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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
2, rue St. Florentin
(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: http://www.amb-usa.fr.
The Consulate General in Marseilles is located at:
12, Blvd Paul Peytal
(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
(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.