You’re probably wondering, is Washington DC safe to visit? Short answer: Washington, DC is generally safe for tourists.
As a Washington, DC local, I know DC has a reputation for rising crime throughout the district. Unfortunately, crime is a common part of large cities, but that doesn’t mean you can’t visit DC safely. This guide will help you understand what you might encounter and how to protect yourself if you are considering visiting DC.
In this guide, I share information about the safest areas in Washington DC, and provide tips for how to have a safe and enjoyable visit.
Disclosure: Travel Lemming is an independent reader-supported blog. You can support us by purchasing via the affiliate links on this page, which may earn us commissions. See our Advertising Policy for further explanation. Thank you!
Is Washington DC Safe?
In general, Washington DC is a safe place for tourists and visitors. However, according to data, DC has higher crime rates than the national average, specifically for violent crime and property crime.
This being said, these higher rates of crime don’t necessarily make Washington, DC a dangerous city. Washington, DC is a popular tourist destination with tons of things to do. Areas where tourists frequent tend to be safe.
Tourists have a very low chance of being a victim of violent crimes. Visitors should be aware of their surroundings and practice safety measures for themselves and their property as they would in other major cities. Property crimes to cars are the most common crimes committed.
There are more dangerous areas of DC where property crime and violent crime rates are generally higher than the rest of the city. Most tourists have little reason to visit these areas anyway.
Things to Know About Safety in Washington DC
Safe Neighborhoods and Areas in Washington DC
Downtown DC is considered a relatively safe neighborhood. This area is centrally located and where the National Mall, Washington Monument, and other popular DC museums can be found. The area is well-populated, even at night. Violent crime rates are low in this part of the city.
According to data from Axios, violent crime in DC is up compared to the previous year. However, the data shows that the violent crime rate is higher in the Northeast and Southeast parts of DC. Tourists should avoid these areas as a precaution.
Conversely, areas west of Rock Creek Park have a lower crime rate. Georgetown is one of the safest neighborhoods in DC. Woodley Park and Tenleytown are also noted as safe places. In these residential areas, residents report low violent crime rates and little property crime.
Crime in Washington DC
Washington DC has the highest rate of police per capita for cities with 250,000 people or more, according to WUSA9. DC also has multiple law enforcement agents including the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department and Metro Transit Police Department.
Although the crime rate in the District is higher than the national average, crime against tourists is low. Tourist areas have a reliable police presence, so you are not likely to be a victim of violent crimes. However, because this is a large city, it’s still important to be vigilant.
Petty theft, property crime, and mugging are common crimes committed in areas with higher crime rates. DC’s increase in property crime rates has to do with cars. Vehicle theft has affected residents, with data stating the District averages one carjacking a day. It’s also important to not leave any valuables in your car, as people will break windows to steal valuables.
Common Scams in Washington DC
Washington DC has relatively fewer scams than other large cities. Although, one of the most common scams that affect tourists is a bracelet scam that often takes place on the National Mall.
With this scam, someone will offer you a bracelet. Sometimes, they may forcibly put it on your wrist. Once you accept the bracelet, they will ask for a donation. Avoid this scam by not taking the bracelet and/or walking away from anyone who approaches you and offers one.
Hazardous Weather and Natural Disasters in Washington DC
Washington DC is not subject to hazardous weather on a regular basis. However, areas near the rivers can flood during periods of heavy rain. Some roadways can flood with heavy rain, too. This only happens when inches of rain accumulate quickly, although this doesn’t happen with typical rainfall.
Some summer days can reach high temperatures. During these times, people are advised to stay indoors and stay hydrated. On rare occasions, swirling clouds have occurred during storms; however, there is a low chance of tornados.
Is Tap Water Safe to Drink in Washington DC?
DC tap water is safe to drink. Drinking water comes from the Potomac River and is treated at a federally-owned treatment plant, the Washington Aqueduct.
Is Washington DC Safe for Solo Females?
DC is generally considered a safe destination for solo female travel. Many women walk alone through the city daily. Areas that tourists frequent are well-populated and have a good police presence. Solo female travelers should exercise typical caution in DC, as they would in any big city.
Is the Nightlife in Washington DC Safe?
DC has a vibrant nightlife. Places like the U Street Corridor are generally considered safe. Many clubs and bars have bouncers that check purses and persons before entry. As always, practice caution when walking at night and if intoxicated as you would on any night out. But you can rest assured that you can enjoy a drink or a night of dancing safely in DC.
5 Safety Tips for Washington DC
Tip #1 – Don’t Leave Valuables In Your Car
Much of DC property crime rates have to do with vehicles. Prevent break-ins by removing valuables from your car. Never leave purses, bags, phones, electronics, or other valuables on car seats or in view. People will break car windows even in the daylight to steal valuable items.
If you must leave valuable items in your car, do not leave them visible where people passing on the street can see them. Lock them in your trunk or place small items under car seats. Again, the safest option is to take your valuables with you.
Tip #2 – Keep Valuables Close On Your Person
Keep valuable items like phones, wallets, and purses close to your person. Put phones, wallets, and keys in front pockets to avoid potential pickpocketing or robbery. Cross-body purses and tote bags you can keep close under your arm can deter theft and pickpocketing as well.
Never leave your valuables unattended. Don’t set purses, bags, wallets, or phones down on a store counter and walk away. If working in a cafe, be cautious about leaving laptops, purses, or bags unattended to go to the bathroom or order at the counter. This can prevent you from being a victim of a robbery.
Tip #3 – Lock Car Doors After Getting Inside
Motor vehicle theft is one of the most common types of property crime. Double-check that your doors are locked when getting in your car, no matter where you are. This can prevent someone from hopping in the car after you or trying to open your doors while you’re inside.
Similarly, don’t get into your car and linger. Do your best to get in your car, start the ignition, and immediately drive away. Lingering in a space gives time for someone to try to rob you or take your car.
Tip #4 – Never Leave Your Running Car Unattended
Car theft is one of the most common crimes committed in DC. Because of this, you never want to leave a running car unattended. Turn your car off and lock it, even if you’re running into a store for a minute or picking up a to-go meal from a restaurant. It only takes a moment for someone to jump in and drive away with a car.
Tip #5 – Don’t Reveal Your Hotel or Travel Plans
Avoid telling people where you’re staying when visiting DC and avoid sharing specific travel plans. You don’t want strangers to know what hotel you’re staying at and when you will and won’t be in your room.
FAQs About Safety in Washington DC
What are the safest areas to stay in Washington DC?
The safest areas to stay in Washington DC are Georgetown, Woodley Park, Cleveland Park, and Adams Morgan. These neighborhoods tend to have lower violent crime rates and property crime rates.
Is Washington DC a safe place to visit?
Washington DC is a safe place to visit in general. Many areas where tourists frequent are well-lit, well-populated, and have a police presence that can deter crime.
Is it safe to walk in Washington DC at night?
It is safe to walk in some areas of Washington DC at night. However, it’s best to avoid walking alone when possible. Sticking to a pair or large group is the best safety option. Public transportation is also safe and one of the best ways to get around DC.
Many people question, “Is Washington safe?” Generally, Washington, DC is safe, especially for tourists. However, you should always exercise caution when visiting large cities. For more helpful travel information on Washington, DC, read our guide to day trips from DC next.
Help us help you travel better!
Your feedback really helps ...
What did you like about this post? Or how can we improve it to help you travel better?