JE SUIS CHARLIE!
POUR LA LIBERTE D'EXPRESSION TOTALE - FOR TOTAL FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION!
The recent Islamist terrorist attacks against France result in an increased Plan Vigipirate now reaching the level of "Rouge renforcé" (increased Red level). Just before the highest level of "Ecarlate" (crimson red level).
Paris tourists have to expect more intensive security checks in public transport and buildings.
From French media on 12/01/2013.
Often when we arrive at the Gare du Nord by the Thalys from Brussels my wife is surprised to see patrols of 3 military dressed in the French camouflage uniform and wearing the FAMAS automatic gun. She asks me: "Are there bullets in the guns"? I think so especially when the level of terrorist alert is on Red, the third level of four, as it was in August.
The "Plan Vigipirate" exists since 1978 and has been activated several times. Presently as the French army is present in Afghanistan there is a proven risk of one or more terrorist actions justifying alert Red level.
We did not only meet soldiers at the Gare du Nord but also at the RER "Les Halles-Chatelet" station. Here it were green berets, I suppose from the REI -Régiment Etranger d'Infanterie, the famous Légion Etrangère.
Is Vigipirate efficient? It seems, last terrorist attack in Paris is from 1995.
Vigipirate has also an unexpected result; it diminishes the activity of pickpockets in the stations.
My photo is of Wikipedia; I avoid taking photos of military.
JE SUIS CHARLIE!
POUR LA LIBERTE D'EXPRESSION TOTALE - FOR TOTAL FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION!
This is what could be read in the leading French paper "Le Figaro" of 24/05/2013:
"Les grands du luxe s'inquiètent de l'insécurité à Paris.
Après les émeutes du PSG, le Comité Colbert, qui regroupe les grandes enseignes, de Baccarat à Hermès, rappelle les autorités à leur devoir de protection des touristes étrangers, qui irriguent l'économie nationale".
The main companies of luxury products are worried about insecurity in Paris.
After the riots of PSG (the Paris football club), the Colbert Committee, which includes major retailers from Baccarat to Hermes reminds the authorities of their duty to protect foreign tourists, who supply the national economy.
During these two days of riots a tourist bus was looted by thugs at the Iéna Bridge.
There are countless stories of tourists being targeted by highly mobile groups of pickpockets in the capital. These facts have increased by almost 40% in one year on rail networks in the Paris area.
Repeated aggressions against Chinese tourists resulted in a protest of the Chinese embassy in Paris. A group of tourists was violently attacked leaving a restaurant in le Bourget. After being beaten, they were stripped of their passports and a large sum of money in cash.
Even a person accompanying former president Clinton visiting Paris was the victim of pickpockets when he withdrew money from an ATM on the Champs-Elysees.
I always avoided the "banlieues" but now I'm staying very alert even in the centre of Paris what was not the case years ago.
It is not "La vie en rose" in Paris or France!
Following my departure from Paris after being robbed in April 2013 (see under "Pickpockets")
I expressed concern regarding the whole approach to policing and security in Paris. One can only hope that the citizens of this city will try and institute some measure of rule of law following recent events.
Paris as a big city has its crimes, but knowing the city is tops in visitors in 2013 with 32,2 million folks, and compare to other city of its side it is very safe. France got 83 million visitors ,figures from WTO-UN.
accidents happened and if need of information, the Paris and interior government site has plenty of info to guide you on a safer and more secure visit
update additional police will be display around the tour Eiffel and Louvre-Palais Royale due to recrudence of pickpockets, be aware of this.
Some of the areas to look out other than the train stations, metro/subway etc are those in the pictures here.
I cannot stress this enough - Do not look for trouble. What I mean is that if you felt that a dimly-lit alley or street is not safe, then don't go there. In crowded places, take care of your personal possessions; be careful with your purse/wallet/bag, etc. Don't get easily distracted. Watch your back. Watch your friends' backs.
I guess it is many people's perception that since Paris is in Western Europe, and therefore it is generally safe, etc., etc., then they let their guard down. For me, it was my mistaken perception that Paris was generally safe (I didn't read much warnings in travel guidebooks about Paris, as compared to, say, about Barcelona or Lisbon or Rome or Romania). Don't expect the thieves to be ugly-looking, or dirty or grimy. They are usually young and well-dressed, clever to blend with the normal crowd.
During one of my trips to Paris, I was almost pick-pocketed in the underground train by a group of 4 young ladies, all trendy-dressed, and looking like a bunch of happy teenagers. The train was crowded and I was standing up. They surrounded me; one tried to distract me, while another tried to open my handbag. They all talked excitedly around me and towards me. But I sensed something was not right, and my sixth sense got the better of me. I held on tightly to my handbag and my valuables were safe. Anyway, now for me, it is "Once bitten, twice shy".
I am not saying that you should be extra careful and all tensed up during your visit to Paris, but let's be a smart tourist.
It was my dream to take my children to Disneyland at Paris; we lost their mum due to cancer several years ago. I did it this August and drove to Paris because we also planned to later travel to South France for a few days. Unfortunately, on our 1st day in Paris, our car was smashed in a designated car park. A bag in the car boot was stolen with our passports. It was a late afternoon back from Disneyland and we left the car for about 10 minutes to buy some food in a shop nearby. The police was sympathetic but helpless. Recalling the violence in France seen on TV a couple of years ago, I feel lucky that we were not injured.
It is depressing to think that one of the greatest cities in the world has turned into such an unsafe place.
Tourists and all those who live from tourism (in an honest manner) are glad that the marked insecurity for the tourists, mainly by pickpockets, received the attention of the French government and its Minister de l'Intérieur Mr. Valls. He deployed 200 policemen only for the monitoring of the main tourist areas of Paris: Notre-Dame, Champs-Élysées, Trocadéro, Champ-de-Mars, Louvre-Rivoli, Palais Royal and butte Montmartre.
The Louvre is now safer. Police in uniform is patrolling inside and outside. There were 120 criminal acts reported per month, now 30/month (but isn't that too much for a museum?).
But pickpockets have turned to other parts of the capital such as the Jardin des Tuileries, Place du Palais-Royal, Saint-Germain-des-Prés and the Quais de Seine and the bridges (Solferino).
The pickpockets are mostly youngsters, often girls, supervised by adults and well organized. Now the paradox of France is that if Police is active, the Minister de la Justice is lax (for ideological reasons if I listen to the French!). The Police complain that when arresting these minors they have to free them after 4 hours so that these juvenile delinquents start immediately again their activities.
The first victims of that criminality are the Asiatic and especially Chinese tourists who are supposed to have more cash on them. The things have gone so far that not only the embassy complained but that a travel agency working for Chinese groups advises his customers not to take the Metro or leave the hotel in the evening!
It is not just a feeling of insecurity and consequently a meeting is being held with the Prefecture, the mayor of Paris, trade associations and the tourist office to announce a comprehensive plan of action for the safety of tourists in Paris.
Hello futur tourists visiting Paris.
I am a french man, living in Paris for about 13 years now. I am fed up by the increasing tourists scams happening here every single day in front of my eyes. Everyday I see tourists being robbed or scamed. So I decided to try to write to sum up everything I know about this subject:
If you are walking near the most touristic areas (actually all the center of paris, Notre Dame, arc de triomphe, Louvre, Eiffel Tower, champs elysees, etc) you have a very high probability to be approach by people who will try to scam you:
-the fake deaf/mute petition: Young people with a paper will approach you and make you sign for a petition, saying they are deaf (they are not), and then ask for some money.
-the ring scam: someone will bend in front of you, pretending that he/she found a ring (looks like heavy gold ring, but is actually 10cents worth brass metal), he/she will give it to you and then come come back to ask for some money.
-A person will ask your hand or finger to braid a bracelet around and then when its attach to you, almost force you to pay 10 euro.
-woman bended like she is old and has a bad disease will ask for money (I saw with my eyes these pretending to be in a bad physical condition beggars, get up and being picked up by a 100 000 euros worth mercedes benz).
-woman with baby in hands begging to feed their baby.
-people trying to sell you metro tickets when there is queue at the automatic machine (or not), they sell you half priced (tarif réduit) tickets wich will work, but if you have a control you will be fined, because these tickets are only for certain categories of people, they cost half price, but as a tourist you have no right to use them (actually these tickets can be used for 4 to 10 yo kids, but you can buy them from the automatic machine at the price of 6euros35cents for 10 tickets).
Anyway, what you have to know is that those people are victims of a terrible mafia, that if they dont come back everyday with at least 150 euro to their boss will be beaten and raped. So my advice is to never ever give money to anyone in the street in paris. If you want to help them, buy them a pain au chocolat, or any food, but NO MONEY. Money is just perpetuating this horrible modern slavery.
2-Pickpockets and thievery:
If you are going in the touristics places, wich I advise you to do because the beauty of paris is there, you are very likely to be the targeted by pickpockets.
The most effective pickpockets in paris are bands of kids, mostly girls, but can be boys too. They operate mostly in the metro. They are really easy to spot (but maybe its my personnal experience talking here), they are young enough so they can pretend when they are catch by the police (wich happen every single day) that they are less than 13 (so nothing can happen to them in terms of prosecution), some of them are pregnant 13 yo girls. They will wait for the last moment when people get in the metro to push you from behind and pick your pockets, handbags, backpack, anything, and believe me they are very skilled!
So my advice is if you ever feel someone is touching you/too close to you, there a risk of pickpocketing so put you hands on your valuable belongings, and you hand might meet a kid hand. French people don't like contact, we don't hug here. If someone is getting close enough to touch you, you have to be suspicious.
-thieves at cafe terasses. Do not let your phone on the table when sitting at a café. Same kids (even 5 yo kids, seen with my eyes too!) might come and use a map or any paper to hide their hands stealing the phone.
-When you go to ATM to withdrawal money, just after you type your pin code, a group a young girls and boys with surround you, place a paper in front of the screen, shout/talk to make diversion, and in an instant they would have type under the paper on the keyboard the maximum amount (300/400/600 euros) and take the money very fast (happened to my grandmother last week).
Once again all these beggars/thieves are victims! They dont steal for them, they have to bring back at least 150/200/300 euros to their bosses in order not to be beaten or rapped.
The only good side of this is that they are not really physically aggressive, they won't beat you. You don't have to be frightened about physical harm if you stay inside Paris.
My overall advice would be to be very carefull with handling cash money, expensive smartphones, any valuables in public. I regularly stop them from stealing tourists when it happens in front of my eyes, and the worst thing that happened to me is a spit on my clothes from those kids.
Anyway, even if I leave here for more than 13 years now, I am still emotionally touched by the beauty of this city, everytime I walk outside, everysingle building is a piece of history. So don't get me wrong I definitly advise you to come visit!
PS: A tip for cheap drinks in cafe, if you go at the bar (almost everyone of them), where you have to stand, you cannnot seat, but every drinks is almost half priced if you stand. A coffee for example will cost you from 1 euro to 1.30 euro, a glass of wine 2.30 euros. This is where you can meet the real people. You can also ask take away (a emporté) for the same price. I don't know why but this seems to be totally ignored by all tourists.
I was due to travel to several cities in Europe over a two month period with my three children aged 8 (girl), 6 (boy) and 3 (boy). We arrived in Paris at the Charles De Gaulle airport around noon on the 17th of June 2012. When we finally organised train tickets it was close to 3 PM. We took the train (line B) into the city. On the train we witnessed the theft of a tourist's backpack which they had placed on the train seat next to them. I attempted to retrieve the backpack but was threatened. With my children's safety as my first concern, I decided to say nothing until the man had alighted. The perpetrator was of African heritage in appearance. The victim was stopped by the local passengers from pushing the emergency alert on the train.
Soon after, at one of the city centre train stations, Chatelet Les Halles, we alighted the train. We passed through the turn-styles. I was carrying a 20kg backpack on my back, a 6 kg backpack on my front and was pushing a stroller with my 3 year old buckled in and asleep. My 8 year old had a daypack on her back and my 6 year old's daypack was on the stroller. There are very few lifts in the train station - where there are lifts they are not in working order. It may not be wise to take a lift in any case.
We alighted the final escalators for Rue de Rivoli. My older children alighted several steps before me. I had my back to them, facing the bottom of the escalators balancing the stroller on its two back wheels. No one else was on the escalator. As we were 3/4 of the way up, a man of African appearance alighted the escalator at the bottom and increased his pace upwards. He pushed passed me, pushed my daughter out of the way and grabbed my six year old son.
We all started screaming. Luckily, we were close to the top of the escalators. As quickly as possible, I dragged the stroller up and as soon as it was safely at the top of the escalator, I launched myself at the man who had my son. I proceeded to fight him, and scream for help. Even as I was biting him, he did not release my son until a multitude of people surrounded us. Part of the way through the struggle, I realised that this could be a set up and that these individuals often operate in gangs. I realised that it was possible that others could take my children while I was fighting this man. Luckily on this occasion this was not the case.
We were escorted by a French lady up some stairs and onto the street. She pointed us in the direction of the apartment we had booked, but I felt it important to stay on a main street and make contact with Police. We found a police post on Rue Du Bernard. While the police were lovely, they were not particularly helpful. There were about eight officers at a post sitting in a van. I explained what had happened. I asked if this was a common occurrence and they replied it was the same as any big city. I also asked if they would view the video footage from the train station but they said it would be up to the head of police of that particular area. No details were taken, no reports made and no questions asked. I asked if one of them could please come with us in a taxi to the airport as we were very frightened and wanted to return to Australia but was told the taxis are safe and they could not accompany us.
Luckily the manager of the apartment in which we were due to stay telephoned me and I relayed the events. He told me to stay with the police and he would send someone to us. The gentleman who met us at the police post accompanied us back to the Charles De Gaulle Airport where we boarded a flight and immediately returned to Perth, Western Australia.
It should be noted, as I speak some French, all conversations were in French up until the arrival of the apartment manager (who spoke fluent English). It should also be noted that I am a very seasoned traveler and I have spent many years living and traveling abroad. I
We read many of the warnings before our recent trip to Paris and it helped prepare us for the potential "dangers". Our experience, though, was quite different. We found the subways, streets, museums and major tourist attractions to be very busy, but we felt safe in all locations. We did not stray onto the back alleys, but that's just common sense. The only 2 spots we felt a little uneasy was the Flea Market (Clignancourt subway station) and the entrance to the Sacre Oceur (the large church on the hill). At each locations there were many vendors trying to sell thinsg, and they were pretty aggressive. A firm "NO" and they bacjed away. I think it is improtant to remember that Paris is a major city and like other major cities, danger can be found...but we didn't find it. That said, it is important to look like you know where you are and where you need to go. We also found the locals quite helpful if approached on a friendly basis. Enjoy the sights, and be alert, but don't let it ruin your time!
This along with my other warning about traffic can not be stressed enough.
If you are crossing a street that has traffic going in both directions, observe the lights very carefully. They may not be green in both directions. Check to see if there is a sign that says "Pietons ATTENTION Feaux Decalés" or "ATTENTIONS Traversée en 2 Temps". This means that the lights are staggered. I made this mistake only once and, fortunately, I lived to be able to write this.
So many times I see tourists crossing when the light closest to them is red for them, but the light across the street is green. They are obviously only looking at the green light in the distance and fail to see that they do not have the right of way and they could very easily step in front of a car.
The rule your mother taught you when you were a child "look both ways before crossing" definitely should be used while in Paris.
Just a piece of advice is to be carefull in the Northern neighbourghood such as Montmartre surroundings (18eme), Gare du Nord area or the 19eme and 20eme districts (North and East) because it's frequented by pickpockets.
If your hotel is closed to the Metro I think it should not be a problem, but if it's a bit far away I should suggest you to take a taxi during the night.
We were in Paris for two weeks, staying in the Latin Quarter. At about 2 pm on a beautiful, busy weekend day, we watched a man get in a huge fight with a woman to try to steal her ATM card at the bank on the corner of the Saint German des Pres metro stop. I had stopped and just walked over from the Church and we were just meandering around. I noticed that this really tall man was staring over this short woman's shoulder as she was putting her ATM in for withdrawal. Later, I found out that they take the numbers down. At any rate, he then tried to snatch it from her and they got in a struggle. What's strange to me is that there were probably two hundred people on the street and no one stopped at first.
So I screamed "Arretez!" loudly. Not the best idea because the man approached me. He looked confused because I'm just a little gal!!! But this got the crowd's attention. He was obviously a drug addict. His pupils were pinpoints. He disappeared quickly into the metro stop and the woman went into the bank. The crowd quickly dissolved so I went down a side street and into a store, a little nervous. When I got back to my hotel, I asked if I should call the police, but they said no, it wasn't uncommon.
After that, I decided to go inside of the bank for my transactions.
This is typical, I suppose, of many big cities, although it's worth knowing that it does happen, as I've seen it firsthand.
Otherwise, Paris couldn't have been more idyllic.
Paris is very safe and law enforcement presence is everywhere. But like any other big city, a lack of attention can result in a sudden lack of your wallet, your camera or your purse. Spending what should have been time lounging at the cafes making frantic calls to your credit card company is no way to spend a vacation so the rules of thumb are:
• Never, ever carry anything of value in your pockets. Make sure your cards/money are inaccessible and well hidden under your clothing.
• Leave all documents and cards you don't need on a daily basis - like your passport - locked up in the hotel safe
• Leave expensive jewelry and other bling at home. If you can't afford to lose it, don't pack it.
• Be careful setting purses and cameras on cafe tables or hanging them on the back of a chair where they could be quickly and easily snatched. Same goes for credit cards: give them directly to your server and don't leave them laying on the table.
• Don't even think about a fanny pack. Besides being hideous, they are a thief's best friend.
• Bring two credit cards of different type, and two ATM/debit cards in case one gets eaten in a machine. Make copies of passport, cards, plane tickets, hotel confirmations and all other important documents and keep those separate from the originals.
• Be firm with panhandlers and souvenir hawkers. They can be extremely aggressive - especially at the train stations, the Eiffel, the Sacre-Coeur and some of the other hot tourist locations. They're harmless but very persistent unless you pointedly ignore them or issue a strong "Non!" and keep moving. Beware of the "friendship bracelet" scam; once they tie one on you, you're going to be out some euros.
• Politely decline help with your luggage at train, metro and airport stations
And last but certainly not least, trip insurance with health coverage is highly recommended. Should you become very ill or injured, being hospitalized or medivaced home, if necessary, can be a financial disaster. Medical treatment in France is not free for tourists.
We happened to be in Paris when the threat of terrorism, for multiple European cities, was unusually high and the French authorities were not taking that lightly. During our week, the Eiffel was evacuated twice, the entrance to Gare du Nord station abruptly closed and ticket sales temporarily suspended, and armed military presence was evident around the Louvre and other heavily visited sites. More unsettling was an emergency clearing of a busy area accompanied by a large convoy of heavy police vehicles - sirens wailing - and escorted by seriously armed personnel on foot. The world being as it is these days, you could find yourself in a similar position.
The good news? No need to panic.
The vast majority of the time these efforts are precautionary so rather than worry about it, be reassured that the government is taking no chances with the safety of French civilians and international tourists alike. Should you be in a situation where evacuation or other safety action is necessary, just calmly follow any orders issued and assist others who may need it.