Travel Consideration: France

Contributed By RealAdventures

France is a developed and stable democracy.

A passport is required for entry to France and Monaco. A visa is not required for a tourist/business stay up to 90 days in France, Andorra, Monaco, and Corsica, and for a one-month stay in French Polynesia. For further information on entry requirements for France, travelers may contact the Embassy of France at 4101 Reservoir Road, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20007, tel. (202) 944-6000, or the French Consulate General in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, or San Francisco. For further information on entry requirements to Monaco, travelers may contact the Consulate General of Monaco at 565 - 5th Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10017, tel. (212) 759-5227. The web site of the French Embassy in the United States is:

Violent civil disorder is relatively rare in France. But occasionally, student demonstrations, labor protests or other routine demonstrations turn into violent confrontations between demonstrators and police. So Americans are advised to avoid street demonstrations.

In recent years, France has experienced closely targeted political assassinations and random bombings. No U.S. citizens have been killed, and only one has been injured. The bombings have resulted in an increased police presence at places where the public congregates. All passengers on subways and trains are urged to be aware of their surroundings and to report any unattended packages to the nearest authority.

The Basque Separatist Party (ETA) and the National Front for the Liberation of Corsica (FLNC), continue to operate in the south of France and occasionally bomb local government institutions, banks, travel agencies, etc.

France and Monaco both have relatively low rates of violent crime. But crimes involving larceny are common. Pickpocketing, theft of unattended baggage and theft from rental cars or vehicles with non-local license plates are daily occurrences. Criminals frequent tourist attractions such as museums, monuments, restaurants, hotels, beaches, trains, train stations, airports and subways. Americans in France and Monaco should be particularly alert to pickpockets in train stations and subways. Travelers should carry limited cash and credit cards, leaving extra cash, credit cards, passports and personal documents at home or in a hotel safe. Although thieves may operate anywhere, the U.S. Embassy in Paris receives frequent reports of theft from several particular areas.


Gangs of thieves operate on the rail link from Charles de Gaulle Airport to downtown Paris by preying on jet-lagged, luggage-burdened tourists. Often, one thief distracts the tourist with a question about directions while an accomplice takes a momentarily unguarded backpack, briefcase, or purse. Thieves also time their thefts to coincide with train stops so that they may quickly exit the car.

The Number One Subway Line, which runs by many major tourist attractions (The Grand Arch at La Defense, Arc de Triomphe, Champs Elysees, Concorde, Louvre, Bastille), is the site of many thefts.

Many thefts occur at the major department stores (Galleries Lafeyette, Printemps, Samarataine) where tourists often leave wallets, passports, and credit cards on cashier counters during transactions.

In hotels, thieves frequent lobbies and breakfast rooms. While guests are partaking of the free breakfast usually offered by the hotel, thieves take advantage of a minute of inattention to snatch jackets, purses and backpacks. Also, while many hotels do have safety latches that allow guests to secure their rooms while they are inside, it is not a universal feature as it is in the United States. If there is no inside latch or security chain, a chair placed up against the door is usually an effective obstacle to surreptitious entry during the night.

ATMs (Automatic Teller Machines) are very common in France and provide ready access to cash, allowing travelers to carry as much money as they need for each day. The rates are competitive with local exchange bureaus and an ATM transaction is easier than the cashing of travelers’ checks. However, crimes committed around ATMs have been reported. The usual common sense rules apply. Travelers should not use an ATM in uncomfortable surroundings, such as isolated, unlit areas; unseemly loiters in the vicinity, etc. Travelers should especially be aware of persons standing close enough to see the PIN (Personal Identification Number) being entered in the machine. Thieves often conduct successful scams by simply observing the PIN as it is entered. If the card becomes stuck, travelers should be wary of persons offering to help and even asking for the PIN to "fix" the machine. Legitimate bank employees never have a reason to ask for the PIN.

Pigalle is the red-light district of Paris. Travelers should presume that enterprises in this area generally do not conform to accepted good business practices. Many entertainment establishments engage in aggressive marketing and charge well beyond the normal rate for their drinks. There have been reports of threats of violence to coerce patrons into paying exorbitant beverage tabs.

Southern France:

Thefts from cars stopped at red lights are common, particularly in the Nice-Antibes-Cannes area, and in Marseille. The thief is usually a passenger on a motorcycle. Similar incidents have also occurred at tollbooths and rest areas. Car doors should be locked at all times during travel and windows closed or left only slightly ajar. Special caution is advised when entering and exiting the car, because that offers opportunity for purse-snatchings.

Break-ins of parked cars are also frequent. Locking valuables in the trunk is NOT a safeguard. NEVER leave valuables in the car.

Thieves often target vehicles with foreign license plates or rental cars, which are easily identified as such by a license plate number ending in "51." Rental car companies are in the process of phasing out these license plates, but this may take some time.

Purse snatching and pickpocketing occur in the area. Passports should be carried on the body when necessary and over-the shoulder bags should not be used.

Medical care comparable to that found in the United States is widely available.

U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States. U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas may face extreme difficulties.

Please check with your own insurance company to confirm whether your policy applies overseas, including provision for medical evacuation, and for adequacy of coverage. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Please ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas hospital or doctor or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses that you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning France and Monaco is provided for general reference only and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Safety of Public Transportation: Good
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Good
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Good
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Good

Roads in France are generally comparable to those in the United States, but traffic engineering and driving habits pose special dangers. Usually, lane markings and sign placements are not as clear as in the U.S. Drivers should be prepared to make last-minute maneuvers, as most French drivers do. French drivers usually drive more aggressively and faster than Americans. One particularity of the French traffic code is that of the right-of-way. Drivers entering intersections from the right have priority over those on the left (unless specifically indicated otherwise) even when entering relatively large boulevards from small side streets.

Paris, the capital and the major city in France, has an extensive and efficient public transportation system. The interconnecting system of buses, subways, and commuter rails serves more than 4 million people a day with a safety record comparable to or better than the systems of major American cities. Similar transportation systems are found in all major French cities. Between cities, France is served by an equally extensive rail service, which is safe and reliable. High-speed rail links connect the major cities in France. Many cities are also served by frequent air service.

Drivers in France tend to exceed the posted speed limits. On the major highways, service stations are situated every 25 miles or less. Service stations are as plentiful on secondary roads as in the United States.

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating French or Monegasque laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in France or Monaco are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.

The Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Paris is located at:

2, rue St. Florentin
75001 Paris
(Place de la Concorde, Metro Stop Concorde).
(Tel 011/33/1-43 12 22 22 or (in France) 01-43 12 22 22; fax: 01-42 61 61 40)
Further information can be obtained at our web site:

The Consulate General in Marseilles is located at:

12, Blvd Paul Peytal
13086 Marseilles
(Tel: 011/33/4-91 54 92 00; fax: 011/33/4-91 55 09 47)

The Consulate General in Strasbourg is located at:

15 Avenue d’Alsace
67082 Strasbourg
(Tel: 011/33/3-88 35 31 04; fax: 011/33/3-88 24 06 95)
The Consulate General in Strasbourg does not produce passports on the premises. American citizens in this area whose passports are lost or stolen and who have urgent travel needs should address themselves directly to the American Embassy in Paris.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of France’s civil aviation authority as Category 1 - in compliance with international aviation standards for oversight of France’s air carrier operations. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA Internet home page at The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the DOD at tel. (618) 229-4801.

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