Are you planning a trip to New Orleans, but wondering if New Orleans is safe? As a local to New Orleans, I can help you answer this question.
New Orleans is generally safe for visitors but does have a higher serious crime rate than many parts of the United States. There are some precautions tourists should take in New Orleans, and it’s always important to be aware and do your research before you head to a destination.
New Orleans is a vibrant city and a fantastic destination! In this article, I’ll give you my honest advice about what you need to know about safety in New Orleans so that you can fully enjoy all of the best New Orleans attractions.
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Is New Orleans Safe?
In most respects, New Orleans is a reasonably safe destination for travelers, especially in the French Quarter, Warehouse District, Uptown, or any other common destinations.
However, the violent crime rate is significantly higher than the national average in the United States. Travelers should also be aware of the risk of petty theft and tourist scams in the French Quarter.
In recent years especially, the prevalence of carjackings in New Orleans has become a problem in some areas. Petty theft and other crimes targeting tourists occur in the French Quarter.
However, well-trafficked areas of New Orleans are generally safe for tourists, and when in doubt, the risks of less well-trafficked areas can be mitigated by walking in groups, staying alert, or taking an Uber between destinations.
👉 Read next: Best Places to Visit in Louisiana
Things to Know About Safety in New Orleans
Safe Neighborhoods and Areas in New Orleans
When asking, “Is New Orleans safe?” the answer might change from one New Orleans neighborhood to another.
Uptown New Orleans is one of the safest neighborhoods in New Orleans to explore. This area includes Audubon Park, the Upper Garden District, and Magazine Street. Lakeview and Lakeshore are also safe areas. The French Quarter can be a target of petty crime in particular–pickpocketing and theft, but is also busy and bustling with people and tourists and is generally considered safe.
The Bywater neighborhood is generally safe below St. Claude Avenue but can become dangerous North of St. Claude. Robberies and muggings occasionally occur in the beautiful cemeteries of New Orleans and are best explored with a tour guide.
Violent crimes like homicides and shootings, often related to gang violence, are most common in Central City, Hoffman Triangle, parts of the Garden District (closer to the Mississippi River), Irish Channel, Touro, and Zion City. In Central City, use caution when you veer from Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard, which is generally safe.
The Desire and Florida areas of the city have particularly high violent crime rates but are also off-the-beaten-track for most tourist destinations.
Be sure to check out our guide to where to stay in New Orleans for additional information about the best areas for visitors to find accommodations.
Crime in New Orleans
The New Orleans Police Department has a fantastic interactive crime map for the city available here. The New Orleans crime rate is currently several times higher than the national average.
Pretty theft is common along Bourbon Street and in the area around the Riverwalk Mall and Audubon Aquarium. Assaults occur occasionally in the French Quarter neighborhood. Homicides and attempted homicides are extremely rare and do not usually occur in the French Quarter, Warehouse District, Uptown, or other areas that tourists frequent.
Crimes generally occur more frequently in the area between Bourbon Street and Frenchman Street–two common tourist destinations. If you are traversing between these two locales, it would be prudent to move as a group or call an Uber or Lyft for transport.
Common Scams in New Orleans
Common scams in New Orleans are often tricks played on tourists that end with a demand for cash.
👞 One of the most common is the “I bet I can tell you where you got your shoes” bet. The answer will be: “On your feet,” and the trickster will expect you to pay up. A similar dupe is “Tell me your first name and I’ll spell ‘your last name,’ where the person then spells out ‘y-o-u-r l-a-s-t n-a-m-e.’
🎤 If someone approaches you on the street and either hands you plastic Mardi Gras beads or pulls a busking trick such as singing you a rap with your name in it, they will likely expect payment at the end.
🃏 Beware the “three-card monte,” a deceptively simple card game where three cards are rearranged and the player has to track the location of one of the cards as they move. The game is more confusing than it seems and is a good way to lose money.
📷 Visitors warn that camera stores on Canal Street sell less-than-reputable electronics and should all be considered a scam.
🚗 If a stranger approaches you on the street and attempts to clean your shoes or approaches your car and sprays down the windshield, this is another common way of getting money out of tourists.
🎉 Finally, it’s worth noting that no one should ever be pressured into doing anything that makes them feel uncomfortable in order to “earn their beads” at a Mardi Gras Parade. Especially on the family-friendly parade routes outside the French Quarter (Uptown or Mid-City), this sort of behavior is not commonplace.
Hazardous Weather and Natural Disasters in New Orleans
🌀 Hurricanes are one of the biggest threats from natural disasters in the New Orleans area. Hurricane season begins in June and runs until November. Avoid trips to New Orleans during hurricane season when possible because there are safety risks associated with high winds and flood waters. Your trip may be derailed due to an evacuation order or canceled flights.
⛈️ Tropical storms also occur during hurricane season (June to November). Although the threat is not as large as with hurricanes, traveling during a tropical storm is dangerous and should be avoided. Feeder bands of both tropical storms and hurricanes also pose a tornado risk.
🗲 Outside of hurricanes and tropical storms, thunderstorms pose a risk of power outages and lightning strikes. It’s best to stay inside during storms and avoid driving if there is a flash flood risk.
☀️ Finally, the heat and humidity in New Orleans can be overbearing! Be sure to pack light-colored clothing with moisture-wicking fabrics and dress in layers. Always carry a water bottle, take breaks in the shade or AC if you’re outside, and be mindful of the fact that a night out drinking could leave you more prone to dehydration the next day!
Want to avoid bad weather during your visit? Check out my guide to the best times to visit New Orleans.
EMS Response Times
Particularly in recent years, the EMS dispatch response time following 911 calls has been extremely unreliable. Sometimes the response is very slow, and I’ve even heard stories of EMS not arriving at all.
There are theoretically resources always withheld for the most serious of medical incidents, but anecdotal stories are concerning in terms of the reliability of emergency services in the city.
If you are in a position where you’re able to get your own ride to the hospital (especially if you’re in a stable condition and this is not a risk to your safety), that may be a more reliable option.
Is Tap Water Safe to Drink in New Orleans?
The tap water is safe to drink in New Orleans. You can drink the tap water in New Orleans, unless there is an active boil water mandate in effect.
10 Safety Tips for New Orleans
Tip #1 – Travel in Groups at Night (or Take an Uber / Lyft / Taxi)
The main tourist areas of the French Quarter and Uptown are generally populated and safe even at night. However, there are lots of dark nooks and crannies between locations.
One example is the walk between the French Quarter and Frenchman Street in the Marigny, both of which are common nightlife destinations for tourists. In situations like this, it’s best to call an Uber/Lyft/Taxi to be safe. Even in more populated areas, travel in a group and stay in well-lit places.
Tip #2 – Be Cautious of the Heat
The late spring/summer/early fall temperatures in New Orleans can be overbearing, often in the 90s or even above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. In addition, the humidity is extremely high. This means that our bodies can’t cool themselves as effectively as in dry climates.
Be sure to dress appropriately (light colors, cool fabrics), drink plenty of water, and take lots of breaks in the shade or go inside to the AC if you’re outside. Be particularly vigilant of young children or the elderly, as their bodies do not tend to handle heat as well.
Tip #3 – Tour Cemeteries with a Guide
The cemeteries of New Orleans are beautiful and are common tourist attractions. However, robbers have been known to hide behind graves and mausoleums, and wanderers can be a target in isolated areas. Touring a cemetery is a great thing to do on your trip, but do it with an official guide and a group.
Tip #4 – Party Responsibly
New Orleans–especially the French Quarter–is a common destination for party animals who want some great nights out on the town in one of Louisiana’s best cities.
Definitely enjoy yourself, but don’t forget that the French Quarter is a common site of petty theft, scams, and other minor crimes. Don’t lose your head in your night of revelry.
Tip #5 – Avoid Hurricane Season
Wondering if you should travel during hurricane season (from June through November)? When in doubt, go with no! Not only is it potentially dangerous, it would just be a huge bummer to have a flight canceled or your trip disrupted by a mandatory evacuation.
June has the lowest storm frequency if you must travel during hurricane season. Storms also taper towards the very tail end of the season (late October).
Avoid late August and September if possible when storms are most probable and often very severe.
Tip #6 – Watch for Alligators and Creepy Crawlies
The Deep South, but particularly Louisiana, has a wide variety of terrifying critters. Alligators are a real threat. They can be found in bayous and other waterways. Perhaps most terrifyingly, they are occasionally lying in wait in hurricane floodwaters.
In addition to alligators, there are multiple venomous snakes (like cottonmouths and copperheads) and venomous spiders (black widows and brown recluse). Scorpions are not common but do exist.
Tip #7 – Stay Safe during Mardi Gras Season
Mardi Gras is one of the most fun times to visit New Orleans, but there are a few safety notes to keep in mind.
The very large parades (such as Endymion in Mid-City) sometimes have major safety incidents that take place. Although it is highly unlikely, the large crowds could draw the attention of someone planning a terrorist attack. More commonly, there are either fights that break out in the streets (very occasionally involving firearms) or incidents of intoxicated drivers.
Occasionally, people are hurt or killed when they attempt to cross the street in front of a large float or dart out into the street to grab a “throw.”
Tip #8 – Just Keep Walking
If someone tries to pull you into one of the French Quarter tourist scams like, “I bet I can tell you where you got your shoes,” it’s okay–and safest– to just keep walking and not engage.
Tip #9 – Keep Track of Your Belongings
When you’re in a bar or restaurant (especially in tourist areas like the French Quarter, the Warehouse District, Frenchmen Street, the Marigny, or the Bywater), don’t hang your purse or backpack on the back of your chair.
Be mindful of where you store your phone and wallet when you’re out. Leaving them on the table or bar counter near you can leave them vulnerable to being snatched by a passerby.
Tip #10 – Look up your Airbnb Neighborhood
Although we recommend plenty of hotels in our guide to where to stay in New Orleans, some visitors do opt to stay in an Airbnb. Some of these are great deals, but you should always double-check the crime rate in the neighborhood by checking out this crime map of New Orleans.
Crime Grade is another helpful website for neighborhood scoping.
FAQs About Safety in New Orleans
Is it safe to walk in New Orleans Downtown?
It is generally safe to walk in downtown New Orleans (the French Quarter, Central Business District, and the Warehouse District). At night, it’s a good practice to walk in well-lit areas and with other people. When in doubt, catch an Uber, Lyft, or a taxi between locations.
Is Bourbon Street safe at night?
The main parts of Bourbon Street are quite safe at night, especially if you’re mindful of your surroundings and aware of the possibility of petty crime. Avoid walking alone in poorly lit areas, and be mindful that tourists in the French Quarter are often the target of scams and pickpocketing.
Is New Orleans worth going to?
New Orleans is absolutely worth going to! It is a vibrant city with a European vibe, fantastic cuisine, distinct culture, amazing nightlife, and world-class museums! The French Quarter in New Orleans is very famous as a fun vacation spot.
Is New Orleans walkable?
New Orleans is relatively walkable. The French Quarter is very walkable, and cars are not allowed on certain parts of Bourbon Street. You can walk to the Warehouse District and Central Business District from the French Quarter, though some may prefer to hire a car. You will need a ride to Uptown or can take the Streetcar.
I hope that after reading this article you have a better sense of the answer to the question, “Is New Orleans safe?” New Orleans is an amazing, vibrant city that is worth a visit! Make sure to see our guide to the best New Orleans restaurants before you go.
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