Travellers Worldwide is reader-supported. If you buy a product we link to, we may earn a commission.
Skip to Content

Is Washington, DC Safe to Visit in 2023? | Safety Tips

Is Washington, DC Safe to Visit in 2023? | Safety Tips

As the capital city of the United States, Washington, DC is a travel mecca for visitors from all over America and the world! This place is full of history, culture, monuments, museums, world-class restaurants, and interesting activities.

It’s no wonder why thousands of travelers flock to this destination city every year. If you’re considering planning a trip to the District of Columbia, you’re likely asking yourself one central question: Is Washington, DC safe to visit?

This article will provide all the information you need about keeping yourself safe while you visit and teach you some helpful travel tips for this famous capital city. Read on to learn more!

Is Washington, DC Safe to Visit?

Washington Monument with cherry blossoms in bloom for a piece asking Is Washington DC Safe

Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

Overall, Washington, DC, is one of the safest cities in the world to visit. Despite relatively high crime rates, the areas tourists usually visit are very safe.

Coupled with the significant law enforcement presence (on account of many high-profile politicians and national historical sites), the streets of the District are some of the safest in any major US city.

While crime is a minor issue compared to many other cities of similar caliber, there are still a few safety issues to be mindful of when visiting Washington, DC. Pickpocketing is the most common crime to be on the lookout for.

We’ll offer some helpful tips on how to protect yourself against pickpockets later in this guide. The other major safety concerns of DC are natural weather disasters (like hurricanes, tornados, and winter storms), terrorist attacks, and dangers imposed by political protests.

Read on to learn about these issues in more detail and for some tips about how to protect yourself against these potential threats.

Crime in Washington, DC

Crime rates in Washington, DC are down from previous years, with the non-violent crimes of theft, theft from auto, motor vehicle theft, and burglary being the most frequently reported types of crime.

Violent crimes such as assault with a deadly weapon, homicide, armed robbery, and sexual abuse are also on the decline in DC.

Here are some tips to help you avoid crime and stay safe when traveling in DC:

  • Don’t walk alone at night. If you’re visiting the city with your family or a group of friends, this shouldn’t be difficult. If you’re a solo traveler and walking alone at night is unavoidable, try to keep to areas that are well-lit and more heavily trafficked.
  • Keep an eye on your belongings. This tip is almost a no-brainer, but still significant enough to be worth mentioning. Don’t leave bags or other items unattended. If you’re staying in a hotel, keep valuables in the safe inside the room. When walking in the city, keep your wallet and phone in the front pocket of your pants instead of the back.
  • Act like a local. In any city, tourists are the prime targets for scammers, thieves, and pickpockets because they tend to be both naive and wealthy. Act like a local by studying maps before you arrive so that you know where you are and don’t appear to be lost. Avoid wearing clothes that brand you as a tourist, like “ I heart DC” shirts.

Avoiding Bad Neighborhoods

The upscale colorful townhomes near Dupont Circle for a piece on Is Washington DC Safe

Andrei Medvedev/Shutterstock

By spending your time in the neighborhoods with the most popular tourist attractions, you will be able to efficiently avoid the more dangerous areas of the city that aren’t as suitable for tourists.

The safest places in DC are around the National Mall, Capitol Hill, Georgetown, Dupont Circle, Adams Morgan, and Penn Quarter. Another safe option is to stay in a suburb of DC and take the subway into the city during the day.

On the flip side, there are a few neighborhoods in DC with higher crime rates that you should avoid. That’s especially true if this is your first time visiting the city or you are traveling with young children.

These neighborhoods include Washington Highlands, NoMA (North of Massachusetts), Columbia Heights, Mount Pleasant, and the Deanwood Metro Station.

Avoiding Political Protests

The right to political protest is guaranteed by the United States Constitution, and the act of standing up for something you believe in firmly is admirable. However, it’s best to avoid joining a political protest while visiting Washington, DC to protect your safety.

Especially in the last few years, peaceful protests have become much more violently charged and have been the cause of many injuries and arrests. The violence may come from fellow protestors or the police response to the protest.

If you do choose to attend a political protest, be sure that someone outside of the protest knows where you are. Have on sturdy shoes and try to position yourself at the edge of a crowd in case things turn sour and you need to run to make an escape.

Unpredictable Disasters

The Key Bridge and Rosslyn skyline at dusk for a piece on Is Washington DC Safe

Andrei Medvedev/Shutterstock

Unfortunately, some of the most dangerous risks of visiting Washington, DC, are highly unpredictable. Because it is the capital of the United States and is home to a significant number of influential politicians, DC is a prime target for terrorist attacks.

The Pentagon Building was already attacked on September 11, 2001. The good news is that because the risk of terror is higher here than in other parts of the country, security is also much higher.

Be sure to report any suspicious activity you witness to the proper authorities. Luckily, the weather is much more predictable than a terrorist attack.

In previous years, DC has been battered by severe thunderstorms, hurricanes, and winter storms. When planning your trip to the city, be mindful of the season and take into consideration the weather that may crop up during your visit.

Hurricane season in Washington, DC, extends from June to November, with the peak month being September. Snow and ice storms are likely to affect the city in January and February.

Although thunderstorms can occur at any time of year, most are concentrated in the hot summer months. Before you leave for your trip, check the forecast to see if there are any major weather events scheduled to happen while you are traveling to, from, or staying in the city.

If possible, make adjustments to your travel schedule so that you can avoid flying or being on the roads in a dangerous storm.

Things to Consider

The White House on Pennsylvania Avenue for a piece asking Is Washington DC Safe

turtix/Shutterstock

Here’s a short list of some other crucial safety factors to consider when planning a trip to Washington, DC:

  • Be careful traveling solo as a female. Unfortunately, women around the world are known to be at a higher risk for certain crimes because they are perceived as vulnerable and easy prey. Luckily, in DC, gender doesn’t seem to be a factor in how crime victims are targeted. Still, it’s wise to never accept a drink from a stranger and avoid walking alone at night. 
  • Public vs. private transportation. Generally speaking, using public transportation seems to make you less vulnerable to crime, including car break-ins and motor vehicle theft. Additionally, the metro is less likely to have a crash or accident than a motor vehicle.
  • Metro safety. Choose a car near the front so that you are close to the conductor. Try to ride during peak times when there are more people present. Don’t engage with strangers who stop you from asking for money, help, or directions. Avoid choosing an empty car or using headphones so you can pay attention to your surroundings and be able to hear any threatening person approaching.

These are tips that will help you navigate not only Washington, DC safely but any central metropolitan area with a subway system.

Frequently Asked Questions

The U.S. Capitol building reflected in a pond on a nice day for a frequently asked questions section on the safety of Washington DC

Orhan Cam/Shutterstock

Want to learn more about how safe Washington, DC is for visitors? Check out the most frequently asked questions about safety for tourists:

Is it safe to walk in DC at night?

Your comfort level walking in a city after dark is a personal decision that will depend on the neighborhood, time of night, and whether you're alone.

Some areas are highly pedestrian-oriented at all hours of day and night. Areas around the National Mall are well-lit and highly populated, making them some of the safest streets to walk at night.

Is Washington DC safe for tourists?

Washington DC is a very safe city for visitors. Crime is low compared to cities of the same size, and its booming tourism industry makes it a secure location for travelers who come to see famous sights.

Which part of DC is the safest?

The most popular tourist areas are thought to be the safest in DC. If you manage to get a tour of a government building like the White House or the Capitol, you'll be hard-pressed to find a safer place in the entire country!

Is it safe to ride the metro in Washington DC?

Although subways in other major cities are known for being dirty and sometimes dangerous, the Metro in DC is one of the best ways to get around the city.

While there are some Metro stations you may want to avoid, such as Deanwood Station, overall, this transit system is safe and efficient.

Is it safe to visit the Lincoln Memorial at night?

The Lincoln Memorial is open to the public 24 hours a day. The Lincoln Memorial is staffed by official park rangers between the hours of 9:30 AM and 10:00 PM, so we recommend scheduling your visit between these times.

When should you not go to Washington DC?

Try to avoid visiting DC during peak hurricane season in September, though it's also the month of the anniversary of 9/11. It may be safer to visit DC in the other 11 months of the year.

Peak tourist season is in the early spring and throughout the summer. Your chances of staying safe are more significant when you are in a crowd, so visiting during peak tourist season may be in your best interest.

So, Is Washington, DC Safe to Visit?

Yes, Washington, DC is one of the safest major cities in the country! Like in any metropolis, there is a certain level of criminal-related dangers. However, as long as you are an alert traveler and stick to the better areas of town, it’s unlikely you will have any significant problems.

Keep your belongings close to you, use the metro to avoid vehicle-related crime, and don’t walk alone after dark outside of the main tourist areas. When you follow these tips, you can allay your fears and enjoy all the culture and history that this capital city has to offer!