I know that last year when I was an orientation leader, many asked about safety tips. So here are my tips on staying safe in the city:
1. Be Vigilant
Stay aware of your surroundings. I hate to be the one to say this but having your earbuds in all the time is not the best universal practice, although it's probably fine for locations you feel comfortable in. Maybe you feel confident during your daily commute. I would recommend that at night and on streets you're not familiar with, keep your earbuds out or at a low volume. When you are alone, you are the only one prioritizing your safety.
2. Learn the subway system
You do not have to know the entire subway system by heart. I have not mastered the subway yet in the two years I’ve lived in the city. I use Google Maps a lot when I am going to a new place or just to see the train times. I do suggest taking a day to explore and learn about the stops. This helps if you are ever in a situation where your phone is dead, and you don't have access to a map. One app I suggest that is better than Google Maps is the app Citymapper. It is great for seeing when trains are arriving and to plan a trip. It also has a subway map, bus times, train times, and even ferry times. You can plan a trip for a specific time of day using it.
3. Stay in pairs or groups during the night
At night, I feel safer being in a group. I would say in the beginning, before you are comfortable in the area, that you travel in a group. From what I've observed, people are less likely to be harassed or approached when in a group. Also, if you feel unsafe calling an Uber, sharing the ride with a friend is much more comforting than getting in alone.
4. Know the locations of a few 24-hour stores or restaurants
24-hour places are great places to pop into if you feel unsafe or feel like you are being followed, or even if you're just lost. They can be lifesavers if you need somewhere to hang out for an hour or two or figure out where you are. They are also good places to go into if want to call an Uber but don't want to stand on the street. They are well lit and tend to have people in them. If you are unsure where a24-hour place is, you can use Google to search for one.
5. Follow Your Gut
This may seem like what everyone says to do when it comes to safety, but it is true. In the city, there are all kinds of people and not all are friendly and you need to trust your senses to determine if the situation is dangerous. If you are not sure if the situation is dangerous, it is better to leave than find out. This is also something that is built into people for survival, so it is not just about being street smart. Though I will say, my street smarts have improved a large amount since I have lived in the city.
Overall, the city is safe, but you do have to take precautions like any other place. It is important to be aware or your surroundings. You should also make sure that you have a plan if something bad happens or if you get a bad feeling.
If you're transitioning to living here in NYC, I hope these tips help!