation system and easily get from one place to another, read How to Get Around Chicago.