Paris Safety Tips

Leave Us Alone!

Paris is a relatively safe city, as cities go, and recently, I was having a discussion with someone about places to be wary about traveling to and was told that the only place in the world that they felt unsafe was in….San Francisco. (And they were from Naples!) So anything can happen anywhere in the world and petty crime sometimes occurs in places where you don’t expect it, like museums, hotel dining rooms, and restaurants.

Sometimes it’s just bad luck. Other times, it’s a lapse of common sense. For example, if you wear fancy jewels or tote a pricey handbag on the métro, there is probably someone on there that loves your gold Rolex as much as you do. On public transit, it’s especially easy to “grab and go” things because once the doors shut and the train pulls away, the damage is done. (If that does happen to you, notify the driver at the next station; sometimes they will call security for you and alert others on the train to be careful.) In cases where your wallet is stolen, they will sometimes remove the cash right away and toss everything else in the trash, or even on the ground, as it’s hard to prove that a wad of cash is stolen. So sometimes you do get your wallet back. (A friend had the wallet lifted from her purse, which was next to her in a restaurant. After the diner next to her quickly left before eating, when she realized what had happened, the waitress found her wallet on the ground just outside.)

Wily pickpockets blend in well. It’s easy to categorize people by how they dress or look, or their nationality, but pros know how to mix in. Someone who leads tours in Italy pointed out the pickpockets at her outdoor market, some posing as young couples on their honeymoon and I never would have suspected a thing. I’ve shooed away a few young women “tourists”, looking lost as they tried to read their maps in Barcelona, using the maps to cover up their hands as they rifled through people’s belonging. I’ve seen the same ruse in Paris and it’s a shame that we have to be careful when helping someone who is ostensibly lost.

Tourists and visitors can feel timid about raising a stink in public. But if you feel you are in a “situation”, don’t be afraid to be pro-active; in spite of their reputation, Parisians are very helpful and they hate scams and petty thieves too, and will often come to your aid. (Although that’s not always the case!) However if you feel in danger, it’s best to give up your wallet or whatever, to avoid things escalating. If you are a victim of a crime, you can file a police complaint online and they claim to contact you, but it’s probably better to go to the police yourself, especially if you need a police report to file an insurance claim back home. Bring along a French-speaking person if possible.

Found Ring

This is a common ruse in touristed areas, like the 6th, and happens on the bridges that cross the Seine as well as in places like the Place de l’Opéra and Madeleine. Someone walking in front of you will “find” a gold ring on the ground and pick it up, with a look of surprise. (I don’t know why they are so surprised, since they let it drop from their shirt cuff.) They will show it to you, ask if it’s yours, then after marveling at what a valuable piece of jewelry they found, they will offer to let you buy it from them for a great price. The ring is cheap brass – just walk away. (I usually laugh in their face and tell them “You’re kidding me – right?”, although I don’t recommend that tactic as some people have been spat upon.)


Crowded métros and buses are places to be alert. Be careful of people following you through the turnstiles. It’s a popular way for people to avoid paying the fare. But also, for some, as they push through, squeezing in behind you, they are lifting your wallet. If you see someone getting ready to lunge behind you, do as I do and stop, pretend that you forgot something, and stand there for a moment. They will quickly move on to someone else. You’ll notice that Parisian speak softly on public transit. Speaking loudly quickly identifies you as someone who is not a local and may be in unfamiliar territory. Cameras from your neck easily mark you as someone with something to lose. (As someone who often carries a camera with him, I’m acutely aware of that. I always keep mine in my rucksack.) If the métro is packed when it shows up and you have valuables, you might want to wait for the next one. Notorious métro lines are the lines 1, 2 and 9, as well as stations near Montmartre (including the Anvers and Barbès stations) and you should just be extra aware when riding those lines or entering or exiting those stations. No need to be paranoid – just pay attention.

Paris public transit is fairly safe at night but many lines that go to outer neighborhoods may be deserted at the later hours. While it’s more expensive, if you’re in an unfamiliar neighborhood and there aren’t a lot of people around, ask the restaurant to call a taxi for you.

Paris velo


Recently the Louvre security guards went on strike because there were so many pickpockets and petty thieves patrolling the museum. And because children get in free, many of those scofflaws are kids. Everyone is looking at art and not concentrating on their personal belongings. So be especially aware while at the Louvre and if you someone is standing too close to you, move away. If shopping in the gift shop or buying a snack, be aware when you remove your wallet and put it away.


Although some mainstream organizations send young people into the streets to get folks to sign petitions and ask for money to aid valid humanitarian causes, there are teams of young girls and boys with clipboards, clamoring for you to sign something. Often they are for organizations that claim to assist the blind or deaf. As the City of Paris advises, “Although they may seem to be acting on behalf of reputed associations and foundations, they are not. Their only aim is to get money from you, which will never be tranferred to these organzations but instead used to fund illegal organization and underground networks.” And in some instances, while one is asking you to read their papers, another might be checking out your pockets.

Most “real” signature gatherers wear jackets or t-shirts with logos on them. If you suspect otherwise, a good idea is to pretend you don’t speak English when they come up to you and ask, “Do you speak English?” Or just wave them away and keep walking. If you want to donate to a real charity, send them a check directly.


Thieves scope out some ATM machines and have lightning-fast fingers. So once you enter your code, they will rush by, shove you aside, and hit the buttons for the highest amount of cash and run off with it. The way to avoid this is to use ATMs that are located inside banks whenever possible, during business hours. Or go with a friend and have them stand near you while you get cash out.

Open Purses

In restaurants, do not leave purses on the floor, hanging from the back of your chair, or on the banquette or seat next to you. One ruse is that a customer will come in (without a reservation) and slide in next to you. They’ll scope out the menu, then suddenly decide they’re not interested in eating there and leave…taking your wallet with you. Another ruse is to “stumble” when walking by a table, using that as a chance to rifle through a purse left on the floor. That happened to a friend who was staying in a small tourist hotel and a woman, who looked like just another hapless tourist, took a spill while they were having breakfast. She brushed herself off, assuring them that she was “Okay” – and kept on with her day. Unfortunately, my friend spent the rest of the day at the police station and the embassy, filing police reports and getting a new passport.


The RER train from the airport is fast and cheap. It’s also full of jet-lagged people, bleary from a long flight. If you take the RER B train from the airport, do not leave your luggage next to the door; I’ve seen people reach in just as the doors were closing at one of the stations, and grab a suitcase just as the doors were closing. (Fortunately the fellow acted quickly and wrestled his suitcase back just as the door were closing on him.) The “B” line goes through a variety of neighborhoods, and passes by the stadium and a major exposition center, which can mean crowded conditions. They are currently renovating the transit cars on that line which will be a welcome change, and there is talk of special “express” trains to the airport that are cleaner and presumably more secure as well.

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  • June 11, 2013 9:05am

    Another good one. It seems that the scammers are everywhere. They’ve always been there, I went to school in France my junior year in college (1981-82) they just seem more sophisticated now! Being aware of your surroundings as you say is key! I completely agree! Bon voyage!

  • June 11, 2013 9:48am

    We were robbed in a large park in Barcelona where we had let our guard down because there was no one around but the birds. Walking under the trees, we were showered with what we thought was a big load of green poop. A helpful couple with wet wipes guided us to a nearby fountain and cleaned us up. Cleaned us out too. The moral? NEVER let down your guard and be suspicious if the bird shit that lands on you smells like mustard.

  • tim
    June 11, 2013 12:57pm

    NYC has a huge problem with iPhones specifically. It is the most stolen thing right now. At least in Europe if you report it stolen the will brick the item so it can’t be used in there anymore. In the USA they are stupid and haven’t done it yet.

    I am shocked I see anyone who isn’t big enough to run after someone ever pull it out on a subway.

  • Friend o' France
    June 11, 2013 3:56pm

    David, did you ever strike a nerve!!!!

    To the poster who suggested leaving your passport in your room: bad advice. Think of your hotel room not as your bedroom at home but as the lobby. You’d be amazed how many people have a key. Keep passport either in a money belt–something that Rick Steves has insisted on for his tour group participants for many years–or held by the desk. (If the latter, write yourself a big note not to forget it when you leave the hotel for the last time.)

    I’m not going overseas again soon (sniff) but have forwarded this blog post to a friend who is going to Italy with her daughter and a friend whose friends are heading for Paris, both next month.

    These advice tidbits are, as others have noted, excellent warnings for any big city, including NY. An important one to learn and follow is never to put items in a car trunk (or open a car trunk containing anything but a tire and jack) without moving the car–rough advice in cities where parking is difficult, but well worth the trouble. I remember someone whose parents kept buying new clothes and putting them in the trunk, except that on their final trip back to the car, the trunk was empty.

    Just because you’re in a holiday mood, that doesn’t mean thieves are not hard at work.

  • Katie
    June 11, 2013 3:57pm

    I posted earlier that my brother had his wallet stolen in the Barcelona metro last year. His wallet had his credit card, debit card, passport card, and over 400 euro. Why he was carrying that much money I’ll never know. But he and my SIL had no back up because her cards were tied to their joint account. They had no way to get money except through me for the rest of the trip. The bank said it would take 7-10 days for them to get new cards. They were in shock for at least a day or two — I’ll never forget it especially since they are both executives and seasoned overseas travelers. People think that kind of thing will never happen to them. After that incident I will always travel with two credit cards tied to different accounts and leave one in my hotel safe. It also makes me leary about traveling overseas alone unless I’ve taken extra precautions….

  • Avril
    June 11, 2013 4:38pm

    Knowing of the scams helps. Beware the motorbike rider with a stick with a nail on it puncturing your car tyre as you drive through Barcelona and then the kind motorbike rider and his friend waving at you about the flat tyre and offering to help…and empty your boot when you go to get out the spare wheel!
    But it is hard to know what to do about this one since you are there with a flat tyre! Probably worth wrecking the tyre and driving slowly to the nearest garage.

  • adele
    June 11, 2013 4:43pm

    I just returned from Paris and while we were walking over one of the elevated pathways in the Parc des Buttes Chaumont an older woman had just had her gold chain necklace snatched from around her neck. This happened during the day. We all sympathized with her but there was not much to be done. They were a long way gone and park security patrol is hard to find to make a complaint. After being a witness to this theft I quietly put away my own necklace, and I guess that is the morale of the story as many others have pointed out: try to keep valuables hidden and unnoticed.

    While anyone can be a victim of these thefts, the most vulnerable are tourists, hence the marauding gangs at all the major tourist locations seeking out their next victim. It is upsetting that they prey on tourists, but it continues because many tourists are in vacation mode (and rightfully so) and some are not aware of the petty theft schemes. That is why this post is so important in spreading the word…..but the Paris city administrators should also be taking a proactive approach to inform tourists by posting information at all the tourist destinations. The police can only do so much and be at some many places, so they really should make an official effort to empower visitors to the city with information.

  • June 11, 2013 4:45pm

    I was in line to enter Notre Dame, carrying my zippered tote bag on my shoulder with the zipper behind me. While moving along, I felt that my bag was somewhat heavier, and when I looked back, I saw a girl with her hand in my bag! And, in a flash, her hand was out of my bag and she was gone. It all happened so quickly that I actually wondered if I imagined it, especially since I didn’t lose any of my belongings when I checked. I gave the girl the benefit of the doubt and let it go.

    While going around the cathedral, I came across the girl and her companion again. I observed them trailing after people with messenger bags carried behind them or opened bags. That was enough proof for me, so I took their picture and reported them to security.

    I was so grateful that I didn’t lose anything, but I knew I couldn’t rely on luck the next time. From then on, I always carried my bag with the zipper closed and in front of me.

    I wasn’t so lucky in Rome, though. The cab driver pulled a bill swap on me, swapping one of the EUR 50 bills I paid him for a EUR 10. I was in such a hurry and he was arguing with me in Italian, so I let it go. Since then, I was very careful about counting my bills out loud to the driver when handing them out to him.

  • Aude
    June 11, 2013 5:28pm

    Additional advice re: the B line to the airport.

    There are two kinds of trains that go to the airport – one stops at every stop (inclunding some not-so-recommended suburbs) and one goes straight from Gare du Nord to CDG, without stopping at all the stops in between. I tend to favor the second one, especially late at night (it’s also slightly faster). It’s usually full of people going to the airport, and although there often are people begging for money in it, I’ve never seen anything more aggressive than that.

    You can tell which one is which by looking at the screen that shows all the stops. If they are all lit up, then the train stops everywhere. Otherwise, the stops from Gare du Nord to the airport will not be lit up.

    And for the record, I lived in Paris for 20 years, walked home at night in questionable apparel as a teenager (in retrospect, not such a great idea), and nothing ever happened. So be aware, but don’t let paranoia ruin your vacation!

  • June 11, 2013 5:29pm

    This came at a good time David. We leave for France this Thursday for a three week trip. Although we will be on a motorcycle tour of the countryside for most of the trip, we will spend the last four days in Paris. Good advice. I am a little concerned about the location of the apartment we have rented off of Boulevard de Sebastopol. Any opinion of the area? I appreciate your timely post.

    • June 11, 2013 11:22pm

      That’s a long, busy boulevard and I like the areas where it goes through. It’s hard to say because the street cuts through a wide swath of the city, but the area around Les Halles can get a bit seedy at night with kids hanging out. I’ve not had anything happen to me, but like any city, I would not go wandering off down dark alleys at night – anywhere!

  • June 11, 2013 8:31pm

    Good tips. Before travelling to Paris I’ve read about some of these scams, which, thankfully are well spreaded over travel blogs/sites alerting the travelers – once you get this information before you travel, you raise your awareness and is less likely to be a victim in these places.

    Also, it is very important to NOT trust your hotel at all, no matter how many stars it has. Heck, not even the bedroom’s safe!
    I’ve got a colleague who had his cash stolen from his bedroom’s safe while he was walking around the city – this was in a 3-star hotel, and the owner/manager didn’t care at all even after the police got involved. At least his passport (which was inside the safe too) wasn’t stolen.

    I usually avoid well getting into such troubles, but I’m a naturally alert person (under normal circumstances) and even more when I’m in foreign places or if I see suspect/strange acting people around. So when travelling I take with me (in a money belt) the most important stuff: passport, bigger amounts of cash (if I have it), and a spare credit card. On my front pockets I take smaller amounts of cash (at most EUR 150 or so) and my bank card which allows me to withdrawal from ATMs whenever I need bigger sums of money – I like to withdrawal just what I need plus a bit more for spare cash for routine expenses.

    The worst that happened to me in Paris so far is that I lost EUR 50 from my back pocket when walking from my hotel to a supermarket nearby. It simply fell out of my pocket without notice and since then I moved the money to front pockets. :)

    Paris est merveilleuse and I plan to return, this time staying as long as 7~10 days… :-)

  • Timothina
    June 11, 2013 8:34pm

    So true about the RER B! Last time we were in Paris, the RER B was so packed that people had to pull each other onto the train in order to squeeze into the cars. It was worse than anything I had seen in the third world. My husband was promptly pick pocketed and his passport stolen. In those tight conditions, we had no idea it had happened.

    • June 11, 2013 11:15pm

      It really is a shame that that line is so neglected. Not just for the visitors that are going to the airport or the conference center, but many people have to take that line daily to work and it’s poorly ventilated, rather grimy, and like you learned, unsafe. Let’s hope the slated renovation changes all of those.

  • Jan Newby
    June 11, 2013 10:10pm

    Karen, What New Zealand are you bringing to Paris for David? Manuka honey? Fresh wasabi, the Edmonds cookery book?

  • June 12, 2013 4:12pm

    I used to take rer B for work every single day the last year and i never had any problem, but I am big and tough and I think this helps me quite a lot.

    I have to say indeed that a friend of mine, has been approached in the south banlieu (while he was on the rer) cause they wanted to steal his iphone (he was using the hearphone which they recognized…) but he was slim and japanese, so even if he lived and worked in paris, they thought he was a tourist.

    Other friend of mine (girls) had stuff stolen from their bag while in the metro. It never happened to me (although i use to put my wallet in my backpocket). But I admit I try to pay attention in everymoment about my belonging. So be careful, as you should always be in a big city.

    well that’s mt 5 cents.

  • Anna
    June 13, 2013 8:38am

    Tim, we have just as many stupid people in the US as elsewhere in the world and you can indeed brick a phone remotely (i.e. once stolen) here as well as anywhere else.

  • ATM Surrounds and Services
    June 13, 2013 9:53am

    Using ATMs in foreign countries is really a security concern. But the important thing while using ATM is to ensure the transaction is fully complete. It is always good to opt for ATMs inside the bank and where there are other security measures.

  • June 13, 2013 11:13am

    Great article, thanks! Will be sharing this with any guests I get.

    To add to it:

    Also a big no no is leaving your cellphone on the café table as you eat, perhaps because you just made a call or are waiting for a call (may seem obvious but I have seen a close-call 3 times now).

    If a person doesn’t just swipe it from the table than the “petition” gatherers (children or older) will cover it up with their petition and grab it as you sign (or refuse to sign). I have seen it also happen in Spain. Luckily never successful.

    In general, I have found most of my friends in Paris who have had issues it is because someone wants their iPhone. I would be weary using yours in any “suspicious” areas.

    Also be aware of none uniformed “ticket checkers” in the Metro and major train stations.

  • val
    June 13, 2013 10:32pm

    Two funny anecdotes: 1) I was also recently told by someone from Naples that they only place they ever felt unsafe was San Francisco.
    2) My brother picked up the ring–and kept it. He ended up pawning it in the US for at least $50.

  • amdm
    June 14, 2013 11:01am

    A really great post. The guy running the gold ring scam at the Etoile is about 5’10”, dark, close-clipped hair and a close-clipped mustache. He’s usually pretty dirty. The iPhone muggings are seriously on the rise, especially with young women as victims. In and around the Bastille metro is a prime area. Don’t take your iPhone out in a public place. Not the bus, not the metro. The thief watches until you get off the bus, then follows you. The French have actually put permanent warnings on the bus in multiple languages to this effect. Another scam is to have an innocent seeming young woman say she has lost her phone and really, really needs to call home and can she borrow your phone? Say no and walk away.

  • Jax
    June 14, 2013 6:39pm

    I’m sure the Naples resident felt that San Francisco felt the most un-safe, not because of pickpockets and thieves (though we have those too), but because of the high prevalence of mentally unstable people on our streets (homeless and otherwise). I’ve traveled to and lived in different big cities, but only in SF will I cross the street to avoid a possibly violent schizophrenic who needs medication and treatment.

  • Alex Franklin
    June 15, 2013 9:05pm

    These comments have been very helpful! I spent a few days in Paris this past April. Before I left for France I purchased clothing from The shirts have numerous zippered pockets for money, passports, etc. They even have iPhone pocket with internal tunnels for the cords. Great thought went into the shirts. I travelled on the metro numerous times and felt completely safe – all my valuables were safely zippered away! I have no affiliation with the company, but they do have lots of my money! Friends smile at all the zippered shirt and vest pockets – and end up buying them for their trips!

  • Patricia
    June 16, 2013 2:02am

    Gosh, last time I was in Paris I remember going down into the Metro on the stairs and I happened to glance down between the railing and the stairs and noticed a woman’s small pocket book dumped down there & wide open –> obviously abandoned by a thief!

    Fortunately on my several trips there I’ve never had a problem even when on my own. I generally do have a small faux leather backpack that I pull to the front of myself (which I recommend you do on transport) when on the train, but I don’t leave anything too important in it (such as water bottle, spare sweater) so I’m not too concerned. I have had the hotel lock up my passport for me, and I keep a photocopy with me in case I’m asked for it (Virgin Records on champs elysees did when making a credit card purchase).

  • Hag
    June 16, 2013 3:02am

    I had an experience in Paris about 10 years ago ( unfortunately, the last time I was there) when a young woman who was clearly a pickpocket came up to us. I was on alert and while flapping my hands to shoo her away, I told her to leave me alone…unfortunately, instead of saying “Laisse-moi!” I said, “Léche-moi!” ! Perplexed, she did indeed leave me alone.

  • June 17, 2013 12:32am

    @Penny, We stayed on Rue De Tracy in the 2nd, right off of Blvd de Sebastopol. It’s a wonderful area close to everything, and has the charm of Le Marais and Beaubourg right off of it. However, I completely agree with David, Les Halles at night isn’t the safest. We stayed at an apartment and at the advice of the owner on the first night we walked straight through what I later found out was known for the prositution district. We even took out euro at an ATM there for dinner around the corner. We were totally fine, but I wouldn’t do it again. After the first night, we figured things out very quickly and we were just fine. It’s a beautiful city when your eyes are open to the beauty and to the rest of the mishaps that come with every city.

  • Renee
    June 18, 2013 8:59am

    I’m from NYC and even I fell for that ring trick. Of course I realized right away and gave myself a big face palm and the guy his “ring” back! You do tend to let your guard down when on vacation. Thankfully nothing was stolen- plus I always divide my money and belongings into different pockets and places in my bag so if I am mugged, they don’t get everything,

    These are great tips! Thanks so much for the reminders.

  • Svein
    June 19, 2013 1:51pm

    wow, the World is indeed a dangerous place. Better stay home, I guess.

  • Anne
    June 20, 2013 8:05pm

    Great post, and very helpful comments–you all inspired me to add one! I now make sure to scan my passport, any visas inside it, along with the fronts and backs of all my credit cards and put into a single PDF which I’ve saved in the cloud (Alternatively, if you can remotely access your work computer files, put it there) so that I have everything handy to immediately report stolen and cancel. When traveling abroad, I take only the credit cards I plan to use, no more, basically 3 credit cards, max. The Duane Reede card, Saks charge, etc stay at home. Like someone else mentioned, I make sure to keep one or two cards and a little cash somewhere else

    I also try to dress like a local whenever possible. If your clothes don’t scream AMERCIAN TOURIST, you’ve already removed yourself as an immediate target. As a frequent female solo traveler, I also make a point of asking the women on the desk at the hotel about the safety of any area, particularly if I am going to be out at night alone. Finally, trust your gut. If something feels wrong, or a little iffy, don’t second guess yourself.

  • Alina
    June 21, 2013 9:29am

    Thank-You so much for the article! Heading to Paris in late September was worried about safety and this article doesn’t calm my nerves either but I now know what to expect when I’m there. Can’t wait for Paris

    • Cheryl in France
      June 21, 2013 3:25pm

      I honestly think that in late September you *really* won’t have as much to worry about since it’s not tourist season (and it should be nice and cool!).

      • Alina
        June 21, 2013 9:30pm

        Thank-You so much Cheryl!

      • Alina
        June 21, 2013 9:31pm

        Thank-You so much Cheryl.

  • Danielle
    June 22, 2013 3:27am

    The petition scam was EVERYWHERE when I went to Paris last year, usually “deaf” children claiming they’re raising money for their school.

    Another one that happened a lot (and one that one of my not-so-bright friends fell for) was this “friendship bracelet” thing. A couple people would come up with those cheesy little string bracelets, telling you it was free and good luck. They’d then tie it on SUPER tight, cutting off the circulation, and demand money before they cut it off for you.

  • June 23, 2013 1:38pm

    I actually had the ring scam pulled on me in the 7th near Quai Branly. Persistent bugger than one, even when telling him to go away in French. Need to do more yelling I suppose.

    And would agree with your Neapolitan friend in that, despite having lived in San Francisco for 15 years, every time I go back, people weird me out. It probably doesn’t help that there have been random street shootings lately that have left visitors injured and/or dead. Ironically, the last thing I worry about there are pickpockets. Barcelona on the other hand…

  • June 23, 2013 4:08pm

    Well, this is a timely post indeed as I’ll be there in a few weeks (yay!) What would be your safest recommendation for traveling to the airport from the Marais District? When I travel back to the US from Paris, I will have to get to the airport by myself… which is a rather frightening thought since I don’t know Paris at all. Is there a good car service that you trust and can recommend, or is there another option that would be okay?

  • nev
    June 23, 2013 5:02pm

    when walking in paris with my wife and two friends, a man stopped by in his car asking for directions. he didnt seem upset when i told him sorry i couldnt help. instead he offered me a brand new suit costing as he claimed 1000 euro—for free and insisting i take it. however my wife insisted i not take it. he just drove off upset.

    i’m just wondering what it was all about. any ideas?

  • June 23, 2013 5:58pm

    Lori: Probably the most economical way is to use an airport shuttle. Some folks have had mixed results using some of them (quality varies, and usually there are other riders so you may wait a bit) but they take you door-to-door. Always print out everything because you will likely need to show your confirmation # and Charles de Gaulle airport only gives you 15mn of free WiFi. There are usually plenty of taxis and it should cost around 50-60E depending on traffic. (In France tips are included in the fare. If they do a good job, I usually give them a few extra euros.)

  • Andrea
    June 23, 2013 6:12pm

    I guess because I never look rich when I travel , it has not been a problem. I take the metro to and from the airport and use the Metro and buses in Paris. Some years ago, I think I stood out and looked like an American – not because I was loud or wore t-shirts and shorts- but because I was not chic. Now most of Paris looks like me- residents as well as visitors. People often ask me things in French – which I cannot answer. The only encounter I had last year was as I left a bakery with a baguette with a bit of paper around it- a man told me he was hungry and asked for a piece of the bread so I gave it to him.

    Here in DC- there are small groups of young men who come into the Smithsonian museums- Natural History and American history and tell people they are raising money for poor kids to play sports. A. it is illegal to solicit in a Federal building and b) it is a scam. However, with the huge number of visitors we get, the size of the buildings and limited security- I bet they do quite well.

  • Karen
    June 23, 2013 6:25pm

    I carry a small handbag with a zipper and a flap over that, and keep it on my shoulder so that my hand is always on it and the zipper in the front. I keep a (photocopied at about 90%) copy of my passport in my wallet. I am not comfortable keeping my passport and credit cards in a hotel room; so I wear a small flat pouch that holds my original passport, any money more than what I will need for the day, and credit cards, and it fits around my waist and partially inside my underwear. Small throwaway mobile phone with a limited time and text SIM from a store there, wallet with a little bit of cash in the purse, and coins in my pockets usually. Blend in, walk with purpose, and know what metro line you are taking and connecting before you get there.

  • Dante
    June 25, 2013 12:28am

    Very informative post David. Paris has a special place in my heart and I’ve visited it several times, being fortunate enough to stay with friends who live in the 5th. It is good to keep your wits about you in any place that you visit. Enjoy but don’t let your guard down too much. With Paris as in any other city that one visits, do some research, study the mode of transportation, have a general idea which part of the city you’re visiting and know how you’re going to get there and use your common sense especially at night. As someone mentioned, walk with a purpose.

    I always carry this small anti-theft bag made by Pacsafe. You can’t slash it and you can lock down the zippers to the side of the bag which is what I do when I am in a restaurant or cafe or sightseeing. It’s also easy to hook/unhook the strap and thread it around a chair leg making it hard for anyone to grab and go.

    I carry my camera inside the bag. My wallet, cash and just one or two credit cards are always in my front pocket. I also take pictures of my credit cards, passport, just in case they get lost, I have the information handy. I email the photos to my email account just as a second back up so I can bring up the information if I need to. I have an unlocked GSM phone, so when I visit, I just go to the local tabac and pick up a SIM card that I can use to call or pull up email or maps.

    Rick Steves gives good advice in his travel books about safety and scams that are commonly perpetrated in touristy areas. During one visit to Sacre Couer a friend of mine held out her arm to these friendship bracelet scam artists which I read about in the book. So I grabbed my friend’s arm and firmly said NO and walked away. That did the trick.

  • Nine
    June 25, 2013 6:14pm

    Thank you for this post David!

    While visiting my sister in Paris, my eldest brother wanted to visit the Sacre Coeur and surrounding area and, being a frequent traveller in Paris and other big cities, went by himself. On the busy square in front of the church he was held at knifepoint and peppersprayed and forced to hand over his belongings by a group of young men.
    The mugging was horrible and traumatising but what surprised me when he recalled what had happened, was also the reaction of the people around him. After being mugged, he asked several tourists and locals if they could call to my/our parents (who were also in town) or if they could direct him to the gendarmerie or a metro station because he was unable to see properly due to the pepper spray. Off all the people he asked for help, it was a group of young students who came to his aid, gave him water to rinse his eyes, called for help and gave him some change for the metro.

    Moral of the story, be careful when you travel in a big city but do remember that, although it is okay to be wary, sometimes someone asking for help actually does need it.

  • June 25, 2013 8:35pm

    Questo e’ il blog giusto per tutti coloro che vogliono capire qualcosa su questo argomento. Trovo quasi difficile discutere con te (cosa che però in realta’ vorrei… haha). Avete sicuramente dato nuova vita a un tema di cui si e’ parlato per anni. Grandi cose, semplicemente fantastico!

  • kirby
    June 28, 2013 6:34am

    @Hag that is hilarious! and might be more effective than yelling “laisse-moi”

  • emjayay
    June 30, 2013 4:05am

    No, no one needs help unless you see them stabbed in front of you or something. And when in Europt I always keep all money (except a bit) in a money belt. Well, not really a belt. Get the same thing only the hanging around your neck version.

  • July 4, 2013 4:50pm

    Unfortunately these rules must be strictly applied…as in ANY European city.
    Such things happen in Lisbon, Barcelona, Madrid, Rome (been stolen), Naples (been stolen).

    As a Parisian I am quite ashamed actually, this is definitely not a good way to welcome tourists. That’s why I very often remind tourists to look after their bags & so on.

    Public transportation is a real nightmare (I used to take RER B, then I bought a car). You have to avoid jewelry, honestly.

    When I traveled to Moscow and Tokyo it was such a relief not to check my personal belongings all the time…