out of harm's way in France
UPDATE July 15th 2016
- Is it still safe to visit France or Paris after the terror attacks of 2015 and 2016 ? Yes. France is as safe as
other country, and safer than most. And Paris remains a generally safe
city, in spite of the murderous terror attacks of last year.
The terror attack in Nice
last night is the first attack in France in 2016 to have targeted
civilians. Until yesterday, only two people had been killed by
suspected terrorists in France since the beginning of the year. The
Euro16 football tournament passed off without incident
In the wake of the sickening terror attacks, it is natural to
feel threatened; after the Bataclan in November 2015, after Brussels
airport, after Istanbul, after Orlando, and now after Nice, the world
grieves for the innocent victims of mindless fanaticism.
But fortunately, terrorist attacks are not
common occurrrences. If they were, the world's media would not make
them into worldwide headline news...... any more than they do for the
2800 people who die in traffic accidents in the USA each month , or
around 300 who die in traffic accidents in France each month.
If we put these figures another way, the risk of getting killed in a traffic accident in the USA is about 50 times greater than
getting killed in a terrorist attack in France.
That doesn't make the terror attacks any less barbarous, nor the
grief for those who died or were maimed any less real. But it is a
point worth reflecting on.
Check out Is France safe
in 2016 ?
To be honest, France is a fairly
like any country, it has its share of crooks, pickpockets, potential
terrorists, thieves and
even mere opportunists, who can turn a traveller's dream into a
nightmare. While anyone anywhere could be the victim of an accident or
a terror attack, this is highly unlikely to happen to a tourist,
anywhere. Most tales of woe and distress scattered
across travel forums on the Internet relate to less serious, but
nonetheless unpleasant experiences such as losing your luggage, having
your passport stolen, getting
mugged, or some other mishap.
There was the
story of the tourists who left their hire car by the seaside in Nice,
only to come back and find that while they were down having a quick dip
in the Med, some unscrupulous scoundrel had broken a window and stolen
their passports, valuables, cameras, laptops and some of their luggage
– without so much as a by-your-leave.
like this, one's reaction must surely be mixed, between
compassion for the victims who lost a lot of stuff, and disbelief at
their stupidity for - presumably - leaving their bags, documents,
cameras and valuables visible in an unattended car parked in a very
public location in a Mediterranean city.
France, as in virtually any other country worldwide, people who are
careless or stupid with their belongings, and notably with their
valuables, are liable to get them nicked, stolen or otherwise removed
by thieves pickpockets or con-men. Thieves and pickpockets are
particularly attracted to foreign-looking tourists, notably
wealthy-looking tourists, since there is a good chance that they will
be carrying money, credit cards, passports or other items of value that
can be sold on the black-market.
How to avoid troubleSo to avoid trouble, it is a good idea
to pay attention to a few elementary truths and rules.
Cities with lots of
and lots of wealthy tourists also attract thieves and criminals. So the
places in France where tourists should be most on their guard and take
most precautions are Paris
and Nice .
Both of these cities have seen a rise in acts of theft and
aggression against tourists in recent years, notably on account of the
development of organised crime networks from Eastern Europe.
Watch out for instance for loitering groups of young teenage
girls in the Paris metro. While the vast majority of people ride the
metro every day with not least worry or hassle, there are organised
bands of mostly east European pickpockets and snatch and grab thieves
at work in Paris, looking out for unwary tourists. So keep your
valuables in inside pockets, and keep a firm grip on your bags if
riding the Paris metro, or even just waiting in line for a taxi.
can also attract the attention of thieves, particularly up-market
models and cars left with interesting-looking items visible to the eyes
of passing prowlers. This is particularly true in cities and at night.
Once again, in most places in France most people have absolutely no
problem; but drivers who unintentionally invite trouble by leaving
valuables or documents in full view of any passer-by may pay the price
of their thoughtlessness.
In many regions of France,
particularly in small towns and villages , you could leave a
Rolls-Royce or a BMW on the street for a week, with the keys in the
ignition, and it would still be there when you got back; but in any
city, motorway service area, tourist trap or seaside resort, a lot more
care is advisable. Don't leave passports and money in an unattended
car, even if it is locked; and stash "interesting" looking items out of
harm's way in the boot (or the trunk as Americans say), or in a locked
Cash, credit cards
Keep your cash, credit cards and passports with you at all times, and
do not carry unnecessary amounts of cash with you. Credit cards can be
used virtually everywhere in France, so there is little need for
tourists to carry rolls of banknotes on their person. Tourists
brandishing 100 Euro notes (let alone anything bigger than that) can
attract attention. Outside of hotspots of opulence such as Saint
Tropez, Cannes and some parts of Paris, 100 Euro bills are relatively
rare – and 200 € or 500 € bills are
4. Mobile phones, laptops, iPods, USB
sticks, expensive cameras, Rolex watches,etc.
Don't flaunt your wealth or your trendiest and valuable
possessions. Smartphones in particular seem to have a magnetic
attraction for all kinds of pickpockets and even just ordinary
teenagers who, as Oscar Wilde once put it, "can resist anything except
temptation". As regards laptop computers and USB sticks, make
sure that your operating system (Windows or whatever) is protected by a
password. This won't stop anyone from stealing your computer, it won't
prevent you accidentally leaving it on a train or in a hotel.... but it
will mean that whoever stole it or acquires it will find it very hard
to access your information and steal your passwords. For anyone except
a seriously motivated computer hacker or expert, there is no way of
entering into the files on a password-protected laptop, so in most
cases the thief will simply reformat the hard disk and erase all your
Travel tickets / printouts.
As far as is possible, leave these in your hotel room, in a suitcase or
safe, unless you need them. If touring round, keep them either on your
person, or else in the locked glove compartment of your car or other
6. Single travellers
alone in France is generally not a risky business; millions of people
travel alone in France every year, for business or for pleasure.
However female travellers should take the elementary precautions that
they would take anywhere outside their own home, such as not using
public transport late at night, and not venturing alone into urban
areas of doubtful reputation.
Obey these few basic principles,
which are really just plain common sense, and it is most likely that
your holiday in France will go off without any trouble. Disregard them,
and you will be courting problems that could ruin your trip.
in spite of taking all the sensible precautions, you are the victim of
theft or aggression, you should report this immediately to the nearest
gendarmerie. In the event of theft of passports or identity papers,
contact the nearest consulate for your country. In the event of loss of
travel tickets, contact your airline or other transport company.
One useful tip to finish with: carry colour photocopies of
essential pages of your main documents and travel papers, and keep
these well separate from the originals. If you do need to declare a
loss or theft, having copies of the missing documents can make life a
Minimise the riskRather than visit Paris or France's main tourist sites, visit France's small towns, its regions,
or its out of the way areas. As in any country, criminality and
acts of terror tend to be concentrated in places that are full of
people, the cities and main lines of communication between them.
France has just a handful of popular big cities; most of France,
and indeed the majority of the interesting things and places to visit,
are away from the cities