Is the US Safe? Top 9 Safety Concerns for Travelers

Millions travel to the United States to experience the big cities, wide open spaces and culture. Here's what you need to know to make your trip a safe one.

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Los Angeles Skyline With Snow Capped Mountains Photo © Getty Images/Carl Larson Photography

Street safety

When thinking of the United States, bustling big cities and towns come to mind. Whether it's New York on the east coast or Los AngelesSan Francisco or Seattle on the west coast, people head to the cities to experience different cultures, food and communities across America.

Like any big city, there are places where travelers need to take care at night or during the day; whether it's securing your belongings and being aware of your surroundings as you walk in crowded areas, or avoiding known high risk areas where gang crime may occur.

Gun crime

The United States has a high level of gun possession and unfortunately that comes with gun-related crime – both non-fatal and fatal incidents frequenting news reports on a daily basis. It seems no part of the country has avoided gun-related crime, however it's not limited to mass shootings.

On average, the US has a gun homicide rate 6x higher than Canada and 7x higher than Sweden, with nearly 40,000 people killed in incidents involving firearms in 2017. But what is the real risk to travelers?

Terrorism

Terrorism has now become a global issue and no country is immune. Since 9/11, there have been several terror-related incidents in cities across the United States, including places where international visitors may frequent. This may cause travelers to question whether they should travel to the US or not.

Wherever you travel in the United States, it's important to keep yourself informed via local news reports and government advisories. Be aware of your surroundings, particularly in crowded locations such as popular attractions, monuments, shopping malls, protests, on transport and places of worship. But don't be paranoid.

Grand Central Railway Station - New York City. Photo credit: Unsplash/Robert Bye

Transit safety

Whether it's by hire car, taxi, campervan, train, bus or plane, there are multiple ways to get from A to B in the United States. If you ever need directions, friendly locals will be more than happy to assist you to find your way around.

In cities like New York, L.A and Washington DC, public transport reigns and is a cheap way to get around. Visitors do need to take care when traveling at night and on busy, packed peak hour services which can be tempting for pickpockets. For nomads wanting to road trip across country, a bit of preparation can go along way to help make sure your trip is a safe one, rather than breaking down in the middle of nowhere, with help miles away.

Health

The US is also known for its notoriously expensive health system, so whether you're road tripping, hiking or snowboarding, it's vital that travelers have travel insurance which includes comprehensive medical cover including medical evacuation.

If you're in the wilderness, check your body for ticks after walking beneath trees or through tall grasses. Paralysis ticks cause many illnesses such as Lyme Disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, which are spread across the United States. If not treated promptly, these diseases can have long lasting complications. To learn more about how you can stay healthy while traveling in the US here.

Bears and wildlife

The US has an incredible variety of wildlife such as moose, wolves, bison, alligators and mountain lions which inhabit all sorts of wilderness areas, but the country is probably best known for its bears. Bears are a safety concern any visitor should consider when traveling through national parks and other known regions that bears are present. Aside from being a danger to your food, bears can cause serious injury or even death if provoked.

Snow safety

The US has some great areas for skiing and snowboarding, for all ages and experience levels. The country has over 400 resorts and thousands of visitors flock to places like Breckenridge, Aspen Snowmass, Park City, Heavenly and Jackson Hole seeking powder-filled adventure and a vibrant nightlife. But things can and do go wrong if you’re not careful. Check out how you can stay safe while riding the snow here.

Beaver Creek Village - Colorado, USA. Photo credit: Getty Images/Adventure_Photo

LGBTQ safety

There are many well established and vibrant LGBTQ communities across the United States, not just in urban centers but in regional towns as well. LGBTQ people have most of the rights that same sex people have, however discrimination unfortunately still exists in many locations and industries. Since the inception of the Trump administration, there has also been a noticeable increase in gay hate crimes, transphobia and homophobia. Despite these challenges, there are many places which welcome LGBTQ travelers with open arms and annual US-wide pride celebrations continue to grow each year.

Tornadoes and hurricanes

Tornadoes occur annually in the US, with most forming east of the Rocky Mountains in a place dubbed "Tornado Alley". Although not officially defined, Tornado Alley extends from the border with Canada down to northern Texas. Tornadoes also occur in the southern states such as Alabama, Mississippi, Florida and the midwest states such as Kansas and Oklahoma. Tornado season is mainly during spring, with more than 1,000 tornadoes touching down in the US each year. Although they are short-lived, tornadoes cause widespread damage to homes, infrastructure, and cause many fatalities.

Hurricanes are another natural hazard which cause significant damage and loss of life each year. Hurricanes form out over the tropical, warm waters of the Caribbean and track their way north towards mainland United States. Hurricane season in the United States is the same as the Caribbean – June through to November, covering the entire summer season. To learn more about how to stay safe during a hurricane or tornado, check out our article for preparation and survival tips.

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