While reading reviews about hotels in Austin, Texas, I found some reviews talking about areas struck with crime and drugs, where it is dangerous to walk the streets. I don't drive, and would like to walk the city as much as possible. How can I make sure that I don't enter any danger zones?
I've lived in Austin for about 15 years, so I have a pretty good idea of areas that are dangerous. Thankfully, most of the city is quite safe, especially the places where a visitor is likely to be walking around. The following crime heat map should be helpful:
However, that map may be a little misleading. You'll notice that the highest concentration of crime is in downtown (right on top of the "Austin" label). But that's also the most densely populated area and the center of nightlife, so it's no surprise that this area would see more incidents. In my experience, most of downtown is fairly safe. Of course, you'll want to use common sense just like in any city (i.e. stay alert and stick to areas with other people around, especially at night).
Also, one thing to keep in mind about downtown Austin is that there's a homeless shelter around 7th and Neches. Violent attacks by this homeless population are very rare, but it has happened occasionally. (Most likely, they'll just ask you for change.) If this makes you uncomfortable, you should avoid this corner. But I wouldn't recommend cutting too wide of a swath -- some of the best music venues in town are one block away (on Red River St) and these spots are pretty popular and safe.
Another central Austin crime hotspot that you'll notice on the map is just north of downtown (between Martin Luther King Jr Blvd and Dean Keaton St). This is right next to the University of Texas, so a high concentration of college students live in this zone. The crime here is mostly stuff like car break-ins, party-related incidents, etc. None of this should really concern a visitor, and there's not much for tourists to see here anyway.
Historically, the area east of downtown (on the east side of I-35) has been a low-income neighborhood. In recent years, this zone has experienced a lot of gentrification and is home to a number of new restaurants, shops, and bars. There are also many great establishments here run by the long-time residents of east Austin. This area is generally pretty safe, but it's worth exercising some caution if you decide to walk through these neighborhoods. (As you can see, the map has some patches of orange in that vicinity.)
On the map, you'll also notice some crime hotspots in far north and northeast Austin (around Cameron Rd and Rundberg Ln). These are low-income neighborhoods that can be dangerous in certain spots. However, there's probably not much that a visitor would want to see in these areas, and they're also not very pedestrian-friendly (although there are some great and affordable Asian restaurants in far North Austin).
In general, you're probably pretty safe if you stick to the typical tourist areas (which in Austin aren't very touristy). These include:
- Congress Ave just south of the river (i.e. "South Congress")
- Downtown around the capital, city hall, 6th St, Red River, etc.
- 6th and Lamar (for shops, etc.)
- University of Texas campus
- The hipster areas east of I-35
- Barton Springs Rd and Zilker Park
- The hike & bike trails on Ladybird Lake
Good luck and have fun!