It depends on who you ask.
I’m a woman born and raised in Chicago and have lived and visited many Chicago neighborhoods on the north, east, south, and west sides.
Many petty crime incidents that I’ve heard of involving tourists have occurred from either a) not being aware of their surroundings or b) flashing expensive items.
It doesn’t matter where you travel, you need to use common sense.
The precautions you would take in any other major city apply to Chicago. Like any other city, there are dangerous neighborhoods. However, neighborhoods with lots of tourist attractions are usually safe to visit.
Also, I don’t think it’s fair to generalize the entire city based on headlines of crimes that happen in certain neighborhoods.
Why Visit Chicago?
There are so many reasons to visit Chicago! Whether you’re a foodie, a history buff, or just looking for a fabulous Midwest city to explore, Chicago has something for everyone.
Chicago is worth visiting with world-famous attractions like the Willis Tower, Navy Pier, and Lake Michigan, excellent restaurants, and a lively arts scene.
I have fond memories of visiting Lincoln Park Zoo as a child. I love visiting Millennium Park and shopping along the Magnificent Mile. The Art Institute of Chicago will always be my favorite art museum. And there is no pizza better than deep dish pizza.
But is Chicago safe?
This is a question that many women have, especially if they’ve never been to Chicago before.
While Chicago certainly has its charms, it’s also a major city with similar dangers as other major U.S. cities. You’ll want to take some precautions while in ‘The Windy City’, and I’ll get to those later. These are the same precautions that you would take in any big city.
With just a little bit of preparation and common sense, you can enjoy all the windy city offers without feeling worried or intimidated.
Safest Neighborhoods in Chicago for Female Solo Travelers
When visiting Chicago, these are the areas that I prefer to stay in and recommend to others visiting the city.
These areas are usually safe for tourists and where most will prefer to hang out anyways.
You’re not missing much by staying in these areas because you’re experiencing the stuff most tourists visit the city for.
I think that if you stick to these areas and avoid sketchy neighborhoods, you will be fine. Most rideshare apps and even taxi drivers don’t like driving outside of the downtown area anyways (unless you’re going to O’Hare or Midway International Airport).
Downtown / The Loop
If you’re looking for a bustling area with plenty to see and do, downtown Chicago is the place for you. This is the city’s financial district and it’s also home to some of the most popular tourist attractions, such as Millennium Park.
The Loop is the section of downtown that’s enclosed by elevated train tracks, and it’s where you’ll find iconic buildings like the Willis Tower.
While downtown is safe during the day, I wouldn’t recommend walking around alone at night. There are plenty of people around, but it’s always best to be cautious after dark.
There is a significant homeless population downtown, like most major U.S. cities, but there is also a high police presence downtown.
The Magnificent Mile is one of the most popular tourist areas in Chicago. It’s a busy stretch of Michigan Avenue with high-end shops, hotels, and restaurants.
The Gold Coast is a wealthy neighborhood with a lot of old money. It’s bordered by the Magnificent Mile to the south and Lincoln Park to the north.
The Gold Coast is a safe neighborhood during the day and night. However, there have been reports of muggings in this area, so be cautious and don’t walk around flashing expensive items.
River North is a popular neighborhood for nightlife and dining. It’s bordered by the Magnificent Mile to the south and Lincoln Park to the north.
This area is safe during the day, but can be dangerous at night. I wouldn’t recommend walking around alone after dark.
Lakeview is a large neighborhood with a lot of nightlife and dining options. It’s bordered by Lincoln Park to the north, Wrigleyville to the south, and the lake to the east.
Lakeview is generally safe during the day and night. However, there have been reports of muggings in this area, so be cautious and don’t walk around flashing expensive items.
Wicker Park / Bucktown
Wicker Park and Bucktown are adjacent neighborhoods with a lot of nightlife and dining options. They’re bordered by Lincoln Park to the north, the river to the south, and Chinatown to the east.
Wicker Park and Bucktown are safe during the day, but can be dangerous at night. I wouldn’t recommend walking around alone after dark.
Where to Stay in Chicago Solo
Now that you know a little bit about the safest areas in Chicago, let’s talk about where you should stay as a solo female traveler.
If you’re looking for a safe and convenient place to stay, I would recommend downtown or the Magnificent Mile. These areas are well-lit and have a high police presence.
If you’re looking for a more affordable place to stay, I would recommend the Gold Coast or Lakeview. These areas are safe during the day, but you should exercise caution at night.
Safety Tips for Staying Safe in Chicago
No matter where you decide to stay, there are a few general tips that will help you stay safe in Chicago.
I traveled solo all over the city when I was a resident, even before I had a car and relied on public transportation. These tips kept me safe, and I’m sure they will help you.
1. Avoid walking alone at night, especially in unfamiliar areas.
If you absolutely need to go somewhere at night, try visiting during the day. This is will allow to figure out the best way to get there and will help you find where you’re going at night. The last thing you want is to look like a lost tourist at night.
And if you must go out at night, stay in well lit areas and more populated streets.
2. Don’t leave your belongings unguarded.
Keep your belongings close to you at all times.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve witnessed people almost being victims of crimes because they left their suitcases and other belongings unattended, and I (or someone else) pointed out that they shouldn’t do that, even in airports and especially at train stations.
If you’re going to be in a crowded area, make sure to keep your belongings close to you. If you can, carry your bag in front of you or keep it zipped up. Pickpockets are experts at stealing from unsuspecting travelers.
3. Be aware of your surroundings.
This is a good rule to live by in any city. Pay attention to the people around you and trust your gut if something doesn’t feel right. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
4. Keep your valuables hidden.
If you’re carrying around a lot of cash or expensive jewelry, it’s best to keep it hidden. You do not want to give thieves any reason to target you.
5. Use common sense.
This is probably the most important tip of all. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. When in doubt, it’s always better to err on the side of caution.
6. Carry emergency contact information with you at all times.
No matter where you are in the world, it’s always a good idea to have emergency contact information with you. In the event of an emergency, you will want to be able to reach your loved ones as soon as possible.
If you’re traveling solo, it’s especially important to have a list of emergency contacts that you can rely on.
Make sure to include the following information in your emergency contact list:
– Your full name
– Your date of birth
– Your passport number (or a photo of your passport in your phone)
– The name and contact information of your hotel or hostel
– The name and contact information of your travel insurance company
– The emergency contact numbers for your credit card companies
– The emergency contact numbers for your family and friends
By having this information readily available, you can rest assured that help is always just a phone call away.
7. Let someone know where you’re going and when you’ll be back.
This is another important safety tip, especially when traveling solo. If something were to happen to you, it would be helpful for someone to know where you were last seen and when you were expected to return.
I usually let someone back home know my travel plans before I leave. That way, they can check in on me and make sure I’m safe.
8. Keep copies of important documents in a safe place.
This is another good tip for travelers. It’s always good to keep copies of important documents, like your passport and driver’s license, in a safe place.
That way, if you lose your originals, you will have a backup. I usually keep copies of my documents in my hotel room safe and keep photos of the documents on my phone.
9. Download a safety app.
There are many different safety apps available that can be helpful for solo travelers. Some of these apps allow you to share your location with friends and family, while others have features like a panic button that can be used in case of an emergency.
Do some research to find the best safety app for your needs.
One app example is Life360. You can use this app to share your location with family and friends.
This list should be enough to make your trip to Chicago safe and enjoyable.
When traveling solo, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings and take precautions to keep yourself safe.
With a little planning and preparation, you can explore the city with confidence, knowing that you are taking steps to keep yourself safe. Enjoy your time in Chicago!