France needs no introduction to be made because it is basically the cradle of modern Europe and one of the top ten vacation destinations. Whether you want to just simply visit the country and the wonderful capital or to go on the honeymoon, France is the ultimate destination. Not only the bustling cities are to be visited, but also, the French Alps are on the list, especially in winter time. But however, all tourists prefer to land in Paris first and check out everything that this wonderful European capital has to offer.
Despite the wonderful treats that France has to offer, the current immigrant crisis is taking a toll on the country. Recent terrorist attacks and protests are affecting the country’s image and the desire to visit the country drops significantly. However, a terrorist attack from Muslim extremists has not happened for a while due to the measures that the government took as a matter of safety. Armed Special Forces patrol the city of Paris constantly, deterring any terrorist act.
Leaving aside terrorist acts, recent protests also took a toll on the country’s infrastructure and not only. The protests happened after President Emmanuel Macron was involved in raising the price of petrol and diesel fuel with 23 percent in October 2018. After this happened, peaceful protests have escalated into violent protests and many people caught in action suffered from severe injuries. The protesters were all dressed in yellow vests.
Highest Risks You Expose Yourself to When Visiting France
Overall Risk in France: MEDIUM
The Bureau of Diplomatic Security has rated France as being of medium threat due to the high possibility of terrorism and civil unrest. However, some are not deterred to visit the country at all. According to some bloggers that visited France in 2018, they said that nothing out of the ordinary happened during their stay. Like in any foreign country, you must take some safety precautions against pickpockets.
The amount of immigrants and refugees flooding into the country has raised the probability of being targeted by thieves. They usually operate in pairs, and one is stealing all your valuables while the other engages you into a conversation. Is an old fashioned tactic that works in Paris.
France is a country that can be visited all year round and the has a steady flux of tourists so that thieves can easily operate in the crowded areas.
Scams are also a concern in France. When in a pub or restaurant, do not let your drink unattended and certainly do not accept drinks from strangers. There is a big chance that you can be poisoned, drugged and mugged. When leaving the safety of your hotel room, do not carry around too much money or else, you can be a target for criminals.
Pickpocketing and Theft Risks in France: MEDIUM
As stated above, pickpocketing and theft is a serious problem in France, especially in the capital. As all the important sights are in Paris, there is the biggest density of thieves. All crimes are generally without the use of violence, but they can occur, especially after nightfall. Violence can be used when the victim opposes the aggressor.
Believe it or not, most thefts are perpetrated by youngsters under 16 years old, as they are more unlikely to be arrested or prosecuted. Behind the youngsters stands the main threat and they all operate as a gang. So if you resist a 16-year-old, from behind could emerge an angry mob. Best way to avoid this kind of scenario is not to walk on poorly illuminated streets and also avoid walking after 10 PM in certain neighborhoods.
Hit and run crimes also happen especially when you leave your vehicle unattended. When leaving the vehicle, be sure to double check if it’s locked and does not leave any valuables displayed in the car. Believe it or not, the most desired goods by thieves are Apple products. iPhones and iPads are much more expensive in France than in the US so these gadgets are like holy grails for thieves.
A safety measure that should be taken into consideration in every country that you visit is to leave any unnecessary goods in the hotel room or in a safe. Flashy jewelry and watches are also targets for criminals.
Scam Risk in France: MEDIUM
Scams are all over Paris especially and you can spot some of them very easily. Apart from the random pickpockets, scammers are everywhere. The most common type of scam is the “Friendship bracelet”. A random person approaches you with some bracelets made from strings and asks you if you want to buy one and if you reach your hand to see the bracelets, he will put a bracelet on your wrist. The worst part of it is that you can’t remove the bracelet as the seller ties the bracelet very tight. If you don’t pay for the bracelet, he will follow you to an ATM until you pay him.
The “Three Pea” scam is also very popular in France and it usually consists of three cups and under one cup there is a pea or a ball. The scammer lets you win the first two or three rounds and then, with a sleight of hand, he either removes the ball or pea and you start to lose money. If someone approaches you and asks you if you want to play, just simply refuse. However, it is not recommended to join the crowd watching such a game because you may become a sitting duck for pickpockets.
These are two scams from a whole bunch of scams that can happen in Paris alone. If a stranger approaches you and he is offering a service or asks you to sign a petition, kindly say “No” and walk away.
Kidnapping Risk in France: LOW
Kidnapping in France for ransom is uncommon and in the early years, no cases were reported. The only kidnappings reported are parental/child custody kidnappings.
Terrorism Risk in France: HIGH
Considering the recent terrorist attacks that happened, The Bureau of Diplomatic Security has assessed France with a high risk. Although in 2018 no terrorist attacks were perpetrated, the risk remains very high to the current immigrant crisis.
These attacks are linked to ISIS and the most notorious one is the attack on Charlie Hebdo in 2015. The attack was perpetrated by ISIS extremists after a satirical drawing of the famous magazine. Twelve people were killed in the gunned assault and the world was in shock. Earlier in 2011, the first attack was conducted on Charlie Hebdo’s headquarters, but this time, no victims were reported.
On November 13th, 2015, a number of attacks with suicide bombers took place in the middle of Paris and 130 death and 800 other injuries were reported.
Since then, the number of armed forces on foot patrol in Paris was increased, but attacks happened again. In 2017, single attacks happened in the metro station in Marseille.
To avoid these kinds of situations that could seriously harm you or kill you, try not to hang around too much in crowded places. Be on the lookout for anything suspicious or out of the ordinary and call the police or ask for help if something happens.
Risks for Women Traveling Alone in France: LOW
According to solo female travelers, France is rated as being a low-risk travel destination. Even if you are not a French speaker, you can get instructions and directions really easy.
Catcalling can happen, but usually, there is no violence included. If a man approaches you with bad intentions, politely excuse yourself as you are in a hurry and seek for help. If there is a policeman around, asking for help is also recommended.
To avoid any unpleasant situations during your visit, avoid walking around in the night and if so, stay on the illuminated roads.
Rape Risk in France: LOW
The rape risk is low in France, but there are some things that you should consider first. During nighttime, keep an eye on your surroundings if you are forced to walk home for various reasons.
When you are alone on a vacation in France, avoid going to clubs. Clubs are serious threats to your health. If you land in a club in France and you are alone, be sure to guard your drink or else you can get into serious troubles. Somebody could spike your drink with a powerful drug and your vacation could be ruined. Always carry around a private taxi number just in case you need to go home.
Risks for People Traveling With Children in France: LOW
Children will absolutely love France and all its famous landmarks and they will definitely want to go to the famous Disneyland.
There are some things you should keep in mind. France is very crowded and you should take all safety precautions for your child not getting lost. Keep an eye on him every time. When traveling around France with a toddler, please consider that traffic is heavy and accidents could occur frequently, especially near the sidewalk.
Renting a car would seem a good idea and it will save you time and effort altogether. When renting a car, please specify to the rental service that you would also want a child seat in the rear for extra protection.
Natural Disaster Risks in France: LOW
The main natural disaster that could happen during your stay in France is to be caught in a flood. Severe rainfalls during springtime cause the River Seine to rise and flood major roads and destroy property. In 2016 and 2018, the river rose so high that it swept cars and destroyed buildings.
When the weather forecast predicts heavy rainfall, take all safety precautions and do not venture near rivers.
Other natural disasters could happen in the French Alps during winter. Avalanches pose a serious threat to hikers and skiers as well.
Transportation Risks in France: LOW
Roads are in good shape and are very well maintained, so traveling by bus will reduce drastically your travel time. However, sudden traffic jams happen especially in bigger cities and in central France.
The metro in Paris is considered to be very safe. But as a friendly reminder, pickpockets and thieves operate in the metro as well, so keep an eye on your valuables all the time when traveling by metro. As a safety precaution, security officers will stop the train when there is an abandoned package in the metro.
Using registered and metered taxis are mandatory to avoid any scams or other unpleasant situations. Safe taxis are easy to spot due to their “Taxi Parisien” sign on the roof.
The flux of tourists is also carefully monitored in the main three airports in Paris. Controls are very strict and sometimes uncomfortable to ensure that no explosive devices were shipped to France. Due to terrorist attacks, it is pretty common that you will see armed soldiers guarding and patrolling the terminals.
Night-clubs, Pubs, and Bar Risks in France: MEDIUM
As stated above, some night-clubs and pubs are dangerous and if you are traveling alone do not leave your drink on the table or at the bar. Spiked drinks are common throughout France and you could get in serious trouble if you were poisoned or drugged.
If you are traveling with a group of friends and decide to go to a club, watch each other’s drinks and if anyone feels noxious, grab a cab and go to the hotel.
When walking around and a girl approaches you and asks you if you want to come in, kindly refuse. This is another trick that scammers do into convincing you to enter a club, paying for a drink and then getting distracted by a girl. When you decide to leave after spending only 5 euros on a drink, the bill could jump to 200 euros for the girl. If you decide to ask the bouncer about this, he will tell you that this is normal. Best thing to do then is to call the police.
Health Risks in France: LOW
There are no serious health risks in France apart from getting poisoned from a spiked drink. The emergency number is 112 and the medical staff is highly trained. As a matter of fact, healthcare in France is comparable to the healthcare in the US, sometimes better. If you are calling to the emergency phone number, sometimes it may take a little until the service finds an operator able to speak English.
Before you embark for France, check your health insurance policy if it applies to France and with the law there.
List of Vaccines You Need in France
In any country that you travel to, you will need some routine vaccines to take and a medical check before you leave and after. The CDC has enlisted some vaccines that you will need to take:
- measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine
- diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine
- varicella (chickenpox) vaccine
- polio vaccine
- hepatitis A and B vaccines
- Anti-rabies vaccine (especially to children as they are prone to play with animals often)
Most Dangerous Area in France
In Paris, there are some areas that you should avoid going, but mainly, La Gare du Nord during night time is a no go zone due to its high number of drug addicts that reside there. Also, avoid the suburbs as all costs.
In the whole country, according to some blogs and statistics, Lyon is the city that has the highest crime rate, especially when it comes to stolen vehicles. The area in France you should consider twice before visiting is Occitania as it has the highest number of crimes per 1000 people.
Concluding Remarks: Is France Safe to Visit?
Despite the terrorist attacks that took place in the early years in Paris, France is still a safe country to visit, but also you must take some safety precautions when traveling.
The area around the main attractions is hotspots and havens for pickpockets as tourists flood the scenery. Be always aware of your surroundings and after something suspicious and always keep the emergency number on fast call.
Scams are present as well in France also around main tourist attractions and they operate in groups, as well as pickpockets and thieves. If you are approached by a stranger offering a service or a valuable, kindly refuse the service and if the person is becoming aggressive, seek for police help immediately. To have a peaceful vacation, avoid going too much into clubs as there are some dangers that you may encounter as spiked drinks and big bills to pay after.
No terrorist acts were reported in 2018, but they still could happen so keep an eye for anything out of the ordinary and/or suspicious. Also, avoid crowded places as they are prime terrorist attack spots.
Traveling alone as a female or for a family traveling and visiting with children is pretty safe. Avoiding traffic congestions is the right way to stay safe when having children.
Natural disasters occur rarely and the ones that you should keep in mind are the floods during spring and the avalanches in the Alps.