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France is a safe country to visit, but it helps to be in the know on common issues to avoid trouble.
In the 2020 Global Peace Index, France ranks 66 out of 163 countries. In Europe overall, France ranks poorly, at 31 out of 36 European destinations.
Violent crime involving travelers is very rare. However, theft is one of the highest crime categories to be aware of. A steady stream of unassuming travelers makes for an easy bunch of targets.
Find out which places you should be more cautious, plus a few tips to keep yourself and your belongings safe while traveling in France.
Anywhere that attracts tourists, will attract thieves. In Paris, thieves are everywhere.
Be careful around Madeleine, Champs Elysees and Arc de Triomphe, Sacre Coeur church at the artists' area of Montemarte, L'Opera, Les Halles and the George Pompidou Center, the Porte de Clingnancourt flea market, and of course –anywhere near the Eiffel Tower. Including inside the crowded lifts that take you to the top.
If you are dining at a street side cafe or restaurant, make sure your bag and valuables are secure. Don't hang your bag over the back of your seat or leave your bag/wallet on a table. It's a quick snatch and grab for any passing opportunistic thief.
The Metro and RER stations are always busy. Always keep a firm hold of your bag and wallet, day or night.
Pickpockets are highly organised and skilled. What may feel like someone brushing past you or bumping in a crowd, could be a nifty pickpocket after your valuables.
Part of a pickpocket or thief's method is to grab for your bag or wallet, and jump on/off the train just as the doors are closing.
These train stations have reported considerable pickpocket activity: Chatelet, Les Halles, Barbes Rochechouart, Gare du Nord, Auber-Opera-Harve Caumartin, Charles de Gaulle-Etoile, Concorde, Strasbourg-Saint Denis, Republique, Montparnasse, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Bastille, Care de l'Est, Nation and Gare de Lyon.
While traveling around Paris and visiting the parks during daytime, travelers will feel very safe. Nighttime, however, is a different story. The beautiful manicured gardens of the Bois de Boulogne, and the Bois de Vincennes, can be more dangerous when the sun sets.
At night, the parks are frequented by drug dealers and sex workers. It's much wiser to stick to well-lit thoroughfares when enjoying the city in the evening.
Even shopping in Paris's department stores can pose a risk – and not just to your credit card limit. There have been reported bag snatches and theft in stores such as Printemps (closest metro stop is Havre - Caumartin), and the magnificent Galleries Lafayette (metro Chauss'e d'Antin La Fayette). People who leave their wallets or credit cards on cashier counters during transactions have turned to find them gone. Never let your belongings out of sight.
While Paris is the haven for pickpockets, crime becomes more common in the south. Particularly the Cote D'Azur cities of Marseille and Nice.
The Mediterranean area has long been considered one of the most corrupt, crime-ridden areas of Europe – therefore you should be cautious while visiting. Most crimes are not going to affect travelers, as this involves drugs, prostitution, money laundering and robbery in the area. Local gangs compete with each other for the biggest slice of the market, especially in Marseille. Gun crime is common, but rarely a threat to visitors.
Organised crime gangs have a distinct hierarchy, and most start at the bottom rung of opportunistic, petty crime and work their way up.
Thefts from vehicles, whether stopped in traffic or unattended, is also rife in southern France, especially between the cities of Perpignan (near the Spanish border) and Menton (near Monaco).
Local councils and governments have taken notice of crime, and increased policing to provide better protection for residents and visitors.
Property crime in France amounts to half of all crime, and it is most prevalent in Paris and the Mediterranean coastal cities of Marseille and Nice. Muggings do occur, especially in the Ile de France region that encompasses Paris and the outer suburbs.
In the regional southern parts of France pensioners have been targeted. Even truffle farmers have been robbed at gunpoint by opportunistic thieves, for their harvest that restaurants in Paris pay a small fortune for.
As a traveler, the specific areas where you should exercise caution are at automated service stations, and rest areas on motorways. It is advised not to sleep in these rest areas, nor in makeshift or unauthorized campgrounds on the outskirts of major cities.
Be more vigilant of your safety and belongings at the military cemeteries around Normandy. Tourists from around the world visit these World War I and II historic sites that attract local thieves.
Like all major international cities, credit card skimming is on the rise. In high volume tourist areas and automated service stations be mindful or protecting your PIN. If possible use ATMs in more controlled and supervised areas like banks, shops and shopping centers.
Travel warnings include staying away from the outlying neighborhoods of major French cities as there have been violent clashes between youths and police (Gendarmes) in the past.
In Corsica, a Mediterranean island that is a region of France – the National Front for the Liberation of Corsica (FLNC) has been conducting a sporadic bombing campaign for several years.
While the primary targets have been French government buildings, the terrorist group has been known to target tourist areas, such as holiday complexes. Other groups that have become increasingly violent on the area are Cuncolta Naziunalist and the Mouvement pour l'Autod'termination (MPA).
Thieves do target taxis carrying tourists or wealthy locals from Charles de Gaulle international Airport into the city.
The traffic to and from the airport is often completely jammed along the A1 highway, and thieves wait until the taxi is stationary, and break the windows to get to the passengers' bags.
Keep your luggage in the boot of the cab, or take the very safe Air France shuttle bus from the airport.
In France, it is a criminal offence not to attempt to help someone who has been a victim of crime. At the bare minimum you could b summon assistance by calling for help.
The emergency number to call in France is 112.
Most French take the month of August off for their summer holidays. It can be a nightmare time to travel the country as a foreigner as major tourist areas, especially the south of France and the coast, are jam-packed.
Accommodation is booked, prices are high and the traffic is unspeakable. Plus it does leave many smaller stores in the cities closed. Such as the boucherie (butchery), boulangerie (bakery), fromagerie (cheese merchant), boutique wine sellers, and phamercie (chemist).This can make buying food supplies for the day a pain.
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Travel writer Terry Ward lived in France for three years and shares her advice for women traveling solo in the country.
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