Paris is statistically one of the safest major metropolitan areas in Europe. Violent crime rates are fairly low here, although some crimes, including pickpocketing, are fairly prevalent. Following these basic Paris safety tips can go a long way in ensuring you avoid danger and hassles on your trip to Paris.
- Pickpocketing is the most prevalent crime affecting tourists. You should always be vigilant with your personal affairs, especially in crowded areas such as trains, metro stations, and any popular tourist areas. Money belts and traveler's checks are excellent ways to protect yourself. Also, avoid having more than $100 in cash with you at a time.
(Read more on avoiding pickpockets in Paris here)
- Never leave your bags or valuables unattended in the metro, bus, or other public areas. Not only do you risk theft, but unattended bags may be considered a security threat and can be immediately destroyed by security officials.
- Travel insurance is essential. You can usually purchase travel insurance along with your plane ticket. International health insurance is also a smart choice. Most travel insurance packages offer optional health coverage.
Areas to Avoid?
- Especially when traveling alone, avoid areas around metro Les Halles, Chatelet, Gare du Nord and Stalingrad late at night or when the streets appear less than crowded. While generally safe, these areas have at times been known to harbor gang activity or to be the site of hate crimes. In addition, avoid traveling to the Northern Paris suburbs of Saint-Denis, Aubervilliers, Saint-Ouen, etc. after dark. Visitors to the above-mentioned areas may also take precautions by keeping a low profile and by refraining from wearing highly visible jewelry or clothing that identify them as members of a religion or political movement. As this goes to press, antisemitic and other hate crimes have been on the rise in the Paris region, but have largely been perpetrated outside the city walls.
Are some travelers more vulnerable than others?
- Women should be especially vigilant while walking alone at night and should stay in well-lit areas. Also, while Paris is statistically a safe place for women, it is a good idea to avoid smiling at or making prolonged eye contact with men you do not know: in France, this is (unfortunately) often interpreted as an invitation to make advances.
- LGBT Visitors and same-sex couples visiting Paris are generally welcomed in the city, and should feel generally safe and comfortable; however, it is this writer's opinion there are some precautions to take in certain conditions and areas. Read more on homophobia in Paris and safety tips for same-sex couples here.
- In recent months and years, there has sadly been a rise in anti-semitic attacks on Jewish places of worship and business in Paris. While this is a serious concern and police have significantly bolstered protection of synagogues, Jewish schools and areas of the city counting large Jewish communities (such as Rue des Rosiers in the Marais), I want to reassure visitors that no attacks on tourists of Jewish faith have been reported. I strongly encourage Jewish visitors to feel safe coming to Paris. It has one of Europe's largest and most vibrant Jewish histories and communities, and you should, on the whole, feel safe in a city that in many quarters and instances celebrates Jewish culture. Vigilance is always recommended, especially late at night and in the areas I mention above, however.
After the January 2015 Terrorist Attacks, Should I Be Afraid to Visit?
My short answer: No. Read my complete article on the Paris attacks of January 2015, and safety advisories to tourists here.
Staying Safe on the road, and dealing with traffic
- Pedestrians should be especially careful while crossing streets and busy intersections. Drivers can be very aggressive in Paris and traffic laws are frequently broken. Even when the light is green, take extra caution while crossing the street. Also watch out for cars in certain areas that seem pedestrian-only (and perhaps are, in theory).
- Driving in Paris is not advisable and can be both dangerous and aggravating. Parking spaces are limited, traffic is dense, and erratic driving is common. If you must drive, make sure you have up-to-date international insurance.
- When traveling by taxi, make sure to verify the minimum price of the taxi ride before getting in the taxi. It is not uncommon for Paris taxi drivers to overcharge unsuspecting tourists, so be sure to watch the meter, and ask questions if you must. Also, giving the driver a suggested route ahead of time with the aid of a map is a good idea.
Paris Emergency Numbers
The following numbers can all be dialed toll-free from any phone in France (including payphones):
- Medical Emergencies: Dial "15"
- Fire brigade: Dial "18"
- Police: Dial "17"
- Drug Info Service: 0 800 23 13 13
- AIDS/HIV Info Service: 0 800 840 800
- Poison treatment center: 01 40 05 48 48
- Sexually-transmitted diseases: 01 40 78 26 00
- SOS Médecins (doctors): 01 47 07 77 77
- SOS Dentaire (dentists): 01 43 37 51 00
- SOS burns (Hôpital Cochin): 01 58 41 41 41
Most Paris neighborhoods have numerous pharmacies, which can be easily recognized by their flashing green crosses. Many Parisian pharmacists speak English and can provide you with over-the-counter medications such as pain relievers or cough syrup. Paris does not have North-American style drugstores, so you'll need to head to a pharmacy for most over-the-counter medications.
Read more: Paris Pharmacies Open Late or 24/7