Boston is a fantastic city dripping with culture, and a great place to spend your vacation. But how safe is it? Find out in our handy guide below!
- How safe is Boston?
- Common threats to safety in Boston
- Neighborhoods to avoid
- Is Downtown Boston safe?
- Is public transport safe in Boston?
- and more!
How safe is Boston?
Like many cities and cultural hubs, Boston has its fair share of crime. However, it's nowhere near the worst city in the country regarding crime. And, while having a crime rate that is about double the national average might seem noteworthy, that's taking into consideration the myriad of rural cities across America's less populated states.
It's worth shining a little perspective on this too. Comparatively, Memphis, the city with the country's highest crime rate, is four times that of Boston.
As such, treat Boston like you would treat living in any city. Keep your belongings with you at all times, avoid carrying around valuables like expensive cameras, your passport, expensive jewelry and watches, and try to keep your carry cash to a minimum. Rely on your common sense, and you'll be fine.
Common threats to safety in Boston
Theft is Boston's biggest issue, especially in the tourist-heavy parts of the city. As mentioned above, common sense will win you the day here. Leave your more expensive belongings in your accommodation. If that's not an option, keep them with you at all times. Avoid getting up to pay a bill or buy a ticket and leaving your bags behind.
Pickpockets do operate in tourism-centric areas. Like other historic cities with a lot of attractions, this is sadly just a fact of life. To beat them at their own game, do not keep any cash or wallets in your back pockets, and be aware of your handbag or purse when walking through crowds. Keep those bad boys shut and grip them tightly in your clenched fist.
Other issues you may run into in the safer areas are scams. Again, this is the same for many, many cities with a large tourist footfall. Be on the lookout for distraction scams, such as when someone spills a coffee or sauce on your and insists on cleaning you up. If this happens to you, simply walk away. ATMs may be tampered with, so you're best off walking into a bank to withdraw money, or using your card instead of cash while you visit.
Homeless people may also become agitated or aggressive if you choose not to give them money. Again, use common sense and walk away. You've got this.
As far as violent crimes go, they can be almost entirely avoided if you simply don't visit some neighborhoods. But which are these?
Neighborhoods to avoid
Boston has a handful of neighborhoods you should avoid. Thankfully, most of them are pretty far from the center and, as such, have little for tourists to explore. Here are the ones you shouldn't visit.
South of South End is Roxbury, a relatively large neighborhood with over 60,000 residents. There is a proportionally high amount of violent crime here compared to many other Boston neighborhoods, but it has improved over the past thirty years. If you need to visit the area, you should do so during the day, and women are also advised to travel with a partner or group.
One of the most run-down neighborhoods in Boston, Mattapan is another area we'd recommend you avoid. Bordering on Roxbury's southern side, its location even further from the city center means there's probably no reason for you to venture that far. Gang and drug issues are commonplace, so if you absolutely need to go there, do so during the day.
Another potentially dangerous area of Boston is Jamaica Plain. There is a large police presence here to control it, but the rise in gang violence there means it should be avoided if possible. Bordering South End and not far from Back Bay, just be aware that if you're going for a walk from either neighborhood, you don't stray too far south.
Arguably the safest neighborhood in this district, Hyde Park boasts a proportionally higher petty crime rate than the others on this list. So, while you may be less likely to experience violent crime, you may have your pockets picked. It's also a very quiet area with very little to do, so perhaps it's best to simply avoid it altogether.
Is Downtown Boston safe?
Downtown is generally considered a very safe neighborhood in Boston! There are still areas you should avoid, such as Park St and Downtown Crossing. At night, these attract vagrants and addicts. Anywhere else, however, is safe enough to walk around at night.
As mentioned above, pickpockets congregate in the more central, touristy neighborhoods like Downtown. So be aware of your surroundings and follow the usual rules of stashing valuables and not flashing cash.
Is public transport safe in Boston?
Of course, the easiest way to get around the city and see the sights is via public transport. The subway connects many of the city's most affluent and interesting neighborhoods. However, as it connects to the less desirable areas of the city, it is recommended you plan your journey and make sure you get off at the right stop. Especially at night time. The last thing you want is to catch the last train home, miss your stop, and end up stranded in the wrong part of town!
But remember, this is the same for countless cities around the world. There are probably areas where you live you wouldn't visit at night! Speaking of...
Is Boston safe at night?
Yes, Boston is safe at night. Stick to the central, better areas, and you'll be fine. However, that doesn't mean you should leave your front door unlocked or wear some sort of suit made up with all your dollar bills. Always be aware of your surroundings, just like in any city. Here are a few tips to bear in mind when traveling the city:
- If you're by yourself, don't use earbuds when walking or on the train, especially after dark.
- If you're getting about by car, keep all valuables hidden. Even a cellphone charging cable could clue a thief into a pricey phone.
- Stay in well-lit areas at night. That alley might be a great shortcut, but you're better off walking the long way around.
- Keep your bag or purse held tight or wrapped around your arm.
- If anyone asks for money and you feel uncomfortable, simply walk away.
- Know where you're going ahead of time and plan your route. Using GPS or a map will single you out as a tourist. If necessary, use a single earbud for GPS directions.
And that's our guide to staying safe in Boston!