Safety

Atlanta is a large metropolitan area, and as such, one should take the normal precautions when visiting this city.  For example, do not leave valuables in your car (particularly within sight). 

A few details specific to the area:

  • Many people feel comfortable riding MARTA (the mass transit system) at night, and by most accounts is safe (others avoid it).  Solo female travelers might want to select an alternate form of transportation in the evenings, but daytime travel is very safe and has lots of passengers who use it to travel to/from the airport. 
  • Interstate driving is safe, but can tend to be harrying for those not accustomed to driving in large cities.  It seems that the interstates are either at a dead standstill (rush hours), or cars are flying by at Mach 2.  It's not unusual to see drivers doing 80 when the traffic is light, so exercise caution and stick to the middle in right lanes if you don't want to be overtaken by a SUV.  The signage doesn't always give you a lot of notice before an exit (especially at the 85N to GA400N exit) and there's often a last minute scramble of cars at those points, so pay attention to exits and watch for drivers trying to make a last minute switch. 

              Mile By Mile offers some lane guidance when traveling Interstate 85 through and across the Atlanta region.

  •  Downtown is fairly deserted at night, so exercise caution when parking or walking.  There are quite a few panhandlers in the area.  If you're staying downtown, stick to well-traveled sidewalks or take taxis to nearby destinations. The limited street parking is rigorously enforced but not well-marked, and many have found a $25 ticket to be the price for driving and parking themselves. The Ambassador Force of Downtown Atlanta is a group of individuals in uniform with pith helmets, like safari hats. They patrol the streets and have direct access to police, and will be happy to escort you anywhere you need to go. Also, if you need directions or information to virtually anywhere in the city, they will help you out. 
  • Buckhead is a business district with high-end shopping, restaurants, and businesses.  As a result, there is some petty crime in the area, so again, exercise caution departing your car/parking/returning to your car from shopping.  A stroll down Peachtree from your hotel to a restaurant or shopping would be considered very safe during the day or at night. 
  • Outside the Perimeter (areas outside Interstate 285, particularly on the North side) are considered to be very safe.  Most of these areas are suburban.  The "Perimeter" area includes a business/shopping district, and is very safe to walk around (although it's probably easier to drive in these areas). 
Areas to avoid: Generally, south of downtown or west of downtown and midtown. Westside area along and just west of Howell Mill Road, however, between 8th and 14th Streets, is a great district for shopping (especially for home decor), eating and drinking.

Health

In general, there are few specific health concerns for most visitors to Atlanta, as with most American cities; the water supply is safe and there are no widespread communicable diseases to worry about.  However, persons with respiratory problems or allergies should probably make note of a couple of items, and everyone should be sure to stay as cool and well-hydrated as possible during outdoor activities in the hottest parts of the year.

First, despite the fact that Atlanta doesn't have much heavy industry anymore, the sheer number of cars on the roads means that the air quality is often mediocre or worse, particularly during the hotter, drier months in the summer. Air quality advisories recommending that the elderly, young children, and persons with respiratory problems limit or completely avoid outdoor activities are quite common.

Second, Atlanta is blanketed with urban forests that add immeasurably to the overal quality of life, but all those trees come at the cost of very high pollen counts, particularly in the spring and fall. Many transplants to the Atlanta area find themselves suffering from serious allergy problems for the first time in their lives during their second or third spring here. The good news for tourists is that it seems to take at least one season's exposure to the pollens here to sensitize those who haven't previously had problems, so unless you come back every year you may not suffer much if you haven't experienced allergy problems before.

 Finally, if you plan you be exerting yourself with lots of walking or physical activity any time, but particularly in June, July, and August, you should take every opportunity you can to cool off and make sure you drink plenty of water and stay hydrated. Even though Atlanta's 1000 ft (330 m) above sea level and thus is slightly cooler and less humid than much of the rest of the south, it's still plenty hot and it's very easy to become dehydrated or overheated before you realize it.