As you begin to plan your dream vacation to New Orleans, I’m sure the thought of safety has crossed your mind. Sure, New Orleans may be nicknamed “The Big Easy,” but is life really that easy down here. I’ve lived in New Orleans for about six years now, and I’m here to break down any concerns you may have about visiting New Orleans.
Before we start our deep dive into the crime of the Crescent City, it’s important to remember that most major cities are going to have high crime rates. New Orleans is no different.
By the numbers, New Orleans is not safe. New Orleans leads the nation in murders, and it’s not going in the right direction. New Orleans also has a major problem with carjackings. However, you can visit the city and stay safe, if you’re smart about how you travel.
It’s a very tricky situation because New Orleans is also a really wonderful city. The vibrant history, unique culinary scene, and some of the best people you’ll ever meet make it a top tier destination.
I love this city fiercely and wouldn’t live here if I didn’t feel safe. I’m confident you can explore New Orleans safely and have the time of your life here.
Is It Safe To Visit New Orleans?
Overall, New Orleans is generally safe for tourism, but just like any other major city, you’ll want to stay vigilant and trust your gut. Although New Orleans is one of the most visited cities in Louisiana, it’s not nearly as big as other major cities across the country.
New York (over 8 million), Los Angeles (over 3 million), and Chicago (2.6 million) could do laps around New Orleans’ population (369,000). New Orleans isn’t even in the top 50 largest cities by population.
So when you start to compare crime stats to other cities, it makes more sense to compare them with cities that share a similar population, like Arlington, Cleveland, or even Honolulu. With that being said, New Orleans unfortunately still ranks above the national average for both violent crime and property crime.
How Safe Is New Orleans Public Transit?
The main form of public transport in New Orleans is the famous street car. The street cars are a very affordable way to see the city ($1.25) and they’ll take you everywhere from Canal Street to the Riverfront and beyond.
Generally speaking, the street cars are safe to ride, and the same goes for the buses, but I wouldn’t necessarily ride them late at night. Like any other major city, nighttime tends to bring out the bad guys.
Even during the day, you’ll want to make sure your bags are secured. Public transportation across the board is an easy target for petty crime, pickpocketers, and general scammers.
During the day, though, I can’t recommend the street cars enough. There are four street car lines, and the St. Charles Street Car has the honorable distinction of being the oldest continuously operating streetcar line in the world. It’s been chugging along the oak-lined streets of St. Chuck since 1835!
Take the street cars during the day, and then in the evenings switch to a ride-share option like Uber or Lyft. Both are very popular in New Orleans, and you shouldn’t have any problems finding a ride.
Is Violent Crime An Issue?
New Orleans is not the safest city in the country, there’s just no way to sugarcoat that. New Orleans does rank higher than the national average when it comes to violent crime, but those crimes tend to stay in residential neighborhoods and away from most of the tourist areas.
If it’s any consolation, New Orleans isn’t the most dangerous city in Louisiana. That “honor” goes to Monroe, followed closely by Alexandria, with Opelousas bringing home the bronze. This is specifically for violent crime.
Even though New Orleans is far from the largest city in the country, it still has a crime rate that is 150% above the national average. When it comes to violent crime, New Orleans ranks 32 out of 100. There is a 1 in 72 chance of becoming a victim of violent crime in New Orleans.
Much of the city’s violent crime is due to gang activity. While that may be intimidating, it’s unlikely you’ll encounter any violent crime while you’re visiting New Orleans. Most violent crime in New Orleans involves parties who already know each other, not random shootings in high-tourist areas.
For many years, New Orleans held the dubious title of being a murder capital. Even though the city has made great strides since last earning that title in 2011, New Orleans did unfortunately rank first for homicides in big cities for 2022, with 74.3 homicides per 100,000 people.
The NOPD offers an interactive crime map that can be very helpful for both tourists and locals. Each crime is color-coded (aggravated assault, car theft, robbery, etc.) and you can click on any crime and it will tell you the date and location of the specific crime.
Take a look at this table comparing the crime rates of a few major cities in the country:
|Crime Rate (per 1,000 residents)|
|New Orleans, LA||13.85||41.12|
|Los Angeles, CA||7.40||24.60|
|New York City, NY||5.21||19.62|
|U.S. National Median||4.00||19.00|
Will Tourists Feel Safe In New Orleans?
Overall, yes. Many tourists that come to New Orleans stick to the same popular tourist areas: the French Quarter, Warehouse District, CBD, and maybe the Garden District.
Since these New Orleans neighborhoods are so tourist-heavy, it’s not the violent crime that you’ll need to worry about. Petty theft is a much bigger threat to tourists traveling to New Orleans.
Just like any other major city, heavily tourist-centric spots are susceptible to petty crimes like pickpocketers and getting scammed. If you’re sticking to these New Orleans neighborhoods, you should feel just as safe as you would in cities like Chicago, Houston, or Boston.
When you click through that interactive crime map, you’ll notice one type of crime stands out from the rest. Yes, New Orleans does indeed have a vehicle theft problem.
And this is a problem for everyone. Shockingly, the District Attorney of Orleans Parish was carjacked at gunpoint recently (October 2023). The carjacker was apprehended within 24 hours and no one was injured, but it just goes to show that no one is safe from crime.
Not just vehicle theft though, it’s also smash-and-grab type crimes, too. The French Quarter, Central Business District, and many other areas in downtown New Orleans have become a target for criminals stealing cars or breaking windows to snatch visible backpacks, laptops, etc.
If you plan on renting a car in New Orleans, I’d recommend making sure nothing is visible from the outside. Keep your luggage in the trunk if you need to, and always park in well-lit areas. Parking garages are even better since they often have security cameras.
Do I Need Travel Insurance?
I don’t care where you travel to, travel insurance is always a good idea. If you saved for months to plan your perfect vacation, wouldn’t you want to make sure you’re covered? Between canceled flights, hurricanes, and other random weather delays, you never know what will happen.
No one plans for things to go wrong, but when/if they do, having travel insurance from a trusted company like VisitorsCoverage will put all of your worries aside so you can enjoy the Big Easy to the fullest.
Many travel insurance policies will also cover rental car damage as well as theft, which is always a plus. Again, no one plans to be pickpocketed or have their rental car window smashed, but if you find yourself in this situation, it’s good to be covered.
Is The French Quarter In New Orleans Safe?
Overall, yes. One of the main reasons people travel to New Orleans is to visit the French Quarter. Strolling down the iconic streets, taking in all of the historic architecture, and of course, maybe getting a drink or two.
Speaking of drinking, you can absolutely get your drink in a plastic to-go cup and wander around the French Quarter. We could talk about bars in the French Quarter all day, but that’s a different article. In general, the French Quarter is safe.
I wouldn’t worry about violent crime in the French Quarter.mThink of the French Quarter like you would Times Square. Petty theft is popular in heavily touristed areas like this, so you’ll want to have your wits about you.
Scammers are the biggest safety concern in the French Quarter. It’s tricky because there are so many street performers, it’s easy to be mesmerized by the sweet jazz music or talented bucket drummers and not realize you’ve been pickpocketed.
My safety tips for walking around, especially the French Quarter, is to keep your valuables in a front pocket or wear a cross-body bag. You don’t need to go to any extremes here, just make sure your zippers are closed and you’re staying vigilant.
Is New Orleans Safe For Solo Travelers?
New Orleans is a great city for solo travelers. Even though there are some safety concerns, they’re fairly easy to avoid, and there are plenty of New Orleans downtown hotels that are centrally located.
It’s not difficult to strike up a conversation with a local, and our lively nightlife scene is unbeatable. Travelers come from all around the globe to enjoy a drink on Bourbon Street, and you should too!
You’ll want to follow the general safety tips you would for any other major city. Don’t tell random strangers you’re traveling alone, avoid walking down dark streets late at night, and keep your valuables in a safe place.
Personally, I’d take advantage of the many tours available in New Orleans. Our tour guides are the best in the biz, and if you sign up for one of these walking tours at the beginning of your vacation you’ll have a better idea of what other sights you want to explore.
Is New Orleans Safe For Queer Travelers?
For a city that embraces those who dare to be different, you’ll find that New Orleans is very queer-friendly. There are plenty of gay bars in New Orleans. One of the most popular gay-friendly areas in New Orleans is called the Lavender Line.
It’s located at the corner of Bourbon Street and St. Ann Street in the French Quarter. Be sure to check out Café Lafitte’s in Exile, it’s the oldest continuously operating gay bar in the United States!
Several queer-friendly festivals in New Orleans take place throughout the year, too. Southern Decadence over Labor Day weekend draws more than 100,000 festers every year. During Easter, the Gay Easter Parade is just one of three queer festivals that take place in the French Quarter during spring.
Bibliophiles will thoroughly enjoy the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival where gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender authors, books, and characters are celebrated for the three-day festival. So, overall, queer travelers should find New Orleans safe to visit year-round.
What Are The Most Dangerous Neighborhoods In New Orleans?
New Orleans is made up of 73 neighborhoods, and each one has a distinct vibe. Just like any other large city, there are bound to be a few neighborhoods you would want to steer clear of. Most of these are residential neighborhoods with very few tourist attractions.
The most dangerous neighborhoods in New Orleans include:
- Central City
- Saint Roch
- 7th Ward
- Little Wood
Again, most of these are residential areas. The typical New Orleans tourist wouldn’t necessarily find themselves in one of these neighborhoods. Central City is a bit of an outlier here, because there are some really good restaurants in Central City, but all of the main New Orleans attractions are several blocks away.
These also aren’t areas that you’d just accidentally find yourself in. You would have to make plans to get to one of these neighborhoods, either by driving yourself, taking a bus, or a ride-share program.
What Are The Safest Neighborhoods In New Orleans?
On the flip side, there are plenty of neighborhoods where you’ll feel safe as you walk past. Now, I can’t guarantee that you’ll be free from New Orleans crime in one of these hoods, but they’re generally safe.
The safest neighborhoods in New Orleans include:
- French Quarter
- Central Business District/Warehouse District
- Garden District
- Most Uptown New Orleans neighborhoods
Most tourists will find a place to stay in the French Quarter or the CBD. The Garden District does have a few boutique hotels, but most tourists come to the Garden District to admire the historic homes and gardens and stroll down Magazine Street.
Technically speaking, the Garden District is an uptown neighborhood, but it tends to get its own distinction. Other uptown neighborhoods include the Irish Channel, Riverside, the Black Pearl, and Carrollton.
This is where you’ll find Audubon Park, one of the most beautiful parks in Louisiana. I’m partial, of course, but I’d highly recommend you pay a visit to this beautiful park and zoo.
Is It Safe To Go To Mardi Gras In New Orleans?
If you come to New Orleans for no other reason, make it so you can experience Mardi Gras. New Orleans truly comes alive during Carnival season, and it’s something everyone should put on their bucket list.
Of course, when you add thousands of extra people to a city, expect the crime rate to increase. It’s not necessarily gang violence or violent crimes that you need to worry about, though.
Mardi Gras means large crowds, and during a parade, it’s not uncommon to be standing shoulder-to-shoulder with strangers for hours at a time. This is the perfect opportunity for petty theft.
Pickpockets are known to wreak havoc during Mardi Gras Season. It’s very easy to reach for some Mardi Gras beads and then discover you’re missing your cell phone, wallet, or any other valuable item.
With all of the excitement of the parade (and the fact that you can drink outside in New Orleans), it’s easy to let your guard down. Get yourself a trusty cross-body bag you can wear across your chest with just the essentials and keep everything else in your hotel room.
What About Hurricane Season In New Orleans?
Hurricane season runs from June until November. August and September are the most active months. If you want to avoid potentially catastrophic hurricanes, avoid coming to the Crescent City during those months.
Natural disasters like hurricanes don’t hit New Orleans very often…but when they do, they’re devastating. The most famous hurricane to ever hit New Orleans was Hurricane Katrina.
August 29, 2005. A date the majority of the Gulf Coast knows all too well. Ironically, the other major hurricane (Hurricane Ida) to hit New Orleans made landfall on the same day 16 years later, August 29, 2021.
August 29 is just not a good day for hurricanes in New Orleans. Both caused billions of dollars worth of damage, many lives were lost, and both of these hurricanes changed New Orleans and the Gulf Coast forever.
Just about any tour in New Orleans you take will mention these storms in one way or another. The good news is that hurricanes are tracked for many days (sometimes weeks) in advance, so you’ll have plenty of warning.
If you’re traveling to New Orleans during hurricane season, I’d highly recommend getting travel insurance, just in case you have to bob and weave your way around a storm. Stay dry!
How Tourists Can Visit New Orleans and Stay Safe
While the stats paint New Orleans as a very dangerous city, there are still plenty of opportunities to visit New Orleans and stay safe. The biggest travel tip for staying safe I can give you is to trust your gut. If you get a bad feeling about a place, walk past it.
Any big city is going to have a high crime rate. Whether you’re strolling down Royal Street or enjoying an afternoon in City Park or Audubon Park, it’s always a good idea to stay vigilant. Most of the bad guys are waiting for you to let your guard down.
And let’s be honest: the crime in New Orleans isn’t going to go away overnight. The New Orleans Police Department is trying to keep New Orleans safe, but it’s clearly having some difficulties. I can certainly understand the temptation to pick any other city for a family vacation.
Like a marriage, I stand by New Orleans in sickness and in health… and right now the city is having a hard time controlling the crime. Is New Orleans safe? Well, the numbers paint a clear picture, and it’s hard to dispute those numbers.
All I can say is that if you stick to areas like the French Quarter (including Bourbon Street), the Warehouse District, and the Central Business District, and trust your instincts, you should have a wonderful time.
One way to keep yourself safe is to stay in one of the New Orleans hotels in the downtown area, rather than renting a vacation home in a local neighborhood. The added safety and protection you receive from staying in a hotel is worth much more than the convenience of renting a home in a neighborhood that may or may not be safe.
The Verdict: Is New Orleans Safe?
Is New Orleans safe? Well, yes and no. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s difficult to tell you flat out to come to The Big Easy and have the time of your life. It’s absolutely possible you can visit New Orleans and have an amazing time, but you will have to be smart about where you go and stay vigilant.
Even though New Orleans ranks number one in murders, it’s unlikely that you’ll become a victim. Most of these crimes are between residents with prior histories. That doesn’t make it any better, but it does mean that this type of crime sticks to a specific area.
Petty theft is a potential problem wherever you go. Be smart about what pockets you put your belongings in and always make sure your bags are zipped up.
As far as the carjackings and smash-and-grabs go, it’s really random. These bad guys don’t seem to be targeting specific makes and models, either.
For example, I drive a mid-size SUV that’s about five years old. I’ve never had my car broken into, but I have accidentally left it unlocked overnight a few times over the years and woke up to find that someone had gone through it. I don’t keep anything valuable in my car, so nothing was stolen (or broken) but still goes to show that the bad guys will never pass up an opportunity.
Don’t give them an opportunity.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is New Orleans safe for tourists?
Generally speaking, New Orleans is a safe city for tourists. While New Orleans does rank higher than the national average for violent crime rate, it’s unlikely you’ll become a victim of a violent crime while in New Orleans. Violent crimes in New Orleans are typically between parties who already know each other.
How has the crime rate in New Orleans changed over the years?
New Orleans typically ranks as one of the top cities for murder rates. New Orleans had the highest murder rate of any major American City for the following years: 2001-2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011. The most recent data for 2022 reveals that New Orleans has the highest homicide rate for big cities, with 74.3 homicides per 100,000 people.
What safety measures should I take when visiting New Orleans?
If you have safety concerns about visiting New Orleans, I have a few tips. First, keep all cell phones and wallets in your front pocket, or invest in a travel bag that you can wear either as a cross-body or in the front. At night, stick to well-lit streets and use ride-sharing services to get across town.
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