Staying Safe In Orlando

Orlando Sunrise

Warning:

Crime in Orlando is a real concern and this section of the guide is not the nicest section to read. Nothing is held back about crime in Orlando but you need to know the bad things about Orlando as well as the good. I go into detail about some of the bad things that can and do happen in America. The section includes anecdotes of things that have happened to our family during our years visiting Orlando. I will give you tips on how to ensure you and your family remain safe during your holiday.

Mrs Brit didn’t think it was the best idea to include the Crime In Orlando section in the guide because it may put some people off visiting Orlando. I believe that if you are forewarned you are forearmed to keep you and your family safe. If you don’t want me to put a ‘downer’ on your holiday reading, come back to this section later.

Crime In Orlando

Downtown Orlando is not to be confused with Downtown Disney, which has been renamed Disney Springs. In general, the tourist areas of Orlando are safe places to visit but Downtown Orlando is not so safe. The Orlando Downtown area is the place where the locals have their weekend nights out. If you are young, this could be an attractive place to head for but you need to be very careful. I have travelled into the residential streets around the Downtown city centre of Orlando in the past and some areas are not great.

Downtown Orlando is about 20 minutes drive north of the Universal Studios area and this place has a totally different atmosphere. I wouldn’t recommend even driving around the Orlando city centre but if you must visit this area, keep your wits about you.

Recently I drove around the city centre and got a little lost and we ended up in a local neighbourhood. There were street gangs on corners and it looked a bit like a scene from a movie. Some of the streets were not very nice at all and we decided to get out of the area quickly. At one point as we were driving, a car quickly came up beside us and I had to swerve to avoid a collision. This car missed our car by millimetres and it seemed like the driver did it intentionally. Eventually we found our way out of the area and headed straight back to the tourist areas.

Getting lost is easy

In 2009 I was sent an email from a guy that had just ordered my old CD guide and was waiting to receive it, here is the email…

Although this is not the first time, we have only driven once in Orlando when I wasn’t old enough to drive but my girlfriend (now wife) was. We got lost and ended up in an unsavoury area trying to get from the airport to our hotel. We gave up the hire car the next day and went everywhere by shuttle including to Clearwater for our second week.

Almost 20 years later and we are taking our daughter who would love to see the beaches that we always go on about but I am nervous about driving. Strange as I was a sales rep for 10 years driving 40-50,000 miles per year in the UK. I think if it was just me I wouldn’t worry so much but having my wife and daughter with me heightens my tension and I don’t want to end up in a bad neighbourhood by taking a wrong turn. Do you know if there is a bus that goes to Clearwater and back the same day? I’ve looked at taxis and the cost is just horrendous.

Any advice is gratefully received. Kind regards

The incident dented this readers confidence and if this was me on my first visit to Orlando, it would have probably dented my confidence. This just goes to show that there are a quite a few ‘not so nice’ areas in some of the Orlando suburbs. You need to be careful and be very aware of your intended route. I would strongly recommend that you drive in Orlando but stick to the tourist areas if possible.

Gun Shop

Avoid confrontation at all cost

Losing your temper with an American is not a very good idea. 1 in 4 people in America legally owns between 1 and 3 guns. When you remove from this statistic – children and OAP’s then the odds of having an argument with a person that is carrying a gun grows very high. Leave your road rage at home in the UK and try to ‘Let it go’ if you find yourself in a heated situation.

Some scary statistics

One report states that for every one McDonalds Restaurant in America, there are 6 gun selling outlets.

The Orlando crime rate is a staggering 126% higher than the national average in America.

95% of American cities are safer than Orlando but remember, this refers to the city of Orlando, not the tourist areas.

To view up to date crime stats for the Orlando area, visit AreaVibes.com

A lot of people carry guns.

A few years ago an argument broke out between two women at the checkout of a Toys R Us store in L.A. Their male partners joined in the argument and both produced hand guns and shot each other dead. This is a really good example of how common it is for people to be carrying guns in America. Remember to avoid confrontation at all times.

Mr & Mrs Brit Anecdote 1

On one of my previous visits to Animal Kingdom, Mrs Brit, Little Brit and I rode the Dinosaur ride in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The next day we were watching the local news in our villa and we couldn’t believe what we were hearing. A hand gun had been found on the seat of the Dinosaur ride the previous day and Disney were trying to locate the owner. Imagine if a child had found that gun on the ride and thought it was a toy!! Bags are checked before you enter each Disney park but this gun slipped through the net. It just goes to show how many people in America are actually ‘carrying’

Be aware of beggars…

…in the Orlando Downtown area. If you decide to go into Downtown Orlando, try to ignore the local beggars and do not make eye contact with them. They know straight away that you are a tourist and they will probably start by asking you for a couple of Dollars for a Hot Dog. If you start talking to them, they will be really hard to shake off so try to ignore them and get to where you are going fast.

Be alert of muggers

Unfortunately it is a fact of life in America that you could get mugged at gunpoint. These type of extreme situations tend to happen to a few tourists in dark hotel car parks and side streets.

Mr & Mrs Brit Anecdote 2

A few years ago I had a very short night out on International Drive with Mrs Brit. It wasn’t meant to be a really short night out but it turned into one. We were sat on the front veranda of Buffalo Wild Wings on International Drive when Mrs Brit noticed something. She pointed out a guy standing over the road and he was looking at us. She told me he had walked past a minute earlier as he was walking down I-Drive. As he walked past he stared at Mrs Brit’s handbag and she noticed him. He then crossed the road, came back up I-Drive and stopped over the road from the restaurant.

i-ride trolley

When I looked over he was looking at us and talking on his phone. Each time I looked at him, he looked away and I knew something wasn’t right. Around 5 minutes later a scruffy guy walked into Buffalo Wild Wings and sat on the table next to us. He didn’t have a drink and looked very suspicious. We decided to take our drinks into the main bar and sit where there were more people. He did exactly the same but still did not buy a drink, even when asked by a waitress. He kept glancing over to us and it was plain to see he was planning something.

Making our escape

We planned to leave as soon as he looked the other way. The plan was to go straight next door to Pizza Hut and see if he  followed. He turned his head and we left sharpish. As soon as we stepped outside we spotted the I-Ride trolley was just about to pull away. We waved the driver and jumped on. We looked out of the window and the guy came running out of the restaurant looking left and right. He looked like he had just been robbed…absolutely gutted.

This was an attempted robbery no doubt and we did learn from this experience. Mrs Brit never takes a handbag with her and we stay with the crowds as much as possible.

Mr & Mrs Brit Anecdote 3

Hopefully I don’t have to write anecdote 4 at any point!

On a night out in Universal Orlando Resort City Walk, we noticed a couple of men hanging around at the end of the night. This was around 1.00am and a lot of people had already headed off home. We were going to get the water taxi back to our hotel and these guys were keeping close by.

Eventually they disappeared and then we noticed a security guard coming towards us. The security guy told us he had spotted 2 men hiding in the bushes and he told them to leave the park. He told us he would stay with us until the water taxi came because he didn’t trust them. We were really thankful to him and he stayed with us until we were safely on board. Universal Orlando Resort have a lot of security but these guys didn’t really care.

We don’t tend to stay out too late in City Walk anymore and we always get the water taxi back well before 12am.

Universal Studios City Walk Sign

A few tips to keep you safe

1 – Do not walk down back alleys and through poorly lit car parks

2 – If your hotel is not in the nicest looking area, carry an extra ‘dud wallet’ with just $10 in and an expired credit card. If the worst happens and you do get mugged, hand over this wallet.

3 – If you feel that someone is a little bit dodgy or looks suspicious, don’t make eye contact with them and get to where you are going quickly.

4 – Do not stay out too late, especially around the International Drive area. This area sees more crimes committed against tourists than any other area in Orlando.

5 – Leave your handbag at home if possible. These are easy to snatch and carrying one can cause you a lot of trouble.

I don’t want you to be put off by the crime in Orlando and I know you will have a great time on the holiday of a lifetime. Just be aware of the people around you and take sensible precautions and enjoy the best place on the planet.