Whether for its eternally warm beaches, abundance of amusement parks, or the glitzy appeal of Hollywood, more than 50 million people visit Los Angeles every year. The sunshiny Southern California oasis is a tourist magnet, and it's generally safe to visit—even if you're on your own. As with any city, there are parts of town where crime is more prevalent than others—Downtown, Hollywood, Crenshaw, Compton, etc.—but if you take the regular precautions, you'll almost certainly return from your West Coast romp unscathed.
Due to COVID-19, the state of California (in conjunction with Oregon and Washington) issued a travel advisory in November 2020 restricting travel outside of or across California, and it discourages travel into the state as well. Residents and tourists returning or entering the state for the first time are urged to self-quarantine for 14 days.
Is Los Angeles Dangerous?
There are parts of Los Angeles that are higher in crime than the quintessentially touristy areas. Most of the violent crime (homicide, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault) is concentrated in the city's South Central region. Further north, property crime (burglary, theft, and arson) is more common.
Tourists don't need to worry about getting wrapped up in violent drug deals and robbery schemes while visiting; the worst that happens to out-of-towners is typically car accidents, tourist scams, and petty theft. Crowds at the major attractions (the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Santa Monica Pier, and the Venice Boardwalk, for instance) provide pickpockets many opportunities to snatch wallets and phones, so keep your belongings close, not in your back pocket. Note that taking photos with costumed characters in Hollywood or accepting "free CDs" from aspiring musicians in Venice will almost always lead to requests for donations in the end. If anyone offers to take you on a private tour of any kind, opt instead for a well-known company. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
If you plan to drive during your visit, try to avoid the highways—or all roads, better yet—during rush hour times, 7 to 10 a.m. and 4 to 7 p.m., as fender benders are frequent occurrences.
Is Los Angeles Safe for Solo Travelers?
Los Angeles is extremely busy, every day, at almost all hours, and solo travelers who stick to public places generally get by just fine. The city is packed with fellow tourists, so there are ample opportunities to find and stick with a trusted group. Otherwise, take the normal precautions: Don't drink too much at bars, don't travel down poorly lit alleyways, or visit crime-heavy parts of town—especially at night.
Is Los Angeles Safe for Female Travelers?
Female travelers are as safe as any other group in Los Angeles, but they are encouraged to avoid public transportation at night and to take extra precaution when getting into an Uber or Lyft. In nearby San Diego, a number of sexual assault and rape reports were made against Lyft drivers in 2019.
Safety Tips for LGBTQ+ Travelers
Los Angeles is an exceptionally LGBTQ+-friendly city, with its rainbow flag-flying West Hollywood "Boystown" district and a Pride event that attracts 200,000 spectators annually. To keep members of the LGBTQ+ community safe, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) has developed a Safe Place program in which local businesses allow victims of homophobia to seek shelter in their establishments and will help them notify the police, if necessary. Decals and Safe Place signage in storefronts indicate participation.
Safety Tips for BIPOC Travelers
Los Angeles consistently ranks as one of the United States' most ethnically and racially diverse cities. Nearly half of the population identifies as Hispanic or Latino, 11 percent is African American, and 10 percent is Asian. It certainly isn't immune to racism, but travelers shouldn't expect to feel out of place or discriminated against while visiting. If you experience a hate crime on your trip, you should report it to the Los Angeles Police Department.
Safety Tips for Travelers
Here are some more general tips all travelers should consider following when visiting:
- Only carry as much cash as you'll need for a couple of days. In Los Angeles, you can pay for most things with credit or debit cards and there are ATMs on almost every corner.
- Make sure purses and backpacks are securely closed and kept close to the body. For extra safety, carry your belongings across your body or in a money belt.
- Pickpockets usually work in groups of two or three. If you are jostled or bumped, consider that a pickpocket may be in action.
- Never hang your purse on the back of a chair in a restaurant or other public place.
- There are a lot of homeless people in Los Angeles. You are likely to be approached for money, but if the encounter turns hostile, simply walk away and, if necessary, contact the authorities.
- Notify someone if you plan to take an Uber or Lyft alone. Always confirm the license plate before getting into the car.
Office of Governor Gavin Newsom. "California, Oregon & Washington Issue Travel Advisories." November 13, 2020.