San Diego isn’t “America’s Finest City” for nothing. The beautiful beaches, the all-year fine weather, excellent museums, buzzing nightlife, and the elegant botanical gardens mean you’ll never find a reason to feel bored when visiting the city.
The over 35.1 million visitors coming to San Diego yearly show how much people love the destination. But who wouldn’t, given San Diego’s amazing attractions and activities that fit everyone?
The city’s excellent beer taprooms are always open to give you a taste of your best beer, and Balboa Park has a refreshingly beautiful garden for family or romantic picnics. You can also ride the century-old roller coaster at Mission Beach for a fun-filled stay in the city.
While there’s a lot to enjoy in San Diego, many visitors, especially first-timers, are concerned about the safety of the city. Are you wondering whether it’s safe to visit this fine American city on your next vacation? Keep reading to find out.
Is San Diego Safe to Visit?
San Diego is among the safest and most peaceful cities of its size in the US. However, as a large city, it has its share of petty crimes like pickpocketing, taxi scams, beach theft, and mugging.
Thankfully, these security issues are not widespread and are restricted to specific areas. Thus, you can stay safe by avoiding dangerous spots. An unwritten safety rule in San Diego is that the further north you go, the safer it is.
Places like San Diego Natural History Museum, La Jolla, and Carmel Valley are safe to visit regardless of the time of day. While San Diego’s downtown is generally safe, the location attracts many homeless people.
It may feel unsafe (especially for solo female travelers) to cross paths with drunk, half-naked men. Places like East Village record higher crime rates compared to other parts of the city.
As a result, consider practicing caution if you want to visit Petco Park stadium or enjoy yourself at the numerous nightlife venues. You can stay safe from the few criminals in San Diego by following the usual safety precautions.
For instance, take note of and avoid any shifty-looking characters approaching you, avoid leaving your drink unattended in bars, and avoid any dark, lonely paths, especially after dark.
Places across the border, including Tijuana and Rosarito, aren’t the safest due to ongoing drug and human trafficking.
Consider reading this directory if they’re among your desired destinations. Also, check out the government’s storm and road safety directory to be safe if the San Diego weather acts up during your trip.
Crime in San Diego
San Diego’s crime rates are generally lower than those of most cities of its size. Being one of the largest cities with a high number of homeless people, most individuals expect San Diego to be a risky destination.
However, the reality is quite different. First, according to Neighborhood Scout, San Diego is generally safer than 17% of all US cities. The risk of falling victim to armed robbers is present. However, the rates are minimal.
Unlike other high-crime towns, the overall crime rate in San Diego (including cases of violent and property crimes like burglary, car theft, arson, and larceny) lies at 0.23% (up to 23.28 instances out of 1,000). Besides, your chances of facing crime are 1 in 253.
The following are some of the top security concerns in the city.
San Diego visitors face a fair share of scams, like any other large city in the US. However, these cases are easy to avoid, especially if you know the warning signs.
Some of the indications to look out for include the following:
- Faulty taxi meters: A taxi meter that’s not running, whether defective or turned off, is an excellent excuse to rip you off with hefty charges.
- People idling around ATMs: Sometimes criminals hang around ATMs to steal your banking information or snatch the recently-withdrawn cash.
- Beach theft: Not everyone at the beach is there to enjoy the sunshine and bathe in the ocean. Some are looking for an opportunity to steal bags and other belongings whose owners aren’t paying attention. To be safe, don’t leave your items unattended at the beach.
- Unofficial WiFi Networks: Some criminals use unprotected WiFi networks to access users’ online accounts and steal crucial personal information like banking data.
- Someone spilling something or bumping into you: This could be an attempt to pickpocket you. To be safe, don’t accept help from anyone.
Tips to Avoid Scams in San Diego
Scammers can use various ways to get to you and steal your information, personal items, or money. Consider these tips to keep yourself safe in San Diego:
- Avoid buying food and other stuff from street vendors.
- Follow your instincts. Any deal that feels too good to be true is a scam.
- Avoid using third-party websites, such as Craigslist, to obtain a ticket or rental discounts, as that makes you easy prey to scammers.
The average mugging rate in San Diego city, California, falls within the nation’s average limits. However, that’s no reason to lower your guard, especially on public streets.
Nights are worse, as more muggers roam around famous bars and other crowded nightlife venues to prey on their targets. Walk in groups, especially at night, and avoid dimly lit and lonely paths. If you are alone, consider using a cab instead of walking alone in dark areas.
The ship-making and submarine operations in the Deepwater port and the availability of security forces like the Department of Defense, Navy, Coast Guard, Marine, and other critical defense contractors’ headquarters in San Diego make the city a perfect target for possible terrorist attacks.
But that’s nothing to worry about since there is enough trained personnel to combat the terrorists and provide security. Check out Ready San Diego for tips about terrorism preparation and prevention.
The Safest Areas
As an unwritten rule, the farther you go north, the safer you are in San Diego. Thankfully, the list of excellent places to visit and fun activities you can do on this side of the city is huge.
For instance, visit the vast San Diego beachfront to witness the beauty and lively nature of the city’s entertainment districts, learn the history of the place, or spend time in nature’s tranquility.
Some of the safest and most exciting places to visit in San Diego’s North County include the following.
- La Jolla
- Del Mar Mesa
- Mission Bay
- Torrey Hills
- Point Loma Peninsula
And if you still need more fun in the city, the Downtown districts provide an array of exciting activities, sites to view, and places to visit. Downtown is a bustling haven for tourists looking for a lively nightlife experience, with its charming streets packed with open-air bars and live music entertainment spots.
Little Italy, for instance, is a foodie’s paradise, bustling with traditional Italian dishes blended with some high-end cuisine, and the city’s best bar and restaurant experience.
For beer lovers, North Park is the perfect destination and the place to enjoy your favorite drink in the city’s best taprooms. San Diego’s Downtown district is also the most diverse community and is famous for its high LGBTQ+ crowd.
It also expands to the famous San Diego Zoo and Bilbao Park, some of the city’s most renowned tourist attractions.
You can also visit some of the city’s iconic attraction sites in the park, including the Comic-Con Museum, The Haunted Trail, the San Diego Air & Space Museum, and the San Diego Natural History Park for a more fulfilling experience.
Don’t miss the other attractions, including:
- Convention Center
- Seaport Village
- North Harbor Drive
- Liberty Station
While enjoying yourself at the San Diego Downtown, keeping track of your time and ensuring you’re safe is essential. Most places in this district are safe during the day, but when the sun goes down you need to exercise caution. Thus, more safety precautions are always advisable.
Places to Steer Clear of When Visiting
The southeast section has the highest recorded crime rates in the city. But the chances of falling victim to crime are pretty minimal, especially if you practice simple safety precautions.
Some of the areas in the city’s Red Zone include:
- East Village: It’s the city’s largest neighborhood and home to Petco Park. It also has the highest homeless population. While they may be harmless, the area may feel unsafe, especially for younger travelers. Also, the crime rates in this place are higher than national averages.
- Little Italy: It’s a great place to enjoy bustling San Diego nightlife, thanks to the noteworthy bars and restaurants. It also has excellent food. However, Little Italy has a high rate of violent crimes, especially after dark.
- Marina: San Diego Bay records a higher crime rate than other regions.
It’s also worth noting that Tijuana is only 20 miles away from San Diego. The American side of the border also hosts an outlet mall that may interest you. However, be cautious if you are traveling over the border.
Consider reading travel advisories from the US State Department if you want to go to Mexico since some parts of the country may be dangerous.
For instance, the latest directory advises against going to Baja, where Tijuana is located, due to the area’s rampant gang activities and violent crime.
Other crime-prone areas to avoid in San Diego include:
- Lincoln Park
- National City
- University Avenue
- Imperial Avenue
Things to Consider
Here are some top considerations for all travelers to San Diego.
- Wildfires are common in San Diego and other parts of California, especially from July to October. Ensure you abide by the recreational fire guidelines and read the current fire reports for your safety.
- Keep non-emergency police department contacts — (619)531 2000 or (858)484-3154 — in your phone just in case you need to use them. For emergency cases, dial 911.
- Scientists approximate a 60% risk of a 6.7 or higher magnitude earthquake in San Diego at any given time. Take note of your environment and notice anywhere you can take shelter in case an earthquake strikes.
- Rip currents make up to 80% of all lifeguard rescues on San Diego beaches. If you get trapped in them, avoid panicking or fighting the tide. Float parallel to the coast until it’s safe to swim out. There are many strategies to escape rip currents.
- Don’t leave your drinks unattended in bars.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you still have questions regarding San Diego’s safety? Here, we covered some frequently asked questions:
Are there hate crimes in San Diego?
San Diego has its share of hate crimes reported in the whole nation. In 2021 alone, there were 30 reported hate crimes in the city. Race is still the leading cause of these crimes. However, the situation is slowly improving.
Is San Diego safer than New York?
San Diego and New York have almost rivaling crime rates for both violent and property crimes. But San Diego is safer than New York.
Is San Diego safe for a solo traveler?
San Diego is generally safe for any traveler. However, it’s essential to stay in safe areas and practice standard safety precautions, especially if you’re traveling alone. For instance, avoid lonely paths when it’s dark, watch over your belongings, and keep your vehicle locked.
Is it safe to walk in San Diego at night?
San Diego streets are safe to walk at night even for solo travelers, thanks to the visible policing and excellent street lightning. However, be cautious during dark hours and avoid isolated, dim roads when you’re alone.
What makes San Diego famous?
San Diego is famous for its pleasant climate, excellent family attraction sites, and over 70 miles of beautiful beaches. With its world-class beer taprooms, delicious cuisines, and bustling nightlife, San Diego has everything to match every traveler’s taste.
So, Is San Diego Safe to Visit?
San Diego is safe to travel to and enjoy, especially given the numerous attractions and exciting activities available in the city. But, like any other big city, San Diego has its share of common petty crimes like pickpocketing, mugging, and scams.
Be vigilant and keep track of your items to avoid falling prey to crime. With so much to see and do, and a relatively high amount of areas that are perfectly safe to visit, there’s no reason to delay — book your trip to San Diego today!