Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Is It Safe to Go To Paris?

Is It Safe to Go To Paris?



This post started out as a blurb within another post, but it got way too long (that's your warning this is a very text heavy post, so get ready to read). So I decided it's an important topic anyway, it might as well get its own post! Today's topic is on the safety in Paris. It was something that weighed heavily on my mind before the trip (in November) and I know it weighed even heavier on my parent's minds as both my sister and me prepared to travel abroad.

I've gotten a ton of e-mails about Paris since I went, and one of the most asked questions is if it is 'safe' to go? So I figured I'd make a post that I can guide you to should you ever want to know! You can read all of my other posts about Paris, here, and there are more to come (plus a video... finally!!).



You can read more about my trip here:
- Our Itinerary
- Essentials That I Packed
- Everything You Need to Know About Traveling to Paris 
- What I Brought In My Carry-On to Europe

I want to provide a little backstory. Peyton and I had planned to go to Paris the spring of 2016. It's kind of crazy because the day before we were going to book our flights, the attack at the Bataclan happened. It really spooked us and we decided not to go. 

With all of the craziness going on in the world right now, I'd be lying if I said that traveling to Paris and London did not freak me out. But I am also someone who doesn't really want to live my life in fear so I just kind of pushed my fear into the back of my mind and we booked our trip. As it got closer, my parents were the ones who were really worried and kept talking to me about safety and being aware of my surroundings, etc. 

One of my life goals is to see Van Morrison in concert. He is one of my all-time favorite musicians. Wouldn't you know he was in Paris while we were there! I told my parents, friends, family, etc. of plans to get tickets a few months before our trip and every. single. person. told me that was a bad idea because of safety concerns. I don't really regret much in life, but now, after being in Paris, I really regret not going to the show. I'm sure it was phenomenal.

I was also a little scared of the 'pickpockets'. I can't believe how many people mentioned it to me both here on Summer Wind and offline. It made me feel like they would be swarming Paris and my wallet and passport were sure to be stolen. So many things I read online and comments, etc. made me terrified to take the metro, too. I'm being a bit dramatic, but it really did frighten me. 

However, the entire time, I never once encountered a pickpocket or felt like someone was after my bag/stuff/etc. I never felt unsafe around anyone that we came across and we even walked alone at night a lot. 

And actually, the metro was incredibly easy to use and inexpensive, I really couldn't recommend it more! I don't want to discount the safety info given by friends and family, though. I am sure there are more pickpockets during the more populated touristy times and more issues in different neighborhoods. Like in any city, it's always important to know that and keep an eye out for yourself and who you are traveling with.


We all three ended up carrying our passports with us at all times. We weren't aware of this law, but a police can stop and ask you for your passport at any time and if you can't provide it to them at that time, there is a pricey fine (a copy doesn't work). A wonderful girl right behind us in line at the airport gave us the rundown. She said that this has been the law for a while, but no one ever really followed it. Now, she said with the heightened security, police are asking people to see their passports a lot more. She was an American now living in Paris and she was so sweet and helpful. Also, we were glad to have our passports on hand as we shopped so we were able to provide the information to the sales associates so we could get part of the VAT tax back

---

Now here's the real story and where things became unsafe. Our first night in Paris, we were in our apartment enjoying some snacks, having some champagne. We were having a great time all getting ready together for our first night/dinner in Paris. We were right across the street from the new Louis Vuitton which is right at Place Vendome in the 1st arrondissement in Paris. It's a beautiful neighborhood and our street was lined with all of the best boutiques you can think of: case in point, Goyard was literally our next door neighbor.


Our apartment had your typical 'large colored door' which lead to the sidewalk of Rue Saint Honore (as seen in the photo above). During the day, our door would be open and you'd walk through a hallway and it would come out into an adorable courtyard which was surrounded by apartments (and then on the bottom floor were cute boutiques). At night, the large door would close at the sidewalk and you'd have to scan a key to get into the courtyard and then again to get into your apartment building. Once inside, we used a key to our apartment door. We loved how safe everything was. 

Well, as we walked downstairs from our apartment and into the courtyard that first night, we noticed everything was dark and all of the shops were dark, too...but people were in the shops. We were walking towards the door when a man came out of the patisserie and was speaking broken English to us. We didn't fully understand for a couple of seconds and then we realized he was telling us that the police had barricaded us in and we were on lockdown because of a bomb. 

Obviously, all three of us thought, what on earth, there is no way! We were definitely freaked out and we rushed back up to our apartment. We weren't really sure what to do except to look it up on Google since we hadn't yet figured out how to get our TV to work. The unfortunate thing is that since this was all unfolding right at the moment, the news sources were hard to come by, but we found enough to know that there was a protest earlier in the day at Place Vendome and a suspicious looking truck that was left right at the Louis Vuitton (aka right across the street from us) and there was believed to be a bomb inside the truck.


So, we sat in our apartment for a few hours to wait it out. We were all really scared at first, but being on lockdown, there really isn't anything we could do. We just hoped everything would be ok and tried to enjoy our time together in the apartment. 

Eventually, everything was all cleared and we were able to head to a late dinner. I share this because it was truly scary and it showed us that things really aren't as safe as you hope them to be. But we took this as a sign for us to be extra vigilant throughout the trip. We stayed with each other at all times and were always aware of our surroundings. 

And you know what? Other than that scare, we all talked about how safe we felt throughout the city. Again, we never encountered anything else that made us feel uneasy. Even during the bomb scare, the man who came out of the chocolate shop was so kind and so helpful to us. There's the misconception in America that the French are rude to Americans and we felt the exact opposite. I'm not exaggerating when I say every single person we encountered whether it be border patrol police, waiters, sales associates, etc., they were all so kind and welcoming. 

And often, we would make mention of just how safe we felt because there are so many French Army men and women walking everywhere throughout the city. It's actually scary to see at first. We first saw them once we crossed the border in the airport and were very startled- we thought something was wrong! They are really suited up and carry huge guns. But we found out that they are all around Paris to make sure everything is safe. There is also a ton of security to get into any major attraction. Even if you just want to walk under the Eiffel Tower, you have to go through security that is almost like going through TSA! 

Overall, my suggestion would be not to let your fear hold you back. Really, that's kind of a life lesson, but it really applies to travel, a lot. Unfortunately, it's a scary world we live in, but my Paris trip was one of the best things I've ever chosen to do in my entire life. I can't wait to explore more of the world! 

16 comments:

Sharon G said...

As someone who does not live in the US, I always find it very interesting when Americans ask if travelling to Europe is safe. The US is one of the most violent countries in the world. Most of us are appalled at the number of mass shootings your country experiences yet no one would ever think to ask if going to the US is safe.

Europafox said...

This is a really super post! The adage of 'you regret the things you don't do more than the things you do' is perfect for this scenario! Paris is too much of a treasure to miss. Sadly terrorism has hit many of us (I live 2 hours from our nearest city, Manchester and of course we've had the arena bombing just recently and also the IRA blew up the shopping centre once) - we can't let these idiots dictate our lives and give them what they want. Anyone thinking of going to France should go - it is such a wonderful experience thoughts of safety will be far from your mind as you soak up the ambiance and red wine :) Europafox x

Ryann Carter said...

I did a study abroad in France in 2014 (obviously before the more recent European terrorist attacks), and traveled around Paris, Brussels, and London as well as much of England by myself. I never felt terribly unsafe, and the few times I did I turned around and went a more populated route. It’s all about not sticking out like a tourist (carrying around a map and reading every street sign) and walking with a purpose like you belong. I was asked multiple times how I felt so safe traveling in England by myself and when I explained that Americans had guns and Europeans didn’t (at least not to the same extent to be used for minor muggings) they understood a bit more. Since the recent rise in attacks I am less inclined to spend much time in major cities, but I’m hoping to take my husband to Europe soon. It’s so incredible!
www.holycitylife.con

Anonymous said...

I am so glad you posted this! I am planning a trip this summer and the safety worries me. This put me at ease a bit!

Sarah Wissinger said...

That's interesting about the passport law. I just got back from Paris a couple weeks ago and NEVER had my passport on me while exploring the city, as I thought it would be safer to keep it in the hotel in case of pickpockets. Who knew?!

My husband and I too felt extremely safe at all times. I was always conscious of my purse, coat pockets, etc. knowing that everything was zipped and close to my body. Everyone we encountered was also so friendly and the city is so populous that we were never really "alone" at night.

On the morning we left, there was a man who was trying to pickpocket a girl on the train, but another man stopped him and told the girl what was happening (of course all in French, so this is what I gathered from their body language and interactions, ha.) That was the only instance of pickpocketing we saw and it didn't even involve us, though it was weird spending the rest of the train ride with this man that was accused of being a pickpocket.

Like the other commenter said above, the US has experienced so much violence, yet we feel safe here because it's home. I'm sure the millions of people living in Paris feel the same way.

Sarah

briana said...

It always makes me sad when I hear that Americans are afraid to travel abroad, especially to somewhere as safe as Paris. Not to get too controversial, but I find just about any city in the U.S. to be less safe (even in the daytime) than I felt walking around alone at midnight in Paris with a dead cell phone.

briana | youngsophisticate.com

Summer Wind said...

Sarah,

That's so well put- 'we feel safe where we are becuase it's home' and it couldn't be truer! Exploring anywhere new, even if it's just a new city only a few hours away from your own can be scary, but it's especially scary to be so far from home, wherever 'home' is!

Anonymous said...

I'm not so sure I felt as safe as you did while traveling. I traveled abroad for a semester in London and traveled to Paris several times. On two separate trips, I was pickpocketed. The other time, my friend was pickpocketed and they ended up with her wallet and passport.

Lauren said...

I had no clue about the passport law.. Your pictures are beautiful!

Lauren,
http://www.atouchofsoutherngrace.com

Christina said...

I'm glad you had a positive experience on your trip, and didn't let skeptical friends prevent you from going. Paris is an amazing city, and the rest of France is fantastic as well (cities like Lyon, Strasbourg, and Nice and the areas around them are all great to visit). I was living in France during the 2015 Bataclan attacks, and while it was definitely scary, I feel like after a few weeks the mood in the country was as back to normal as it could be.

I'll echo what some of the other commenters have said though - Americans often have a fear of other countries that is just not based in fact. As a Canadian, I would be much more nervous to travel in some major American cities, or even in smaller areas, because the rates of gun violence are so high. Of course in Paris, like any big city with a lot of tourists, it's good to take precautions against pickpockets. But please consider that your views of the US as a safer country than most are outdated. The Global Peace Index (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_Peace_Index) ranks the US at number 114, well below France, and below dozens of developing countries. Just something to think about.

Summer Wind said...

Christina, I appreciate your comment! I definitely agree with you- and I don't mean for my post to come off as ignorant that I think America is the safest country in the world...I really hope the tone did not give that off (and I truly don't think that it does). I meant it as I was afraid of traveling anywhere foreign since it was a new experience to me. I know so many that feel this exact same way because I've received a crazy number of e-mails from readers asking if I felt safe. So, I really wanted to share my personal feelings candidly since it seemed like a topic many would be interested in.

I think there are a lot of other variables to feeling safe, wherever you may be. Traveling as a woman, traveling as a young, inexperienced traveler, not knowing the area at all, etc. I was hoping my post would encourage anyone with a fear of traveling anywhere foreign to them to 'just go'...as I had a wonderful experience.

It's a scary thing to go to a different country where things are totally foreign to you. Like you said, anywhere world, (America included) can be a dangerous place. It's always good to be aware of your surroundings wherever you may be...which was another point I made sure to include in today's post.

I just really wanted to take the time to address your comment as I think you may have misread the tone of my post just a bit and I didn't want you to misunderstand me!

Caroline said...

Lovely photos!

Holly said...

I love that you ran into an American living in Paris who helped you out! The same thing happened to my friend and me when we studied abroad in London. We went to Paris for a weekend and had trouble finding a place to convert our money to buy a Metro ticket. We ran into a woman who lives in Paris and NYC (the dream!) and she helped us so much. Happy you had a safe trip! The guns and military personnel definitely are a little freaky at first.

Christina said...

Absolutely - I didn't meant to be too negative! I think it's great that you had a fun trip (scary moment aside), and I wish you many more great adventures in the future. Travel is for sure the kind of thing that gets easier and less scary the more you do it, and I think posts like this help demystify that for other people! I just think it's also worth analyzing why we have certain fears and how those might have to do with the culture around us and the media we consume.

I'm glad that your post will hopefully help more of readers want to go to France, because it truly is an amazing country. All the best!

Anonymous said...

Hello! I travel to Italy several times a year, sometimes alone. I always carry valuables (passport, copy of birth cert, money, phone, room key) in a concealed money belt that fits under my clothes. I also carry a small cross body bag under my coat instead of putting in on over my coat. I carry very little money in my cross bag should it go "missing". I feel safe in Italy but I take extra precautions. Crime can happen anywhere, even in the most beautiful places on earth. Rick Steves offers great, practical advice on traveling abroad.

Ciao!

Anonymous said...

This is a topic that is near to my heart... Cheers!
Exactly where are your contact details though?

 

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