Safety Tips for Women Traveling Solo in France

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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France is one of the most well-touristed destinations on the planet and a safe and easy country for travel. Women traveling solo will generally feel safe nearly anyplace they go. As long as you’re an independent person at home, you won’t have any trouble getting around France by train, bus or rental car. That said, there are general precautions to heed that apply to women traveling everywhere.

Is France Safe?

I spent three years living in a small town in the southwest of France and traveled extensively on my own, throughout the country. Communicating with locals was never a problem. But even if I hadn’t spoken French, there were no situations where I felt my safety was compromised by the simple fact of being a woman any more than it is in the US or elsewhere in Europe or the Western World. In fact, France felt safer to me than most places.

There is a flirtatiousness in daily French life that you may not be used to in the US or countries like Australia, Canada and England. The French love banter, and even when interacting with strangers there is a playfulness that can border on innocent flirtation within daily interactions. The French don’t shy from innuendo and there isn’t as much pressure to be politically correct. I enjoyed the back and forth. But if you feel uncomfortable with more banter than you’re used to, simply don’t engage.

Unwanted Attention

Flirtatious locals are hardly isolated to France - just be prepared to handle overt advances wherever you are. If someone is coming on too strongly and making you uncomfortable - whether a suitor on the street or a hotel employee - excuse yourself in a hurry and find somewhere safe to escape. Expect a lot more eye contact from men in southern European countries including France than in the north. It’s usually just an approving or curious glance, and no more harmless than that.

Local Respect

French women are more conservative than flamboyant in their style. While showing lots of leg and cleavage may be the norm during summer in many cities around the world, French women tend to leave more to the imagination.

From the big cities to the countryside, you’ll attract more attention wearing a midriff-bearing shirt than in Breton stripes. 

Getting Around

As is the case most anywhere, women should never consider hitchhiking on their own in France.

As for walking alone after dark, it depends on where you are. In big cities like Marseilles, Paris, Lyon and even Nice, there are certainly areas for women to avoid walking alone after dark. Defer to locals or concierge at your hotel for the best advice.

For long voyages at night on the intercites de nuit trains with SNCF, France’s national railway, request to be in a special compartment reserved for women and families. Never opt for a compartment where you will be alone if you cannot lock it. It’s preferable to splurge on a private couchette on overnight trains than to be vulnerable.

In Paris, make sure your taxi is an official one labeled “Taxi Parisien.” If you ride with Uber or Lyft, ensure your driver has references and good ratings.

The ride share program (covoiturage, in French), BlaBlaCar, is a popular way to get from place to place for longer distances. Again, check references before committing.

If you rent a car, do most of your driving during the day as a general safety rule. Particularly at night, avoid driving in big cities where you’re unfamiliar with the geography

Emergency Contacts for Women

If you have been assaulted, call France's national rape crisis hotline (0 800 059 595) toll-free from any telephone. It's run by Paris women's organisation, Viols Femmes Informations (9 villa d'Este, 13e, Paris; Porte d'Ivry).

Dial 17 for the poilce. The women-only Association Maison des Femmes de Paris;(01 43 43 41 13;163 rue de Charenton, 12e, Paris; Reuilly Diderot), is another resource and meeting place for women

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5 Comments

  • pamella de cootes said

    Feb16th 2016. My daughter is on her way home to the UK on Eurostar. I can now relax. She is with her school.Children age 13-16yrs. Two days ago my daughter was groped and assaulted, on a bus with her friends around her and their teachers at the other end of the bus. Be very careful Paris is a very dark and sinister place for women and young girls and children. My daughter is only 14yrs. She enjoyed her trip and enjoyed the beautiful city,but leaving Paris with a bad memory of the sexual assault, that nothing can be done. Kidnapping of young women and girls are on the increase, as they can be transported to the south of France for Drugs and prostitution very easily. That is why the producers and directors of the film TAKEN based the film about the city of Paris, because of it's a rising example of the city. A shame. Beautiful city

  • Amanda said

    I hace been assaulted in Paris, one night when I come back to my hotel at 22 o'clock. When I get out from the metro and walking to my hotel one man goes after me al the way andwas hoding when I looked back... I one moment he pushed me and started to toch me and I started screaming an pushing him. Afortunatelly i could escape and I was running to my hotel and he goes after me... I arrived to my hotel afread. This was a really bad experience. And the french mens on the streets are comming and starting a conversation and going after you... I get bothered so many times. Whatch out if you are going out of Paris with RER, there is danger to... In Paris there are a ghetto quarters and the train is stopping in a station and when I traveling to Disneyland, I have a bed experience to. The train stopped in one station in ghetto quarter and my vagon was empty and entered two girls and a gay, they looked like drug addicts and were bouthered me... The gay sat next to me and started asking me questions and started telling me that I'm so beautiful...Started inviting me for coffee and the girls were laughing... and afortunately in the next station they came out. Exept that I have a grat time in Paris, i so beautiful and I'm so in love with this city. But, I'm affraid to go alone there. P.S. I forgoted, whach out, there are a lot of young people making some presentations of the streets and they will do everything to take your ID card data. Don't give you ID to anyone!

  • L said

    I'm sorry you two (commenters) had such bad experiences. I would agree from my own experience it's unsafe for young females (teens, younger adults), but not necessarily applicable to women 30 and up. Creepy as that might seem. About 11 years ago, I went to Paris with a group and at one point we were followed around for a good bit around the river, and freaked out by it too. I got other unwarranted attention, and knew someone who was groped on a metro. In 2015, I lived in Paris for a year. Before going, I told myself, "just remember, never ever go out alone at night!" During my first trip, I had been so grateful when we had guys in our group. But I have to say, in 2015, as an old ancient 30 year old, I got bothered WAY less. So...I wouldn't say this kind of harassment goes for all women at every age. It seems, sadly, mostly to be younger females :/ (teenager -early 20s). I was actually surprised at how far fewer men bothered me the second time around, just from me aging 10 years. I was glad but surprised. I still had men approaching me but the approach was WAY different....they'd start with something like "oh, just checking if you needed a friend" or trying to strike up normal convos if I was spotted alone on a bench for five minutes. Haha. The approach was more them acting like they wanted to make sure I had company...or something...which was less creepy and easier to stop than just being followed and other stuff when I was younger. Now, there are more sketchy areas of Paris, not sure I'd go in those at night. Even around Place de la Republique...I thought errr let me find a taxi fast...

  • janeyco said

    Firstly, get out of Paris girls! It is beautiful but its not the be all and end all, France has so much more to offer and safer places to visit. Head South and wear your colourful sundresses and short shorts comfortably, like the locals do. Keep your wits about you if your walking/taking the metro alone at night just as you would in any city (its unfortunate but a reality). Hitchhiking is really common in a lot of areas I've visited (Ariège, Belle-Ile en Mer, etc.), and like most things, I recommend that if the locals are doing it, you are probably safe to do it too. Being a petite blonde I've definitely experienced some of the harassment and cat-calling that you've described especially in bigger cities like Lyon but for the most part the experience has been really positive. Use your common sense, stay aware and have a great time :)

  • Allison said

    So you're saying that men are being men? SHOCKER

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