Philadelphia, the “City of Brotherly Love,” is a beautiful place to visit. Although you have to take some precautions, you can have a fantastic time as long as you keep your wits about you and know where you’re going at all times.
There are tons of amazing things to do and see in Philadelphia, like checking out the world-class Philadelphia Museum of Art and sampling some of Philadelphia’s best food.
Then, of course, there’s always Philadelphia’s deep connection to American history. Make sure that you see Independence Hall and pay your respects to the Liberty Bell while you’re there.
Soak in all Philadelphia has to offer, but keep these travel and safety tips in mind to ensure you’ll have the best time possible.
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Is Philadelphia Safe to Visit in 2023?
Philadelphia is relatively safe to visit, although you should keep your eyes open for petty theft like pickpocketing on public transportation. The center, tourist-friendly part of town tends to be safer, while the outskirts in west, north, or south Philadelphia can be more dangerous.
Crime in Philadelphia
Petty crimes like purse snatching and pickpocketing tend to skyrocket, especially in summer. Make sure you take plenty of precautions to make yourself a difficult target, including keeping valuables in your front pockets and using a cross-body bag, especially in very populated areas.
You likely won’t find much beyond your average pickpocketer in tourist-centric areas, but you could run into more trouble if you venture out of the city center.
Some of Philadelphia’s more notorious neighborhoods have violent crime, and it’s best to avoid those areas, especially at night.
On the other hand, the tourist areas of Philadelphia are very walkable, so as long as you keep your wits about you and your valuables secured, you should be totally fine.
Avoiding Bad Neighborhoods
Like all big cities, Philadelphia has its share of bad neighborhoods. So, avoid certain areas to be safe and have the best vacation possible.
Philadelphia’s Kensington neighborhood is full of drugs and crime, and it’s a good idea to steer clear of it whenever possible.
Fortunately, you won’t find tourist attractions in the heart of Kensington, so it’s relatively easy to give it a pass. However, even if you’re not looking for trouble, you might find it if you stay too long in Kensington.
While slightly less dangerous than Kensington, Fairhill is still not where you want to venture after dark, but you should consider a daytime visit.
Fairhill is home to El Centro de Oro, a fantastic shopping and eating district. Remember to remain aware of your surroundings, and you should be fine in Fairhill.
Despite the name, there’s not much that’s nice about Nicetown. On the contrary, this north Philadelphia neighborhood is one of the most dangerous places in all of Philadelphia. There’s regular violence there, and tourists would be well-advised to steer clear of Nicetown at all costs.
Although South Street still has some life, it’s rougher around the edges than in other parts of Philadelphia. If you’re traveling with your family, consider avoiding it. On the other hand, if you’re out with friends for a good time, you’ll probably find it on South Street.
You can quickly avoid these neighborhoods by simply getting a tourist map, listening to locals, and staying within the tourist hotspots. If you do decide to explore, do it carefully and during the day.
Understanding Common Scams
Like any big city, Philadelphia has its fair share of scams. However, understanding what you’re in for and how to avoid getting scammed can help you make the most out of your trip to the City of Brotherly Love.
Avoiding the Meter
The second you step out of the arrival gate at the airport, taxi drivers know you’re a tourist. Although many of them are above board, there’s no doubt you’ll run into one or two who will try to avoid using the meter at all costs.
They know that you don’t know the city and that they can overcharge you for even the smallest ride.
If you’re taking a metered taxi, make certain that they flip on the meter and have a map to your hotel saved on your phone so you can ensure they’re not driving you in circles. Whenever possible, it’s good to take a sanctioned airport taxi, Uber, or Lyft.
Who doesn’t love a little token of friendship? Unfortunately, on the mean streets of Philly, tokens of friendship might cost you more than you bargained for.
The scam is this; someone will come up to you on the road and tie a friendship bracelet around your wrist. If you try to refuse, they’ll tell you that it’s free.
Once it’s on your wrist, the person will generally ask you for a tip or tell you about their terrible circumstances in hopes of soliciting money from you. In the end, the bracelet isn’t free, and if you say no, prepare to be harassed.
The best way to avoid the fake friendship bracelet scam is to simply be harsh right from the beginning. Say you’re not interested, cross the street, or duck into a store if needed.
Broken Phone Scam
The broken phone scam is a doozy and seems to come straight out of the blue. Someone will ask you to take their picture and then drop their phone on purpose when you hand it back to them.
The goal is to accuse you of dropping the phone and asking you to pay for it. It’s a good idea to avoid taking people’s pictures unless they’re tourists. Even then, proceed with caution.
Things to Consider
There are a few things that you should consider to make the most out of your time in Philadelphia. These things will enable you to have fun while presenting yourself as someone criminals do not want to mess with.
Make Yourself a hard target
When looking for marks, criminals tend to focus on “soft targets,” or people that seem easy to scam or steal from. So instead, make yourself a “hard target,”; someone that criminals see as too much trouble to mess with.
There are several different ways that you can project being a hard target. Do the following to avoid this common mistake:
- Always be aware of your surroundings
- Duck into shops or cafes to look at a map if you need to — never look on the street
- Don’t flash your valuables
- Don’t appear overly inebriated or spacy
- Walk fast with purpose
Use Public Transportation to See the City
The tourist areas of Philadelphia are pretty safe and walkable, but if you want to travel in style and see as much of the city as possible, try the Philly PHLASH.
The PHLASH runs every 15 minutes during the late spring and summer months and is an affordable and easy way to see all the city’s tourist areas in style.
Keep Your Valuables Locked Up
The first rule of being a hard target is not flashing your valuables. Instead, keep them locked up in your hotel room safe. Only take the money and cards you need to get around for the day, and always leave super essential documents, like your passport, back at the hotel.
Frequently Asked Questions
These frequently asked questions and their answers will help you to make the most out of your Philadelphia vacation and stay safe while doing it.
How accessible is Philadelphia?
A lot of Philadelphia is accessible for all people, including accessibility options at historical monuments and sites, wheelchair-accessible restaurants and hotels, and ramps at museums.
You will still be able to see a lot of the City of Brotherly Love if you’re in a wheelchair or have mobility challenges. In addition to accessible museums, restaurants, and historical sites, Philadelphia’s infrastructure is also excellent for those in wheelchairs and with mobility concerns.
You can find plenty of resources to help you navigate Philadelphia and plan your trip so that everyone in your party has fun.
How can I hit all the greatest sites?
One of the critical things you will probably want to do the second you arrive in Philadelphia is to check out all the fantastic historical attractions. Fortunately, you can download several maps that will enable you to devise a plan to see everything.
If you’re in Philadelphia for several days, it’s a good idea to segment the city so that you see a specific part of the city every day. Make sure you leave enough time between attractions to grab some food or linger a little bit longer at different sites if you want to.
How can I get to Philadelphia?
There are so many different ways to get to Philadelphia. If you don’t want to fly, you can take Amtrak or Greyhound buses. Both options let you soak in the countryside and have a memorable journey befitting your trip to Philadelphia.
If you opt for Greyhound or Amtrack, remember to exercise proper vigilance while on the bus or train. Lock up your valuables next to you, not in the overhead compartment, especially if you plan on sleeping.
The Megabus also connects several major East Coast cities like Washington D.C., New York City, Baltimore, and Boston. You can also travel to Philadelphia by air.
The PHL, or Philadelphia International Airport, is a massive hub for visitors from all over the country and even the world. Once you’re at the airport, you can grab a taxi or hop on the SEPTA, which will take you straight into the heart of downtown Philly.
How can I get the best deals on my trip to Philadelphia?
If you want to get the best deals on your trip, it’s a good idea to plan. Book your airplane or train tickets at least a few months in advance, and look for good deals on hotels and accommodations as well.
Fall and winter tend to be less crowded and cheaper in Philadelphia so if you’re looking to cut back on some costs, consider going then. Of course, you will have to deal with colder temperatures and unpredictable weather.
But at least you’ll get to see a lot of the attractions for much cheaper than you would during the bustling summer months. Additionally, look at options other than hotels.
Airbnb and even hostels are decent options for people who are looking to cut back a little on costs and have a more local experience. Think outside of the box; you might be surprised at what you can come up with.
Is there an easy way to see all of the museums?
If you’re a history buff, Philadelphia is absolutely for you. This city is full of impressive historical monuments and museums, and it can be challenging to see them all.
If you want to travel to Philadelphia for the explicit goal of packing in as much history as possible, the Philadelphia Pass is an absolute must. This pass gives you good discounts on museums and attractions, and can even help you to plan your trip, so you don’t miss anything.
Another great way to see all of the museums is to create a Google Map highlighting the attractions you want to see. If you’re traveling with your family, you can also share this map with them and make it interactive, so they can add or subtract destinations.
If you want to get super technical about it, consider color coding the map based on the attraction type or the day you plan to see it.
If staying safe and maximizing your time are two of the top things you want to accomplish during your trip to Philadelphia, follow these suggestions, tips, and tricks, and you’ll be in for a smooth, fun, and safe ride.
So, Is Philadelphia Safe to Visit?
Philadelphia is predominately safe as long as you keep your wits about you and stay out of bad neighborhoods. Like many other large cities, it has its fair share of scams and petty theft, so keep your valuables out of your back pockets and your eyes out for trouble, and you’ll be just fine.
The other thing that you can do to stay safe is to avoid looking like a tourist. Walk with purpose, and only check maps indoors or out of sight. The less you stand out, the less of a target you will be to criminals. Happy travels!