Visiting Paris is a lifelong dream for many people. For decades the style, culture, history, art, and romance has attracted travelers from far and wide to the City of Lights. When embarking on a major international adventure, no matter how stylish, there is always a moment of pause when the dream hits reality and questions about safety and security inevitably arise. While there is no other place like Paris in the world, it is a major European city and concerns about safety are only natural leaving travelers asking “Is it safe to travel to Paris?”
There are a few things to bear in mind when visiting a large, foreign city, and with a little bit of know-how and savvy almost anyone can safely enjoy the sights and delights of Paris, France.
Is it safe to travel to Paris? Here are 6 Things to Consider.
Aside from the obvious iconic sights and sounds that make Paris unique, in some ways, it is no different than any large metropolis when it comes to basic traveler’s safety. (Shhh… do not tell that to the French.)
1. Large Crowds
There are the usual things to bear in mind such as avoiding large crowds of people as well as all public/political demonstrations. Take the scenic route and walk the other way to go around the crowd. It is a vacation, after all. Time is not of the essence, but safety is.
Like any major city, pickpockets, scammers, and beggars are the biggest safety risk and something to be aware of. They see a tourist coming a mile away and can plan accordingly. Since most pickpockets and scammers are opportunistic, it is best to never give them an opportunity in the first place. This can be done by keeping valuables close and discreetly stored. Cameras, phones, wallets, and luggage should always be secured and never left unattended. A good rule of thumb is to politely refuse any solicitation from a person that is not affiliated with a reputable shop, hotel, or tourist service. Most vagrants in Paris are harmless and will back off with the first dismissal.
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3. Evening Outings
It is also wise to avoid wandering around the city after dark, especially alone. This is solid advice anywhere in the world, but it is always worth mentioning. If being out after dark is unavoidable, take a cab to and from the hotel and keep to popular, well-lit walkways. Know ahead of time the correct emergency number for the local police/medical authorities and how to dial the number. These contacts differ from country to country, so be sure to have the relevant one. Have a mobile phone that has an international SIM card enabled before setting foot in a foreign country. It is better to know these things ahead of time and not need them than the alternative.
Safety Considerations Specific to Paris, France
4. Le Metro
Because it is a bustling city, there are things to keep in mind when navigating the congested parts of town and the mass transit. Le Metro, the underground subway system, is a wonderful way to get around town. During rush hour the stations and cars can get extremely crowded. Purses and backpacks should always be strapped to the body and not loosely dangling off a shoulder or elbow. Again, a crowded metro car or station is a pickpocket’s dream. When considering “what to bring” on a trip to Paris, look for handbags with a crossbody strap and zippered closures to deter pick-pockets.
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If travelers are enjoying the city as a group, it is best to have a plan of what to do should a person be separated from the group. For example: If one passenger can’t make it onto the train and the rest of the group does, then plan for the remaining member to get on the next train and agree to all get off and reconvene at the next stop.
5. Traveling with Children
Children should always be kept under close supervision. Bustling museums and crowded metro stations can produce anxiety for any parent. Talk with children ahead of time about what to do “just in case” they were to get lost. For peace of mind, write the immediate contact information of the child’s parent/guardian on his/her forearm rather than gamble with a slip of paper in a coat pocket.
Because Paris is a popular tourist destination the entire city is generally a safe place to visit. Staying within l’peripherique, the large freeway that rings around the city proper is a natural safety limit for a traveler who is unsure of the “good” and “bad” parts of town in and around Paris. Thankfully, most of the major sights and hotels are well within this boundary. Travelers can generally feel safe knowing they won’t accidentally stumble into a sketchy part of town.
6. Mind your manners
Manners matter to the French. The best piece of advice that could be offered to a tourist is to never, ever ignore a “bonjour”- immediately reciprocate with the same greeting. Furthermore, never miss an opportunity to initiate a “bonjour”. It is considered extremely rude in French culture to not say hello.
At first, it seems silly, bordering on pretentious to be throwing around a greeting in a language that is barely known to the speaker, but the truth is a simple “bonjour” is the key to civility and connection in French life. Say it to the waiter, the shopkeeper, the bellhop, the hotel clerk, the taxi driver, just say it.
While most Parisians speak English, never assume anything and simply ask “Parlez-vous Anglais?” before beginning a conversation. Most locals will pick up on the American accent and switch to English. Even still, the gesture of attempting to speak the language will go far when it comes to seeking help or asking for directions. Parisians are inundated day after day with rude tourists. A smile, a bonjour, a few phrases here will help to melt the ice between the local and tourist making for a genuine exchange between the two. Observing a few manners will go a long way when it comes to building connections in Paris, which makes a traveler feel far less alone in a foreign city.
Aside from the usual traveler’s safety tips and the few Paris-specific suggestions, the real insecurities that stem from asking the question “is it safe to travel to Paris” come from a lack of connection.
Seeing the world, building relationships and human connections are what make travel worthwhile to begin with. Being a guest in another country with a language barrier is a very isolating experience. A traveler can feel especially alone in a stylish and elegant city such as Paris. Despite the cosmopolitan nature of the City of Lights and it’s inhabitants, it is perfectly acceptable to ask for help or directions if needed. Most locals are kind and willing to help. As intimidating as it may seem to dust off the old French lessons from high school, the truth is a few simple phrases here and there will go a long way in Paris.
Wondering “is it safe to visit Paris” is a very natural concern. The realities of foreign travel can be intimidating, but thankfully with a little common sense and a few safety strategies, a trip to Paris can be safely enjoyed with a little romance to spare. Be aware of the surroundings, do not go out after dark, keep valuables close, be cautious of scammers, and most importantly say “bonjour”.
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