Is Paris Safe?
Paris is one of the most-visited cities on the planet, with millions of tourists pouring in every year. And it’s not difficult to understand why: beautiful parks, world-class museums, gourmet dining and Instagrammable monuments galore mean it’s packed with great things to see and do. Never mind that it's simply one of the most romantic places on earth. But is Paris safe for tourists to visit? Find out in our guide below.
How Safe is Paris?
Paris, like most major cities, has its fair share of petty crime, with pickpocketing and bag-snatching highest on the list of things to watch out for. Tourists and newcomers to the city are, of course, far more likely to be targeted than locals, especially those who appear lost, disoriented or confused by their surroundings, or who generally stick out like a sore thumb. So it’s important to know what to look out for to stay safe and ensure you enjoy an incident-free break.
Opportunistic thieves tend to ply their questionable trade in and around major attractions, where large crowds of tourists can make for easy pickings. So it makes sense that the places you’re most likely to be relieved of your cash and possessions are around the likes of the Eiffel Tower, Champs-Élysées and Notre-Dame Cathedral, as well as in popular neighborhoods including Montmartre, the Marais and the Latin Quarter.
Avoid flashing around large sums of cash, keep your bags zipped up and be aware of your surroundings when, for example, using your phone or taking money out of an ATM. Thankfully, violent crime against tourists is relatively low in Paris. So the best response if you do fall victim to petty theft on the streets is not to give chase and instead report the incident to local police as soon as possible.
And remember that, as long as you take sensible precautions like keeping an eye on your belongings and not falling for obvious scams, it’s likely the very worst thing that will happen to you in Paris is having to endure your waiter’s scorn when you order your steak well-done.
Common Scams in Paris
Thieves in Paris employ a quite extraordinary range of techniques to part you from your belongings. All are designed to fluster or otherwise bamboozle you for just long enough to get what they want and melt back into the crowd.
A common trick is for the thief to pose as a lost tourist and approach you when you’re sitting at a café or restaurant table on the street. Placing an oversized city map on your table they will, on departing, pocket the map as well as whatever else was underneath it: your purse, your phone, and so on. Avoid this by keeping items in your pocket or a secured bag rather than in full view of opportunists.
Also be wary of anyone who approaches you to sign a petition, or to donate to a charity: it’s highly likely these are not legit. Likewise someone who spills a messy liquid – coffee, ketchup, etc – on you, then makes a show of helping you clean up. These are distraction techniques pure and simple, so secure your belongings and walk away.
Gold rings and roses are some of the other common scams that many visitors to Paris fall foul of – especially hopeless romantics. In the first of these, the the tinkle of metal hitting concrete is rapidly followed by a lady asking you if you have dropped your ring. When you say it isn’t yours she will then insist you take it as a lucky charm. But take care: as soon as you agree she will aggressively demand payment for the item. Beware also of men bearing flowers. These will be held out for you to take, but are never, ever free of charge. So only accept one if you’re happy to line this particular scammer’s pockets.
The game of bonneteau – also known as find the lady and three-card monte – has been operating on the streets of Paris for centuries. Simply keep your eye on your chosen color of ball as it disappears beneath one of three cups, correctly identify the cup and hey presto, you win! Right? Wrong: it’s a confidence trick and you are the dupe. Keep your cash in your pocket and walk away.
Is Paris Safe for Solo and Female Travelers?
Not only is Paris safe for solo and female travelers, there are also loads of great things you can do on your own here, from learning to make macarons to seeing the city by bike and joining one of the city’s fab weekly rollerskating events. Otherwise the rules are much the same as for everyone else: take sensible precautions like letting family and friends know your plans if you’re going out alone at night and avoid trouble hotspots like quiet streets and late-night trains.
A night out in Paris can of course be a lot of fun, with its buzzing nightlife and great entertainment scene: think world-class opera, high-kicking cabaret shows, and late-night bars and clubs. It’s always safer to politely decline offers of drinks from strangers and indeed to go out in a group if you can. Drink in moderation and ideally take a cab home rather than using public transport at night. Apps like Uber operate in Paris, or you can hail a Taxi Parisien, identifiable by the name on their cab light. The cab will also have a meter and display a badge with the driver’s license number.
Note that if you do opt to take the Paris Métro, you should only buy your tickets from an authorized vendor or ticket machine in the station. Do not pay touts in and around the station for what might appear to be bargain tickets – you are most likely being scammed.
Follow these simple tips and chances are your holiday in Paris will be every bit as fun and trouble-free as it is for the millions of tourists who visit and fall in love with the city every year.