For your better understanding, we’ve put together this guide regarding your safety in Chicago - filled with plenty of tips and information that will keep you safe - so that you explore the city and enjoy it thoroughly.
Is Chicago Safe to Travel During Covid-19?
Although COVID-19 still lingers in the air and hasn’t completely disappeared, the world is slowly and steadily opening for travel, but with precautionary measures. Nonetheless, the United States of America is still struggling with the global pandemic, and international travel to and from the USA is highly restricted. The world government’s advice during these trying times is to avoid the States.
If you want to be thorough with the safety information, you can consult with the local government or the WHO.
Is Chicago Safe, Currently?
One of the popular destinations in the USA for travel, Chicago is a cultural hub and a home to a lot of natural gems and manmade architecture. But, the good news is that Chicago is relatively safe.
People from Chicago and travelers, hang around the famous block, called The Loop. This is a place where there are museums and several public arts. However, the only thing worrisome about this place is that a lot of pick-pocketing happens here. It also happens in the underground walk system, as well as the public transport system.
Even if you’re exploring the non-central parts of the city, you may not run into as much trouble either. Nevertheless, you should do a bit of research into what neighborhood you plan to head to or how safe they are.
If you live in a big city, you’d know what precautions to take, to be safe. The same applies to Chicago. Thefts like snatching of mobile phones or bags happen often. Chicago has often been in the headlines for its serious and violent crimes like homicide. But they happen in certain areas, and this usually doesn’t impact the tourists.
Things to Know Before Traveling to Chicago
As mentioned already, Chicago is relatively a safe place to travel. But, you still need to be aware of a few things and know how to keep yourself or your loved ones safe, if you’re planning to travel to Chicago. Here are a few pointers.
Chicago has over 75 neighborhoods, and it is highly unlikely that you’d find yourself in one of the risky areas. That being said, Chicago is a big city, and researching about a city and having common sense matters a lot, which will go a long way during your time in Chicago.
- Keep your belongings close: Petty thefts happen often. So, it’s important that you keep all your valuables close to you and also hidden from plain sight.
- Don’t flash anything expensive: It’s not like you’d be in immense danger by walking around with expensive jewelry or electronic gadgets, but the more noticeable you are, the more chances of you being targeted.
- Carry less money with you: It’s simple logic. If you’ve more money on hand, you could lose all of it.
- Notice your surroundings: Thefts usually happen in the pedways, public transport, famous tourist attractions, and transit hubs. So, be aware of your surroundings while you’re in any of these places.
- Be vigilant around ATMs: While using ATMs, make sure to use them in the daylight hours, in malls, or the banks.
- Exploring places less traveled: If you know of a hidden gem, make sure to research or ask the locals for advice if you’re planning to visit a tourist area that’s less traveled, as there could be chances that the area may not be safe, too.
- Don’t follow Google maps every time: You may find a hole-in-the-wall eatery outside the central neighborhood, but following a map that takes you through a shortcut may lead to questionable areas. So, either just use an Uber or cycle your way to the cafe.
- Don’t resist: Especially when someone tries to mug you. Whatever you’ve got with you, just hand it all. Your bag, wallet, phone, etc. They aren’t worth getting injured.
- Keep your luggage with you: Even if it’s in a hotel lobby, don’t leave your bags unattended anywhere.
- Be careful around the Loop: Although hanging around the Loop is fine during the day, it can get secluded or isolated after business hours, especially around the west of State Street.
- Walk with confidence: A rookie tourist mistake - walking like you’re lost. When you walk like you know where you’re going and what’s going on, even if you’ve got zero ideas, you may appear confident and less vulnerable to thefts, scams, and other street crimes.
- Don’t indulge in underage drinking: If you’re under 21, steer clear from underage drinking. It’s illegal and could land you in trouble.
- Don’t misuse the legality of weed: Yes, weed is legal in Chicago, but a bit of research is needed to know where you can purchase weed and where you can smoke it.
- Don’t try other illegal drugs: Although weed is legal in Chicago, it doesn’t mean other forms of drugs are. It’s best if you stay far from it.
- Avoid drinking in public: Drinking while you’re out and about is against the law. But certain places in Chicago like Millennium Park are okay. So, notice your surroundings, and see what people are getting up to around you, before indulging in a drinking session.
- The homeless population in the city is high: Places like Union Station are filled with homeless people. Although they aren’t a threat, it’s best to stick to the more populated streets.
- Be chill: This should be strictly adhered to, especially after a few drinks down. Having an altercation with the locals or other travelers, after drinking is a bad idea, and it can affect the rest of your vacation time.
- Chicago has freezing weather: Especially in winters, Chicago gets notoriously cold, with an average temperature of up to 17 degrees Fahrenheit (-8.3 degrees Celsius)
- Get a local sim: This way you can download all the necessary apps for the city, which will help you get around easily. Also, if you’re ever in an emergency, you can reach out to someone, too.
Is Chicago Safe for Solo and Female Travelers?
Traveling alone has plenty of benefits - you can do whatever you want and whenever you want, also go wherever you want at your free will. However, traveling solo can also seem intimidating. And a big city like Chicago doesn’t make it easy.
Although being solo, out and about in the city can get lonesome, traveling alone in Chicago is worth it. And if you’re traveling solo and you’re a woman, just like any other city, Chicago also poses a risk to women, compared to men traveling alone. But that doesn’t mean the windy city is unsafe for sole female travelers. You just need to research more about the destination you’re heading to. So, to make your search easier, we’ve curated some tips for people traveling solo in Chicago.
Any solo traveler - male or female - wanting to indulge and soak in a new culture, will have a gala time backpacking in Chicago. The city is pretty safe, and there are several things to do in the city to keep you occupied. But, it’s good to develop street smarts and paying attention to everything, and being in a sound mind to make good judgment calls. Just stay in touch with your loved ones back home, join a guided tour, research the neighborhood and accommodation thoroughly, and you’re good to go!
- Beware of your surroundings: Whatever you do, stay alert and don’t get distracted. Check your maps often, don’t text and walk, and be vigilant, even during the daytime.
- Dress for the occasion: If you’re exploring the park, you’d dress accordingly and it will be different from that of a night out at a bar. It’s always better to be low-key with dressing. If you’re dressing up and look loud, you’ll be inviting a lot of attention.
- Stay in touch, always: It is much safer to keep in contact with both friends and family and let them know about your travel plans. This will also benefit you if you’re feeling lonely or homesick.
- Leave emergency cash elsewhere: Whatever you do, always have extra cash as an emergency stored elsewhere in your bag. It’s also good to have two different bank accounts, cards, and also an emergency credit card. Don’t keep two of these items together.
- Don’t party recklessly: Chicago is renowned for its vibrant nightlife - be it the jazz bars, comedy clubs, drag shows, music festivals, food festivals, clubs, etc - the city flaunts it all in its nightlife! And if you’re a traveling solo (female or not), it doesn’t mean you get drunk and reckless with weed. This could put you in a risky situation where you don’t find your way back to the accommodation or you can be too intoxicated to make sound decisions. That being said, females traveling solo should keep in mind that not all bars are female-friendly if you’re planning to dance and drink by yourself. So research ahead of time regarding the venue.
- Join a tour: A guided tour - walking or cycling around the famous attractions of the city, bar hopping, or a food tour, is a great way to have fun in Chicago when you’re alone. This way, you get to socialize with other travelers, too. Take time to research the tour companies and go only with the reputable ones.
- Research about the accommodation: There are multiple accommodation options in the city. But make sure you don’t opt for accommodation that’s not within the center. You don’t want to stay near a sketchy neighborhood now, would you? Check for verified reviews from other travelers. You could opt for staying at a nice hotel or staying at a hostel where you can make new friends with fellow travelers.
Safety Tips for Hiking, Biking, Walking, or Camping in Chicago
- Walkers or pedestrians must walk on the right side.
- Make use of the protective gear while skating or biking.
- Wear reflective or visible clothes at night.
- Use signaling and pass or overtake on the left.
- Before entering a trail, look at both sides and stop during oncoming traffic.
- If you need a breather and want to stop, make sure to stay on the side of the trail, allowing others easier to traverse and proceed.
- Don’t hike, skate, or bike while wearing earphones or headphones, or while you’re intoxicated.
- Carry flashlights, whistles, first aid kits while hiking or camping.
- Don’t litter around. Leave no trace behind by not carving on trees or stones.
- Observe wildlife from a distance.
- Chicago is known for unpredictable weather, so carry rain gear along while camping or hiking.
- Use a map and research about the park or the trail you are using for information regarding amenities, where to park, trail distance, etc.
Healthcare in Chicago
In general, healthcare in Chicago is promising. But, the price of healthcare can burn a hole in your pockets. This is why medical insurance is important to have.
- Chicago has excellent healthcare facilities in the USA. You’ll find multiple clinics, hospitals, and pharmacies that will help you deal with any ailments necessary.
- Although the city is known for its reliable healthcare system, medical treatments in the country are expensive. You’ll notice that there’s no proper system in place that works universally, which makes it crucial for you to have medical travel insurance that works in the USA, which will cover these expensive medical bills.
- Also keep extra cash that can cover the cost in case of emergency treatment, as there a few hospitals in the city that will ask for payment upfront. But, if this is the case, have them contact your insurance provider.
- If you want to get in touch with emergency services, call 911, and ask for an ambulance, which will take you to the nearest ER - emergency room.
- Pharmacies are a good option, too. They are located all across the city, and the pharmacists will advise on any health conditions you may be having. Or just head to the pharmacy with the prescription provided by the doctor and pick up the medicines from the store.
It’s no doubt that Chicago is an amazing city. After all, there are so many things to do, see, and even eat. The locals of the city and even the tourists love the skyscrapers, the famous Loop, lakeside scenery, underground walk systems, museums, parks, and so many more. The list is never-ending. The city suits all kinds of travelers - art lovers, thrill-seekers, escapists, collectors, etc. Although the city is known for its violent reputation, chances are you wouldn’t be seeing the violence up-close and firsthand.