Le Mistral is a strong wind in the region around Marseille that occurs mostly in the winter and spring. We experienced it while in the region in November - and we can agree: it really is strong. Those who know us will know that we are not really the tiniest persons (despite my VT nick), but that wind even pushed us a couple of steps backward.....
So you better beware and find a safe spot!
Walking around Marseille at night
Whilst walking from Gare St Charles near Boulevard Dugommier and La Canebiere, I was pestered by a guy who asked for money. I ignored him and walked on but he persisted for a few minutes, not in a threatening way but it was obvious that he wanted something. It was rather disconcerting since I didn't know if he had any accomplices. By blanking him, I was able to avert any potential issues, but I can see how a single female could have felt very threatened. The lessons are obvious and had I not had cause to go there to buy a TGV ticket, I would have avoided the area. On the other hand, the area around the Le Vieux port is not threatening and there are lots of tourists. Just avoid the red light district around Rue Glandeves, more embarrassing then intimidating.
If you have to visit the area around Gare St Charles at night, I would recommend taking le velo. There are a couple of bike stations close by and cyclists seem to be invisible to the local population. Also, avoid taking passports, credit cards and excess cash. I think that leaving these at your hotel is the lesser of two evils.
- Budget Travel
Watch your cash!
There are two things that you should take into consideration when travelling to Marseilles: firstly, try not to flash your cash around when in public places.. don't carry large amounts of cash around with you.. it may attract the wrong kind of attention. Secondly, beware of forged euro notes, particularly 20s and 50s. Familiarise yourself with real notes and you won't get caught when receiving change for purchases.
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
- Family Travel
- Business Travel
Docks and boats and boring parties
Be careful around the docks. A lot of this area is ridden with crime, and is hardly safe.
Also, if you get invited to a party on a boat near there by some grinning eediot studying in Aix, don't bother. We did, on some useless vessel moored miles from anywhere, and it was dull as hell, and the people were irritating. But worst of all was that we couldn't just leave and go to the station from there; walking around was unsafe, and so had to stay the night. The toilets on the boat didnt work so we had to use the really awful ones on the dockside - very unhygienic.
strikes can disrupt travel!
The photo shows workers in protest over retirement/pension benefits, down rue Dugommier. I support the right to strike, and hope things worked out well for everyone. North American travelers should be aware that French workers strike more often, and with much greater effect, than we have come to expect at home. The strike disrupted our ability to sight-see (no buses), so we ended up walking to the sights on our second day in Marseille.
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
marseille daytime car attack!
we spent a three day weekend in marseille spending most of the time doing the flaneur, eating out and wandering freely and enjoyably. marseille is a fascinating old city and we have travelled extensively independantly so we were 'taking all sensibe precautions'...except one:
ALWAYS KEEP YOUR CAR LOCKED EVEN WHEN THERE ARE THREE ADULTS IN IT AT 3.30P ON A SUNDAY AFTERNOON!!!! we were helping a friend locate a hostel and while he rushed in to check availabilty two young guys (on a scooter) attacked us in the car. Firstly they pulled up behind and fortunately one of us (a big guy) noticed the attacker sneaking alongside the side of the four door car. when the attacker opened the rear passenger door he went to attack one of us in the back (22yr old female) - luckily big guy was ready for him and a tussle began - the attacker was pushed out of the door and then quick as a flash opened my front passenger door, grabbed me around the throat and stole my handbag (fortunately not passport!) he took off on the motorbike and that was that. we chased him on foot calling for help from the passer bys (men) who did nothing - one of us speaks fluent french by the way. women in a neighbouring apartment tried to help and call police and said this type of attack had got worse and worse since 'le crise'. we then went to the police station and filed a report which you would need to get insurance and you would also need a french speaker. as one of us can speak french the police were able to understand and very helpful sympathetic.
after this we went to drive out aix-en-provence for the night and the gps was incorrect due to roadworks so we wound up in an every shadier part of the city with people trying to get us to wind down windows etc and pointing *** at you etc as night fell - we crashed a red light to get the hell out of there....
so in short i would go to marseille again because marseille is what it is and it probably always has been however no amount of 'just take reasonable precautions' will do - you need to take extra care here and be on guard at all times - even for a few seconds - the french hotel owner in aix said this is now really common and often women are punched in the face or badly beaten (probably the red tourist number plates don't help) and whenever he goes to marseille, ANYTIME OF DAY OR NIGHT, he always keeps his car locked when he is in it or obviously when away from it.
the silver lining. we have travelled throughout europe, independantly with eurodrive cars, 3 times now and I wouldn't say we thought we were bullet proof but having eaten humble pie and come out reasonably unscathed I would say if you haven't been mugged you have simply been lucky and a place like Marseille is no place to be thinking you are bullet proof - even if you are french and live there.
so if you are a true adventurer you will go anyway, leaving a bit to providence and i fully intend to return on this basis - however don't glibly post 'take reasonable precautions and you will be okay' - you may not be - i say take extra precautions and be extra vigilant!
- Historical Travel
- Arts and Culture
- Road Trip
The famous wind : the mistral
The mistral is a typical wind of the region. When I was in Marseille, I had 5 days of Mistral...so even if it is sunny, it can be really chilly sometimes...and it is also quite dangerous to be in some places in the calanques because the wind can make you loose your balance! So it is better to be in a safe place when the mistral is really strong...
Just don't go there!!!
Marseille is a grimy, run-down city, and I would never, ever go back there.
We stayed in a hotel on the street between the railway station and La Canabarie and it was populated day and night with men hanging around dealing drugs, prostitutes and other undesirables. The rest of the city wasn't much better, lots of beggers, street children and pushy street traders.
Favourite pastimes in Marseille seem to be throwing fireworks in the main street, and driving motorbikes on the pavement. Also watch out when crossing the road - cars pay no attention to red lights and green men signs!
- Study Abroad
Beware Pick Pockets and Hooligans
Marseille is full of people coming from other countries, opposite of Aix its very rough town. You would see people vistling, wheezing at beautiful ladies. Dont bother even they vistle at you, ignore and keep on walking at same pace. Quarrel can turn into some real danger.. Some areas are town are not to be ventured at any cost, please ask tourist information centre about it. Stick to the tourist area there should not be any problem. Take care of your pockets and passports, and do not hand over anything to strangers even if they say they are police, better take them to the police station and show whatever documents they ask over there.
e.g., questions could be
May I see your passport?
Do you have fake bills? I want to check your bills? etc.
- Road Trip
Bullys on buses in Marseilles
I, a woman travelling alone, was assaulted by a large gang of teenagers on the night bus, number 519, on Rue des Mousses, Marseilles on 21.6.13, at 21.50pm. They wouldn't let me off the bus, so I missed my stop. Two seated women kindly tried to intervene told the youths that I wanted to get off. The boys starting pulling my hair and poking me, and I thought I would be mugged. I managed to squeeze my way to the doors when they opened, and as I was stepping off, a girl pushed me off so I fell hard towards the pavement. I turned around to confront them, and was met with a wall of hateful abuse, then a girl hit me in the face and my glasses went flying, and I couldn't see. The bus doors must have closed and gone on its way, while I was searching for my glasses.
I have reported the incident to the British Consulate. The police were mainly attending to a music festival in the centre of the city. I am concerned about other tourists or local people travelling in Marseilles in the evening, unaware, or even very aware of bullying cowards on public transport.
I decided it was best to return to the UK, as my hotel was quite far from the main station and centre of town, and I would need to use public transport a lot. Since there were so many youths on the bus who were part of this group, I thought I was better off leaving.
I think there is a disenfranchised group of French people of Arab origin in Marseilles, where hatred grows unchecked. If you feel you have to fight people who have done you no harm, you are a victim, and that's how I perceive these young people. They need help.
In the meantime, be warned, Marseille late evening transport could be problematic to tourists travelling alone. Cowards tend to stick with their group and pick on people on their own.
- Family Travel
- Women's Travel
Beware to all women
Beware at night when travelling near the train station. I was travelling with my boyfriend and the guys did not hesitate to come up and yell words at me. There's no real danger, just don't answer back. Don't take the chance.
- Women's Travel
We disembarked from the MSC Splendida on a Sunday, and took a shuttle bus into the city. We spent all of 15 minutes in the Old Town section before my pocket was picked, apparently by a gang. An old woman with a scarf over her head came up and aggressively begged for money - - grabbing my arm. As I said to her "no" and jerked away, someone on the other side of me picked my pocket - - the front pocket of my jeans!
We returned to the ship and cancelled the cards, but lost a bit of cash as well as a few identification cards (driver's license, etc.) .
Advice: NEVER wear a baseball cap. It marks you as an American tourist. AND don't wear white tennis shoes/sneakers/walking shoes. That also marks you as a tourist. Finally, keep your money securely in one of the money belts or a neck wallet! Stay in groups and don't let strange people approach you if you can avoid it. (Beggars may NOT be beggars!)
In the 15 minutes I was in that part of Marseille, I noticed a strong stench in the streets, and lots of garbage on the streets.
I saw nothing that was worth my time while traveling to and from the Old Town area.
I will not return there.
- Family Travel
I was only in Marseille for 24 hours but, in daylight and on my first night, I was wrestled to the ground by two North African looking individuals outside my hotel near the Vieux Port. They tried to go through my pockets but I managed to fight them off - luckily they were fairly small blokes so it wasn't too dangerous. A really dirty, unpleasant and crime ridden city. Would never go back.
Thieves on Route des Cretes
On Sept. 30, 2012, my companion and I were robbed on the beautiful Route des Cretes. We parked our rental car by a path and walked up a short hill. Thirty minutes later we returned to find the car passenger window broken and a purse and bag taken containing several valuables. Note that the area we parked in was just off the main road but far from any habitation or shops (20 minutes to Cassis, 30 minutes to Marseille). It was just road and hills. While we were previously aware of the dangers of Marseille and kept a watchful eyes on our valuables while in the city, it did not occur to use at all that the beautiful Route des Cretes would also have thieves. So for future travelers to this very beautiful route, watch your belongings carefully!
- Hiking and Walking
- Budget Travel
Not to much trouble, just park underground
I am a woman and spent 5 days in the city on my way to Italy. I just stopped and parked the car (underground) and went walking around after dark. One old cafe gave me internet, but I found no good hostel. The nice guy working gave me a little hotel not far off and then I walked from the room to my car and back all at night. I stayed two nights there till I meet a great women from Germany that let me stay on her couch for 3 nights. I went out alone for the first two nights .. going to bars..walking down streets, I do not know if they where "back streets." I had a great time and even went to 3 house parties with people that lived in the city. I was out one night till the sun came up. I was alone some of the time and with some other people of all kinds (Spanish, German, French, and more Americans like me) at other times. I talked to people on the street and in Cafes and even ran into someone else from Brooklyn. Sure watch your stuff, never flash cash, keep your mind on your well-being, but if you act like your afraid you might bring the bad to you. And if you think France has big dirty city's, come to America and see New York, Philly, Pittsburgh, and even more big scary city's in the West. I would just like to say it would be a hard life walking around scared to talk to people and "staying in the train stations" I would not want to live like that. But Just your car park underground, even in places like Rome, Paris and Barcelona and you might just keep you windows together.
- Budget Travel
- Road Trip
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