According to the current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report’s publication, France has been assessed as Level 2. Exercise increased caution due to terrorism.
Overall Crime and Safety Situation
U.S. Embassy Paris does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The American Citizens’ Services unit (ACS) cannot recommend a particular individual or location, and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.
The U.S. Department of State has assessed Paris as being a MEDIUM-threat location for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.
Please review OSAC’s France-specific page for original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some of which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC password.
It is estimated that over 3 million U.S. citizens visited France in 2016.
Paris is generally a safe destination for tourists, students, business travelers, and others. Violent crime is relatively uncommon; however, street crime is a concern, most notably in areas frequented by tourists. Consular officials throughout France report that U.S. citizens are frequently victims of pickpockets and robbed or victimized in a variety of scams usually targeting unsuspecting tourists. Crimes against visitors are generally crimes of opportunity, though these crimes are more likely to involve violence late at night or when the victim resists the criminal. Robberies involving physical assault do occur in Paris and other major urban areas. Tourist sites and the public transportation system are locations where criminals routinely operate. In addition to wallets and passports, smart phones and small electronic devices are particular targets. Smart phones and computers, but specifically Apple products, cost more in France than in the U.S. and are targeted by local thieves and pickpockets. Be wary of where your laptop or smart phone is used or stored.
In Paris, pickpockets can be any gender, race, or age but are commonly children under 16 because they are less likely to be arrested/prosecuted. A common method is for one thief to distract the tourist with questions or a disturbance, while an accomplice picks the victims pockets, backpack, or purse. Travelers must be aware and attentive to their surroundings particularly in congested areas at train stations, airports, and subways.
Confidence schemes in Paris include asking pedestrians to sign a petition or take a survey and then soliciting money to support the cause. Other schemes involve presenting a gold ring or a friendship bracelet, and as soon as one takes the jewelry in hand, the con-artists demand payment. These schemes can also be ruses to distract for pickpockets.
ATMs in Paris are relatively safe. However, visitors should use ATMs that are well illuminated and at a reputable bank. Thieves have been known to install magnetic strip readers to capture account information and small CCTV cameras to capture PIN codes in some ATMs. If the ATM takes your card and does not give it back, go into the bank to report it immediately. For more information, please review OSAC’s Report, “The Overseas Traveler’s Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud.”
Be aware of “date-rape” drugs, which are present in France. Be cautious in bars and clubs where alcohol is served, and do not leave your drink unattended or accept a drink from strangers, as they may have slipped drugs into the drink. For more information, please review OSAC’s Report “Shaken: The Don’ts of Alcohol Abroad.”
U.S. citizens have also experienced residential break-ins, bicycle theft, and other forms of theft with minimal violence. Throughout August, when most French residents take summer vacations, and in December, there is generally an increase in the number of residential break-ins. The majority are attributed to residents not using proper security measures. Burglaries are frequently preceded by phone calls to see if the resident is home. Often, thieves will gain access to an apartment building in order to knock on apartment doors to see if anyone answers, offering an excuse (taking a survey, representing a utility company).
There have been reported cases of smash-and-grab robberies from vehicles in economically depressed areas and on heavy traveled roads. Thieves on motorbike will approach a vehicle stopped in traffic, smash a window, reach in to grab valuables, and flee. Travelers are advised to keep vehicle doors locked and valuables out of sight.
The Paris Police Prefecture maintains an English website for foreign visitors that provides practical advice and useful contact information for visitors.
WiFi hot spots should not be trusted; criminals can configure “man-in-the-middle” access points that appear free so that they can intercept communications from anyone who connects. This allows hackers to access sensitive information appearing on the user’s screen. It also provides a mechanism by which a hacker can gain control of the connecting device.
Owners of public Internet cafes may install key logging software that enables theft of sensitive information.
France has a capable national police force; however, transnational organized crime (TOC) operatives reside in France. TOC syndicates are technically savvy and conduct many of their schemes via cyber platforms.
Other Areas of Concern
Pickpockets are very active on the rail link (RER B) from Charles de Gaulle Airport to the city center. In addition, passengers on the Metro line 1, which traverses the city center from east to west and services many major tourist sites, are often targeted. Thieves often time their pickpocket attempts to coincide with the closing of the automatic doors on the Metro, leaving the victim on the departing train while the thief makes his/her escape through the Metro.
It is advisable to avoid public parks after dark, particularly Bois de Boulogne, as they are frequented by drug dealers and prostitutes, increasing the risk of assault. Visitors to adult entertainment districts, such as the Pigalle area of Paris, should take particular care at night. Many nightclubs engage in aggressive marketing and charge exorbitant rates for drinks. Hidden charges of 500-600 Euro for drinks are not uncommon and there have been reports of threats to coerce customers into paying these charges by physically preventing customers from leaving until the tab is settled.
For more information, please review OSAC’s Report, “Security in Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.”
Road Safety and Road Conditions
Road conditions are generally pretty good. However, traffic congestion can be heavy, particularly in major cities.
Public Transportation Conditions
The Paris Metro is generally very good and safe. However, it is widely used and can become very crowded; riders may be targeted by criminals and pickpockets. Local authorities are also quick to close Metro stops and suspend certain lines for “security reasons,” particularly in the event of an abandoned package or a suspicious device.
Use only authorized taxis, which in Paris include several ride-share services and traditional livery services. Authorized livery services will have the following equipment: an illuminated “Taxi Parisien” sign on the roof; a meter showing the cost of the trip; a display at the rear of the vehicle and visible from the exterior that enables the monitoring of the daily duration of use of the vehicle; and a plate fixed to the front fender bearing the license number. For more information on ride-sharing, please review OSAC’s Annual Briefing Report “Safety and Security in the Share Economy.
Security at all three of Paris’s airports is commensurate with airport security at most major European cities but has been heightened in light of recent terrorist attacks throughout Europe. It is not uncommon to see armed French soldiers in the terminals.
The U.S. Department of State has assessed Paris as being a HIGH-threat location for terrorist activity directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.
Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns
French and U.S. authorities are concerned about both European citizens traveling to Syria to wage jihad and returning to France to conduct terrorist acts and individuals who have become radicalized in France or are directed/inspired by ISIS. The borders are relatively open, and there are a significant number of supporters of terrorist organizations residing in country.
Terrorist attacks by foreign fighters are considered the most lethal threat in France. Foreign fighters and homegrown extremists directed/inspired by ISIS or self-radicalized are difficult to detect and counter.
France was victimized by significant terrorist attacks in 2015 and 2016 to include the January 2015 Charlie Hebdo attack; the November 2015 Paris attacks that resulted in 130 dead and over 380 wounded; the deadly mile-long truck rampage in July 2016 in Nice that killed 86 people and wounded more than 400; and the attack on a Catholic church in July 2016 in Normandy by two teenagers wielding knives that resulted in the death of an 86-year old priest and the wounding of another. There were several other less publicized attacks by individuals targeting the French police, and a failed car-bomb attack near Notre Dame in Paris in September 2016.
In 2017, there were a number of “lone-wolf” directed/inspired attacks targeting French security forces to include several attacks that occurred on the Champs Elysées and one near Notre Dame. Two women were murdered by a lone terrorist at the main train station in Marseille in October 2017.
The government maintains a threat rating system known as “Vigipirate.” There are three threat levels: Vigilance, Enhanced Security Risk of Attack, and Imminent Attack.
Although U.S. citizens have not been specifically targeted in terrorist attacks in France in the past few years, several have become victims in recent attacks. Terrorist organizations continue to aspire to attack American interests worldwide. Travelers should remain vigilant. Immediately report unattended packages observed in public places or any other suspicious activities to law enforcement authorities.
The Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) terrorist organization has supporters in France. However, there have been no attacks by the ETA since the group announced a “definitive cessation of armed activity” in 2014.
Authorities continue to speak publicly about the heightened threat conditions for terrorist attacks in France and throughout Europe. Information is routinely shared between the U.S. and France in order to disrupt terrorist plotting, to identify and take action against potential operatives, and to strengthen defenses against potential threats.
While French military involvement in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Mali, Somalia, and CAR; a ban against wearing of the veil in public buildings and state schools; and the publication of anti-Muslim cartoons in the French weekly magazine Charlie Hebdo have all fueled anti-Western sentiment and protests and incited terrorist acts in France in recent years, in 2017 there were no anti-American/Western protests of any size or significance in France.
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
The U.S. Department of State has assessed Paris as being a MEDIUM-threat location for political violence directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.
Protests and demonstrations routinely occur throughout France, especially in major cities. These protests range from concern over work conditions/wages to the environment. While protests are generally non-violent, some have resulted in property damage and minor injuries. Most protests are announced in advance by the organizers and require prior approval from the police. However, unapproved and spontaneous protests do occur.
In January 2016, French taxi unions staged a massive protest against Uber and the French government, effectively shutting down Paris, as thousands of taxi drivers used their vehicles to block the streets. This protest coincided with other government strikes to include air traffic controllers and civil servants. Some sources estimated as many as 5.4 million people were on strike.
In June 2016, French labor unions held protests against proposed changes in French labor law. The protest turned violent, and clashes with the police resulted in injuries and property damage.
In 2017, there were two separate incidents of unrest and violence in the suburbs of Paris. The first occurred following the alleged rape by French police of a black man held in custody and resulted in several nights of violence in several suburbs of Paris. A number of protesters were arrests following clashes with police. The second incident followed the police shooting of a Chinese man and resulted in 150 protesters gathering at a police station and throwing objects at the police and burning cars.
It is always advisable to avoid demonstrations, as even peaceful demonstrations may turn violent.
Flooding is a concern. In June 2016, torrential rains caused deadly flooding in central and northeastern France, forcing the evacuation of thousands of people. The Seine river in Paris rose 18 feet causing flooding along the lower embankments and shutting several roads. Similar flooding occurred in Paris at the beginning of 2018.
The police are professional, well-equipped, and reliable. They maintain a robust presence, especially at high-profile government installations and tourist attractions. French police (as well as military personnel) routinely patrol public spaces.
As a result of the terrorist attacks on November 13, 2015, the government enacted a state of emergency, which was renewed five times and finally expired in November 2017. The state of emergency allowed the government to prevent the circulation of individuals and to create zones of protection and security. There were reinforced security measures throughout the communes in the Ile de France region. The state of emergency allowed for house arrest of any person whose activities were deemed dangerous, the closure of theaters and meeting places, the surrender of weapons, and the possibility of administrative house searches. Following the expiration of the state of emergency, President Macron signed a counterterrorism law, which gives the police additional tools and authorities to fight violent extremism.
Operation Sentinelle remains in effect with approximately 10,000 soldiers deployed throughout France and 6,500 within Paris to augment police and increase the visible security presence at airports, train/metro stations, schools, major tourist attractions, religious facilities, and government installations. It is not uncommon to see army patrols in Paris.
How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment
If arrested or detained, American citizens are advised to contact U.S. Embassy Paris's American Citizen Services (ACS) unit in the Consular section. The Embassy's main number is +33 1 43 12 22 22 and can be reached 24 hours a day.
Crime Victim Assistance
In an emergency, dialing 17 will connect the caller to the police. You can also dial the Europe-wide emergency response number 112 to reach an operator for all types of emergency services. Non-French speakers may experience a delay while an English speaker is located.
For non-emergency assistance, visitors should go to the nearest police station (commissariat) in order to file an official report.
For local first responders, please refer to the Embassy’s Emergency Assistance page.
Public safety and security are maintained by three principal forces: Municipal Police, National Police, and the military Gendarmerie. These services are professional, competent, and proactive in fighting crime and violence and maintaining security.
It is increasingly common to see private security personnel conducting security inspection at public venues, tourist attractions, businesses, and shopping centers.
Medical care is comparable to that found in the U.S. In an emergency, dialing 15 will connect the caller to emergency medical services. You can also dial the Europe-wide emergency response number 112 to reach an operator for all types of emergency services. Non-French speakers may experience a delay while an English speaker is located.
Contact Information for Available Medical Services
For medical assistance, please refer to the Embassy’s Medical Assistance page.
You cannot assume your insurance will go with you when you travel and you should ask your insurance company if your policy applies outside the U.S. and if it will cover emergencies (like a trip to a foreign hospital or an evacuation). Your regular U.S. health insurance may not cover doctors’ and hospital visits in other countries. If your policy does not cover you when you travel, consider taking out another policy for the duration for your trip. Except for emergency services, individuals and insurance companies may be required to pay for service prior to receiving treatment in France. Individuals lacking the ability to pay for service may be refused routine care under local law.
Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance
The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for France.
OSAC Country Council Information
The Country Council in Paris is active, meeting annually. Interested private-sector security managers should contact OSAC’s Europe Team with any questions.
U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information
Embassy Address and Hours of Operation
U.S. Embassy Paris
2, avenue Gabriel
Hours of Operation: Mon-Fri: 0900-1800
Embassy Contact Numbers
Tel. +33 1 43 12 22 22
Consular coverage for multi-post countries
Monaco is covered by U.S. Consulate Marseille
American Presence Post in Bordeaux: https://fr.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulates/bordeaux
American Presence Post in Lyon: https://fr.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulates/lyon
American Presence Post in Rennes: https://fr.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulates/rennes
American Presence Post in Toulouse: https://fr.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulates/toulouse
Consulate Marseille: https://fr.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulates/marseille
Consulate Strasbourg: https://fr.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulates/strasbourg
U.S. citizens traveling to France should register with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to ensure they receive pertinent security updates and notices.
France Country Information Sheet