Essentials > Health & Safety >Safety & Security

Personal Safety

Paris is generally safer than other major cities when it comes to violent crime (remember handguns are illegal), but visitors should still remain alert and use common sense.

Pickpockets are a problem, especially in tourist areas (like the Champs-Elysées) and crowded Métro cars, so always keep your bags closed and wallets in front pockets. Gypsy children are the most common offenders, but pickpockets may also wear business suits to avoid suspicion. A hidden money belt to protect your passport, extra cash and credit cards is advised for peace of mind. Beware of distractions, especially if you’re at a cash machine. And never, ever leave your baggage unattended (if it’s not stolen, it could be mistaken for a bomb).

Read this note from the Paris Police for visitors (in UK English; a "boot" is a car trunk). 

Strikes and Marches

I read somewhere that there are about 700 protest demonstrations a year in France, and more than half are in Paris! Despite some high profile (read: looks good on TV) unrest in November 2005 and the student protests/riots of March 2006, most protests are peaceful.

Use common sense, though, and stay away when you see them. The CRS (French riot police) carefully guard all major demonstrations, directing traffic and preventing violence. They are armed and use tear gas and water cannons when things get out of hand.

Terrorism

France has been fighting terrorism on its own soil for decades. After the Métro bombings of 1995 the Plan Vigipirate was enacted (a sort of Homeland Security act). As a result, many trash cans were replaced with clear plastic bags; there's no parking allowed in front of schools, government buildings and sensitive areas like Jewish temples; and you will see a lot of machine-gun-carrying French troops around town. The Parisians are used to this now, but visitors are always a bit shocked the first time they see them.

For Women

Women traveling alone should ride in the front car of the Métro or train, nearest to the conductor. Try and avoid the long maze of Métro tunnels at Montparnasse, République and Châtelet-Les Halles late at night, which tend to be full of young thugs. There are yellow emergency call boxes on every platform. French men are famous for trying to pick up beautiful women they pass on the street. To avoid unwanted advances, don’t smile if you accidentally make eye contact (it’s interpreted as a come-on). If you think you’re being followed, go into the nearest open café or restaurant and ask them to call you a taxi.

Blending in when you're a visitor is more difficult than it looks. Even in a big city, those with blonde hair, taller than 5'6"/170cm, or wearing clothing brands or styles that aren't common in France will reveal you as a tourist. So expect to get attention, no matter what. The best thing to do is to ignore male attention. Don't worry about being polite, this is a big city! As soon as you open your mouth, even to say "leave me alone" they will hear your accent and continue harassing you even more. I never talk to men in the street or on the Métro when I'm alone, even if they're asking the time. They can ask someone else. Self preservation, ladies!

Lost or Stolen Items

If you’ve lost something like a coat or hat, it’s worth backtracking to find it. You can also check the Service des Objets Trouvés at the Préfecture de Police (36 Rue des Morillons, 15th M° Convention Tel  0 821 00 25 25). They have bilingual phone reception, and are open weekdays 8:30am-5pm (until 8pm on Tues and Thurs).

To report stolen items (which may be necessary for insurance purposes), contact the nearest Préfecture de Police (main office at 9 Boulevard du Palais, 4th M° Cité, Tel 01 53 71 33 56).

Report Missing Credit Cards

  • Visa 0 800 90 20 33
  • Diner’s Club 0 800 22 20 73
  • JCB 0 800 058 111
  • Eurocard Mastercard 0 800 90 23 90
  • American Express cards ( USA ) 0 800 900 898; (other countries) 01 47 77 72 00
  • American Express traveler’s checks 0 800 90 86 00

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