Is it Safe to Travel to France?

France remains a safe country in general

Eiffel Tower Security
Getty/ Xavier Laine Contributor

Official: France is a safe country

The first thing to remember is that France is considered a safe country by all the major governments, including the U.S., the Canadian, U.K. and Australian governments. There have been no recommendations to stop traveling to France. So you should not consider cancelling your trip to Paris and France unless you feel personally that it would be a good thing to do. However all governments advise you to take special care in France. You need to exercise caution in large towns and cities, but the countryside, small towns and villages are very safe.  

The July 2016 Terrorist Attacks

France, Europe and the world was appalled at the attack in Nice on Thursday July 14th, Bastille Day, that left France both fearful and furious. The country had hosted the UEFA Football Championship without any terrorist incidents and the State of Emergency was about to be lifted following the attacks in Paris on November 13th, 2015 when 129 people died and more were injured. This was the second major attack in Paris that year; in January, 2015, an attack on the offices of the French satirical publication Charlie Hebdo left 12 people dead and 11 others injured. The perpetrators have all been either killed or arrested. 

When the attacks happened, the U.S. State Department and the U.K. Foreign Office and other countries advised that further attacks were possible, though law enforcement and security agencies around the world are working to prevent such attacks. Following the Nice attacks, the same resolve is evident.

It is impossible to reassure people that there will be no further attempts. However, it is appropriate to remember that security measures have been hugely stepped up and there is more co-operation between international agencies and foreign governments than ever before, so the belief is that the terrorists will find it harder and harder to organise themselves. 

But these are frightening times and many people are wondering how safe Paris, France and indeed the rest of Europe is.

More Information on Paris and the November Attacks

My colleague, Courtney Traub, has produced excellent up-to-date news on the November attacks in Paris. 

More Information Sources

Practical Information on Paris

Ministry of Foreign Affairs Emergency Telephone Number for Tourists: 00 33 (0)1 45 50 34 60

Paris Locations

The center and tourist areas of Paris are generally safe, but still take note of the warnings above.

  • Beware of Les Halles at night and drug dealers.
  • The north of Paris should be avoided at night. Keep an eye on your possessions.
  • At the moment, the suburbs, particularly Saint-Denis and Bobigny, are the center of surveillance and the latest terrorists have been caught there.
  • Take care along the banks of the Seine and the quays. Don’t go alone and do not walk through the tunnels under the bridges as these are often the haunts of the homeless.

Advice from the United States Embassy in Paris

The advice from the United States Embassy in Paris after the 2016 attacks was general:

"We strongly urge U.S. citizens to maintain a high level of vigilance, be aware of local events, and take the appropriate steps to bolster their personal security, including limiting their movements to essential activity. U.S. citizens are encouraged to monitor media and local information sources and factor updated information into personal travel plans and activities."

State of Emergency

France remains under a State of Emergency voted on by the government. This will last until July 2017 after the elections in France have concluded.

"The state of emergency allows the government to prevent the circulation of individuals and to create zones of protection and security. There are reinforced security measures throughout France. These allow for house arrest of any person whose activities are deemed dangerous, the closure of theaters and meeting places, the surrender of weapons, and the possibility of administrative house searches."

Official Government Website Advice

More on Making a Decision on Travel to France

The decision to travel is of course, an entirely personal one. But many people are urging that we carry on with our normal lives. This is the way to defeat cowardly terrorism; I feel strongly that we must not let the terrorist change the way we live and view the world. 

General Travel Tips for Keeping Safe

  • Watch your bags and make sure they are safely zipped up.
  • Carry your handbag close to yourself; if it’s hanging from your shoulder be careful. It could be taken by passing thieves, particularly those on scooters or motorbikes.
  • Take care if you carry a backpack, particularly in the metro and at flea markets as it is easier for pickpockets in crowded place.
  • Don’t put money and passports in your pockets.
  • At cash machines, be careful nobody is watching you enter your access code. Take your card and your cash and put them away immediately. Don’t hold money in your hand in the streets.
  • In Paris if you can buy a Metro ticket in advance. If possible buy from a ticket office; if you need to buy from a machine, make sure you have the right money. Beware anybody who offers to help; ignore them.
  • Be careful around all major stations; they always attract pickpockets and petty thieves as you are often weighed down with luggage and not concentrating.
  • Remember that your bags will be searched at every major department store, museum and attraction; it's for your own safety. 

Is it safe to travel to the rest of France?

  • In urban areas throughout France, you should take the same precautions that you would in any major city (see above). But the country is a vast one, and many regions and many towns and cities are very safe. So if you are nervous about visiting Paris or Nice, consider a more out of the way region like the Auvergne where the way of life is rural, peaceful and seems a million miles away from the  major towns.

Travel to and from France

  • You will find heightened security at airports, so whether you are flying to or from France, allow more time to get through the various checks. And make sure that you have all the relevant papers you need before you travel.
  • The Schengen Agreement means that there are no border controls within the European Community. However the U.K. is not part of the Schengen Agreement, so there will be further delays if you are traveling to or from that country.
  • All airlines, ferries and trains are running normal services to and from France.
  • If you are going to France in the next few months, check first to see if any major events have been cancelled. 

Edited by Mary Anne Evans

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