The downtown of LA had a poor reputation. A rough neighbourhood with a high crime rate. In short: best to be avoided. But is this still true?
I travel a lot. For business and also privately. I just love to see new places. During my various travels I have learned three things:
- as a foreigner you can’t really tell if an area is safe or not
- take extra care if you don’t speak the language or if you stick out
- the time of the day plays an important role.
It’s almost impossible to tell if an area is safe. Yes there are some indicators but the only way to be sure is to ask locals. Easiest way is to simply ask the people at the front desk in your hotel, or the driver or your business partner.
If you don’t speak the language it’s always a big disadvantage. If you stick out because of size and skin colour it’s the same. Usually both come together. If you have a camera around your neck or not doesn’t really make a difference here.
Last but not least the time of the day can make a big difference. And area which is totally fine during business hours can change when the streets get empty.
But the most important thing I have learned is that you should not get hysterical. I have visited many places. Places where I didn’t speak the language, places where I sticked out like a pink elephant, places that weren’t safe at all. I had less than a handful unpleasant encounters and not a single one of them was violent. Maybe I was just lucky but I think it is also because I try to be careful especially if I visit a place for the first time.
Which brings me back to downtown LA. This is our 6th trip to the USA. We have been to LA before but never visited its centre. This trip was different. It started and ended in LA but at the beginning of our long road trip we just passed the city centre on our way to Las Vegas.
It was early in the morning, the shops were closed and the streets were empty. It looked run down and abandoned. A place best to be avoided. Three weeks later we spent a day there sightseeing and we drank espresso in a brand new coffee shop full of hipsters. What a difference! What caused the difference? Roughly two hours.