Tips to stay safe while travelling in France

France is quite a safe destination for travellers. Even in big cities, there isn’t much risk of getting into serious trouble.

With the exception of the 2015 terrorist attacks, violent crimes don’t happen very often and usually away from tourist areas. However, petty crimes like pickpocketing are common, and travellers should take the same common sense precautions that they would in any busy centre. If you are travelling to regional or coastal areas, there’s a risk of a natural disaster affecting your trip — depending on the season.

In recent years, France has been the target of several large-scale terrorist attacks. Some areas, particularly Paris, are considered high risk for terrorist activity. Heightened security measures are likely to be in force for some time, with heavily-armed police and military units patrolling popular tourist areas, busy public transport hubs and airports. This can cause delays at checkpoints and you may even be stopped and questioned. Before you travel, make sure to check the latest terrorist threat alerts at official sources such as  the Canadian Government Travel and Tourism website.
Snatch-and-grab thieves and pickpockets are common throughout tourist areas, popular monuments, public transport networks and department stores. Robbers sometimes operate in groups and will try to distract you or bump you about. You may also be approached by fake ‘charity workers’ who will engage you in conversation, and sometimes even children are used to lower your guard. In busy places, it’s a good idea to carry backpacks and bags in front of your body, and to spread items across different pockets on your clothing.
The smog and tropical heat may affect some travellers with medical conditions (such as asthma, high blood pressure or skin conditions). When applying for travel insurance, it’s important to declare your pre-existing medical conditions so that you can obtain the right level of cover for your holiday.

France has quite a few local rules that can catch tourists by surprise, especially as they may seem harsh by Canadian standards. For example, you can’t:

  • Photograph law enforcement officials and security guards — your camera can be confiscated.
  • Conceal your face in public, even for religious reasons.
  • Fail to assist someone who is in danger, such as ignoring a motor vehicle accident or cries for help (however, this law doesn’t apply if it would risk your safety).
  • Wander around in public without any form of photo identification.
France has a very high standard of medical care, and it can be costly. Public hospital care ranges from between $1,450 and $3,500 a day*. When seeking treatment, tourists may also be forced to pay upfront or produce a guarantee from their travel insurer.
If you are injured in a remote area such as the French Alps, your medical costs can soar even higher as you may need to be medically evacuated to a hospital for care.
Unauthorized street selling is a problem in the big cities, and tourists have been caught out by buying fake items or stolen goods. Shady street vendors usually operate from a large suitcase or duffel bag — if there’s a problem or the police arrive, they can easily close up shop and run. If you’re walking along and a stranger asks you if you dropped a ‘gold’ ring, keep walking! The ring’s fake and, when you say it isn’t yours, they’ll try to sell it to you for a ‘special’ price. And finally — while it may seem hard to believe — there’s plenty of travellers who get conned on the footpath by card and shell games run by sophisticated street hustlers.
Take care if you’re heading to the mountains for some outdoor adventuring. Avalanches and mudslides have hurt or killed tourists. If you’re skiing or hiking, make sure to check weather reports before venturing out and stick to marked slopes and trails. In the summer, forest fires can shut down roads and transport, particularly in coastal areas like the French Riviera. The southern region is also prone to violent storms with heavy rains that can cause flash flooding.
Not all activities are automatically covered under your travel insurance policy so make sure you ask about cover for adventure activities like skiing or hiking.

NOTICE: While the Information is considered to be true and accurate at the date of publication, changes in circumstances after the time of publication may impact on the accuracy of the information. We strongly recommend verifying the travel advisory of your destination prior to departure.

DISCLAIMER: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of all information as at the date of publishing, Allianz Global Assistance does not accept liability for any errors or omissions. Allianz Global Assistance strongly recommends seeking the guidance of a professional travel agent/agency for further information on a specific destination. On your next trip, whether to another province or country, ensure you have travel insurance as it may assist you in cases of unforeseen medical emergencies and other types of mishaps that can happen while you travel. Travel insurance does not cover everything, please always refer to the policy document for full terms and conditions, including limitations and exclusions. Allianz Global Assistance is a registered business name of AZGA Service Canada Inc. and AZGA Insurance Agency Canada Ltd.

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