In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic– and following isolated terrorist attacks and occasionally-violent street demonstrations in recent years– many people are wondering whether Paris is still safe to visit. A quick look at Google’s search statistics confirms that the anxious question is one on thousands of travelers’ minds. It’s an understandable one, too. Yet in the absolute, Paris remains a safe destination, and with some precautions in mind all visitors should feel comfortable traveling to the capital.
Read on for the latest information on travel advisories and precautions to take when visiting France, and for my full safety tips for anyone planning a trip to Paris.
I start by covering some of the topics most likely to be on travelers’ minds, followed by more long-term safety issues and concerns. You can use the “Explore This Article” tab below to directly navigate to the information of most immediate interest and use to you.
Current Safety Advisories for Paris & France
The US State Department currently shows a Level 2 travel warning for France, corresponding to the advice “Exercise increased caution” and citing risks including Covid-19, terrorism and potential civil unrest. See the full advisory here .
To see current safety advisories for your country of origin and specific safety tips from your Embassy or Consulate in France, see this page.
Covid-19 Cases & Deaths in France & Current Travel Safety Regulations
In France, according to updated data from the French government, there have been over 39 million confirmed cases since January 24th, 2020. On 25 January, 2023 there were over 23 million active cases of Covid-19 in the country, most driven by the more contagious Omicron variant and its subvariants. The vast majority of these were rated as “mild”.
As of January 25th, 2023, over 164,000 people have died from COVID-19 in France. Most patients were elderly and/or had pre-existing conditions, although in recent months hospitals have seen higher numbers of younger patients.
Daily hospitalizations and deaths have remained relatively low compared to previous waves of outbreak– owing in part to high vaccination levels, an ongoing booster-dose drive in the country, and potentially milder infections from the Omicron variant.
After implementing a raft of restrictions in late 2021 in response to the surge in infections, France relaxed many of these restrictions in February of that year. Since mid 2022, almost all Covid-related restrictions have been lifted.
Requirements for International Travelers Entering France (As ofJanuary 2023)
The French government has implemented many public health and safety measures throughout the pandemic, ranging from strict lockdowns and vaccine passes to the widespread administration of Covid vaccines and boosters. Currently, most restrictions have been relaxed due to fewer cases circulating, widespread immunity in the population, and the dominance of the milder Omicron strain.
On August 1st, 2022, France lifted most Covid-related restrictions on travel and travelers. There are no longer any paperwork or formalities to complete to arrive in mainland or overseas France, and no Covid-19 certificates or proof of vaccination are required at this time, irrespective of country or area of origin.
However, should a dangerous variant become of major concern, France reserves the right to reinstate health measures such as vaccine certificates or passes for travelers from at-risk countries.
You can find updated information on current entry requirements and restrictions for France at this page on the France Diplomacy website. Please do consult that site in addition to this page for the most recent guidelines; while we do endeavor to update this page as frequently as possible, the regulations have been changing frequently.
The French “Vaccine Pass”: What You Need to Know
Recently re-elected French President Macron announced a controversial new set of safety measures and restrictions in July 2021, requiring all residents and visitors in France to show “Covid-19 vaccine passes“ (passes vaccinales) before entering many public spaces indoors, including restaurants, bars, museums, shopping centers, sports events, theatres, long-haul train and airline services, and more.
But as of March 14th, 2022, such passes are no longer required for entering most public spaces. Exceptions are hospitals, care homes and other health care settings.
How Many Vaccines Has France Administered so Far?
It has administered over 54.5 million first vaccine doses– out of a population of roughly 60 million. Nearly 54 million people in France have received two doses and are fully vaccinated–over 79% of the total population.
The government began rolling out “booster” vaccine doses to all adults over 18 in the late autumn 2021, in response to rising cases, hospitalizations and deaths.
What’s Now Open? Is the Pandemic Essentially Over in France?
After months of strict lockdown measures and closures in 2020 and early 2021, France has almost entirely eased Covid-related restrictions, with restaurants, cafes, museums, monuments, cinemas, theatres, and other cultural institutions re-opening May 19th, 2021. Outdoor service also resumed at restaurants and cafes that month.
While it may feel as if the pandemic is essentially “over” in France, regulations and restrictions might change quickly in the event of a new variant of concern or hospitals becoming overwhelmed in response to a spike in cases. Make sure to watch the situation carefully if you plan to travel to France in the coming weeks and months, including from within Europe.
Do I Have to Wear a Mask in France?
As of March 2022, masks are no longer required in outdoor and indoor spaces and settings in France, with the exception of hospitals, care homes and other health care settings (where “vaccine passes” are also still required; see more above).
Masks are nevertheless still required in public transportation (Metro, bus, tramway etc) in Paris and elsewhere in France. They are no longer required on long-distance trains such as Eurostar and TGV trains (assuming you have a vaccine pass).
Rules on Masks in Public Transportation
Public transportation services in Paris and elsewhere are currently running normally. Masks are no longer required to ride on the Metro, buses, tramways or RER (commuter-line trains) and fines no longer apply; however, wearing them remains strongly recommended “en cas d’affluence” (in case of crowding).
Travelers on Eurostar trains are also no longer required to wear masks, but they remain recommended.
How to Lower Your Health Risks While Traveling?
All travellers can take sensible precautions to lower their risk of acquiring the virus (or any others) and spreading it to others. In addition to considering wearing a face covering when in crowded public spaces and/or when experiencing any cold or flu symptoms, wash hands frequently with soapy water for at least 20 seconds; if soap is unavailable use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol solution.
Do your best to avoid touching your face, especially before thoroughly washing your hands.
Keep a good distance from those who are coughing or otherwise appear ill, and avoid shaking hands or giving “bisous” (French-style kisses on the cheeks).
“Gilet Jaune” (Yellow Vest) Protests & French Transport Strikes
Starting in late December 2018, smaller groups of “gilets jaunes” (yellow vest) protestors staged demonstrations in the capital, almost exclusively on Saturdays. Some saw demonstrators throw rocks, burn cars and break store windows. But starting in late May 2019, the protests simmered out, in part due to a much heavier police presence.
Since late 2019, the protests have occurred sporadically and at a much smaller scale. They are not currently a concern for travelers to the capital or elsewhere in France. Even when civil unrest was at its peak in 2018 and 2019, you should know that tourists have not been injured or otherwise endangered by these protests.
General Safety Concerns: Putting Your Risks Into Perspective
With what seem to be frequent reports of violent incidents in the capital over the past few years, it can indeed feel scary to be a visitor these days. But as I detail at length in my piece on why you shouldn’t fear coming to the city since the terrorist attacks of 2015 and earlier, there have been exaggerated accounts in some media outlets about the dangers tourists face when visiting Paris.
But in a modern world where there are many complex risks to weigh and negotiate all the time, it’s important to put those risks into perspective. It’s not about discounting potential danger. It’s about recognizing that life must go on– and that living in fear shrinks your world and its possibilities.
So before you cancel your trip or decide on another destination out of fear that you may be the victim of a terrorist attack or some other form of violent crime, read through my advice below.
As I’ve said elsewhere, Paris greatly depends on tourism to thrive as a city. It would be catastrophic to its livelihood to see too many people stay away and renounce all the capital has to offer out of a disproportionate sense of fear.
The Reality: Statistically Speaking, Paris Remains Very Safe
While Paris has admittedly taken a significant knockdown in world city safety ratings due to recent terrorist attacks, violent crime is still generally uncommon in the capital. OSAC, the US Bureau of Diplomatic Security, notes that tourists are generally safe in the city, and that street crime such as pickpocketing remains the primary concern.
To break it down a bit: The violent crime rate in France is roughly on par with Canada’s, and is three times lower than rates in the US.
According to French government statistics, even when taking into account deaths from terrorist attacks, the homicide rate in Paris per 1,000 inhabitants between 2015 and 2017 was only 0.019 (0.014 if you exclude the attacks).
You get my drift. Violent crime, and especially the sort that threatens lives, is relatively rare in Paris. Gun violence there is astronomically lower than it is in comparably sized cities in the US.
And while the US State Department website advises that tourists remain aware of their surroundings and exercise caution due to potential terrorist threats, take note: they don’t recommend cancelling your trip or avoiding the city.
My conclusion? Yes, there are some risks that can’t be denied. Most large metropolitan cities, including London and New York, carry similar risks in our globalized world. Should you avoid setting foot in these places altogether?
Everyone has to make choices that they feel comfortable with, but from my perspective, you’d be greatly overestimating the dangers you face by doing so.
Pickpocketing is the Most Common Crime Affecting Tourists
I’ve talked about the unlikelihood of tourists becoming victims of violent crime in Paris. However, this doesn’t mean that you don’t risk being targeted for petty street crimes that can still make your trip a nightmare.
Pickpocketing is by far the biggest threat to visitors, so you should learn how thieves operate and take all the precautions necessary to avoid being targeted.
How to Avoid Pickpockets in Paris?
Pickpockets operate in predictable and often highly organized ways, targeting tourists in crowded and popular areas. Often, they get away with your wallet or purse so quickly that you barely feel a thing. To keep this from happening, take these steps:In any crowded place (busy lines, congested metro cars, open spaces full of tourists snapping photos), take extra care with your belongings.
It’s best to carry a bag or purse that you can wear crisscrossed around your chest, with pockets and valuables hugged to your front and in plain view. If you wear a backpack, don’t leave wallets, cash, passports or other valuable items in the front compartments.
Only bring as much cash as you’ll likely need for the day, and maybe even less. 100 Euros or so is a good limit to aim for. Traveler’s checks can easily be exchanged for Euros at the American Express office on Rue Scribe (Metro: Opera).
If you must carry larger amounts of cash, consider wearing a money belt.
It’s always preferable to leave passports, large amounts of cash and other valuables in a hotel safe, if possible.
Never leave your bags or suitcases unguarded, even for a minute or two. Not only do you run the risk of them being swiped up by thieves between two blinks of an eye: they can also be legally confiscated and destroyed by security forces, under current safety regulations in public spaces.
What About ATM Thefts and Other Scams?
In addition to pickpockets, tourists are often targeted by scammers and thieves in other ways. ATMs/cashpoints are particularly vulnerable spots. Never allow anyone to linger nearby when you take out cash, and guard against prying eyes.
Never let anyone “help” you with a transaction at an ATM, or otherwise interfere with it. Ask the intrusive person to back off, and if they refuse, find another place to take out cash.
Around popular tourist attractions including the Sacre Coeur, the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower, merchants operating illegally are known to aggressively “persuade” tourists to buy their wares.
This often involves putting an object or trinket in your hand or inviting you to “try on” a bracelet.
Once you give in, a demand for payment often follows. Avoid this by refusing all advances from such “vendors” and not allowing them to place any items in or on your hand.
Protecting Your Health While in Paris
No one intends to get sick or suffer from an accident while traveling, but preparing for such unfortunate events will give you peace of mind and save you from outlandish medical costs.
Many international travel insurance policies cover up to millions of dollars in medical costs and liabilities, and can offer peace of mind. You can compare and purchase travel insurance policies here (via World Nomads).
Emergency Numbers to Keep With You
If you run into a medical or other emergency, call one of the toll-free numbers below from any phone, and contact your embassy. It’s wise to print out these numbers and keep them with you at all times:
- Medical Emergencies & Accidents: 15
- Fire brigade: 18
- Police: 17
- SOS Médecins (on-call doctors): 01 47 07 77 77
- SOS Dentaire (dentists): 01 43 37 51 00
- SOS burns: 01 58 41 41 41
Note that in most cases, calling “15” is the best thing to do in a medical emergency. If you have been the victim of a violent crime or other crime, it will be necessary to both inform the French police and to file a report with your embassy.
If you need a pharmacy in Paris, identify them by their green flashing crosses. Most neighborhoods in the city have at least one pharmacy within a few blocks’ radius. These pharmacies are open late or 24 hours a day, in case you need to seek advice from a pharmacist or purchase medical supplies late at night.
Safety for Pedestrians in Paris
While Paris is generally a very pedestrian-friendly city– the local government has been working to increase the number of car-free zones around the capital in recent years– drivers can be aggressive, posing a danger to walkers.
My advice? Take a defensive approach when crossing streets and busy intersections, checking for cars even when the light is green and/or when you have the right of way.
In areas that appear to be pedestrian-only, watch out for cars and aggressive motorcylists: some areas that are “car-“free” still allow motorcyclists, service vehicles and cyclists.
What About Driving?
I strongly advise against trying to drive in Paris. Parisian drivers can be aggressive and unpredictable (by many standards), and traffic conditions are often congested and unpleasant.
If you have to drive, your international driver’s license and insurance must be up to date. Also make sure you understand the local rules of the road.
And you should avoid, at all costs, driving around nightmarish traffic circles such as the one at the Place de l’Etoile on the Avenue des Champs-Elysées.
If you do opt to take a taxi, whether within the city or to the airport and back, make sure you only use reputable companies. Never accept a ride from a taxi that doesn’t have an official “Taxi Parisien” sign atop its roof and a visible meter inside. You may be overcharged or otherwise scammed, if you do…
Why to Register & Keep in Touch With Your Embassy
It’s always wise to register with your embassy ahead of your trip and to keep their contact details with you at all times.
In the event that your passport is lost or stolen, you experience a medical emergency or a crime, or are in the city at the time of a dangerous event, registering will ensure that you’ll be able to get in touch more quickly with your embassy and to receive help from them. This is a good list of world embassies and their contact details.
Once at your embassy’s site, read through any relevant travel advisories for Paris and France and find out how to register as a citizen traveling abroad before your trip.
Are There Dangerous Places in the Capital to Avoid?
I wish I could argue that Paris is entirely safe in all circumstances, but sadly, there are a few places that you’d probably be best off avoiding at night, especially for women and solo travelers.
Gangs are known to operate in some of these areas, and hate crimes have been reported around them in the past.
Take special caution late at night around the following metro stops and surrounding areas (and perhaps avoid altogether when traveling alone after dark): Chatelet les Halles, Les Halles, Pigalle, Couronnes, Belleville, Place des Fetes, Porte de St Ouen, Porte de Clichy, Gare du Nord, Stalingrad, Jaures, and Crimée. Please note that this is not a definitive list: you should probably be cautious in all areas of the city after nightfall, or when crowds disperse.
Also note that this is NOT a list of so-called “no-go” zones in Paris. From my perspective (and it’s one shared by most locals), these simply don’t exist within the city limits.
All 20 arrondissements in Paris (city districts) are generally safe, as long as you take some precautions in the areas mentioned above, and do so everywhere at night. Remember, “posh” areas can be remarkably empty after dark, so paradoxically you may be more vulnerable in these.
Women, especially when traveling alone or in small groups, should take extra care at night, especially when alone. Avoid places with poor lighting and few people roaming the streets. Safety is in numbers.
Also, be aware that French men sometimes read smiles or extended eye contact as permission to flirt or make sexual advances. With strangers, it’s best to assume a neutral stance that clearly says “I’m not interested”.
If a man makes unwelcome or aggressive advances in the street or in other public places, firmly say “non”, refrain from smiling, and walk away. Call the police if you are followed or the harassment continues, and retreat to a public cafe or other crowded place if necessary.
People of color generally have nothing to fear in Paris, a city with remarkable ethnic diversity. Nevertheless, hate crimes are not unheard of.
If you are a victim of an attack that you feel is racially motivated, report it to the police, your embassy, and if necessary to French watchdog SOS Racisme: + 33 (0)1 40 35 36 55
Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and non-binary visitors are generally safe and welcomed in the capital, which harbors a large and vibrant LGBT community. That said, there has sadly been a spike in reports of homophobic attacks in Paris over the past couple of years, and in the areas I mention above as being potentially less safe after dark, it is advisable to be extra cautious.
Read my guide on homophobia in Paris over at TripSavvy for tips on staying safe, including for LGBT couples. If you are attacked, report it to the police and to your embassy, and state clearly if you believe the attack was a hate crime.
Advice for Jewish and Muslim Travelers
Jewish visitors may have read that Paris has become unsafe for them. It can’t be denied that antisemitic attacks have been on the rise in recent years, with targets including synagogues, places of business and Jewish individuals.
Sadly, from 2018 such attacks are reported to have risen sharply. Visitors should take extra precautions at this time.
These attacks have been met with increased police protection of Jewish schools, places of worship and other sites important to the Jewish community.
While safety concerns are warranted, I want to stress that Paris has one of the largest Jewish communities in the world: one with a deep history that’s very much part of the cultural fabric of the city.
The vibe is generally welcoming and you shouldn’t fear visiting the city. It’s also important to know that there have been no recent reports of attacks against tourists of Jewish faith. Nevertheless, take precautions, particularly in the areas I mention above.
While I regret advising it, it may be best, late at night and in quiet areas, to remove visibly religious symbols and clothing items. Always report it to the police and to your embassy if you are a victim of an antisemitic attack. SOS Racisme can also help.
Muslim visitors may also fear attacks from Islamophobic individuals. Since 2015, there has been, according to numerous organizations, a sharp rise in attacks on Muslim places of worship and individuals.
Tourists of Muslim faith should not fear visiting the capital, however. Again, there is a large community here and most people are welcoming.
As always, though, if you experience harassment or violence make sure to report it to the police, your embassy, and perhaps to SOS Racisme (+ 33 (0)1 40 35 36 55).
While attacks on tourists of Muslim faith are exceedingly rare, it is important for victims to be heard, have their experience accounted for, and to seek the help they need.
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