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Travel Security Advice for France

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COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:

France is a developed and stable democracy with a modern economy. Tourist facilities are widely available. Read the Department of State Background Notes on France for additional information.

REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATIONS:

U.S. citizens living or traveling in France and Monaco are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate at the Department of State’s travel registration page in order to obtain updated information on local travel and security. U.S. citizens without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. Registration is important; it allows the State Department to assist U.S. citizens in the event of an emergency.

Local embassy information is available below and at the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates.

The U.S. Embassy / Consular Section in Paris is located at 4 avenue Gabriel, 75008 Paris (Place de La Concorde, métro stop Concorde), telephone: in country 01-43-12-22-22; from the U.S. 011-33-1-43-12-22-22 (24 hours); fax for Passport Services in country 01-42-96-28-39; from the U.S. 011-33-1-42-96-28-39; for Special Consular Services (emergencies) fax: in country 01-42-61-61-40; from the U.S. 011-33-1-42-61-61-40.

The Consulate General in Marseille is located at Place Varian Fry, 13006 Marseille, telephone: in country 04-91-54-92-00; from the U.S. 011-33-4-91-54-92-00 (24 hours); Consular Section fax: in country 04-91-55-56-95 and main fax 04-91-55-09-47; Consular Section fax from the U.S. 011-33-4-91-55-56-95, and main fax from the U.S. 011-33-4-91-55-09-47.

The Consulate General in Strasbourg is located at 15 Avenue d'Alsace, 67082 Strasbourg, telephone: in country 03-88-35-31-04; from the U.S. 011-33-3-88-35-31-04; fax: in country 03-88-24-06-95; from the U.S. 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 have urgent travel needs should contact the U.S. Embassy in Paris.

The U.S. Government also has American Presence Posts in Bordeaux, Lyon, Rennes, Nice, and Toulouse that provide limited consular services to Americans, by appointment only. These American Presence Posts do not produce passports on the premises. American citizens in the areas of Bordeaux, Lyon, and Rennes whose passports are lost or stolen and have urgent travel needs should contact the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Paris. American citizens in the areas of Nice and Toulouse whose passports are lost or stolen and have urgent travel needs should contact the U.S. Consulate General in Marseille.

The American Presence Post in Bordeaux is located at 10, place de la Bourse, 33076 Bordeaux (entry on 1 rue Fernand Philippart); telephone: in country 05-56-48-63-80; from the U.S. 011-33-5-56-48-63-80; fax: in country 05-56-51-61-97; from the U.S. 011-33-5-56-51-61-97. Website: http://france.usembassy.gov/bordeaux.html.

The American Presence Post in Lyon is located at 1, quai Jules Courmont, 69002 Lyon; telephone: in country 04-78-38-33-03; from the U.S. 011-33-4-78-38-33-03; fax: in country 04-72-41-71-81; from the U.S. 011-33-4-72-41-71-81.

The American Presence Post in Rennes is located at 30, quai Duguay Trouin, 35000 Rennes; telephone: in country 02-23-44-09-60; from the U.S. 011-33-2-23-44-09-60; fax: in country 02-99-35-00-92; from the U.S. 011-33-2-99-35-00-92.

The American Presence Post in Toulouse is located at 25, Allée Jean Jaures, 31000 Toulouse; telephone: in country 05-34-41-36-50; from the U.S. 011-33-5-34-41-36-50; fax: in country 05-34-41-16-19; from the U.S. 011-33-5-34-41-16-19.

The Consular Agency in Nice is located at 7, Avenue Gustave V, 3rd floor, 06000 Nice, telephone: in country 04-93-88-89-55; from the U.S. 011-33-4-93-88-89-55; fax: in country 04-93-87-07-38; from the U.S. 011-33-4-93-87-07-38.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:

France is party to the Schengen agreement. As such, U.S. citizens may enter France for up to 90 days for tourist or business purposes without a visa. A passport is required and should be valid for at least three months beyond the period of stay. Anyone intending to stay more than 90 days must obtain the appropriate visa issued by one of the French Consulates in the United States prior to departure for France. This also applies to anyone considering marriage in France. For further details about travel into and within Schengen countries, please see our Schengen fact sheet. U.S. Legal Permanent Residents (greencard holders) should check with a French consulate before they travel, as some may require a visa.

For further information concerning entry requirements for France, travelers may contact the Embassy of France at 4101 Reservoir Road NW, Washington, DC 20007, tel. (202) 944-6000, email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ; or, or contact the French Consulates General in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, or San Francisco.

Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information Sheet.

THREATS TO SAFETY AND SECURITY:

The Government of France maintains a threat rating system, known locally as “Vigipirate,” similar to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Advisory System. Under this plan, during times of heightened security, the government augments police with armed forces and increases visibility at airports, train and metro stations, and other high-profile locations such as schools, major tourist attractions, and government installations. Over the last few years, there have been numerous arrests of suspected Islamic militants involved in various terrorist plots. As with other countries in the Schengen area, France maintains open borders with its European neighbors, facilitating law enforcement cooperation yet allowing the possibility of terrorist operatives entering/exiting the country with anonymity.

Political assassinations and bombings have occurred in France. The National Front for the Liberation of Corsica (FLNC), as part of its decades-long bombing campaign on the island of Corsica, continues to conduct limited operations in the south of France and on Corsica. During the 1990s there was a wave of bombings and attacks in Paris carried out by Algerian terrorists. Today, numerous radical Islamic groups claim sympathizers within France’s large immigrant community, as evidenced by arrests over the last few years.

Although Americans have not been specifically targeted in terrorist attacks in France within the past few years, travelers should maintain vigilance. Immediately report unattended packages observed in public places or any other suspicious activities. French law enforcement authorities are proactive and will respond immediately. If there is a security incident or suspicious package, do not linger in the area to observe.

Violent civil disorder is rare in France; however, in the past, student demonstrations, labor protests, and other types of demonstrations have developed into violent confrontations between demonstrators and police. This was the case in March/April 2009, when demonstrations were held protesting the NATO Summit in Strasbourg; in 2006, when a series of large demonstrations took place in central Paris; and in 2005, when cities and towns nationwide experienced several weeks of unrest. Although most demonstrations or other forms of civil disorder experienced in France do not exhibit any anti-U.S. sentiment, it is important to remember that even a passer-by can be harmed should demonstrations devolve into violence. Americans are advised to avoid street demonstrations, particularly if riot police are on the scene.

For the latest security information, U.S. citizens traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs' website, which contains the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts as well as the Worldwide Caution.

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free within the U.S. and Canada, or by calling a regular toll line, 1-202-501-4444, from other countries. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas. For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s extensive tips and advice on traveling safely abroad.

CRIME:

While France has a relatively low rate of violent crime, a limited number of neighborhoods in larger French cities merit extra caution. Thieves commonly target vehicles with non-local license plates and work in or near tourist attractions such as museums, monuments, restaurants, hotels, beaches, trains, train stations, airports, and subways. Americans in France should be particularly alert to pickpockets in train stations and subways. Travelers should keep photocopies of travel documents and credit cards separate from the originals, along with key telephone numbers to contact banks for credit card replacement.

Although thieves may operate anywhere, the U.S. Embassy in Paris receives frequent reports of theft from several areas in particular:

Paris: The Paris Police Prefecture publishes information entitled “Paris In Complete Safety,” which provides practical advice and useful telephone numbers for visitors. Thieves operate on the rail link (RER) from Charles de Gaulle Airport to downtown Paris, where they prey on jet-lagged, luggage-burdened tourists. In one common ruse, a thief distracts a tourist by asking for directions while an accomplice steals a momentarily unguarded backpack, briefcase, or purse. Thieves also time their thefts to coincide with train stops so they may quickly exit the car just before the automatic doors close. Travelers should consider taking an airport shuttle bus or taxi from the airport into the city.

Reports of stolen purses, briefcases, and carry-on bags at Charles de Gaulle Airport are not uncommon. Travelers should monitor their bags at all times and never leave them unattended. As thieves commonly target laptop bags, travelers should avoid carrying passports and other valuables in computer bags. Thieves also target shoulder bags that have been placed on the floor while travelers are busy at the ticket counter. Also be aware that unattended bags are subject to destruction by airport security.

There have been reports of robberies in which thieves on motorcycles reach into moving cars by opening the car door or accessing an open window or even breaking the window to steal purses and other bags visible inside. The same technique is used against pedestrians walking with purses/bags/cameras slung over their street-side shoulder. Those traveling by car should remember to keep the windows up and the doors locked and items that may be attractive to thieves out of sight. Pedestrians are encouraged to remain aware of their surroundings at all times and to keep bags slung across the body, with the bag hanging away from the street.

Many thefts occur on the Number One Subway Line, which runs by many major tourist attractions in the center of Paris (including the Grand Arch at La Défense, the Arc de Triomphe, the Champs-Elysées, Place de la Concorde, the Louvre, and the Bastille). Pickpockets are especially active on this metro line during the summer months and use a number of techniques. The most common, and unfortunately the most successful, is the simple “bump and snatch,” where an individual bumps into the tourist while at the same time reaching into the pockets/purse/bag. Visitors should be particularly careful when metro doors are closing, as this is a favored moment for less-sophisticated pickpockets to grab valuables and jump through the closing doors, leaving victims helplessly watching as the thief flees. Visitors are encouraged NOT to confront thieves aggressively; they often operate in groups and may become violent if cornered. Simply drawing attention to an attempted theft will most likely stop the operation and result in a tactical withdrawal by the thief.

The Gare du Nord train station, where express trains from the airport arrive in Paris, is also a high-risk area for pick-pocketing and theft. Travelers should also beware that thefts commonly occur on both overnight and day trains, especially those originating in Spain, Italy, and Belgium. These involve the theft of valuables while passengers are sleeping, or while bags are left unattended.

In hotels, thieves target lobbies and breakfast rooms, and take advantage of moments of inattention to snatch jackets, purses, and backpacks. While many hotel rooms do have safety latches that allow guests to secure their rooms from inside, this feature is not as universal as it is in the United States. If no chain or latch is present, a chair placed up against the door and wedged under the handle is usually an effective obstacle to surreptitious entry during the night. There are, however, reports of thieves breaking into hotel rooms on lower floors through open windows while the occupants are sleeping. To guard against this, hotel room windows should be kept locked at all times. Whenever possible, valuables should be kept in the hotel safe.

Many Americans have reported thefts of purses occurring in restaurants and nightclubs/bars, where purses are stolen from the back of a chair or from under the table. Again, keep valuables on your person and do not leave them unattended or out of sight. Thefts also occur at the major department stores such as Galeries Lafayette and Printemps where tourists often place wallets, passports, and credit cards on cashier counters during transactions.

Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) 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 cashing a traveler’s check. However, crime involving ATMs is increasing. Travelers should not use ATMs in isolated, unlit areas or where loiterers are present. Travelers should be especially aware of persons standing close enough to see the Personal Identification Number (PIN) being entered into the machine. Thieves often conduct successful scams by simply observing the PIN as it is entered and then stealing the card from the user in some other location. If the card becomes stuck, travelers should immediately report it to the bank where the machine is located.

Large criminal operations in Paris involving the use of ATMs that “eat” the user’s ATM card have been reported. This most often happens during a weekend or at night when the bank is closed. The frustrated traveler often walks away after unsuccessfully trying to retrieve the card, with plans to return the first day the bank is open. In such cases, a criminal gang has modified the machine using an add-on device equipped with a microchip that records the user’s PIN when it is typed in, and also prevents the card from being ejected. The criminal retrieves the card from the device once the visitor departs, downloads the recorded PIN and then goes to other ATMs and withdraws as much cash as possible. ATM users are strongly encouraged to carry a 24-hour emergency number for their ATM card and bank account that will enable the immediate prevention of withdrawals from the account if difficulties occur.

Pigalle is the “adult entertainment district” of Paris. Many entertainment establishments in this area engage in aggressive marketing and charge well beyond the normal rate for drinks. Reports of threats of violence to coerce patrons into paying exorbitant beverage tabs are not uncommon. There have also been several violent confrontations between rival gangs in the district, including one in August 2007 one block from the famous Moulin Rouge cabaret. Visitors are encouraged to avoid this area unless touring with a well-organized and reputable tour company.

Normandy: There has been an increase in break-ins and thefts from vehicles in the parking lots at the Normandy beaches and American cemeteries. Valuables should not be left unattended in cars, and locking valuables in the trunk should not be considered a safeguard as thieves often pry open car trunks to steal bags.

Southern France: Thefts from cars with unlocked doors or open windows stopped at red lights or caught in slow traffic are very common, particularly in Marseille and along the Riviera of the Nice-Antibes-Cannes area. Car doors should be kept locked and windows raised at all times to prevent "snatch-and-grab" incidents by thieves on motorcycles. Parked cars are also frequently broken into. Valuables should not be left in unattended parked cars, even in the trunk.

VICTIMS OF CRIME:

If you are the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate (see end of this sheet or see the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates). This includes the loss or theft of a U.S. passport. The embassy/consulate staff can, for example, help you find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds may be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime are solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed. Under French law, compensation is available to victims of crime committed on French soil under certain circumstances.

The local equivalents to the “911” emergency line in France are as follows: 112 (all emergency services), 17 (police emergency), 18 (fire department), and 15 (emergency medical/paramedic team/ambulance).

Please see our information on Victims of Crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES:

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. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:

French customs authorities enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from France of items such as firearms, antiquities, medications, business equipment, sales samples, and other items. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of France in Washington, D.C. or one of France's consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements. Please see our Customs Information.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:

Medical care comparable to that found in the United States is widely available. In France, the phone number for emergency medical services is 15.

The U.S. State Department is unaware of any HIV/AIDS-related entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of France.

For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the infectious diseases section of the World Health Organization (WHO) website. The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.

MEDICAL INSURANCE:

The Department of State strongly urges U.S. citizens to consult their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to determine whether the policy applies overseas and whether it covers emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS:

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.

Roads in France are generally comparable to those in the United States, but traffic engineering and driving habits may pose special dangers. Lane markings and sign placements often are not as clear as in the United States, and drivers should be prepared to make last-minute maneuvers. The French typically drive faster and more aggressively than Americans and tend to exceed posted speed limits. Right-of-way rules in France may differ from those in the United States. 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. Many intersections in France are being replaced by traffic circles, where the right-of-way belongs to drivers in the circle.

On major highways, service stations are situated at least every 25 miles. Service stations are not as plentiful on secondary roads in France as they are in the United States. Paris, the capital and largest city in France, has an extensive and efficient public transportation system. The interconnecting system of buses, subways, and commuter rails serves more than four 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 and reliable rail service. High-speed rail links connect major French cities. Many cities are also served by frequent air service.

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. Visit the website of the French National Tourist Office website. For specific information concerning French driver's permits, vehicle inspection, road tax, and mandatory insurance.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of France’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of France’s air carrier operations. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES:

Please see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.

 

SPECIFIC INFORMATION ON MONACO:

While the general information above is relevant to Monaco as well as France, information specific to Monaco is provided in this section for your convenience.

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:

Monaco is a developed constitutional monarchy. Read the Department of State’s Background Notes on Monaco for additional information. A passport is required to enter Monaco but a visa is not necessary for U.S. passport holders for tourist/business stays of up to 90 days.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:

For further information on entry requirements to Monaco, travelers may contact the Embassy of the Principality of Monaco, 3400 International Drive, NW, Suite 2K-100, Washington DC 20008, tel: 202-234-1530, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ; to the Embassy, or the Consulate General of Monaco, 565 Fifth Avenue, 23rd floor, New York, NY 10017, tel: 212-286-0500, inquiries by email to the Consulate. For the most current visa information, visit the Embassy of the Principality of Monaco website. For more information, please visit the official website of the Monaco Government Tourist Office for general information.

Monegasque customs authorities enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Monaco of items such as firearms, antiquities, medications, business equipment, sales samples, and other items. It is advisable to contact the Consulate General of Monaco in New York for specific information regarding customs requirements.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:

Medical care comparable to that found in the United States is widely available. The local equivalents to the “911” emergency line in Monaco are as follows: 112 (all emergency services), 17 (police emergency), 18 (fire department) and 9330-1945 (medical/paramedic team/ambulance).

The U.S. State Department is unaware of any HIV/AIDS-related entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Monaco.

This replaces the Country Specific Information for France and Monaco dated December 22, 2008, to update sections on Safety and Security, Crime, and Specific Information on Monaco.

 


 

The UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office also has information regarding travel to France HERE......

Looking for an Embassy ?, You can also check out our World Wide Embassy Listings Section HERE (For US Citizens) or HERE (For UK Citizens)...........

Regards

The SW Team...

 

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