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On this densely populated peninsula on the west coast of the United States, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the bright lights and big crowds, so try to be mindful of your surroundings at all times. San Francisco is the sum of its many diverse neighborhoods, and with a little precaution there’s no reason travelers should limit their exploration to Union Square and Fisherman’s Wharf.
Local insider Elena Valeriote shares her top tips on staying safe for first-timers visiting San Francisco.
The Tenderloin has a well-earned reputation as the most sketchy area of San Francisco, specifically near the intersection of the streets Turk and Taylor, where a large population of homeless people have settled. It's pretty close to the Union Square tourist precinct, so be mindful of where you're wandering. You'll encounter pan-handling but mostly it's unlikely you'll experience anything more than some minor harrassment, but as always, be aware that mental illness is common among the homeless (and is often the cause of the homelessness, more's the pity), so be prepared for, and avoid, erratic behaviour.
Union Square is a bustling shopping district located in Downtown San Francisco. During the day, this area can be extremely crowded, and pickpockets the world over love a crowded space. Don’t keep wallets or expensive electronic devices where they can be easily stolen.
Religious fanatics often solicit converts with the aid of microphones near the central mall, but don’t let their loud, sometimes offensive speeches provoke you. A quieter, non-aggressive band of people also tends to linger around Union Square with Free Hugs signs and you’ll meet plenty of enthusiastic activists with clipboards. All of these people may be well intentioned, but if you want to be left alone just avoid eye contact and keep walking.
Safety in San Francisco is about using your common sense, not being fearful. Be aware of your surroundings and your belongings like you would at home and anywhere else.
Like in any city around the world, it's best to take care if traveling alone at night. It's easy enough to grab a taxi or rideshare to get to where you are going.
Downtown San Francisco is the hub of city nightlife where you’ll find most of the popular bars and clubs. Just east of the Montgomery BART station, you’ll find plenty of options.
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