No widespread mold and floodwater-related illnesses that were feared after Katrina ever materialized, nor have any ill effects on air or water supply from the Deepwater oil spill. (New Orleans is, after all, 150 miles from the spill; booze and butter overindulgence pose greater dangers.)
Health care is sufficiently but not extensively available (there are fewer available facilities than before Katrina, though construction recently began on a major new medical complex). If you have a medical condition that may require care, make appropriate arrangements before traveling to New Orleans. If you need a doctor for less urgent health concerns, try Ochsner Physician Referral Service (tel. 504/842-3155 or 842-4106; www.ochsner.org), or visit New Orleans Urgent Care, 900 Magazine St. (tel. 504/552-2433; www.neworleansurgentcare.com), Monday to Saturday from 11am to 7pm, Sunday from 9am to 1pm.
Pollen, sun, uneven sidewalks, overindulgence, and mosquitoes (especially near the swamps and bayous) are the most common medical annoyances. Packing the following items may help prevent minor health problems: insect repellent, especially during the hot or rainy periods; sunscreen; digestive aids; and antihistamines.
It's true that New Orleans has a high crime rate. But most of the serious crime is drug-related, and confined to areas where tourists do not go. Still, we urge you to be very cautious about where you go, particularly at night. In short, behave with the same savvy and street smarts you would demonstrate in any big city: Travel in groups or pairs, take cabs if you're not sure of an area, stay in well-lighted areas with plenty of street and pedestrian traffic, follow your instincts if something seems "off." Stay alert and walk with confidence; avoid looking distracted, confused, or (sorry) drunk. Speaking of which, one way to ensure you will look like a tourist -- and thus, a target -- is to wear Mardi Gras beads at any time other than Mardi Gras season.
Don't hang that expensive camera around your neck when it's not in use. Put it out of sight. Use camera cases and purses with a shoulder strap, carried diagonally over the shoulder so a simple tug won't dislodge them. Consider using a money belt or other hidden travel wallet. Women may want to ditch the trendy enormous bag and invest in a cute little shoulder-strappy thing for clubbing, one you can dance with rather than leave on your seat (better yet, go purse-free). And never leave valuables in the outside pocket of a backpack. Should you stop for a bite to eat, keep everything within easy reach -- of you, not a purse snatcher. If you must store belongings in a car, place them in the trunk, do not leave items visible through the window. It's always a good idea to leave expensive-looking jewelry and other conspicuous valuables at home anyway. And by all means, don't look for or buy drugs or engage in any illegal activity.
The French Quarter is fairly safe, especially during the daytime, thanks to the number of people typically present, but some areas are better than others. (Rampart and the north part of Esplanade have bad reputations.) On Bourbon Street be careful when socializing with strangers, and be alert to distractions by potential pickpocket teams. Dauphine and Burgundy are in quiet, lovely parts of the Quarter, but as you near Esplanade, watch out for purse snatchers. At night take cabs down Esplanade and into the Faubourg Marigny.
Conventional wisdom holds that one should not go much above Bourbon toward Rampart alone after dark. Nowadays, with the adjacent Armstrong Park and Treme neighborhood experiencing a bit of renaissance, more crowds and safer streets are in the offing. Still, for the time being, it's best to stay in or near a group if you can, and consider taking a cab, even if it seems silly, for the (very) short ride.
In the Garden District, as you get past Magazine toward the river, the neighborhoods can be rough, so exercise caution (more cabs, probably).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.