Is Paris Safe For Tourists?

Advice and Information for Visitors

People observe a minute-silence at the Place de la Republique in memory of the victims of the Paris terror attacks last Friday, on November 16, 2015 in Paris, France.
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Following devastating terrorist attacks in Paris, Brussels, Nice, and Berlin, many prospective visitors to the French capital are wondering whether it's truly safe to visit Paris.

Visitors to the city need to keep informed of current safety advisories and know details about transportation, services, and any closures in the city.

Official Security Advisories in Effect

After the 2015 thorough 2017 terrorist attacks in Europe, many English-speaking countries issued travel advisories asking their citizens to exercise extreme caution and vigilance.

They are not, however, advising against travel to France. 

The American Embassy in Paris issued a Level 2 Travel Advisory in May 2018. The advisory states, in part,

"Exercise increased caution in France due to terrorism. Terrorist groups continue plotting possible attacks in France. Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, local government facilities, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, parks, major sporting and cultural events, educational institutions, airports, and other public areas."

The Canadian Embassy issued an advisory following the attacks in Paris, which is still current in 2018, calling for their citizens to "exercise a high degree of caution due to the current elevated threat of terrorism." The Australian Embassy has issued similar advisories, as has the UK Embassy.

Understanding Security Advisories

The United States issues two types of advisories: the "Travel Warning" and the "Travel Alert." Though the wording may be a little confusing, The "Travel Warning" is actually the more serious of the two and tends to be put in place when a country is so unstable that travel may be actively dangerous.

At any given time, several dozen continuously unstable or dangerous countries may be on the list. There is a general "Worldwide Caution" in effect as of July 2018.

When a Worldwide Caution is put in place, the advice from the State Department is that "U.S. citizens are strongly encouraged to maintain a high level of vigilance and practice good situational awareness."

The less-serious "Travel Alert" is usually issued in response to a particular event or condition such as a storm, planned protests, potentially contentious elections, even sporting events with a history of generating violent outbursts among fans.

Usually, there are five or six countries listed for various reasons. If there is an expected problem in any country, it would most likely generate a "Travel Alert," usually for a relatively short period of time.

Understanding advisories is made more complicated because some news services, bloggers, or social media outlets may hear of a "Travel Alert" or "Travel Advisory" and rephrase it as a "Travel Warning" when they mention it. So don't assume your trip is at risk until you check the details directly with the State Department.

Is It Safe to Visit Paris in 2018?

None of these advisories is at a level urging citizens to avoid travel to France. There are considerations for travelers and ways to increase your safety when you travel.

The U.S. Department of State urges citizens to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to which helps the embassy alert you in times of trouble. STEP is a free service allowing U.S. citizens and nationals traveling and living abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

The program also assists family members in contacting you during your travels should there be an emergency.  

The Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau provides useful safety information for visitors. If you are in Paris, follow any security warnings you may be issued by authorities to the letter, and stay aware and vigilant. The French Tourism website offers updates and explanations of security precautions. 

France has significantly bolstered security since the attacks, mobilizing more than 115,000 police and military personnel to protect Paris and the rest of the French territory. Yet, it is up to the visitor to keep abreast of the news and read the information provided by the U.S. Department of State as well as the French and Paris tourism sites. And, if knowing that you must keep aware during your travels makes you uneasy and nervous about traveling, perhaps this is not the best time to visit cities in Europe like Paris.