Is It Safe To Travel In Washington DC Alone?

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They say that travel broadens the mind, but it can also send your thoughts crazy when it comes to safety. Choosing the right location as a solo traveler can be the difference between staying safe and disaster.

But what about the capital of the USA? Is Washington DC safe for the lone traveler?

We have some tips and advice that will keep you safe on your stay in Washington DC.

Is Washington DC Safe For Solo Tourists?

In the mid-90s, the murder rates in Washington DC were at an all-time high, with 482 in 1991 and 454 in 1993.

Washington DC safety for solo tourists
Washington DC is safe for solo tourists

However, as the decade went on, fewer and fewer violent crimes like this were seen.

While numbers are now slightly higher than they were in the mid-2010s (2012 was a very good year), the city is considered to be much safer than it once was. 

Per 1000 residents, the violent crime rate in Washington DC is 6.94. But that is mild compared to some cities in the USA, and currently, Memphis TN is the worst affected, with more than 17.67 violent crimes per 1000 people annually. 

So, in the scheme of things, Washington DC isn’t all that dangerous. In fact, it’s considered to be medium risk.

What’s more, because the city has suffered bouts of criminal activity in the past, there is now a much more obvious law enforcement presence on the streets, which makes visitors feel a lot safer.

In the capital city, some of the most reported crimes are burglary and auto theft.

The good news is that the police here have seen a massive reduction in things like attacks with weapons, rape, and murder. 

For the most part, tourists are safe, but there are a few things to consider if you want to be sure you’re not at risk on your trip. 

How To Stay Safe In Washington DC

I have to reiterate that crime levels in the American capital are at an all-time low.

Staying safe in Washington DC tips
Staying safe in Washington DC

The city sees more than 20 million tourists passing through every year, and the majority of them do so without ever having to report a crime.

But it helps to be streetwise and savvy, so here are my top tips to stay safe:

  • Make sure that you never walk around by yourself after dark. However, there may be times when this isn’t possible, especially when you’re traveling alone. In this case, always stick to well lit areas with plenty of people.
  • I’d like to think that most solo travelers would already be aware of the importance of keeping an eye on their things. However, it’s worth talking about. You should never leave your bags or cases unattended and if you have any valuables with you, leave these in your hotel in a locked safe, where possible. Everyday items like your wallet and smartphone should be kept in a pocket at your front, preferably one that can be zipped or buttoned up.
  • Try to stick to the safer parts of the city. Areas like Capitol Hill, the National Mall, Adams Morgan, Georgetown, and the Penn Quarter are all relatively safe and areas that tourists are most like to visit.
  • One of the best pieces of advice I was ever given about visiting Washington DC was to act as though I was just another local. Tourists are always an easy target so take the time to properly research the city and make it look as though you’re just a regular DC resident going about their business. 
  • While a political protest might seem like something you just have to experience when you’re in Washington DC, it’s not always the safest thing to attend. These days, protests are getting a lot more violent, so there’s a serious risk of getting hurt. It’s best to stay away and watch on TV if you really want to see what’s going on.
  • Using the metro is a great way to get around the city, but you need to be careful. It’s always a good idea to stay near the front as you’ve got the backup of the conductor. What’s more, you’ll be much safer if you use the system during peak hours and always avoid having contact with strangers where possible. You may be approached for directions or for money, but this can often be a scam, so keep your wits about you.

Advice For Solo Female Travelers To Washington DC

It’s a sad fact of life that women are more likely to be attacked as a solo traveler than men.

This is because a lot of criminals deem them to be an easy target and to be much more vulnerable.

Advice For Solo Female Travelers To Washington DC
Advice for solo female travelers to Washington DC

Although I know plenty of women that would be willing to give someone a run for their money. 

The good news is, however, that there doesn’t seem to be a lot of difference between the number of crimes committed against men and those against women in Washington DC.

Even so, it’s still best to use your common sense, avoid dark or quiet places, and never accept a drink from someone you don’t know.

Biggest Risks In Washington DC 

There are a few things that you should be aware of when traveling to Washington DC.

The first being that there is a medium risk of terrorism since this is one of the main targets in the country.

Biggest Risks In Washington DC 
Risks in Washington DC 

Of course, there were the shocking 9/11 attacks, but even since then, the city has been a target.

If you notice anything suspicious while visiting, it’s essential to report it as soon as possible.

The risk of being mugged in Washington DC is also considered to be medium.

While it may sound worrying that robberies are four times greater than average here, you can reduce the risk by following some of the safety tips I talked about earlier. 

It’s also worth pointing out that when robberies do occur in WDC, criminals appear to be becoming more violent in their approach.

In the unfortunate event that you are a target, make staying safe a priority. Smartphones, money, and flashy watches can all be replaced, but your life cannot.

Direct muggings are one thing, but there’s also a medium risk of pickpockets in Washington DC.

They are most common on public transport so again, keep your wits about you and make sure your belongings are safe. 

Using a crossbody bag is a great way to prevent someone ripping it from your person, and I always like to put items into the inside zipper pockets for that added layer of protection.

Moreover, if you’re going to carry your wallet in your pocket then pop a rubber band around it; you’ll be more likely to feel it, and it won’t slide out as smoothly.

Final Thoughts

When traveling to any city, there are safety concerns that you’ll need to keep in mind. Washington DC does have some crime but the levels have dropped compared to ten or twenty years ago.

Make sure that you are always alert and, if you’re traveling alone, use your street smarts to stay safe. 

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