Be Aware, Seattle
We rented a car and got to Seattle's streets straight away. Our Magellean (GPS device) was a huge help in navigating Seattle's winding and crazy streets! Half the time it seemed lots of major intersections were undergoing construction. Much needed on some streets like near Broad St. where the roads are more uneven then some of the roads here in Albuquerque! Some intersections were tricky to navigate as well. Half the time you had like 5-point intersections where it's a bit of a hassle to find the right street to get off on. Traffic moves at a quick pace in this city. That's probably the only thing I didn't like about Seattle. Bring a GPS and take care, whether you're a pedestrian or a driver! Like I say, you have to be a local or raised here to get used to the crazy flow of Seattle traffic and it's disorganized streets.
Seattle is a comparatively safe city but, like anywhere else that you don't live, it has its own fluid safety issues. Street robberies of expensive cell phones has been a regular problem the past several months in the downtown, Belltown, Pioneer Square areas. This has happened both day and night, so be mindful of standing around with your flashy device and being completely unaware of what is happening around you. Street robberies in general are up here at present.
If you are out late at night be mindful of pairs or groups of young men, you may be the better to avoid them. Consider the minor expense of taking a taxi late at night. Getting really drunk in any unfamiliar city and being on the streets is never a great idea. Most of our nightspot violence involves liquored up young men who get into conflicts in or outside of a bar/club and then return with a gun. Not rampant, but if trouble starts brewing you should move along rather than watch.
Your hotel front desk should be a good source of very local safety information, but not always so don't be too surprised if the clerk doesn't know that much because they don't live in the neighborhood and aren't going out in it because they are at work. Seattle Center, although visually charming after dark and should be safe, does not have much to offer at night unless you are going to an event. It is, again, an area to be mindful of groups of young men. Belltown, Fremont, Pioneer Square all have drinking scenes but be mindful of occasional violence. Don't go trying to look for college parties to bother students as that myth is extremely overblown and there are lots of police patrols aware of outsiders trying to cause problems in university areas here.
Be aware, use common sense, watch your belongings, don't leave stuff in plain view inside a rental car, all the usual and sensible cautions apply. Should you need them, the first responders here are quite good and most of the community here respects them and supports them. If interacting with police or if pulled over for a traffic stop remember that they want to see your hands and wait for them to instruct you to dig out your car rental insurance papers and the like or your identification. If you get into trouble Seattle is one of the places where strangers are still very likely to try to assist you rather than ignore your plight. I say that as a resident. Stay safe and enjoy your visit.
This is a warning; not a danger. We just finished hosting some out-of-town guests here. We had a great time, too. But the comment they made which totally floored us was that they were surprised about the visibility of gays and lesbians in Seattle. They expected to see tattoos and body (and face) piercings and goths and such, but it was the open displays of homosexuality that surprised them. They have been to Frisko and to Los, but they've been to many other places in the USA, too. They expected gays to be visible in Frisko and in parts of Los, but because they didn't see much outward display of homosexuality in other large cities in "the States," they just never expected to see so much of them in Seattle. They didn't find them to be (very much) vulgar or offensive, just there when they didn't expect it. So, if you're going to take someone from out of town out sightseeing in Seattle, let them know of another sight they'll surely see.
contrary to what vaara says, 'dumpster divers' are actually a nice group of people, mostly vegans and activists. I myself am one, and I dumpster my food all the time from Seattle's waste. This is a common misconception and identity thieves are not divers, they are simply identity thieves, and nothing more. Salvaging goods from the garbage is a popular past-time here in Seattle, because many of us have discovered how much is being wasted by our local stores and vendors. So next time you here about 'dumpster divers' don't think of vaara's cynical outlook, but rather of free thinking induviduals concerned about our planet.
Violent crime is lower than average in Seattle, but property crime is higher - especially car break-ins. So, park in a well lighted area. Some even suggest you leave your glove compartment open, showing would be thieves you have nothing to take. Leave no valuable exposed and always lock your doors.
You should not walk alone (especially women) in some neighborhoods (Downtown, SoDo, Chinatown, Central District, Rainier Valley) when it's late at night. If the situation feels unsafe, trust your insticts. Get out and get to a public space like a restaurant or hotel.
Also, don't party late into the night, get drunk and then wander back to your hotel. You are asking for trouble. This tends to happen most often in Pioneer Square where there are several hip hop, jazz and dance clubs. You can be very safe in this or any other neighborhood if you are sober and use common sense.
For gay people: Seattle is a very tolerant city. Gay bashings are very rare. If you're confronted or verbally harassed outside a gay club or bar, don't return the harassment with curses of your own. Your words will not suddently turn a basher into an apologetic and reformed man. Get away without escalating the situation.
Most bashers travel in packs and they are probably drunk. They will take you on. Instead, you should get back into the club. Or if you are too far away from the club, get into your car, lock the doors and drive away. Get help if necessary. Call 911. The Seattle police have good relations with the gay community and they will help.
Finally, one last reminder: Have fun but don't drink excessive amounts of alcohol, walk unfamiliar street, and then wonder why you are waking up in the hospital. People who use common sense are almost never the victims of violent crime.
I don't think people from Seattle are too keen on Southerners. I just got that impression from tons of people there. I think our sweet, sugary drawals drive them insane...they move at a quicker pace than we do.
Its very late at night, your a solo tourist who is sorta tipsy, sorta lost but not totally lost in downtown Seattle. Be aware that many people in downtown Seattle after dark(esp on weeknights) are not reputable people to ask for help. Many are drug addicts, drunks, gang members or other people. Its always best to walk like you know where your going, act american(ignore them) and be about your way.
We might as well have stayed at the Bates Motel. It was super scary and what a dive. One of our friends was out to lunch when we checked in so she didn't have a key. When she got there she told the front desk [a different guy from when I checked in] that she wanted to get in the room to get some stuff. He didn't ask her name, check her ID nothing. He just let her right in. It was sooo unsafe and looked like a scene from Trainspotting. The horrible thing is the pictures on their website were so nice that I thought it couldn’t be worse than motel 6, but it was. The walls were flaking off, there was wax on the brown shag carpet. Our room smelt like a smoky wet dog and the power in the room [including lights] would shut off when you turned a hair dryer on low. There were stains and cigarette burns on the beds and I think flees as I have odd little bites that I didn’t have before we got there. The best part was that some of the rooms didn’t have bathrooms. Ours did, see picture to the side that was our shower. Nice, eh? Those rooms that didn’t have their own moldy shower had to share a bathroom with 6 other rooms. Their bathroom wasn’t even on the same floor. Sunday we opened our door to leave and the smell of fish came flowing in. It was sooo horrible, made my eyes water. Then as we were getting on the elevator this one guy goes walking by, no shirt with all of his showing crap in hand. We get on the elevator and as the doors are about to close he’s walking away… pants fall down and we get a look at a firm apple of a black ass. We all lost it. It was the crowning moment of our stay there. I yelled out… “Wow, that’s one way to start a morning” and the guy shuffled to pull his pants up. Classic.
TIP: Call the Better Business Bureau before you stay somewhere or check out the nice places other VTers have recommended.
If you´re not a US or Canadian citizen but you want to cross the border for a trip to Vancouver (which is less than two hours north of Seattle if you take the Interstate), make sure that you know about the immigration regulations. Non-visa visitors - like people from most western European countries - just need to fill out a paper at the border, that allows them to re-enter the US after their Canada trip. Visa owners should get some information from an embassy or the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) before planning such a trip.
Dumpster Divers: Seattle (and much of the rest of the country too) is plagued by people who rummage through trash in search of personal papers. In fact, for a while they were breaking into mailboxes too, but now the U.S. Postal Service has installed new, supposedly theft-proof boxes throughout the area (I still mail all my bills from inside the post office, though).
Credit card numbers, social security numbers, checking account numbers -- anything with personal info on it is worth money to these criminals, most of whom sell the data for cash to buy drugs. There are many victims of 'identity theft' who have been robbed of tens of thousands of dollars.
Never leave credit-card receipts behind... if you're really paranoid, you should black out the numbers on merchant copies too. Ideally, you should shred all credit-card receipts and statements, as well as all credit-card offers, or at least tear them into two or more pieces and dispose of them separately. And always inspect your statements and report any unauthorized charges immediately.