Is Paris safe

Is Paris Safe to Visit? (Advice From a Local)

Is Paris Safe? is one of the big questions tourists ask before visiting. Scary newspaper headlines and Hollywood movies portray the city to be extremely dangerous however this isn’t true. There are of course risks of being scammed and pickpocketed so we’ve put together this guide to inform and help you protect yourself during your trip.

How Safe is Paris?

After living in Paris for over 7 years my experience is very positive and in my personal experience would say that Paris is very safe. I find Paris to be much more relaxing and safer than in many other European cities that I’ve lived in and visited.

Parisians like to keep to themselves and pretty much 99% of any unpleasant interactions in public that I’ve witnessed are mainly massive aggressive arguments. Most berate Parisians won’t be patient enough to even bother with English speaking tourists!

Paris has a relatively lower crime rate – especially for violent crime. That said, pickpockets are scammers are rife in the city. Instagram and TikTok are full of horror stories from angry and disappointed tourists. However they are easy to avoid if you’re aware of your surroundings and keep expensive goods out of sight. Read below for my tips to keep safe!

What Areas of Paris are Not Safe?

Before we go into the ‘unsafe areas’ it’s worth reiterating that even in the “worst” areas, you’ll be fine in the day and even at night. So don’t worry too much!

The main areas to avoid are around the Gare du Nord and the Gare de l’Est – especially La Chapelle. They’re not necessarily dangerous but they’re generally unpleasant and not the best place for a newly arrived, tired tourist with lots of luggage to be walking around in! Unfortunately Gard du Nord is one of the main public transit hubs in Paris so I recommend not to linger!

Map by OpenSourceMap. Map of central Paris – areas to avoid in red

I’d also strongly recommend not staying in this area – especially in the La Chapelle quarter. Again, it’s not terrible but it’s not a particularly the nicest area for a newbie in Paris. Finally, the area to the north of the Basin de la Villette is not particularly pleasant. Some argue that Belleville isn’t safe but in my experience, it’s completely fine although it may appear a bit rough.

Tips to Keep Safe During Your Visit

Regardless of how safe I think Paris is, there’s always a tourist getting scammed or pickpocketed. A quick search on social media will certainly back this up. Pickpocketing in touristy areas and on the metro is the most common complaint.

If you’re smart and are aware of your surroundings you should be fine. Here’s my advice on how to stay safe whilst exploring Paris:

  • Keep your bags shut: Seems like an obvious one but I see so many tourists who walk around outside or in the metro with open purses/bags. Unless you’re accessing them, keep them shut at all times.

  • Don’t walk around with newly bought designer goods: Looking forward to buying yourself a new Chanel bag or Cartier watch during your trip? Great but don’t walk around the city with your new purchase! I’d advise asking for plain bags from store which most of them offer now. Certainly do not get on Metro Lines 1 or 9 with branded bags as you very may well be targeted.

  • Avoid standing in the middle of the metros: On busy metro lines you may be packed in like sardines and this is perfect for pickpockets. Within almost all the Parisian metro trains there’s a central standing only section between the seats. If you stand in the middle you will always have someone behind you. This then makes it very easy for pickpockets to steal from you. And when it’s crowded on a moving train, it’s very hard to keep aware or even hold on to your belongings. I’d advise trying to sit or standing against a rear window if possible.

  • Don’t linger on public transport with lots of luggage: Some gangs will target tourists with luggage and bags at metro stations. They’ll offer to take a bag and then either demand money or try and steal one of them. Tourists (or non-Parisians) really stick out in Paris and pickpockets will know who to target. Avoid staying in transport hubs too long and try and go directly to your hotel/the airport.

Emergency Services

If you’re ever in need of the emergency services then these are the numbers that you’ll need to call:

  • Police: 17
  • Paramedics & Firefighters: 18
  • Ambulance: 15
  • Europe Wide Emergency line: 112

Note that the Pompiers serve both as paramedics and firefighters. For serious medical emergencies then you’ll need to call for an Ambulance (the SAMU).

Typical Scams & Pickpocketing in Paris

There are quite a few scams in Paris and these especially target dazed, friendly tourists who are particularly susceptible. I know this from personal experience having been targeted by a ‘petition scammer’ in CDG airport when I was 17!

Bracelet Scam

One of the more obvious scams to look out for – especially when you’re in touristy areas. I’ve specifically seen them on the Pont des Arts and the staircases leading up to the Sacre Cœur. They tend to operate in narrow, areas where it’s difficult to easily walk around them.

How does the bracelet scam work? Usually a man will approach you and try and tie a fabric bracelet around your wrist. If you’re not quick enough they’ll get it tied up and then want money for your ‘gift’. The scam works particularly well on tourists who are focusing on the sites and aren’t aware of their immediate surroundings.

The best way to avoid this scam is to be aware of loitering individuals and worst case, hide your wrists behind your back or in your pockets!

Petition Scam

The petition scam is a Parisian classic (unfortunately) and one I remember on my first visit to the capital 20 years ago. The scam is rather simple and involves a large group of women who have clipboards with a simple printed form that is disguised as a petition. Usually on this form they’ll ask you to write your name, country and ‘donation amount’.

Generally the women will all pretend to be deaf to avoid interaction and make the unsuspecting embarrassed leading to even more pressure to give them money. If a tourists refuses they’ll tend to get annoyed and follow them but I’ve never seen any violence.

These scammers are easy to avoid and you’ll see them a distance. They tend to frequent areas with high tourist footfall such as the Eiffel Tower and even Paris’ airports.

Beggars with Transparent Cups

The final scam that is a common occurrence on the streets of Paris is the transparent cup scam. Beggars (or scammers) who are sitting on the sidewalk will put a clear plastic cup with a few centimes in it. They’ll place it far away from them in the middle of a passage with the aim that those walking past won’t see it and kick it and the contents over. The unsuspecting individual will feel bad that they’ve kicked over the cup of money for the beggar and feel obliged to give them some money.

This is hard to avoid but if you do happen to kick a scammer’s cup then I’d advise to continue walking. Legitimate beggars will never use transparent cups.

Is Public Transport Safe?

Yes, public transportation in Paris is on the whole very safe.
In 2023 violent crime in public transport fell by 30% compared to the previous year. In my experience of 7 years, I’ve very rarely seen any problems other than arguments about pushing!

That said there are pickpockets in the metro system who target Parisians and tourists alike. Metro lines 1 and 9 are notorious for this and you should be very careful of your possessions on these lines.

I would advise lone female travellers to avoid night busses and taking the metro past 12pm.

Visiting During Protests & Riots

The French love to protest and you’ll generally see a protest on and between the Place de la Republique and Place de la Bastille every Saturday. These are usually very peaceful despite the heavy police presence.

Every other year you’ll typically see riots bubble up in the capital. These are historically very cyclical with anger from political reform, policing and other social issues being the cause. Is it wise to visit during riots? Actually yes, you’ll be fine. These generally are confined to small areas of the city and rioters are definitely not interested in tourists. It may just mean a visit to the Champs Elysées (where a lot of riots tend to happen) will be off!

Parisian life continues – even during the GIllets Jaunes protests (riots) in 2018
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