Is San Diego safe to visit? A comprehensive safety guide
San Diego is a lively city home to many of Southern California's excellent attractions. Just minutes from downtown San Diego is Balboa Park, a cultural oasis featuring numerous museums, gardens, and the world-renowned San Diego Zoo. It’s also rich in history and known for its exciting events, magnificent architecture, and thought-provoking exhibitions. It definitely lives up to its name as America’s Finest City!
With plenty of things to do and endless places to discover, it’s no wonder San Diego is a top travel destination, drawing in nearly 35.1 million visitors every year. It’s the second-largest city in California, after Los Angeles, with about 1.3 million people who call it home. Its residents enjoy an arid sub-tropical climate, with warm sunny summers and mild, rainy winters, making it an ideal holiday destination year-round. But if you want to go with the crowd, San Diego’s peak tourist season is from June to August, when tourists flock to its beachfront resorts and enjoy multicultural festivals.
Protecting yourself and your belongings should be prioritized when visiting San Diego or any major city. To keep your bags and valuables safe, leave them with Bounce luggage storage in San Diego. In addition to keeping your belongings safe, we’ve also highlighted several San Diego safety tips you can consider for an exhilarating and stress-free adventure!
Is San Diego safe to visit right now?
San Diego is safe for a large city, with a low combined violent and property crime rate per one hundred thousand people. Among ten major cities, it had the second-lowest overall crime rate in the US in 2020. Today, it remains one of the country’s safest metropolises, making it a delightful spot for a worry-free vacation.
Although the violent crime rate in the San Diego region increased in 2021, there is a low risk here, and its crime rate is significantly lower than the national average for its size. Perhaps, the most prominent threats you’ll encounter are common scams and pickpocketing, especially in clubs and bars. You should remain vigilant and not be complacent about your safety. Always be aware of your environment and those around you.
The answer to the question, “Is San Diego safe?” will have different answers, depending on the individuals involved. While we’ll provide essential safety tips and advice for visiting San Diego, it’s up to you to protect your belongings and well-being. Exercise common sense and do your research.
Whether you’re a savvy traveler or heading off on your first trip, we recommend you check your government’s official travel guidelines for the country or city you’re visiting before you decide to travel.
Top petty crimes and scams in San Diego affecting tourists
You have a slim chance of being a victim of a serious crime if you visit San Diego. But for a place with many people and millions of visitors each month, the city is not without issues and petty crimes. Below is a list of the common security concerns in San Diego and ways to protect yourself.
Tourists experience a fair share of scams in San Diego, but they are mostly relatively easy to avoid. One common scam is a taxi meter not running, which could lead to overcharging. Get off immediately when you hop in a taxi and notice the meter is turned off or defective. You might also encounter a ‘friendly helper’ offering to take a photo with your expensive camera or smartphone, only to vanish in the crowd with your valuable.
Scammers can use different ways to steal from you, whether it’s your money, personal information, or personal items. Trust your instincts. If something is too good to be true, it could be a scam. Getting travel insurance before leaving for your holiday is always a good idea.
Cunning pickpockets use a distraction tactic, often targeting unsuspecting tourists who seem lost or are preoccupied. They typically operate in crowds and will ‘accidentally’ bump into you. They could be watching your every move, so pay extra attention to your surroundings while exploring the city attractions.
Make sure your bag is always close to you. Don’t put all your money in one place and leave your travel documents and expensive items in a convenient Bounce luggage locker. It’s also best to carry a small purse and put your wallet in your front pocket.
San Diego is known for its lovely climate and seventy miles of pristine beaches. During peak season, its spectacular beaches are packed with San Diego locals and visitors to enjoy the warm sunshine. Unfortunately, not everyone at the beach is there to bask in the sun and soak in the ocean views. Some are looking and waiting for an opportunity to steal your belongings. To ensure your bag’s safety in San Diego, never leave your items unattended on the sand.
Is San Diego safe to travel alone
Solo travel in San Diego is safe, fun, and exciting! You get to see as many places as you can without depending on others’ schedules. It’s also safe at night, even for solo female travelers, thanks to its visible policing and good street lighting.
San Diego is the eighth-largest city in the US, which is the 32nd-best country for women travelers, according to the Bounce Women Travel Safety Index. It’s based on a global survey of various countries with particular attributes, such as gender equality, safety, progress, strongest laws and more.
In general, solo travelers can walk around at night with no safety risks. But you shouldn’t let your guard down and lose focus. It’s still important to steer clear of dark alleys and places with bad reputations.
Safest neighborhoods in San Diego
Most San Diego neighborhoods are safe, so you won’t have difficulty finding a place to stay during your holiday. But if you want to be sure you don’t end up in the sketchy part of the city, here are the safest neighborhoods to consider and the areas of caution in San Diego:
Nestor tops the list of the safest San Diego neighborhoods with a property crime rate that’s 98% below the national average and a violent crime rate of 99% below the national average. It’s a walkable urban community with a mix of military residents and college students.
Surrounded by the sea and natural beauty, La Jolla is a spectacular coastal neighborhood you don’t want to miss during your visit. Although a tourist hotspot, it remains a safe area just fifteen minutes from the busy downtown San Diego. It’s also called ‘the jewel’ of the city, offering an upscale village lifestyle with an array of accommodations from elegant hotels to casual seaside retreats.
If you’re looking for a peaceful and quiet place to stay, Alta Vista is a charming community in southeastern San Diego. It is home to over 9,000 people, featuring cozy houses at competitive prices. It features several playgrounds and parks, providing excellent recreational opportunities for kids and adults.
Despite its safe reputation of low violent crimes, there are still certain areas you might want to avoid at night in San Diego. These include Mission Valley, Little Italy, Marina on San Diego Bay, and downtown San Diego’s largest neighborhood, East Village. Its downtown core also has higher crime rates than many smaller residential areas due to its large population and the significant number of tourists.
It doesn’t mean you should not go to these places at all, as they offer some of the city’s most fascinating sights. Just be extra careful, visit with a group during the day, or if possible, go with San Diego residents.
Is San Diego public transportation safe?
You can take San Diego public transit without inherent risks to your safety. Its buses and trolleys are efficient, timely, clean, and well-maintained. They are also the easiest way to get around San Diego without a car. The trolley connects many of the city’s favorite tourist spots and local neighborhoods.
Like everywhere else, take safety precautions when traveling at night and avoid quiet streets and late-night buses or trains. You might encounter drunk or angry people during your bus or trolley rides, but these instances don’t always happen. If you’re going home late, rideshares and taxis are available. You can hail a yellow cab. Always check for the county’s identification badge.
Important emergency numbers in San Diego
You should know how to contact the police, an ambulance, or proper authorities if you find yourself in an emergency situation when visiting San Diego. Hopefully, you wouldn’t need to use them, but here’s a list of emergency numbers worth knowing just in case:
- US Country Code: +1
- San Diego Area code: 619
- Emergency number: 911
- Non-Emergency Line: 619-531-2000
- 24-hour Non-Emergency (Fire): 858-974-9891
- Fire-Rescue Department: 619-533-4300
Note: Be sure to add your embassy number to your contact list to receive help if you need emergency assistance.
Stay safe in San Diego
San Diego is full of surprises for locals and visitors, from its distinct neighborhoods and culture to fantastic entertainment opportunities that will keep you busy for days. Like many big cities, San Diego isn’t perfect and has safety concerns. Petty crimes are common around crowded areas like tourist spots, but keeping yourself and your belongings safe is easy if you follow basic safety principles and guidelines.
However, before booking your hotel, you might want to check out our guide on Where to Stay in San Diego: The Ultimate Guide. We’ve delved deeper into the neighborhoods worth staying in and exploring in the city. For additional information on navigating California’s second-largest city, learn more from our tips on How to Get Around San Diego.