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A couple I know will travel from Greece to San Francisco for their honeymoon, and then visit other places too; it's their first trip abroad.

I remember when I first came to SF, I used Google Maps to navigate. Once I was on foot, and it guided me directly into a "bad"/dangerous neighborhood. I was afraid that if I turned the other way I came from, they might be offended and react. I made it through safely, but the images I saw were shocking and hard to forget.

How can I advise the young couple to use Google Maps to boost the chances of avoiding this experience? Maybe use Apple Maps? Or it won't make any difference?

PS: I'm not in US now to check myself.

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    – Willeke
    Sep 20, 2023 at 16:29
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    Not an answer to your question specifically, but: you're using Google Maps to navigate (seemingly it's obvious you're using your phone), so why not just look confused for a moment, turn around a couple of times, and then go the opposite direction as if you've just taken a wrong turn / the navigation messed up if you're worried about being judged for turning around and leaving? Sep 21, 2023 at 7:46

6 Answers 6

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Hoodmaps is a service that more generally allows labeling different neighbourhoods and 'areas' of a city. These labels are not primarily focused on 'perceived safety', and the quality greatly differs from city to city, but they can be an useful guide to check when getting acquainted with a city.

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Note: The above image is not licensed under the CC license, it's a screenshot from Hoodmaps who holds the copyright to the image.

Link: https://hoodmaps.com/san-francisco-neighborhood-map

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    You label them yourself, or can you crowd source some of that knowledge?
    – user27701
    Sep 20, 2023 at 15:44
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    @user27701 I think the labels are all added and voted on by users, but I think the colored basemap is somehow calculated? Not sure tbh. 🤔 Sep 21, 2023 at 5:25
  • 3
    Browsing Hoodmaps for cities I know, it would seem primarily suited as a source of comedy. :D
    – gerrit
    Sep 21, 2023 at 7:01
  • @user27701 that's the key question, good to know, +1!
    – gsamaras
    Sep 21, 2023 at 10:09
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    Hilarious that the most unofficial map resource ends up being the most useful!
    – Mentalist
    Sep 22, 2023 at 9:13
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It's not likely that Google Maps, Apple Maps or similar apps would ever include a feature to avoid bad neighborhoods, because it could be labeled racist and attract lots of negative publicity.

In addition to doing manual research on dangerous areas of San Francisco, which is pretty easy, there's also an app called Augurisk Now, which should warn the user if they're potentially exposed to crime or natural hazards. YMMV, I've never used the app, just found it now via an article on Forbes.

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    – JoErNanO
    Sep 21, 2023 at 7:16
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If you're traveling on foot in the touristy bits of San Francisco, just about the only rough neighborhood you're likely to stumble into accidentally is the Tenderloin, west of Union Square and north of Market St. Here's a handy outline on Google Maps. Outside the city core, some parts of the Mission and Oakland are also distinctly sketchy as well.

That said, the crime situation across all of SF is not great and it's steadily getting worse. Many local friends have stopped using public transportation entirely, with the BART being particularly sketchy. I would avoid walking about after dark and use Uber if you need to get around.

Finally, "ghetto" is quite a loaded term in the US, since the implication is that it's a particular ethnic group living there that's the problem. For better or worse, this is not the case in the Tenderloin, which has mentally ill/homeless/addicted people of every race on the streets.

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    – JoErNanO
    Sep 21, 2023 at 7:17
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Bad neighborhoods is something you learn about separately. In general, it's best to check official crime statistics. For SF, Google found me this map which clearly shows that crime scenes tend to concentrate around Market St. In France, there are ZSPs (areas with priority police presence) published by police departments which tend to include bad neighborhoods.

The catch is that crime statistics don't discriminate bad neighborhoods from popular places where crimes are probable to occur statistically because there are lots of people there day and night, such as train stations in pretty much any city.

Another source of information which must be taken with an even bigger grain of salt is random travel blogs and compilations à la "10 most dangerous places in %city-name%". These will often include places where the author has lost their wallet, or just poorer neighborhoods with nothing for a tourist to see, which are not genuinely dangerous.

In general, if you're walking through an unfamiliar city and suddenly you see no people walking around, you might want to turn back to a busier street and take a different route.

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    IMO official crime stats are not very usable for tourists. Railway stations and shopping malls can have lots of reported crime, but are generally safe for tourists. Bad neighborhoods can even have less reported crime (much of the violence between rival gangs goes unreported), but tourists can feel very unsafe there. Sep 20, 2023 at 9:17
  • I see your point Dmitry but I'm wondering if the crime statistics would include the dangerous neighborhood I had walked into in SF back then. Nevertheless, +1, for having a polymorphic answer section.
    – gsamaras
    Sep 20, 2023 at 11:28
  • I would add to the last point that there are other tells you can watch for. One of the other big ones to watch for is high numbers of drug addicts. In my experience, that’s actually one of the most reliable indicators, at least in the US, of a sketchy neighborhood (not always a dangerous one, but probably not somewhere you want to be). Significant differences in overall behavior of other people in the area, significant differences in law enforcement presence, and a distinct lack of tourists can also be pretty reliable indicators depending on the particular city. Sep 22, 2023 at 5:05
  • Comments have been moved to chat; please do not continue the discussion here. Before posting a comment below this one, please review the purposes of comments. Comments that do not request clarification or suggest improvements usually belong as an answer, on Travel Meta, or in Travel Chat. Comments continuing discussion may be removed.
    – Rory Alsop
    Sep 22, 2023 at 8:08
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I just found Neighborhood Scout which can give you detailed information about specific neighborhoods, including crime stats and ratings about safety.

For San Francisco Neighborhoods, it looks like the stats support the notion that there is a saturation of property crimes, but it is a little lower than the California average for violent crimes. So it might feel gross and unsafe, but it is statistically not that bad. Click around there and see what you learn.

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  • Downvote for what?! [E e-e e-er er er e, er er-er er e e e]
    – user27701
    Sep 22, 2023 at 15:32
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The thing about San Fran, and I was just there a few months ago, is that "bad" neighborhoods have nothing to do with race or ethnic groups. Its all about drug use. Also they can be found anywhere.

There are places where people of all color and background will be openly shooting heroin on the street and as such can care less about displaying other "anti-social" behavior. This would include harassment, using the bathroom openly, and theft.

On another block you can find a group of people of all colors and background whom you can trust with anything. They are dressed nice, are kind, giving and would not think of performing a crime. Again, race has nothing to do with it.

We stayed in a very high priced hotel, and was in a neighborhood of other high priced hotels. While we were there a high school prom was being held in one of the adjacent hotels. Yet, in the garage where those young people parked there was open drug use and other not so nice things being done.

Every store you go into will have its own security in order to stop or limit blatant shop lifting because the cops won't.

So if you are truly afraid of "badness", stay away from San Francisco.

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    I'd agree with you, but this doesn't answer the OP's question. Sep 20, 2023 at 14:41
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    @Johnnyjanko The last sentence: "So if you are truly afraid of "badness", stay away from San Francisco." Sounds like an answer to me.
    – user27701
    Sep 20, 2023 at 15:47
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    Why are you so focused on race in this answer? The question didn't say anything about race, but your answer seems to be trying to convince that race isn't a factor. So why bring it up at all?
    – terdon
    Sep 20, 2023 at 18:00
  • Is SF the type of place where the drug users will leave you alone if you leave them alone? Sep 20, 2023 at 20:54
  • @user253751 for most parts yes
    – littleadv
    Sep 20, 2023 at 22:38

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