The following France travel warnings may be timely, due to the fact that population demographics have changed a lot in Europe generally over the past decade. More liberal immigration policies of governments have resulted in a blending together of largely incompatible cultures which have not yet been able to dwell together harmoniously. As a result, there is a great deal of racial and religious tension which erupts into violence from time to time.
Leaving this aside, there are other things that any visitor to France should also be on the lookout for, so as to minimize the chance of becoming a victim of some of the unfortunate practices for which visitors are specifically targeted.
France Travel Warnings to Remember
Exercise a high degree of caution in France due to the current elevated threat of terrorism. There have been several major terrorist attacks in France. Since 2015, over 200 people have been killed and hundreds injured.
Demonstrations take place regularly. Even peaceful demonstrations can turn violent at any time. They can also lead to disruptions to traffic and public transportation.
“Black bloc” protestors have been known to use aggressive and violent tactics during demonstrations to cause destruction and attempt to provoke police forces. Participants have thrown rocks, smoke grenades, bottles and other debris during rallies. Police have employed tear gas in response.
The Yellow Vests movement has been taking place in Paris and other parts of the country since November 17, 2018. Large demonstrations occur throughout the city, mainly on Saturdays. Acts of vandalism and violence have occurred.
Traffic disruptions have also occurred due to strategic attempts to block transport routes such as roads, train stations and airports. Disruptions to public services and closures of various sites usually open to the public (businesses, museums, tourist attractions) have also taken place.
Picketpocketing – The Number One Crime Affecting Tourists
The number of pickpocketing incidents has increased significantly since the beginning of 2019, especially in Paris. Petty crime such as bag snatching and pick pocketing is common in France, particularly in and around major cities and tourist sites, airports and railway stations, hotel lobbies, public areas, and on public transport. Here are some tips on how to avoid pickpockets in France.
- In any crowded place (busy lines, congested metro cars, open spaces full of tourists snapping photos), take extra care with your belongings. It’s best to carry a bag or purse that you can wear crisscrossed around your chest, with pockets and valuables hugged to your front and in plain view. If you wear a backpack, don’t leave wallets, cash, passports or other valuable items in the front compartments.
- Only bring as much cash as you’ll likely need for the day, and maybe even less. 100 Euros or so is a good limit to aim for. Traveler’s checks can easily be exchanged for Euros at the American Express office on Rue Scribe (Metro: Opera).
- If you must carry larger amounts of cash, consider wearing a money belt.
- It’s always preferable to leave passports, large amounts of cash and other valuables in a hotel safe, if possible.
- Never leave your bags or suitcases unguarded, even for a minute or two. Not only do you run the risk of them being swiped up by thieves between two blinks of an eye: they can also be legally confiscated and destroyed by security forces, under current safety regulations in public spaces.
More France Travel Warnings
Purse snatchers operate both on foot and motorcycle. These thieves are very skilled and often work in groups.
Limit the use of mobile phones while taking public transportation, to avoid attracting attention.
There have been reports of violent attacks on tourists by groups of young people. These usually take place at night around major tourist attractions and railway stations in Paris, the trains (RER) connecting Paris to its suburbs and at main railway stations in other large cities.
Especially when traveling alone, avoid areas around metro Les Halles, Chatelet, Gare du Nord, Stalingrad and Jaures late at night or when the streets appear less than crowded. While generally safe, these areas have at times been known to harbor gang activity or to be the site of hate crimes.
In addition, avoid traveling to the Northern Paris suburbs of Saint-Denis, Aubervilliers, Saint-Ouen, etc. Visitors to the above-mentioned areas may also take precautions by keeping a low profile and by refraining from wearing highly visible jewelry or clothing that identify them as members of a religion or political movement. As this goes to press, antisemitic and other hate crimes have been on the rise in the Paris region, but have largely been perpetrated outside the city walls.
Women should be especially vigilant while walking alone at night and should stay in well-lit areas. Also, while Paris is statistically a safe place for women, it is a good idea to avoid smiling at or making prolonged eye contact with men you do not know: in France, this is (unfortunately) often interpreted as an invitation to make advances.
There is a high frequency of vehicle break-ins. Leave nothing in view in the vehicle and above all do not leave valuable objects, passports and other travel documents, money or credit cards in a vehicle. Use secure parking facilities where available, especially overnight. Be particularly vigilant when renting automobiles, as rented vehicles are a target of choice.
Theft of parked cars or their contents is particularly common on beach roads in the south of France and at highway rest stops throughout the country, especially during the summer when there are a high number of travelers.
Always be suspicious if individuals signal for you to stop on the highway. Drivers are often tricked into stopping their cars by thieves who either obstruct the road or distract the driver (for example, by flashing their headlights). They may also pretend that you have a flat tire (which they sometimes puncture themselves). Once the vehicle is stopped, the thieves seize the opportunity to steal a bag or other valuable objects.
Aggravated thefts sometimes occur at isolated rest stops along highways.
Be especially vigilant when stopped at traffic lights, as bags are often snatched from the front passenger seat by thieves travelling on scooters. Keep windows closed and doors locked at all times.
Pedestrians should be especially careful while crossing streets and busy intersections. Drivers can be very aggressive in Paris and traffic laws are frequently broken. Even when the light is green, take extra caution while crossing the street. Also watch out for cars in certain areas that seem pedestrian-only (and perhaps are, in theory).
Beware of common scams used to obtain money from tourists. For more information, visit the Prefecture de Police (Paris) website. Also beware of ATM and credit card fraud, and only use ATMs in well-lit public areas or inside a bank or business.
If you are robbed, go to the nearest commissariat de police(police station) to report the crime. They will provide you with a declaration of theft. Keep a copy of this document, as you will need it if you require a new passport or wish to make an insurance claim. If the theft occurred in the metro, you may ask for assistance from a metro agent, who will direct you to the nearest police station.
There is a threat of terrorism in Europe. Terrorists have carried out attacks in several European cities. In France, separate attacks causing multiple deaths and injuries have taken place. The attacks were indiscriminate and targeted public places, including an entertainment venue, restaurants and tourist sites.
Further attacks in Europe are also likely.
Always be aware of your surroundings when in public places. Be particularly vigilant if attending sporting events and during religious holidays and other public celebrations, as terrorists have used such occasions to mount attacks.
Expect increased security measures and police/military presence at all points of entry (road, rail, sea and air) and in public areas.
Where These France Travel Warnings Come From
We have obtained the information on this page from the French authorities. It can, however, change at any time.
Please check with authorities for more information, follow any official warnings, travel advisories and listen to local news reports to monitor the situation. Failure to comply with directives from government authorities will jeopardize your travel insurance cover.
Putting France Travel Warnings into Perspective
We urge travelers to retain perspective on terror events, and understand that the chance of being a victim still extremely small. In fact, you are statistically four times more likely to be hit by lightning.
Don’t confuse the possibility of a terror attack with the probability of being involved in one.
Remember, there are psychological reasons why you may feel uncertain about travel; we’re more afraid of events that are gruesome, unpredictable and unfamiliar. We feel less fear about everyday dangers such as heart attack, auto accidents or skin cancer – all of which are much more likely to kill you.
However, there are actions you can take to further lessen the likelihood you will become a victim. These include carefully considering the security around large-scale, easily accessible, public events. If at all possible get yourself inside a secure area at any event. This may mean a ticketed event, or a secure area set up by organizers.
Travel insurance is essential. You can usually purchase travel insurance along with your plane ticket.
International health insurance is also a smart choice. Most travel insurance packages offer optional health coverage.