Is Portland, Oregon safe for new travelers?
The U.S.A is one of the best countries in the world for tourism. No matter whether you’re visiting as a first-timer or you’re living like a local there is something for you.
Although many tourists go for the typical cities: LA, NYC, or Miami, there are always alternatives that some visitors deem as better, and in more ways than one.
Portland is viewed as one of the more remote cities in the country, with it being in the northwest of America, north of LA. But is it safe? Let’s find out!
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Is Portland safe?
In this guide, we will cover travel safety in Portland so you can ensure your trip to Oregon’s largest city is a safe one and so you can avoid some of the common pitfalls that happen to some of the unfortunate people who arrive here.
Firstly, as a visitor to Portland, you will be glad to know that the city has various smart city initiatives ongoing such as air quality and traffic safety sensors.
America can be considered quite similar to other English-speaking countries such as Australia in terms of culture and quality of life, so visitors know what to expect.
Despite the underground donut tours and the mishmash of day trips on offer here, the big question is, whether life is the same when visiting a city like Portland?
How safe is Portland?
Whereas many cities in America have a consistent crime rate, Portland is currently a very special case. Even as recent as 4 or 5 years ago, we would’ve called Portland one of the safest cities in the western hemisphere.
However, with the murder of George Floyd and the political situation in America today, there’s no telling when the next protest will be and how bad it will get.
Travel Portland says:
“Yes, Portland remains a safe city for visitors. We recommend that visitors to Portland exercise the same caution, concern, and common sense as when traveling to any metropolitan destination. Given isolated incidents of violence at public demonstrations, Travel Portland recommends visitors avoid demonstration areas, which are typically removed from many businesses and attractions popular with visitors to our area.”
Whether the news media perpetuates the notion of Portland being ‘autonomous’ is up for debate. We even pitted Portland vs Seattle together to see which would be the best city for living, and believe it or not, Portland came out winning!
Portland crime rate
- Homicides in Portland increased from 28 in 2019 to 54 in 2020.
- Murder is below the national average, but violent crime is above the national average.
- Almost a quarter of households are below the poverty line.
- Violent crime peaked in 1995 and has more than halved since.
- Most popular type of crime is larceny.
Is Portland safe for tourists?
Yes, Portland is a safe city for most tourists, but that doesn’t mean you should let your guard down if you are here on vacation or visiting the city while on business.
If you decide to rent a car here, common sense dictates you shouldn’t leave your smartphone in plain view in a locked car and expect it to remain there, etc.
Even some of the busy and most built-up areas of the city have smash-and-grab thefts, so lock your car doors and don’t leave visible temptation.
The first thing we would say to anyone who decides to use a bike is that bike theft is a big deal in Portland since these thefts are often fueled by drug use.
If you rent a bike make sure the rental company outfits you with adequate locks (and that you follow their locking instructions).
When on a short trip, you can reduce the risk of bike theft by doing a guided bike tour which will even take you to some off the beaten path areas of Portland.
Is Portland safe at night?
Yes, Portland is a safe city to walk around at night. Avoid the area of West Burnside Street where in particular drug crimes are a daily occurrence. It’s always recommended to walk around the city as a group of people after dark too.
Aim to avoid deserted streets, as well as the outskirts of Portland. Stick to well-lit areas in the touristic zones or where you see there are other people around.
Also, avoid Old Town in downtown, Hazelwood, Centennial and Powellhurst neighborhoods for their high crime rates. We still suggest carrying a money stash like this one with you to conceal your belongings while out exploring the city.
Is it safe to be alone in Portland?
Yes, it’s safe to be alone in Portland but it’s not recommended to walk around the city at night. If you do, then make sure to be with a companion or in a group.
Stay around the most popular areas of the city and avoid the northern and eastern districts. Exercise caution when you’re using public transport as it might pass by high-crime districts of the city. Don’t carry large amounts of cash and wear flashy jewelry to avoid attracting the attention of possible petty thieves.
Is Portland safe for solo female travelers?
Yes, Portland is absolutely safe for solo female travelers. It’s safe to walk around both during the day and at night, as long as you don’t venture into some of the more crime-ridden parts of the northern and eastern districts of the city.
Use your common sense and be aware of your surroundings at all times even when using public transport. Avoid having too many drinks late at night can instantly turn you into a target for petty thieves or a magnet for other criminals.
Where to stay in Portland
Portland is very limited in choices for staying compared to the likes of New York City. Most visitors decide that Downtown is the only option.
Downtown: without a doubt, downtown is one the best places to stay in Portland if you are visiting for the first time. Expect live music venues/bars and the most prominent dining scene to suit all budgets. Experience weekend markets as well as free galleries and museums. With boutique hotels such as Woodlark, you can have a luxury stay here.
Hawthorne: for those with a free spirit attitude, this district makes a great (and affordable) place to stay. Here you can find pubs, clubs and a thriving nightlife scene. During the day you can expect bookstores, vintage shops and a host of vegetarian restaurants + much more.
Central Eastside: has an industrial vibe to it (think train tracks and factories). This area is famous for its coffee shops and bistros. You’ll find some worthy gastro-pubs too. Craft beer and fine dining are just two things to sample here. While here, we suggest you book at stay at Lolo Pass for the most stylish rooms.
Areas to avoid in Portland
There are some areas of Portland that are run down and better that you avoid as a tourist. The kind of places where property crimes and violence are rife.
Old Town, which is frequently listed as one of the tourist areas in Portland is also close to parts of the city where of some violent crimes happen.
In the eastern side of the city aim to avoid:
- Hazelwood, near the Getaway Transit Center
- Burnside downtown
When you start to see graffiti everywhere, or an influx of homeless people you may want to turn back, or, get an Uber back to a safer space in the city.
Portland: Travel safety tips
If you find yourself in a situation where you feel unsafe, remember to dial 9-1-1. The emergency services in Portland are incredible, always helpful, and never ignore calls. Only use the number when it’s an emergency situation and stay safe.
Here are some tips to help you out when in the streets of Portland:
- Do not carry a weapon for self-defense, as introducing a weapon can increase the severity of an attack.
- Always carry your cash and valuables in a front or inside pocket and consider a money belt if you want to be super cautious.
- Never let your drink out of your sight and don’t sample drinks from anyone – even friends or acquaintances that you may meet while out and about.
- See more safety tips on preventing drug-facilitated sexual assaults.
- Alcohol and “date rape” drugs are used in many sexual assaults – if you are going to drink, do so responsibly and be with trusted friends so you can look out for each other.
- Always have a cell phone along with you, if you have one.
- If you are traveling on a budget, be sure to take a look at one of the many Top Rated Hostels in Portland for a unique experience.
- Make sure you find out if there are any protests or demonstrations before traveling and stay clear of large groups if you see one.
- Stay alert, stand tall and be confident, if an attacker targets someone, they’re most likely scared.
Overall, you won’t need to abide by any rules or advice for safety. Portland has hardly any crime towards tourists, so imagine yourself at your own place of personal safety at home.
Don’t do anything you wouldn’t do at home, and don’t put yourself in harm’s way.
Best time to visit Portland
We went to our trusted source on all things meteorological, Travel US News:
“The best time to visit Portland is from June to August when consistently warm weather allows the city’s outdoorsy culture to thrive. Plus, summer is when the city’s roses (especially at the International Rose Test Garden) are in full bloom. However, this is also the peak tourist season, so you’ll have to book at least a couple months in advance to ensure availability and the best room rates. If you’re looking to score a bargain on a hotel, consider a winter trip. Chilly temperatures repel sightseers, but Portland’s proximity to Mount Hood makes it a great destination for winter sports enthusiasts. No matter what time of year you visit, you’ll find a variety of niche local events to choose from.”
Is Portland safe? Final Words
Overall, there is nothing to worry about if you’re looking for a cool hangout in Portland. It’s a very safe city with great record stores and coffee shops.
It really is an introvert’s dream. You may have a perception of danger due to the news reports, but this is largely untrue!
What do you think? Book your trip to Portland today, also, see our sustainable travel tips to ensure that your trip has a positive effect on the environment.
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