New Orleans loves tourists and tourism...sometimes for the wrong reasons, this is true.
But I always laugh at people's well intended warnings of "try not to look like a tourist with a camera or map"...
Here's the Reality Check: You ARE a tourist - and you're visiting a slick, established, world-weary, seen-it-all city. In fact, New Orleans is probably the ONLY place in the United States where, if you're NOT from there, the natives will smell it even before your plane lands or your car pulls in to the driveway.
So don't be afraid to weld your camera like a weapon (after all, if you stumble around the upper blocks in the Quarter after dark or anywhere near the levee day OR night, you may need it).
... and about the map, well, the Quarter is easy to get around since it's laid out like a grid, so you might find you won't need a map. But if you like maps, then bring one along for the fun of it.
Because whether you're carrying a camera or not, you're already pegged as a tourist simply by virtue of not being a local. It's like being a human on Mars - or vice versa.
The best way to avoid danger is to keep avoiding danger in mind. Don't carry more than one credit card or more than $50 in cash. Leave expensive jewelry in your room's safe or at home. Try to have an idea of where you're going before you go and remember that if you think you've wandered into a bad neighborhood, you probably have. Also, avoid talking to street people. They are professionals at getting money out of tourists. They'll have it before you even know what happened.
I love New Orleans for all of its vices, I've been there several times, and will return. But as a traveler, you have to be smart and pay attention to your surroundings, maybe more here than anywhere. A lot of people have warned about wandering outside of the Quarter at night, this is all VERY accurate, but people get robbed and killed during daylight hours too. Jazz Fest is a big event every spring, and many are going to and from the fairgrounds and the Quarter via Esplanade street. It was here, during Jazz Fest, in daylight, around 3:00 pm, that a gun was put to my head by a very young teenage boy, not older than 15, who demanded that I hand over my very SMALL purse. I am by no means flashy (was wearing old jeans and t-shirt at the time), and was right in front of my friend's house where I was staying. I'm from Chicago, so I'm not naive when it comes to crime, but you have to be aware that your number can come up anytime. AND, I don't try to negotiate or argue with YOUNG criminals, they have no value for human life and will kill you in a second for a $5 purse. Just hand it over. The wallet can be replaced....you can't.
Also, in this post 9-11 time, it is really a pain in the butt to recover or attain proper identification when you are out of town, and need it to board the flight back home. I suggest making a photo copy of your IDs to keep in a safe place. Also, before you leave home get a State ID or extra work ID, or some kind of ID with your photo and have a close friend or relative keep it while you are gone. They can express mail it to you if, God forbid, something happens.
Have lots of one dollar bills on you - or a very strong will. Everyone who talks to you, opens a door for you, touches you, points you in the right direction, or simply makes eye contact with you expects a tip. This was my first vacation in a city, so I'm sure that this is common to city travelers, but I was not ready for it. I'm also very compassionate, (gullible, maybe) so it was hard not to throw money to every tap dancing child or homeless person w/ beads. By day 4 I was hardened a bit. I did tip practically every musician on the street - some of those guys are way more talented that the people IN the bars. We met Mike the Hippy Bum in the French Quarter & not only gave him money, but also bought a CD. Hilarious - he performed a Nine Inch Nails medley - hillbilly style. Fantastic. So, anyway, be prepared to tip a lot of people!
The warnings are repeated so often that tourists have become paranoid. Yes, we know New Orleans has a crime problem. But a bit of common sense goes a long way!
--> don't be stupid and walk around with your valuables hanging out
--> stay in populated areas
--> take cabs at night
As a young woman, my biggest problem was fending off frat boys wanting to see my boobs.
Keep in groups, don't wander off the beaten path. Stay out of the housing project areas. Don't go into the cemeteries alone. Keep your cell phone handy for emergencies. We have a high crime rate, but most of it is drug related, so if you stay out of those areas and don't buy/sell drugs, you should be o.k.
when you are venturing in the Quarter, turn around when the businesses are gone. The Quarter is a safe area and the residents have a great neighborhood watch program, but sometimes someone is just waiting for a drunk tourist to venture too far from the crowd. also, believe it or not, a lot of the Quarter is residential...have some respect for the quiet areas! i know, i used to live there and hated the rowdy tourist sauntering through the residential areas!
Everyone will tell you this, but instead of just generally warning you that NOLA can be dangerous, I'll offer you some tips--remember, I'm a born and bred New Yorker, so I sort of know what I'm talking about.
First, don't walk around like a tourist. What does a tourist look like? Well, they usually wear a certain kind of walking shorts, sneakers and, this is the biggest indicator, the ubiquitous cameras around their necks. Don't people get it yet? When walking around the quarter in the day time, that sort of thing is fine.
Don't go in the cemeteries like that!. St. Louis #1 is surrounded by an often dangerous neighborhood. I've heard that people are often followed in there and cornered b/c it's almost a maze.
I've never paid for a tour, but they are always going on in there. If you feel a bit intimidated, you could always walk near a tour.
Otherwise, when you're going around sight-seeing, look like you know where you're going. For God's sake, don't open a map in the middle of the less-touristy areas (the blocks of the quarter heading towards Esplanade--esp at night!). If you're drunk, don't stray from your group. Don't walk back to your hotel alone and totally wasted at 4 am.