For the traveler, safety should always be a top consideration. Just a few decades ago, and before mass open borders, Florida was a very safe state to travel in. It was mostly rural, save for a few big resort cities, and nothing happened.
But beginning in the 1980s, things changed. Riots in Miami, drug crime and ne’er do wells scattered about made for dangers for travelers in this beautiful Sunshine State. Even with these dangers, people kept coming. The reality? Every place is a bit more dangerous than it was in the 1950s, and the world is a crazier place.
The reality is that Florida is no more dangerous than any state in the U.S., or any Western city. That being said, you must be careful. Here are some guidelines for travel in Florida, or any place in the U.S.
- Watch out after 11 p.m. The reality is that not much good happens after midnight in Florida. Granted, it’s fine to stay out late occasionally, but be careful in what bars you are hanging about, and count how much alcohol you have had to drink. Stay in groups, especially women. There are predators, just like any city in the world. There is a diminishing return on being out late, and being snug in your hotel room can prevent many dangers. If anything, find a hotel with a decent hotel bar, and have the nightcap downstairs. If you have to stop at the rest stop at late night while traveling (pictured above), go quickly, and say hello to the security guard before you go in. Then be on your way.
- Roads are CRAZY. One of the greatest dangers in Florida are the Interstate highways. Kids and illegals are texting, old people are senile and driving, and tourists are looking at online maps. Many are driving without actual licenses or insurance. This is an AWFUL mix. This is no reason to not get on the roads, however; rich Floridians and drug dealers with $200K Bentley’s still get on the road! Instead, you just have to be careful. Drive slowly, leave a space between cars, and watch out for unlicensed contractors and goof-balls, who may be carrying all sorts of equipment that is not well secured (ladders, yard waste, construction trash). Try to avoid driving in bad weather, as well. Of course it is not safe, and Florida drivers are not good at slippery roads or storms.
- The rural, redneck places are safe. If you are in places in the panhandle or in the middle of the state, these places do not have much crime. They might look like bike ruffians, but there is no danger. Southern guys with guns are your friends, provided they aren’t TOO drunk.
- Florida police are your friends. Despite what the American media says about cops in the U.S., Florida police are trustworthy and friendly, no matter their race or ethnicity. That being said, try to stay below speed limits, as in some places, the ticket is one of the few revenue sources for their respective sheriff departments. By the way, the Florida police is the Florida Highway Patrol, and counties each have a Sheriff department. Each city usually has a police department, so look carefully at the badges and cars of the police to discern if they are legit.
- Yahoos sometimes have castoff police cars. These cars look like police cars, but are de-accessioned and do not have markings. Insist on a badge. If you are nervous, call 911. There are occasional stories about men impersonating the police, and if they look suspicious and do not have official badges and cars, again, call a supervisor.
- Terrorism is a threat. Keep your eye open, and listen to the recommendation of your embassy as to any local warnings. Remember that terror targets are transportation, large gathering areas, and famous places. When you are there, have an escape plan.
- Private security is better than nothing, but not that useful. While you might see private security guards at malls and such, they are often unarmed and not able to do much. After all, the creep terrorist at the Orlando Pulse nightclub was an employee of one of the leading security firms, G4S. Great story by The New Yorker, by the way. So if you are in an area with private security, better than none, but keep an eye over your shoulder.
- Younger people are more of a danger than older people. This is a fact, so if a person is creepy and old, they are but a derelict. If they appear to be young, there is more danger. This is not to castigate any group, only to think about odds.
- Use your good sense. Sometimes, a hotel or restaurant can seem iffy. If you do not like the situation, do not stay at the hotel or eat at the restaurant. Sometimes, very inexpensive motels in Orlando or Tampa or South Florida can be the scene of nefarious activity. When you check in, or when you go to to the hostess to get a table, look around, and if it does not seem right, or seems creepy, leave.
- Do not trust people that look odd. This sounds like a rude thing, but Florida has a decent number of people who are on meth and other drugs. Stay away from strangers if they are acting weird. If they are speaking in a friendly tone and are nice, they aren’t on meth.