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LIFESTYLE – Travel advice , the safety issue

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Going to France is not as dangerous as going to other countries, but there a few things to pay attention to, especially if you are coming from a safer place.

trocadero-eiffel-tower-police

The French police patrol in uniforms or dressed as civilians to catch the delinquents

The big cities and all the tourist crowded places  ( like the French Riviera ) attract a fauna of dishonest people.  Like mosquitoes, they converge to all the crowded places where jet lagged tourists hang around with money.  Here is a sample of the specimens you may run into.

pickpockets

source: Parismatch.com

Pickpockets are of course a worldwide plague. As a result, you do have to ensure your bags are zipped up. If you wear a backpack, do not put your money in it , or if you travel as a group, ensure everyone is keeping an eye on others.

Pickpockets can be on the subway , but in all the museums such as Louvre or Versailles. I was trying shoes at the Galeries Lafayette and one guard came to warn me to keep an eye on my handbag. He told me  » you would be surprised how fast it goes away ».

pickpockets-paris

Keep an eye on your bags, and on your friend’s bags.

Now I remember that a couple of years ago, a colleague of mine got stolen her laptop case while she was trying a pair of shoes at a Minelli shop in Paris. Nobody noticed anything. It feels weird when it happens.

There are squadrons of police in uniform or dressed as civilians to catch those thieves, but the attorneys cannot sue them, as evidence are difficult to find. The most protected area by far is the Champs Elysees avenue.  But there are places so crowded that policemen and Cctv cannot control at 100%.

Obviously, it is unsafe to walk around with a lot of cash. Too often, I see Chinese tourists pulling out envelopes full of big banknotes in front of everybody to pay their shopping. At least be discreet when paying things.

If you have to carry a lot of cash, hide the banknotes in various envelopes dispatched all around your bags. I have an old  DDP shoulder bag who has a lot of inside pockets.  There are so many, sometimes i cannot find my stuff quickly, but be sure the pickpockets will have a tough time searching my bag.

cross-shoulder-bags-stars

source: bagbeat.com

Wear your bags cross-shoulderSnatch can happen in France. They may snatch your camera , phone or your bag. It happened to a cousin of mine in Canada, so it is not only in France that snatching occurs. Behave as if you are in Kuala Lumpur.
Some snatchers might snatch jewels or phones, their specialty would be to snatch smartphones or tablets during tramway stops or metro stops. They snatch and run away before the metro doors close. 
So use your devices if necessary and do not keep them in hands all the time, especially if you sit near the doors.

If you ever feel in danger or followed, enter a bar, a restaurant, a shop, a hotel, any public place, and talk to some people. The thieves will usually drop you if they sense you noticed them.

By now, you must wonder if your coming trip to Paris will be a life or death thriller movie !
Not to worry, I am quoting here situations that might happen,  but they do not happen to everybody everywhere. I went to Barcelona in  2012, considered the most pickpockets-plagued city of Europe , nothing happened, I walked in all the tourist areas , and nothing happened to me or my friends. We did not even see a single pickpocket.

When you buy train tickets at the vending machine, or withdraw cash at the ATM, hide your keying the pincode ( with your hand or your wallet) , as in some places, there are people who watch you typing your pincode and who could steal your credit card just afterwards.

gipsy-pickpockts

The lady is surrounded by gipsy girls. If you feel unsafe, use ATMs and vending machines in less crowded areas or inside bank agencies

Do not buy tickets from the gipsies who could be trying to sell you tickets at the metro gates. Buy them at the sales counter or at the vending machines.

Beware of beggars who approach you with some cardboard with a begging  message written on it. They can walk by groups, young teenagers from Eastern Europe. Just raise one hand to refuse. No need to speak.

bonneteau-paris-france

Beware of the people who play Find the Lady , or Three Card Monte ( you know the game where you have to guess where the token  is under 3 cups) . This is a crookery, and you can be sure the cards are trumped. Those guys will run away with your money, and the police chase them all day long. They will suddently leave their spot, pocketing your cash. I am surprised there are tourists naive enough to buy in such crook games.

Usually , these guys and girls  are from Eastern Europe ( former Yugoslavia, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Romania) again.

In your car, hide everything in the trunk or under some dark blanket.

packed-car-trunk

Do not excite curiosity by leaving your valuables ( bags, computer bags, camera bags, shopping bags) on the backseat, visible to anyone. It is especially true if you park your car on the Riviera, in tourist areas. Always lock up your car.

Even when you drive, you have to avoid leaving your bag on the seats. Put them on the floor or hide them under a jacket. In some spots (  Northern area on Paris Ring Highway, where the trafic is very slow due to heavy trafic hjam, or some Southern  cities like Marseille or Nice ) , there are people on motorbikes who can stop by, break the door glass and snatch your stuff. We are not in Brazil, but in some places, it is recommended to be careful.

Do not take unofficial taxis. You never know what will happen. Avoid all those chicken taxi drivers ( chinese surname) who are often working without tax registration.
One Swedish girl got raped and killed by one wacko who was a chicken taxi. She had booked a real taxi but she was tired after a night out and did not climb on the taxi she had booked. She mistakenly climbed on her murderor s car who stopped nearby. She did not notice he had no taxi sign. The wacko was arrested very quickly but too late.

ste-suzanne-tertre-ganne_slide

Zero pickpocket in Sainte Suzanne, near Laval City and the Mont Saint Michel

 However, there are plenty of safe places in France, pickpockets free places are galore, but many tourists just do not know them. For instance, go to the lower Alps in the Vercors, Champagne city of Reims,  or to Laval city, you will see no pickpockets at all. Most regions in the provinces are very quiet and safe.

Eng- to read more on travelling safely in Europe

Eng- another article on the same topic

Eng- Other safety tips

 

 

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