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 ACS Unit 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 webpage for proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.
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. It is estimated that over 3 million U.S. citizens visited France in 2016. 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.
Tourist sites and the public transportation system are locations where criminals routinely operate. Pickpockets are by far the most significant problem. In addition to wallets and passports, smart phones and small electronic devices are particular targets. 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. Visitors should use ATMs that are well illuminated and at a reputable bank. Thieves have installed 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.
U.S. citizens have also experienced residential break-ins, bicycle theft, and other forms of theft with minimal violence. However, robberies involving physical assault do occur in Paris and other major urban areas. 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.
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 security measures, such as failing to double lock doors and lock windows. Burglaries are frequently preceded by phone calls to see if the resident is home. Often, thieves manage to gain access to an apartment building by knocking on apartment doors to see if anyone answers and offering an excuse (taking a survey, representing a utility company).
The Paris Police Prefecture publishes a pamphlet entitled “Guide to staying safe in Paris,” and it provides practical advice and useful telephone numbers for visitors.
Wi-fi hot spots should not be trusted; criminals will 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. Smart phones and computers, but specifically Apple products, cost more in France than in the U.S. and are targeted by local petty thieves. Be wary of where your laptop or smart phone is used or stored.
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 very aggressive marketing, charging 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.
Road Safety and Road Conditions
Road conditions throughout France are generally pretty good. However, traffic congestion can be heavy particularly in the major cities to include Paris.
There is a high incidence of smash-and-grab robberies from vehicles in areas of heavy traffic. 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.
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 due to “security reasons,” particularly in the event of an abandoned package or a suspicious device.
Use only authorized taxis, which in Paris include several Uber services and traditional livery services. Legal Uber services include: Uber: X, Uber: taxi, Uber: Black, Uber: SUV, Uber: LUX. Authorized traditional 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.
There has been an increase in sexual harassment and assault of women by taxi drivers in recent years. Women may want to have another individual walk them to a taxi and, in plain view of the driver, note the license number of the vehicle or call a friend while in the taxi and communicate the license number. Letting the driver know that others are aware of your trip and the license number of the taxi may reduce the chances of becoming a victim.
Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) and Orly Airport (ORY) are the two major international airports in Paris. Le Bourget Airport (LBG) is a third international airport just northeast of Paris and is only used for general aviation and business jet operations. Security at all three 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 within 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 radicalized in France. 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 ISIL 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.
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 terrorist 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 who are proactive and will respond immediately. Please see the latest Travel Alerts and Warnings for more information.
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.
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
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 routinely occur throughout France, especially in Paris and 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.
- 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 January 2016, French taxi unions staged a massive protest against Uber and the French government, which effectively shut 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.
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.
The police are professional, well-equipped, and reliable. They maintain a robust presence, especially at high-profile government installations and tourist attractions.
As a result of the terrorist attacks on November 13, 2015, the government enacted a state of emergency, which has been renewed five times and will remain in effect through July 2017; it could be extended again if there are further terrorist threats or attacks in France. The state of emergency allows the government to prevent the circulation of individuals and to create zones of protection and security. There are reinforced security measures throughout the communes in the Ile de France region. These allow for house arrest of any person whose activities are deemed dangerous, the closure of theaters and meeting places, the surrender of weapons, and the possibility of administrative house searches.
Operation Sentinelle remains in effect with 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.
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.
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
U.S. Embassy Paris maintains a list of English-speaking doctors and hospitals with English-speaking staff.
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 Paris Country Council currently meets once a year and has approximately 75 members. Please contact OSAC’s Europe team with any questions or to join.
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
Regional Security Officer Tel. +33 1 43 12 21 19
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
For updated information, please consult the website of the Consular Bureau of the Department of State. You are also encouraged to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive security messages and make it easier for the Embassy to locate you in an emergency.
France Country Information Sheet