A woman smiling at a beach.

Is San Diego Safe? A Solo Female Traveler Shares Her Experience

San Diego has pleasant year-round weather, adorable sea lions, and over 70 miles of beaches. But with crime seemingly increasing by the day in the US, you might be wondering—Is San Diego safe?

A Note From the Author

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I spent over four months exploring San Diego as a solo female traveler. Overall, I had a positive experience. That said, the information I share, except for statistics from linked sources, is my personal opinion based on my encounters.

So, take what you want from this article and leave the rest. And above all, never let your guard down just because I or anyone else tells you a destination is safe. 

The Big Picture

San Diego skyline.
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Overall, San Diego is safe, with a crime rate lower than the national average. Like any city, certain districts are safer than others.

Turning to Neighborhood Scout

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According to Neighborhood Scout, San Diego has a crime index of 17 out of 100. The higher the number, the safer the city. So, that places San Diego at 17% safer than other neighborhoods in the United States.

Crime Breakdown

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Of the crime classifications that make up Neighborhood Scout’s numbers, there are around 26,700 property crimes in San Diego and 5,470 violent crimes. 

To put that into perspective, San Diego’s violent crime rate is 3.96 per 1,000 residents. In contrast, California has a rate of 4.4 per 1,000 residents, and the U.S. national median is 4.0 per 1,000 residents.

Visiting San Diego as a Woman 

Woman at the beach.
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I spent almost my entire time in San Diego exploring by myself as a solo female traveler. I didn’t have a vehicle, so I relied on public transportation.

Overall, I felt very safe. However, there were uncomfortable times when I was trying to get from point A to point B, particularly when taking and waiting for public transportation. 

Safety on San Diego’s Public Transportation

A trolley in San Diego.
Photo Credit: Depositphotos.

I found many of the trolley stops in downtown San Diego unpleasant when walking around alone as a woman. Inebriated characters were common, as were those using drugs. As with most cities, it’s easy to walk from a safe to a rough-around-the-edges area within a single block difference.

Forking Over Money

A fork through two 50 dollar bills.
Photo Credit: Depositphotos.

Because of the handful of uncomfortable situations I encountered when taking public transportation in San Diego by day, I didn’t feel safe taking the buses and trolleys at night. Uber is ultra expensive in San Diego. But to me, it was worth using rideshare apps in the evening.

Safest Areas in San Diego

Pink building in La Jolla, San Diego.
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Some of the safest areas in San Diego include:

  • La Jolla
  • Torrey Hills
  • Del Mar Mesa
  • Carmel Valley

Location, Location, Location

A magnifying glass over a map of San Diego.
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You’ll notice a theme with these safe neighborhoods if you look at a map; they’re all north of downtown San Diego. That matches what many San Diego locals will tell you. The farther north you go, the higher the chance of you having a safe experience.

My Digs

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I couldn’t afford rent in the seaside towns mentioned here, so I spent a couple of months living in Chula Vista, just four trolley stops from the Mexican border. I had a very positive experience and enjoyed the (relatively) cheaper cost of living compared to central and northern San Diego.

So, I don’t discourage people from staying in other parts of San Diego. You can find pockets of safe areas within districts around the city.

Safety in Downtown San Diego

Gaslamp district at night.
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There isn’t a single safest area in downtown San Diego. And in most cases, districts that are relatively safe during the day (such as Little Italy and Gaslamp) aren’t safe in the wee hours of the morning.

Then again, what downtown area in any city is truly safe at 2:00 am?

Safest Areas in Downtown

A building on stilts in Seaport Village.
Photo Credit: Depositphotos.

Some of the safest areas in downtown San Diego include:

  • Seaport Village
  • North Harbor Drive (boardwalk along the water)
  • Convention Center
  • Little Italy
  • Gaslamp

Neighborhoods to Avoid in San Diego

Man looking through window curtain.
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Some of the highest crime areas in San Diego include:

  • University Avenue
  • Imperial Avenue
  • Lincoln Park
  • O’Farrell
  • Skyline
  • National City

East Village is an area in downtown San Diego with a high homeless population. While that doesn’t necessarily make it inherently dangerous, it can be uncomfortable to pass through, particularly for solo females. Inebriated men and unclothed people are not so uncommon sights.

A Note on Touristy Old Town

Old town San Diego.
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From a personal perspective, I’m not a fan of Old Town. It’s safe enough during the day (I’ve been several times), but I always feel I have to have my guard up higher there than in certain other parts of San Diego.

Is San Diego Safe at Night?

San Diego skyline at night.
Photo Credit: Depositphotos.

If you stay within the safest neighborhoods in San Diego that I listed earlier, San Diego is pretty safe at night. But it also depends on what “night” means to you. Are we talking 10:00 pm or 3:00 am?

The bottom line is to use common sense. If a street is desolate and poorly lit, don’t walk down it. If you want to pull out your new Mac and work on a park bench, find a cafe instead.

Beach Safety

Solana Beach, San Diego.
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Rip currents are common in San Diego, and data shows that about 80% of all lifeguard rescues are because of them.

Many popular San Diego beaches have lifeguards on duty during the day. If you go to La Jolla Shores Beach, it’s common to hear the lifeguard shouting orders to swimmers and surfers in the water, ensuring they remain in safe areas.

Teetering on a Fault

A cracked road.
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It’s no secret that San Diego sits on a portion of the San Andreas fault network. And because of this, scientists estimate that there’s at least a 60% chance of an earthquake of 6.7-magnitude or greater at any given time.

Personally, I didn’t wander around San Diego worried about earthquakes, and I think most locals would agree. But it’s undeniable that large and small earthquakes alike have and will happen there. 

Wildfire Threats

Firefighter with a hose.
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Like so many places in California, wildfires are a threat in San Diego. I happened to be in the city in 2020 when a wildfire happened. The fire was so close to San Diego that the sky filled with smoke, and health experts urged people to keep their windows closed and not exercise outside.

The peak wildfire season in California is from July to October.  But the reality is that San Diego has a coastal desert climate, so there’s always a chance of fires.

How To Stay Safe in San Diego

A woman with arms open at the beach.
Photo Credit: Brocreative via Adobe Stock.

Below are some basic safety precautions to take in San Diego. As you’ll see, there’s nothing unique about them—it’s wise to practice these tips regardless of where you travel. 

  • Take a taxi at night 
  • Don’t walk around showcasing expensive electronics
  • Never carry around all your credit cards and cash
  • Ask locals for advice
  • Don’t leave an opened drink unattended
  • If you’re going to get inebriated, do so with a trustworthy sober companion

Finally, trust your instinct. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.

Must-Knows About Visiting San Diego’s Sea Lions

Two sea lions sleeping.
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Seeing San Diego’s sea lions and seals is at the top of many tourist itineraries. But it’s easy to spend your entire vacation without spotting them if you don’t know where to look.

14 Tips for Seeing Sea Lions and Seals in San Diego

13 Torrey Pines Hiking Trail Hacks

A view of the Torrey Pines hiking trails.
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Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve covers 1,500 acres of protected land with miles of trails, offering amazing hiking opportunities. Plan out your trip in advance using a map and these tips.

13 Torrey Pines Hiking Trail Hacks

30 Most Dangerous American Cities Revealed

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Do you live in one of the most dangerous cities in the United States? Some of the cities on this list may surprise you.

30 Most Dangerous American Cities Revealed

How To Take the Bus From Tijuana to Ensenada

Cliff and lighthouse in Ensenada, Mexico.
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Do you want to hop across the San Diego border for a day trip to Ensenada, Mexico? Here’s how to do it, straight from the words of a solo female traveler.

How To Take the Bus From Tijuana to Ensenada

20 Most Dangerous States for Drivers in America

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Are you planning on crisis crossing the US by car as part of your San Diego trip? You might want to be extra careful before heading to these most dangerous states for drivers.

20 Most Dangerous States for Driving in the US

This article was produced and syndicated by A Piece of Travel.

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