Is New Orleans a Safe Travel Destination?

by Julia on March 16, 2020

From Mardi Gras to the world-famous Cajun fare, New Orleans is one of the most amazing cities in the world to visit. However, is it safe?

New Orleans can be a dangerous city in different ways, from traffic accidents to crime, but if you know the risks ahead of time there are things you can do to mitigate them.

The following are important things to know about New Orleans as a travel destination.

Reasons to Visit New Orleans

Undoubtedly, the reasons you should visit New Orleans outweigh the reasons you shouldn’t.

New Orleans is like no other city in the country or the world.

There are so many different and equally unique facets of New Orleans. New Orleans is rich in culture and history, and some of the many things that are alluring to tourists include:

  • The French Quarter and Bourbon Street are the most well-known and visited parts of the city. This part of New Orleans is known for drinking and partying, but the French Quarter is also home to some of the best jazz music in the world.
  • The food stands alone as it combines elements of creole and Cajun fare, and many chefs will bring these influences together with a modern twist.
  • Mardi Gras is often called the greatest free show on earth, so during two weeks, you can wear costumes, meet new people and party in a way you might not have ever envisioned.
  • There’s an air of spookiness to New Orleans thanks to the history of voodoo, vampires, and ghosts.
  • The architecture of New Orleans is historic, and the brightly colored homes stand on their own.
  • Along with Mardi Gras, there is almost always a free festival happening in the city.

So how can you stay safe, and what should you know about visiting New Orleans?

What’s the Risk Level?

With any city, there are risks and New Orleans is no exception.

The crime rate in New Orleans is somewhat high, and that’s making more of an impact on tourist-dense areas like the French Quarter more than it has in the past. New Orleans also has one of the highest murder rates in the country, but most murders do take place far from tourist neighborhoods, although of course, that’s not always true.

There has been a spike that concerns public officials despite the fact that they’ve beefed up police and security, and also the use of surveillance cameras. There was a drop in 2017 in violent crime, and then it spiked back up in 2019.

These trends came as crime elsewhere in the city outside of tourist zones was actually going down.

Many of the crimes are concentrated around Bourbon Street, and last year was one of the most violent times the city’s famous street saw since 2011. Of course, Bourbon Street has a long history as a somewhat raucous place to go. For example, in the 1960s, it was known for its illegal backroom gambling

If you’re deciding on a neighborhood to stay, some are safer than others. The Garden District, Uptown, and the Central Business District all tend to be fairly safe. Both the Garden District and Uptown have crime rates that tend to be below two percent.

These neighborhoods also have beautiful homes and elegant, tree-lined streets that will take you back in time.

Bourbon Street Safety Tips

If you’re visiting Bourbon Street, there are some safety tips to keep in mind.

First, don’t bring your kids here, especially in the evening.

In the evening, it’s anything but kid-friendly.

When you’re intoxicated, you’re more likely to be the target of scammers and pickpockets as well, so keep your bearings at all times.

Carry your purse in front of you and put your wallet in your front pocket. Don’t leave your purse unattended, and don’t bring valuables you don’t need.

What Not to Do in New Orleans

If you’re planning a trip to the Big Easy, don’t make the following mistakes:

  • Don’t drink to the point that you lose awareness. When you’re in New Orleans, or anywhere for that matter, you need to stay aware of what’s happening around you. If you drink too much you’re going to inherently be putting yourself at a greater risk level. In New Orleans, there are a lot of car accidents and many of them involve pedestrians, which is one more reason to watch how much alcohol you consume.
  • Be cautious of walking alone at night, especially if you’re a female. It’s better, if possible to travel in groups, especially after dark.
  • Be cautious as far as to scam artists who may try to initiate a seemingly friendly conversation with you.
  • Be very careful about visiting cemeteries after dark without a tour group. There are some excellent cemetery tours you can take that will give you haunted history, but criminals are known to hide in cemeteries waiting to mug people who are there on their own.
  • Don’t leave belongings in a car. If you’re driving in New Orleans, vehicle break-ins are very common.
  • Be aware of the time of year you’re traveling. It’s not just crime and personal safety that you should be aware of in New Orleans. The city does tend to get hit by natural disasters, often such as flooding. Try to avoid hurricane season as well and if you are planning a trip between the months of July and October, keep an eye on the weather forecasts.
  • Don’t engage with the extreme religious groups on Bourbon Street. Don’t try to argue or make fun of them, and don’t take photos. They’re not necessarily dangerous, but it can turn heated, and that can particularly problematic when alcohol is involved.

Finally, just because New Orleans has lax open container laws doesn’t mean that it’s complete mayhem.

Be responsible in how you drink, how you behave, and what you do with your cups when you’re finished. Cops are always on the lookout for out-of-control tourists, so don’t be that person.

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