Top 5 Los Angeles Safety Warnings For First-Time Tourists

Safety in Los Angeles is a concern for some travelers. Perhaps influenced by films about LA gang lands such as Blood In, Blood Out and Boyz in the Hood, the fear of venturing into certain areas of Los Angeles do have legitimate reasons. But more than just skipping certain neighborhoods, there are a few more safety concerns every visitor should be mindful of.

1. Avoid certain places at Los Angeles districts such as Skid Row and South Central 
These places are best avoided especially after dark. In Skid Row, for example, homeless people can be observed in the streets and in makeshift dwellings made from cardboard and old tents. Many of them suffer from mental illnesses, drug addiction and other health issues. This may cause uncomfortable experience for certain travelers who are not used to such sight, even if these people are generally peaceful and will not aggressively approach strangers.

Skid Row is not too far from popular landmarks of Los Angeles so it’s easy to wander around the area as you tour around downtown LA. If you are driving around the city, it’s best not to park around the area.

South Central also has that seedy reputation, partly due to the violence involving rival gangs. Although the conflict is generally between these groups, violence could erupt and spill over bystanders and passers by. Some of these gangs have colors associated with them (red or blue) so you may feel safer if you avoid wearing such colors to avoid misidentification of gang affiliation.

Other areas you may want to skip after dark include East Hollywood, Alameda, Long Beach, Westlake and MacArthur Park, Mid-City, East L.A., Highland Park and Lincoln Heights. Venice Beach is known for its meth trade, so avoid it after dark. The area between Culver City and the Marina del Rey at West Side is best avoided at night.

2. Women should avoid exploring the city alone or after dark
Same as many other large cities where pockets of dark alleys and remote location can be an uncomfortable trek for certain travelers, female Los Angeles visitors should avoid venturing out too far on their own especially at night. Catcalling is not uncommon, although most perpetrators won’t aggressively pursue women who refuse to give them attention.

Bringing pepper spray may be helpful as self-defense among women, and it is legal in California. However, this defense can also be used against the victim. When accessing your social media profile over the phone while passing time, ensure that you don’t put yourself in a vulnerable position for someone to snatch away your phone.

Related: LAX to Union Station by Flyaway Bus

LA Metro. Credit: Getty Images

Public transportation like the LA Metro tend to have few passengers later in the night, so female travelers should bring a trusted friend if possible. Otherwise they should notify someone of their whereabouts. This also applies when taking ride-sharing transport utility like Uber or Lyft, although both services are viewed as generally safe around Los Angeles. Common sense can get you a long way and common advise against attracting criminals like not displaying excessive jewelry or flaunting expensive gadgets still applies.

3. Be mindful of potential mishaps when exploring LA nightlife
In a city that is full of activities after sunset, there are plenty of bars and restaurants, concerts, professional sports schedules and others where visitors can hang out.

People from around the world flock to Tinsel town to visit the bars, clubs and restaurants that have been made famous on Hollywood films. A significant slice of Los Angeles nightlife, particularly tourist-oriented, is situated in and around the famous Hollywood area. Although it is obviously not an area you need to avoid, you have to act with caution as it is always very crowded. With the crowds comes an increased risk of pickpockets and theft – so always hold your belongings close and stay alert.

One thing you may notice immediately is that drinks are expensive in LA, where an average cocktail will set you back about $12 and a glass of wine or pint of draft beer can cost nearly as much.

The same types of crime happen in LA as most places, including drink spiking and theft inside the bars. Never accept drinks offered by strangers unless you saw the bartender pour them. Also, avoid running a bar tab with your credit card as many people have may  have access to these cards while the bar is holding onto it. That is why it is a good idea to carry enough cash to cover certain expenses without presenting your card for payment.

4. Be careful when exploring the streets
Los Angeles is laced with freeways so cars are a common and preferred way of getting around the city and suburbs. That being said, be careful when crossing the street not only for your personal safety but also to avoid getting slapped with  jaywalking tickets. It’s common sense for safety reasons not to cross in the middle of the street, as Los Angeles police have even been known to hand out tickets.

If walking is too much for you to bear, taking ride-sharing services like Uber or Lyft is more practical than renting a car to get around the city. These services are cheaper and more efficient than taxi cabs, and don’t provide burden of tolls, valet service, gas and looking and paying for parking spaces when you opt for rental cars.

Another knock when you hire a car to use in Los Angeles is that parking signs may be hard to follow, and fines for traffic violations are hefty. Worse, you could also experience wrath of aggressive drivers who simply wish to arrive at their destination early but deal with horrendous traffic situation most of the day.

As alternative to Uber or Lyft, taking the LA Metro is a cheap way to get around, and some station exits are located close to landmarks such as Staples Center and Santa Monica Pier.

5. Beware of fake Hollywood casting agents
It is possible that while you are walking around the Hollywood Walk of Fame, someone introducing himself as a casting agent, director or film or sitcom writer of some sort. While there are real ones, there are also fake ones. Without sounding rude it is easy to dismiss them aside, but if they appear serious with an opportunity, get their business card, review their profile online at IMDB.

Tell them you want to make an appointment to meet at their office so you can bring your companion with you to the meeting. If they’re serious, there should be no problem for you to bring a chaperone of your choice.

Some people may brush off these advise and label our warnings as overzealous, but hopefully these safety warnings raise the level of consciousness among travelers that Los Angeles, while a great city, also has hots pots to look out for, and avoid ruining an otherwise enjoyable visit.

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