The Big Easy is harder than you think

For the average tourist, New Orleans can be a party city filled with music and food. But you don’t have to go far to discover the crime and poverty.

Written by Michael Turtle

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle. A journalist for more than 20 years, he's been travelling the world since 2011.

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle and has been travelling full time for a decade.


Crime in New Orleans

Just a block or two from where I was out drinking one night, two people were shot dead and several more injured in altercations that escalated quickly.

The next day the local newspaper had a big article about the murders, filled with the usual fist-shaking condemnations of police and politicians.

Next to that, though, was a similar-sized article about what effect the shootings would have on tourism.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is the essence of New Orleans.

It’s a city where decadence meets dangerous and where it’s not just the drink prices that are criminal.

New Orleans is one of the most popular destinations for visitors in the US but outside the purring tourist-fuelled economy, there’s suburb after suburb of poverty, crime and hopelessness.

New Orleans, Louisiana, crime, poverty, katrina, is New Orleans safe

Hurricane Katrina didn’t help – and it gets most of the attention these days – but it’s not the problem. It merely exacerbated it.

There were many times when locals thanked me for coming to town, for bringing business to a city still trying to rebuild its infrastructure and its pride after such a devastating natural disaster.

The biggest issues facing New Orleans existed well before the levees broke, though.

New Orleans and tourism

The problem, to my mind, lies in a structure where so much of the city’s focus is on tourism that there are virtually no other opportunities to employ the rest of the population.

Figures show that about 40 per cent of the income comes from tourism. The residents unlucky enough to not have a job in hospitality are left to stagnate in the dark as they watch the bright lights of the city and catch wafts of music from afar.

New Orleans, Louisiana, crime, poverty, katrina, is New Orleans safe

New Orleans is a playground for the wealthy and uninhibited. In their 2011 poll of American cities, Travel + Leisure magazine rated New Orleans top of the list for ‘Live Music’, ‘Cocktail Hours’, ‘Singles Scene’, ‘Wild Weekends’ and ‘People Watching’.

It was almost at the bottom of the list for ‘Safety’ and ‘Cleanliness’.

Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s a fascinating city and one in which I had a great time. Aside from the bars and clubs and all the music and hedonism within them, there’s the architecture of the French Quarter, the mansions of St Charles, the hipsters of Magazine St, and the amazing local food, full of shrimp and spices.

It’s a city where voodoo remains in the blood; where passion is indiscriminate; and the architecture brings you into a world unlike anywhere else in the US.

You can walk down the street and see a brass band marching towards you; strangers will throw necklaces of beads to you from balconies as you stroll past; and there’s always an excuse to dress up or throw a party.

New Orleans, Louisiana, crime, poverty, katrina, is New Orleans safe

When those shootings happened on the popular Bourbon Street, the party continued.

The tourists who come to New Orleans don’t want to think about the lives being lived around them. It’s all about the moment.

And in some ways, it seems the locals feel that way too. As long as someone is having fun…


You’ll be able to find some hotels in gorgeous Art Nouveau buildings and there are lots of affordable options in Riga’s historic centre.


For a fun backpacker option, there’s India House.


There aren’t a lot of good cheap hotels in New Orleans, but I would suggest French Market Inn.


For a hotel with more style, you can try the wonderful Hotel Peter and Paul.


And the beautiful Maison de la Luz is one of the best luxury hotels in the city!

12 thoughts on “The Big Easy is harder than you think”

    • I agree – there’s a cool vibe to the place. But it’s hard to know where the tourist area ends and the organic New Orleans vibe starts. I think I’ll have to go back sometime and try to get to know the city a bit better. I bet there’s heaps to discover!

    • Lived in New Orleans in 1985
      I was actually on my way back to California. I moved from San Francisco to Miami in January of 83 left Miami in January of 85. I stopped in New Orleans to see some old friends from High School. There was about 10 people I went to school with in Green Bay Wi. That had moved there. So my weekend in New Orleans.turned into about 11/2 years of adventure in New Orleans. Had a blast. I loved and would definitely go back again.

  1. Wait… is this satire? I’m a Nola native and this sounds like the most exaggerated story I’ve ever heard lol.

    It’s like you took every bad thing you ever heard about the city and threw it in a story. Voodoo? What normal person does voodo?

    How about this. Next time, stay a bit longer and try not to hang out in the touristy areas. They’re usually the areas that smell like piss because out of towners like yourself call it an “adult playground” where you THINK you can act crazy and do whatever you want . The majority of the city does NOT rock with that, so stop generalizing us as though we just wake up, sing and tap dance.

    PS. If you’re walking in an alley by yourself in a city at 3am, DRUNK, you’re an idiot. Deal with it. Don’t blame New Orleans because you’re dumb.

    • Born and raised in the Nola too! Tell em fam! Always remember crime is a direct result of poverty, and poverty is a direct result of political corruption. The same people who they fear and hate ,are the same people who cook the food make the art,and play the music. We don’t care about your race! We only care if your good people ,or not.

      • Typical naive white..politically correct..and why the truth of black violent criminality is tolerated.Good, after all us logical whites all move out & leave you few holier than now naive idiot alone with ‘Haiti’ meant NO..BET you change your tune

    • I had the misfortune of living there for 3+ years and I can assure you this is not any exaggeration. Between the car jackings, interstate shootings, a series in the WSJ on the horrific crime rate, murder capital of the US? It’s arguably the worst city I’ve ever stepped foot in. Good riddance

  2. When are people going to stop being political correct and avoid just speaking the statistical observed factual reality, that its 99.999% of blacks running lawless in New Orleans, not out of poverty for food, etc..but violent automatic weapons indiscriminate killings when Burger King is begging for a black 14 year olf to take their $1,500 bonus & $15/’s the inherent nature of blacks..violent, murderous, criminal AND its the tolerance of All the blacks in NO why it goes unchecked..why? because its their kid, sibling, cousin..them..say what you want..but take out all the daily murders, home invasions, car jackings, etc committed by blacks & NO would be virtually crime free..AND only going to get worse..SO innocent law abiding whites..lets all get out this 4th world cess pool & leave it to them AND watch be worst than Haiti..and can’t blame honky..GO me rascist..I know the truth..neverthless rather be a live rascist than a dead anything.

    • You’re a damn idiot. Inherent behavior it is not. The criminal activity was learned from colonizers, and it multiplied in ghettos, which were manufactured neighborhoods created by this country to keep black families from amassing wealth. When they did begin, they were run out via insurrection. Repeated in city after city, from the late 1800’s up to the 1950’s. If you put a white kid in the hood, without a way out, he too will find a life in crime, doing the same thing to survive. Congratulations on saying a living racist. You’ll continue to be of no help, so take your own advice and leave.


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