out of harm's way in France
- 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 2015
Subsequent events have shown us – as if we did not know
already – that terrorism strikes blindly: anywhere. London
- Brussels - Germany - Orlando - Stockholm. It is certainly not limited
to one country or one city. .
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
grief for those who died or were maimed any less real. But it is a
point worth reflecting on.
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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,
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 trouble
So 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
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.
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 risk
Rather than visit Paris or France's main tourist sites, visit France's small towns
or its out of the way areas. As in any country, criminality
acts of terror tend to be concentrated in places that are full of
people, the cities and main lines of communication between
France has just a handful of popular big cities; most of
and indeed the majority of the interesting things and places to visit,
are away from the cities.
Rural France has just as much to offer as urban
France, even if it just for a weekend break. While the best-known
airports are in Paris and Nice, many French
are located in or outside small provincial towns, in
areas where there's far more than enough to see and do to keep anyone
happy for a short break; and many parts of rural Frence remain areas
where you can leave the house or a hotel room without bothering to lock
the door, in the knowledge that nobody will break in while you're out.
Want a great view? No need to go up the Eiffel
Tower in Paris. You could instead take the rack railway to the top of
the Puy de Dome in Auvergne
or drive to the Point Sublime above the Tarn
in Occitania... just two of hundreds of great views to
be had in France. Want to see a great cathedral? Why stick with Notre
Dame in Paris, when there are a dozen other great (some would say
in other French cities, with less crowds, no need
for security, and incredible mediaeval sculptures and stained glass
windows. Want to visit some great museums and art galleries?
There are plenty of them outside Paris, places where you won't be able
to see the Mona Lisa, but you won't either need to stand in a line for
half an hour or more before you can get in. Check out some of the best
on Best French art
There's so much to see in France, far away from
the big cities, in smaller cities and in the countryside; and while
it's not possible to talk of "zero risk" for any place anywhere, most
af rural France is pretty well as safe as it gets.
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