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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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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