Is Chicago Safe? How to Stay Safe While Traveling?

Chicago, affectionately known as the “Windy City,” a lively and dynamic metropolis nestled in the heart of the Midwest. As the third-largest city in the United States, Chicago has become a favorite destination for countless visitors each year.

The city takes pride in its rich history, diverse culture, stunning architecture, and mouth-watering culinary delights. With must-see attractions like the Willis Tower, the captivating Cloud Gate sculpture in Millennium Park, and the picturesque shores of Lake Michigan, you’ll never run out of things to explore. But you may wonder, is it safe?

Indeed, Chicago has faced challenges with crime, particularly concerning gun violence and gang-related activities. The city has seen a surge in crime rates, with a marked increase in shootings and homicides. However, it’s vital to keep these statistics in context.

Chicago City Center Crowd
Branko Borojevic / Flickr

While some parts of the city experience higher crime rates, many other neighborhoods remain welcoming and secure for both residents and tourists.

It’s essential to recognize that, as in any major city, crime in Chicago tends to be localized to specific areas. Some neighborhoods grapple with crime, but others boast low crime rates, making them ideal and safe destinations for visitors.

Furthermore, the city has been actively working on various strategies and initiatives to tackle crime and enhance overall safety. So, with a little bit of planning and awareness, you can enjoy a wonderful and safe trip to this remarkable city.

Types of crime in Chicago

In Chicago, as in any large city, various types of crime occur. Some of the most common categories of crime include:

  • Violent crime: Violent crimes involve physical harm or the threat of physical harm to another person. Examples of violent crime in Chicago include homicide, assault, robbery, and sexual assault.
  • Property crime: Property crimes involve the theft or damage of someone’s property without causing direct physical harm. Common types of property crime in Chicago include burglary, theft (such as shoplifting or stealing from vehicles), auto theft, and vandalism.
  • Gang-related crime: Chicago has a history of gang-related crime, which often involves drug trafficking, gun violence, and other illegal activities. Gang-related crimes tend to be more concentrated in specific areas of the city, with some neighborhoods experiencing higher levels of gang activity.
Gang Violence In Chicago
  • White-collar crime: White-collar crimes are financially motivated, non-violent crimes committed by individuals or organizations, typically involving fraud, embezzlement, or insider trading. While these crimes may not receive as much attention as violent crimes, they still have a significant impact on victims and the community.
  • Cybercrime: With the increasing reliance on technology and the internet, cybercrime has become more prevalent. This category includes identity theft, hacking, phishing, and online scams.

While these types of crime are present in Chicago, it’s crucial to remember that crime rates vary across different neighborhoods, and many areas remain safe for residents and visitors alike. Being aware of your surroundings, taking necessary precautions, and staying informed can significantly reduce the risks associated with crime while visiting the city.

Safe neighborhoods for tourists to visit

Neighborhood safety refers to the overall level of security and well-being experienced by residents and visitors within a specific geographical area or community. A safe neighborhood typically has low crime rates, well-maintained public spaces, and a strong sense of community.

Factors that contribute to neighborhood safety can include effective law enforcement, community engagement, quality housing, access to essential services, and socio-economic conditions.

Chicago City Center
Austin Neill / Unsplash

Chicago has numerous safe and tourist-friendly neighborhoods to visit. These areas offer a variety of attractions, dining options, and cultural experiences. Here are some popular safe neighborhoods to consider during your visit:

  • The Loop: Chicago’s downtown area, known as the Loop, is home to many iconic attractions, including Millennium Park, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Willis Tower. This neighborhood is well-patrolled and generally safe for tourists.
  • River North: Just north of the Loop, River North is a trendy neighborhood known for its art galleries, upscale shopping, and vibrant dining scene. It’s a popular destination for both tourists and locals and is considered a safe area.
  • Gold Coast: Located along Lake Michigan, Gold Coast is an upscale neighborhood with historic mansions, high-end shopping, and fine dining. The area is well-maintained and generally safe for visitors.
  • Lincoln Park: This neighborhood is a favorite for its namesake park, Lincoln Park Zoo, and the Chicago History Museum. It’s a family-friendly area with tree-lined streets, shops, and restaurants, making it a safe and enjoyable place to explore.
  • Lakeview: Lakeview is a lively neighborhood that includes Wrigleyville, home to the historic Wrigley Field. With its diverse dining options, vibrant nightlife, and bustling shopping districts, Lakeview is a popular destination for tourists.
  • Wicker Park/Bucktown: These adjacent neighborhoods are known for their hip atmosphere, eclectic shops, and vibrant dining and nightlife scenes. They are generally safe and welcoming to visitors.
  • Andersonville: This charming, diverse neighborhood on the North Side boasts a thriving small business scene, with numerous local shops, cafes, and restaurants. Andersonville is considered safe and welcoming to tourists.

Dangerous neighborhoods to avoid in Chicago

In any major city, there are areas where tourists should exercise caution or avoid due to higher crime rates or safety concerns. While Chicago has many safe neighborhoods for visitors to explore, there are some areas where caution is advised. It’s essential to do thorough research before visiting any neighborhood and to stay aware of your surroundings at all times.

Here are a few areas in Chicago where it may be advisable to exercise caution or avoid:

  • South Side neighborhoods: Some South Side neighborhoods, such as Englewood, West Englewood, and Greater Grand Crossing, have experienced higher crime rates in recent years. While there are ongoing efforts to improve these areas, tourists should exercise caution and avoid visiting them after dark.
  • West Side neighborhoods: Certain West Side neighborhoods, like Austin, North Lawndale, and Garfield Park, also face higher crime rates. While there are attractions in these areas, such as the Garfield Park Conservatory, it’s best to visit during the day and remain vigilant about your surroundings.
  • Public transportation late at night: While Chicago’s public transportation system is generally safe, it’s advisable to exercise caution when using the CTA trains and buses late at night. Try to travel in groups and avoid empty train cars or poorly lit bus stops.
  • Dark alleys and isolated areas: As in any city, avoid walking alone in dark alleys or poorly lit streets, especially late at night. Stick to well-lit, busy streets and areas with a visible police presence.
Police In Chicago Safety

It’s important to remember that the majority of Chicago’s tourist attractions are located in safe neighborhoods, and the city is continuously working to improve safety for both residents and visitors. By staying informed, taking necessary precautions, and being aware of your surroundings, you can have an enjoyable and safe visit to the city.

A few common scams in Chicago

While Chicago is a vibrant city with plenty to offer visitors, it’s important to be aware of potential scams that might target tourists. Here are a few common scams to be mindful of during your visit:

  • Street performers and donation scams: Some street performers or individuals might approach you for a donation or to participate in a performance. While many street performers are legitimate, be cautious of those who seem overly aggressive or insistent, as they may be running a scam to distract you and steal your belongings.
  • Three-card Monte or shell game: This is a classic street scam where the scammer challenges you to find a specific card or object hidden among others. They use sleight of hand to manipulate the outcome and make it almost impossible for you to win. It’s best to avoid participating in these games altogether.
  • Fake charity donations: Be cautious of individuals claiming to represent charitable organizations and asking for donations. Always verify the legitimacy of a charity before making a donation, and avoid giving cash directly to individuals on the street.
  • Counterfeit tickets: Scammers may try to sell counterfeit tickets to popular events or attractions. To avoid this scam, purchase tickets only from official sources, such as venue box offices or authorized online retailers.

Pickpocketing Violence In Chicago
Taxi In Chicago
  • Overpriced taxi rides: Some taxi drivers might take advantage of tourists by taking unnecessarily long routes or overcharging for rides. To avoid this scam, use a reliable taxi service or rideshare app, which provides transparent pricing and GPS tracking.
  • Pickpocketing: In crowded areas, such as public transportation or popular tourist attractions, pickpockets might attempt to steal wallets, phones, or other valuables. Always keep your belongings secure and be aware of your surroundings.

Safety tips in Chicago

Transportation safety

Safety is an important aspect of any trip, including your visit to Chicago. Here are some tips and guidelines for staying safe:

Public transportation (CTA buses and trains, Metra)

  • Be aware of your surroundings: Keep an eye on your belongings and be cautious of pickpockets, especially in crowded areas or during peak travel times.
  • Travel during daylight hours when possible: Public transportation is generally safer during the day. If you need to travel at night, try to stay in well-lit areas and choose busier stations and train cars.
  • Use apps for real-time information: Download the official CTA or Metra apps to track schedules, delays, and station information. This can help you plan your trips efficiently and avoid unnecessary waiting time.
  • Avoid empty train cars or buses: Whenever possible, choose train cars or buses with other passengers to reduce the risk of being targeted by criminals.
Chicago Travel Alone
Alex Szymanek / Flickr

Ridesharing and taxis

  • Use reputable rideshare services: Stick to well-known rideshare services like Uber and Lyft, which offer driver and vehicle information, GPS tracking, and transparent pricing.
  • Confirm your ride details: Always verify the driver’s name, photo, and license plate number before entering the vehicle to ensure you’re getting into the correct car.
  • Share your trip details: Share your ride information with a trusted friend or family member so that they can track your progress and know when you’ve arrived at your destination.
  • Sit in the backseat: When using a rideshare service or taxi, it’s generally safer to sit in the backseat, giving you and the driver personal space and an exit in case of emergency.

Biking and walking

  • Plan your route: Research the safest and most direct routes to your destination. Stick to well-traveled, well-lit streets and avoid isolated areas when walking or biking.
  • Be visible: When biking, wear bright clothing, use reflective gear, and have functioning lights on your bike to ensure you’re visible to drivers, especially at night or in low-light conditions.
  • Follow traffic rules: Obey traffic signals, signs, and rules when biking or walking, and always use designated crosswalks when crossing streets.
  • Stay alert: Avoid using headphones or being distracted by your phone when walking or biking, as this can make you less aware of potential hazards or suspicious activity.

Accommodation safety

Accommodation safety is crucial when traveling to ensure a comfortable and secure stay. Here are some tips for choosing a safe hotel or Airbnb and securing your belongings during your visit to Chicago:

Room Hotel In Chicago

Choosing a safe hotel or Airbnb

  • Research the location: Choose accommodations in safe neighborhoods that are close to popular attractions and public transportation. Read reviews and gather information about the area from travel forums and local sources.
  • Check reviews and ratings: Look for hotels or Airbnb listings with a high number of positive reviews and ratings. Reviews can provide valuable insights into the safety, cleanliness, and overall quality of the accommodation.
  • Look for safety features: Choose accommodations with safety features such as 24-hour front desk service, secure entrances, well-lit common areas, and security cameras.
  • Contact the host or hotel: If you have any concerns or questions about the safety of the accommodation, reach out to the hotel or Airbnb host for more information.

Secure your belongings in your accommodation

  • Use the in-room safe: Most hotels provide an in-room safe for storing valuables like passports, electronics, and cash. Make sure to use it to keep your belongings secure.
  • Lock doors and windows: Always lock the doors and windows of your room or rental property when leaving or while inside. Use deadbolts and security chains when available.
  • Don’t advertise your absence: Avoid leaving signs that you’re away from your room or rental, such as placing the “Do Not Disturb” sign on your door for extended periods.
  • Keep a low profile: Be cautious when discussing your travel plans or sharing personal information with strangers. This can help prevent others from taking advantage of your absence.
  • Consider using a portable travel safe: If your accommodation doesn’t provide an in-room safe or if you’re staying in an Airbnb, consider using a portable travel safe to secure your valuables.

Emergency preparedness

Emergency preparedness is essential when traveling to ensure that you can respond quickly and effectively in case of an emergency.

Emergency phone numbers and services

  • Dial 911: In case of an emergency, dial 911 for police, fire, or medical assistance. This number is used throughout the United States and will connect you to the nearest emergency services.
  • Save important numbers: Keep a list of essential phone numbers, such as your country’s embassy or consulate, your hotel or accommodation, and emergency contacts back home. Save these numbers on your phone and carry a physical copy as a backup.
  • Know non-emergency numbers: Familiarize yourself with non-emergency numbers for local police and other services in Chicago. For non-emergency police assistance in Chicago, you can dial 311.

Location of nearby hospitals and clinics

  • Research beforehand: Before your trip, research the locations of nearby hospitals and clinics in the neighborhoods you’ll be visiting. Save their addresses and contact information for easy access in case of an emergency.
  • Ask your hotel or host: Upon arrival at your accommodation, ask the hotel staff or Airbnb host about the nearest hospitals or medical facilities. They can provide valuable local insights and recommendations.
  • Use mapping apps: Utilize mapping apps such as Google Maps to locate nearby hospitals or medical facilities during your stay. In case of an emergency, you can quickly navigate to the nearest facility.

Safe dining and nightlife

Safe dining and nightlife experiences can significantly enhance your visit to Chicago.

Tips for dining out safely

  • Research restaurants: Look for restaurants with a good reputation and positive reviews. This information can be found on travel forums, review websites, or by asking locals for recommendations.
  • Choose well-populated areas: Opt for restaurants located in busy, well-lit areas, and avoid establishments in isolated or poorly lit locations.
  • Be cautious with street food: While street food can be an exciting culinary experience, exercise caution when selecting vendors. Look for vendors with a steady stream of customers, as this often indicates higher food turnover and fresher ingredients.
  • Stay aware of your belongings: Always keep your belongings secure while dining out. Do not leave bags or personal items unattended, and keep your wallet or purse close to your body.
  • Practice food safety: To reduce the risk of foodborne illness, avoid consuming undercooked meat, raw seafood, or unpasteurized dairy products. Additionally, drink bottled or filtered water instead of tap water.

Safe areas for nightlife and entertainment

  • River North: This neighborhood is known for its upscale bars, trendy nightclubs, and lively entertainment venues, making it a popular destination for both tourists and locals.
  • Lincoln Park: With a wide range of bars, live music venues, and theaters, Lincoln Park offers a diverse nightlife scene in a safe and friendly environment.
  • Wicker Park/Bucktown: These adjacent neighborhoods feature a vibrant mix of bars, nightclubs, and music venues, attracting a diverse and lively crowd.
  • Lakeview: Home to Wrigleyville and the historic Wrigley Field, Lakeview boasts numerous sports bars, live music venues, and theaters in a safe and bustling atmosphere.
  • Gold Coast: This upscale neighborhood offers a variety of high-end bars, lounges, and clubs, attracting a sophisticated clientele.

Personal safety

Personal safety is essential while traveling.

Maintaining awareness of your surroundings

  • Stay alert: Always be aware of your surroundings, especially in crowded or unfamiliar areas. Avoid using headphones or becoming overly engrossed in your phone, as this can make you less aware of potential hazards or suspicious activity.
  • Trust your instincts: If a situation or location makes you feel uncomfortable, leave the area and seek a safer environment.
  • Plan your routes: Research the safest and most direct routes to your destination, and avoid walking alone in poorly lit or isolated areas, especially at night.
  • Check for local advisories: Stay informed about local news and any safety advisories issued for the area you are visiting.
Personal Safety In Chicago

Protecting your personal belongings

  • Keep your belongings secure: Use a crossbody bag or money belt to store your wallet, passport, and other valuables. Ensure your bag is closed and secure at all times.
  • Don’t flaunt valuables: Avoid displaying large amounts of cash or expensive items, such as jewelry or electronics, in public.
  • Use hotel safes: Store your valuables in the in-room safe provided by your hotel or Airbnb when you’re not carrying them with you.

Avoiding scams and pickpocketing

  • Be cautious of strangers: While it’s important to be friendly and open to new experiences, exercise caution when interacting with unfamiliar individuals, especially if they seem overly interested in your personal belongings or travel plans.
  • Be wary of street scams: Avoid participating in street games or performances that seem suspicious or involve handing over money, as they may be scams designed to distract and rob you.
  • Stay vigilant in crowded areas: Pickpockets often target crowded locations, such as public transportation, tourist attractions, or busy streets. Keep your belongings secure and be aware of your surroundings in these areas.


Is Chicago safe to visit?

There are certain areas of Chicago that are more dangerous than others. The most dangerous areas are typically on the south and west sides of the city. If you are visiting Chicago, it is important to be aware of these areas and to avoid them if possible.

How dangerous is Chicago?

The murder rate in Chicago is one of the highest in the country, and tourists are often the targets of crime. However, the chances of being a victim of crime in Chicago are still relatively low.

There are steps you can take to reduce your risk, such as avoiding areas known for violence and staying in well-lit, busy areas.


In conclusion, Chicago is a vibrant city with a rich history, diverse culture, and a plethora of attractions and activities for tourists to enjoy.

While the city has faced challenges with crime, it’s important to remember that most tourist areas are safe and the city is continuously working to improve overall safety.

By staying informed, taking necessary precautions, and being aware of your surroundings, you can have a safe and memorable trip to the Windy City.