If you are planning on living or visiting Boston, you’re probably wondering, “Is Boston safe?”
As a Boston, Massachusetts local, I have always felt safe wandering Boston on my own, with my daughter, and with friends.
In this article, I will share my experiences and what you can expect in Boston. Together, we will go over safety tips, important information, and what areas in the city are safe and which should be avoided.
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Is Boston Safe?
Boston is generally safe to visit, as it’s a friendly city that receives over 19 million visitors per year. The main safety concerns in Boston include taking basic city safety precautions and knowing which neighborhoods to avoid.
Americans rated Boston as the second safest city in the U.S. in a recent survey. The results from the survey align with a MoneyGeek analysis of FBI crime data. Boston ranked as the 10th safest city compared to other major cities.
Things to Know About Safety in Boston
Safe Neighborhoods and Areas in Boston
Boston is a city that offers community, safety, and some of the best attractions in Massachusetts. The city is popular with young families, college students, and young professionals. Boston is safer than 19% of other cities due to its very low violent crime rates.
Boston is a hub of diverse neighborhoods. Some areas are safer than others. Below is a quick survey of desirable Boston neighborhoods. These areas stand out for their safety, charm, and proximity to the city center:
- Beacon Hill – This central area is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Boston. Students and young professionals love the area for the ability to walk and bike safely.
- North End – Known for its Italian community, this neighborhood is one of the safest in Boston. As a female, I have always felt safe even when walking alone at night. Lots of restaurants stay open late and there are always people around.
- Seaport District – A newly developed area on the Boston Harbor. Seaport is dotted with high-rise luxury apartment buildings and plenty of waterfront views. It is well-lit at night. I have always felt safe in this area meeting friends for a girl’s night out.
- Charlestown – This is one of Boston’s oldest and safest neighborhoods. Charlestown is home to the historic Bunker Hill Monument. This site marks one of the first major battles in the American Revolution.
- East Boston – This area is 71% safer than other neighborhoods in the state of Massachusetts. It’s made up of a diverse population and is in a prime location. It neighbors the Boston Logan International Airport. Getting to Downtown Boston is quick and easy.
- Newton – A picturesque neighborhood that is a safe place to visit in Boston. Newton borders Needham and West Roxbury. It is centrally located and easily connected to Downtown via public transportation. This neighborhood is exceedingly safe with a violent crime rate that is about 45% lower than the Massachusetts average.
- Brookline – Brookline could easily be rated the second-safest neighborhood in Boston. Brookline offers a mix of urban convenience and suburban charm due to its close proximity to Boston. This walkable neighborhood is home to nature preserves and parks.
Crime in Boston and Neighborhoods to Be Aware Of
In 2018, Boston’s violent crime rate was much higher than the national average at 63.56%. Yet, the city’s property crime rate was lower than the national rate at 8.33%.
Today, both property and violent crime rates have decreased. 2020 marked Boston as having a lower-than-average crime rate than the national average. The 2023 Boston crime rate is expected to be much lower than in 2018 as well, based on 20 years’ worth of crime statistics.
Overall, the capital of Massachusetts has dangerous areas that require safety precautions like any major city. The violent crime rate is 1 in 166 people. Violent Crimes can include rape, sexual assault, aggravated assault, armed robbery, and murder. The property crime rate is 1 in 54 people. Property crimes often include burglary, theft, vandalism, and arson.
Here is an overview of the neighborhoods to be mindful of in Boston. These areas require a little bit of caution, awareness of your surroundings, and basic common sense precautions:
- Fenway/Kenmore Square – This neighborhood is vibrant during the day, especially if there is a Red Sox game. However, avoid late-night strolls alone. The bars around Fenway can get rowdy due to the excessive partying of Red Sox fans and college students from the nearby Boston University.
- Jamaica Plain – Jamaica Plain is a community-oriented neighborhood with tons of green space, but just be mindful of your surroundings here. Theft is the most common type of crime in this area.
- Downtown Boston – Downtown Crossing is a wonderful location for shopping and dining during the day. However, it is a different vibe at night. Avoid strolling around Downtown Crossing alone after 11 p.m. This area tends to be a site of drug use and other activities. My friends and I always hop in an Uber if we leave a restaurant late at night from here.
- South End – South End is a popular Boston neighborhood that offers great food options and urban architecture. Violent crime is not high in this area, but property crime is. Cars are often broken into in the South End.
- Back Bay – This affluent neighborhood by the Boston Harbor is a famous destination for shopping. Back Bay is relatively safe and violent crime is not a concern for its residents. However, there have been cases of motor vehicle theft, car break-ins, and other petty crimes.
- West End – West End is a vibrant social hub that’s home to modern high-rises and the TD Garden. I would not recommend walking alone in the West End at night. The bars and streets can get rowdy after games or concerts.
Common Scams in Boston
Common scams happen in almost every major city worldwide. Here are some suggestions to avoid common tourist scams if you are visiting or moving to the Boston area:
🚕 Taxi Scams – Taxi scams are common in Boston where the driver overcharges the riders. I suggest mapping out your destination ahead of time to avoid being scammed by a taxi in Boston. Ensure that your driver turns the meter on when hopping into a taxi. Confirm with the taxi driver your route on Google Maps or Waze.
💰Pickpocketing – Boston has its occasional pickpockets like any major city. This happens when individuals are distracted. Stay aware of your surroundings at all times. Be sure to keep personal belongings secure and out of sight.
🏠 Housing Scams – Boston is one of the most sought-after cities in the country. Because there is such a high demand, apartments can be extremely hard to find. Some renters use third-party sites to look for housing options. The downside of using these sites is that listings can go unverified. Always insist on seeing an apartment before sharing personal information or giving your money to someone who is not the landlord/leasing agent.
Hazardous Weather and Natural Disasters in Boston
The only thing that is consistent about the weather in Boston, is that it varies. There have been some common damaging weather events. They include blizzards, coastal storms, and flooding. Some less frequent natural disasters include earthquakes and coastal erosion.
For more, see my full guide to the best times of year to visit Boston.
Traveling Solo in Boston
Traveling solo in Boston is achievable and fun, too! Just plan and prepare in advance to ensure a safe and comfortable trip to Boston.
Choose a hotel in one of the safer neighborhoods in Boston. Don’t walk alone at night and get familiar with all the transportation options in the city.
Visit the more touristy areas of Boston that are generally safe. The city is full of guided tours and group activities, which is perfect for safely seeing the city while being surrounded by other people.
Share your trip with your loved ones. Stay in contact with family and friends during your trip. Send them pictures so they can see what you are up to and where you are.
Driving in Boston
Driving in Boston can be intimidating. Local drivers are known to be aggressive, impatient, and expressive (if you know what I mean). Just know that driving in Boston can be stressful because of the traffic, underground tunnels, and impatient drivers.
Luckily, Boston is quite walkable so a car isn’t 100% necessary. However, renting a car in Boston can be useful if you plan on taking any day trips. Just be mindful of the stressful driving environment.
Safety on Public Transit
Public transit in Boston is relatively safe. The city is well-connected via public transportation. The subway is a great alternative to walking or driving in the city.
Just be aware of where you are headed, which subway line you are taking, and what time you are taking the “T.” The Green and Blue lines are generally the safest. The “T” stops operating at 1 a.m.
Be cautious if you’re at a deserted station while waiting for your next train. Trust your instincts. When in doubt, call an Uber.
Is Tap Water Safe to Drink in Boston?
The tap water in Boston is safe to drink. The water goes through regular testing and an effective treatment process. The tap water meets all the state and federal regulations.
👉 Read Next: Best Places to Eat in Boston
7 Safety Tips for Boston
Tip #1 – Know the Right Areas to Visit
Be mindful of what activities you want to experience in Boston, how much money you’re willing to spend, and how much time you have. These factors will determine the best fit for where you should stay.
Safe choices for neighborhoods include Beacon Hill, North End, Seaport District, Charlestown, East Boston, Newton, and Brookline.
Tip #2 – Be Aware of Your Surroundings
Stay vigilant and pay attention to what is going on around you when visiting Boston. It is important to stay aware of your surroundings even if you are in a crowded tourist area. Offenders tend to target those who are distracted or disengaged.
Tip #3 – Stay in Populated and Well-Lit Areas
You tend to be safer in the company of others. Staying in populated areas in Boston can offer witnesses if you find yourself in danger.
Do not travel alone down deserted streets or alleyways. Stay in well-lit areas. Walk close to street lights and avoid dark corners and dark building entrances.
Tip #4 – Plan Your Route in Advance
It is important to familiarize yourself with your route before you leave your hotel or Airbnb. Look up directions in advance so that you can get to your destination quickly and safely. I recommend hopping into a cafe or store instead of standing idle on the street if you need to look at the map for further directions.
Tip #5 – Avoid Walking Alone at Night
Avoid walking alone at night in Boston. Instead, try to walk in groups if you’re out at night. A group of people can offer a more intimidating physical presence to potential offenders. Having people around you provides protection and more eyes on your personal belongings.
Tip #6 – Avoid Being Distracted by Your Phone
Avoid looking down at your phone for long periods. Texting or scrolling on social media can be big distractions. If you must use your headphones, keep one ear unoccupied so that you are alert to any disturbances.
Tip #7 – Keep Your Valuables Secure
A bag with a strap that goes across your chest is highly recommended. Don’t keep valuables such as wallets and cell phones in your back pocket. Instead, use a bag that has zippers to keep valuables secure.
FAQs About Safety in Boston
What are the safest areas to stay in Boston?
The safest areas to stay in Boston are Back Bay, Beacon Hill, and the North End. These are touristy neighborhoods with rich history and low violent crime rates.
Is Boston a safe place to visit?
Boston is a safe place to visit. The city receives 19 million visitors per year. Some neighborhoods are safer than others. It is important to know which areas to avoid.
Is it safe to walk around Boston?
Boston is relatively safe to walk around in. Boston is considered a walkable city and a car is not needed. There are some areas of Boston where you should not be walking alone. Take an Uber instead.
Is it safe to travel at night in Boston?
Most neighborhoods in Boston are generally safe to travel at night. Some areas draw in dangerous activity after 11 p.m. It is recommended that you visit these areas during the day, or not travel alone.
Although some areas have higher crime rates than others, Boston has a strong commitment to public safety and is a friendly city. For more helpful travel information on Massachusetts, read my guide to the best places to visit in Massachusetts.
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