The author of "Is California Safe?", McKenna Mobley, posing with a man near the lake in California

Is California Safe for Travel Now? (A Local Answers)

👉 Jump to: Is California Safe? | Safe Areas | Covid-19 | Crime | Scams | Weather | Transportation | Female Traveler | Water | Safety Tips | FAQ

As one of the largest American states, you may be wondering, is California safe? The beauty of the golden state and its notoriety for Hollywood celebrities makes it one of the most visited places in the world, but there are some things to know before you go.

Given the recent health crisis, this is an understandable subject to be concerned about. As a California local, I can tell you that California is generally a safe place to travel year-round.

I’ve put together some California safety tips for you next time you visit the many beautiful places in California.

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Is California Safe?

California is generally a safe place to travel, although travelers should still take necessary precautions to avoid petty theft, especially in big cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco. There are also certain health concerns to be aware of in some parts of the state and selective establishments may require you to wear a mask.

California is an overall safe destination for visitors traveling through the long western state. Although California has a relatively low crime rate, it ranks in the middle of the safest states in the U.S. This is due to its massive size and its many dense metropolitan areas that are prone to a higher property crime rate than smaller rural California towns.

Because California is a huge tourist destination, violence typically does not affect tourists. The recent rise of gun violence in the United States impacts mostly residents. Visitors are more likely to encounter property crime, so keeping an eye on your belongings will ensure your utmost safety in California. 

Things to Know About Safety in California

Safe Neighborhoods and Areas in California

Signage of Mt Baldy Lodge and Restaurant in the mountain town of Southern California
Mt. Baldy – a Southern California mountain town

Most beach towns in California are safe to stay in or visit. The safest beach cities include Laguna Beach, Aliso Viejo, and Carmel-by-the-Sea. California beach towns with large median household income rates receive fairly low crime rates and are family-friendly places to stay.

Mountain towns in California are also generally safe areas to stay in the state. These include Mammoth Lakes, Lake Arrowhead, and Idyllwild. These places receive a lower property crime rate because they are somewhat remote and require effort to get to.

Other safe neighborhoods in California are areas that have an expensive cost of living like Beverly Hills and Palm Springs. Because rent, hotels, and food are more expensive in these areas, thieves are more likely to stay out of these places.

There are so many awesome places to stay in Palm Springs like the Desert Star Boutique, which is my favorite place every time I visit the palm city. If you prefer to stay in major metropolitan areas, the L’Ermitage Beverly Hills is the coolest place to stay in Los Angeles.

Covid-19 Safety in California

California was hit pretty hard during the Covid-19 pandemic. Due to a large number of California inhabitants, roughly 39 million people, the state was constantly mandating new measures during the beginning of the pandemic.

The California economy is back up and booming now. Some establishments, however, still urge visitors to wear a mask, although this is recommended and not required. Such places include major universities and government establishments like the DMV.

To ensure you stay happy and healthy on your trip to California, I recommend wearing a mask when on tours or in population-dense areas like LA Live or Fisherman’s Wharf. Many California residents get sick during the holidays and winter months, so this is also a wise time to wear a mask so you don’t get sick on vacation.

For the latest stats, see the below widget from Covid Act Now, which automatically updates Covid statistics in California:

Crime in California

Property crime rates in California have been on the decline since the 1990s. Most of the crimes are aggravated assaults and robberies in major urban cities. Both tourists and residents are subject to petty crimes, however, so it’s best to be on alert while in California.

Most crime in California is related to property crimes like burglary, vandalism, and trespassing. This includes pickpocketing on public transportation, while walking around big cities, and sometimes even in restaurants.

The best way to avoid being the victim of such crimes is to always keep an eye on your belongings and to only carry the essentials. Have enough money for the day in your wallet and leave the rest secured in the hotel room. 

The chances of a traveler experiencing a property crime or violent crime in California are low but you should still take precautions. Consider carrying defense weapons like pepper spray just in case.

Common Scams in California

The property crime rate in California is lower than in most states but tourists can still encounter common scams like pickpocketing in the golden state. Here are the main scams you should look out for:

🗺️ Tour scams – Oftentimes when tour operators know someone is a tourist, they will charge them double the price of the regular tour. Your best bet to avoid this monetary discrimination is to compare prices online before visiting a tour operator in person.

You may even want to buy your tour or sightseeing ticket online to avoid a property crime and to find the price that best suits your budget. Viator is one of my go-to tour operators when I’m exploring a new area.

💰 Pickpockets – Pickpocketing is one of the most common property crimes in California. Although the property crime rate fell significantly this year compared to previous years, incidences still occur.

Pickpocketing is a common property crime in California, especially in major urban centers like Los Angeles County, San Diego, and San Francisco. 

To avoid a pickpocket while in the city, try wearing a money belt under your clothes or keep your backpack or purse in the front of your body as opposed to the side or back.

👉 Pro Tip: This money belt is an ideal piece of travel equipment to have. You can store your passport, money, and credit cards in the money belt and disguise it under your shirt for optimal safety. It’s a great addition to your California packing list.

👛 Mugging – Nobody wants to experience mugging, especially while on vacation. This form of aggravated assault can happen in even the safest cities, so it’s best to take precautions while traveling.

These precautions include not wandering off alone at night, especially in major cities. Mugging can happen during the day but the likelihood is far greater after sunset. If you can, try to drive or take a rideshare to and from your destination to avoid walking in the street at night.

🚕 Taxi scams – Taxi scams are common around the world. These happen when taxi drivers take a longer route on purpose, don’t turn the meter on, or claim they don’t have change when you give them a large bill.

To avoid a taxi scam, research the route ahead of time to know how long it should take to your destination. Also, make sure the driver turns on the meter to avoid being scammed. You may want to opt for a rideshare to avoid taxi scams for good. 

Gas scam – A major property crime in California is ripping people off at the gas station. California has the highest gas prices out of any other U.S. state and as a result, gas has become a hot commodity.

Many gas scams happen at the pump. Thieves are able to take your card information and commit credit card fraud on your account. I recommend using cash when filling up to avoid being scammed. 

Make sure you also lock your gas cap at all times, as thieves have been known to rob parked cars of their gas in California.

📱 Someone taking your photo scam – This scam is one of the oldest in the book. Be careful who you ask to take a photo of you in front of major California attractions like the Hollywood sign or the Golden Gate Bridge because thieves have been known to steal phones this way in California.

Although this non-violent crime is rare, it is still possible. A good way to avoid this scam is to ask a family to take your photo.

🚘 Motor vehicle theft – Make sure your car is always locked when parked. There is a high property crime rate of thieves breaking into parked cars by trying their luck tugging on handles until they find an unlocked car.

This is common especially around the holidays in California. A good rule of thumb is to lock your car at all times, even when you’re inside.

Hazardous Weather and Natural Disasters

The author McKenna Mobley posing after a hike to the San Andreas Fault
Me hiking right on the San Andreas Fault

California sits right on the San Andreas Fault line and is incredibly prone to earthquakes. California locals are so used to earthquakes that if there’s just a small one, we may not even notice it.

This can be alarming for visitors, however, especially in Southern California. The best action to take if you experience a California earthquake is to either duck under a table and cover your head or step outside immediately, where no infrastructure could possibly crumble.

Also, be wary of rainstorms in California. Southern California is a dry desert and doesn’t get too much rain but Northern California experiences a fair amount. Depending on when you visit California, be prepared for an unexpected rainstorm by always having a rain jacket on hand.

Safety on Public Transportation

You may encounter property crime on California’s public transportation, including buses and trains. Because this mode of transportation is so reliable and affordable, many California locals from different demographics take public transportation.

Travelers are more prone to pickpocketing than locals on public transportation in major California cities. To avoid this possibility, I recommend renting your own car through a reliable California company like Discover Cars or using rideshares to get around.

Female Travel Safety in California

The author McKenna Mobley posing with the background of a blue lake in Northern California
Me, traveling and hiking solo in Northern California

California is a safe state for solo female travel in the USA. As a female myself, I have made many California trips outside of my hometown both alone and with other female friends without encountering any violent crimes. 

California is a very progressive state and is no stranger to solo female travel. Most California locals are very friendly, and will almost always offer a helping hand if you are in need.

You should still be a cautious traveler in California, especially in major areas like Los Angeles County, San Diego, and San Francisco. I recommend the buddy system for going out at night in California, just to be on the safe side.

Is Tap Water Safe to Drink in California?

The author McKenna Mobley drinks through a hung water filter pack with a tube inside the tent
Health-conscientious Californians filter everything- even mountain spring water!

Tap water is completely fine to drink in California. You will not get sick from drinking tap water, so feel free to fill up your bottle at a public water fountain.

Many California locals prefer to use a water filter or buy bottled water. California locals are very health-conscientious and avoid consuming the toxins in tap water when possible.  

7 Safety Tips for California

Tip #1 – Be Alert on the Freeways

The author McKenna Mobley climbing on her motorhome parked in California camper ground
I always drive my motorhome in the “slow lane” on California freeways

The California tempo is go go go. It seems as if everyone is late for work, has a pilates class to get to, or needs to get to a hospital judging by the way they drive.

Be prepared to encounter some crazy California drivers on our huge 6-8-lane freeways. Know the traffic laws if you are coming from out of the country before you rent a car because highway patrol officers are more than happy to stop speeding Californians.

Tip #2 – Leave the Flashy Accessories Behind

The author McKenna Mobley in a complete hiking outfit and gear with a man on the trail of California
Only bring what you need

This helpful travel tip holds true for not just the golden state, but for travel in general. Leave your flashy accessories like nice watches, real jewelry, and expensive shoes behind so you don’t stand out as having something worth robbing you of.

I recommend leaving your expensive goods either at home or in your hotel room safe to avoid being the victim of a property crime.

Tip #3 – Only Bring What You Need for the Day

A busy street of shops selling souvenirs near a fountain on Olvera Street
The famous Olvera Street souvenirs in Downtown Los Angeles

Although I have never been robbed in California, it does happen. Leave most of your cash and non-important credit cards behind in your hotel room so you aren’t completely stranded and out of luck if you are pickpocketed.

A good travel rule is to only bring what you need to spend during the day in your wallet. This likely includes money for food, tips, souvenirs, and possibly public transportation.  

Tip #4 – Avoid California’s Public Transportation During Rush Hour

A peaceful view inside the Los Angeles public train stop
A Los Angeles public train stop during a very dead hour

You are most likely to be pickpocketed on public transportation during rush hour in California. Be extra cautious when public buses are crammed with passengers, this is when you are most likely to be scammed.

If you must take public transportation at this time, keep your backpack or purse in front of your body at all times so you can keep an eye on it. Be aware of obvious, intentional distractions as well. This could be a property crime tactic.

Tip #5 – Don’t Walk Alone at Night

People walking around Santa Monica Pier with a sign of route 66 End of the Trail at night

Not walking alone at night is one of the most important rules when traveling to a new location. This is the time when visitors are most likely to experience property crime, so try to drive or take a rideshare when possible.

Some areas of California might be okay to walk alone at night like some safe California cities, but always avoid this in major metropolitan areas like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Sacramento. 

Tip #6 – Lock Your Doors

Scenic view of the mountains and entrance of a tunnel in the peaceful highway of California

Make sure your car doors are locked at night before you go to bed. Car theft happens even in the nicest neighborhoods like Beverly Hills and Palm Springs.

Also make sure to double-check that your hotel door is locked and don’t forget to lock up your bike, just in case. It’s important to take every precaution possible to not lose your valuables while on vacation.

Tip #7 – Carry a Non-lethal Weapon

The author McKenna Mobley's best friend posing with the native floras on a hiking trail in Southern California
My best friend posing with the native flora on a Southern California hiking trail

It may be in your best interest to carry a non-lethal weapon during your time in California. This includes pepper spray. Even as a California local, I still carry this almost everywhere I go, just in case.

Another option is to carry a personal alarm, as it’ll alert nearby people to your distress and ward off would-be attackers.

California Safety FAQs 

Is California a safe place to live?

California has been ranked the 27th safest state in the United States. California ranks in the middle for the national average of safety in the U.S. It has a relatively low property crime rate and is suited as a family-friendly place to live.

What is the safest city in California?

Beach cities in California tend to be the safest. These include Aliso Viejo, Rancho Santa Margarita, Laguna Niguel, and Rancho Palos Verdes. There are hardly any violent crimes in these cities.

Is California safe for tourists?

California is one of the top destinations in America for tourists. It is incredibly safe for visitors and the crime rate among travelers is relatively low.


I hope I answered your main concerns about “is California safe?”

Enjoy California!

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