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TRAVEL INFO for FRANCE

 
 
           
 

The contents of this page have been adapted from a document issued by the U.S. Department of State. Although its purpose is to provide travel information to Americans, the practical safety tips and crime alerts are equally relevant to anglophone travelers from any country. Citizens of Australia, Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, and New Zealand may also wish to consult our list of Embassies and Consulates.

(Dated: December 22, 2008)

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:

France is a developed and stable democracy with a modern economy. Monaco is a developed constitutional monarchy. Tourist facilities are widely available. Read the Department of State Background Notes on France and Monaco for additional information.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:

France is party to the Schengen agreement. As such, U.S. citizens may enter France for up to 90 days for tourist or business purposes without a visa. A passport is required and should be valid for at least three months beyond the period of stay. Anyone intending to stay more than 90 days must obtain the appropriate visa issued by one of the French Consulates in the U.S., prior to departure for France. This also applies to anyone considering marriage in France. For further information about travel into and within Schengen countries, please see our fact sheet.

A passport is required to enter Monaco. A visa is not required for tourist/business stays up to 90 days in Monaco.

To obtain information concerning entry requirements for France, travelers may contact the Embassy of France at 4101 Reservoir Road NW, Washington, DC 20007, tel. (202) 944-6000, email: info@ambafrance-us.org, or the French Consulates General in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, or San Francisco.

For details on entry requirements to Monaco, travelers may contact the Embassy of the Principality of Monaco, 2314 Wyoming Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008, tel: 202-234-1530, e-mail: embassy@monaco-usa.org, or the Consulate General of Monaco, 565 Fifth Avenue - 23rd floor, New York, NY 10017, tel: 212-286-0500, e-mail: info@monaco-consulate.com.

Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on the Department of State web site. To learn about customs regulations, please read the Customs Information sheet.

SAFETY AND SECURITY:

French Army troops in Louvre Museum courtyard
Members of the French Army stand
guard in front of the Louvre Museum,
in the framework of Vigipirate.

The Government of France maintains a threat rating system, known locally as "Vigipirate Renforcé" — similar to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Advisory System. Under this plan, in times of heightened security concerns, the government augments police with armed forces and increases visibility at airports, train and metro stations, and other high-profile locations such as schools, major tourist attractions, and government installations. Over the last few years, there have been numerous arrests of suspected Islamic militants involved in various terrorist plots. As with other countries in the Schengen area, France maintains open borders with its European neighbors, allowing the possibility of terrorist operatives entering/exiting the country with anonymity.

Political assassinations and bombings have occurred in France. The National Front for the Liberation of Corsica (FLNC), as part of its decades-long bombing campaign on the island of Corsica, continues to conduct limited operations in the south of France and on Corsica. In the 1990s there was a wave of bombings and attacks in Paris carried out by Algerian terrorists. Today, numerous radical Islamic groups claim sympathizers within France's large immigrant community, as evidenced by arrests over the last few years.

Although Americans have not been specifically targeted in terrorist attacks in France within the past few years, travelers should maintain vigilance. Immediately report unattended packages observed in public places or any other suspicious activities. French law enforcement authorities are proactive and will respond immediately. If there is a security incident or suspicious package, do not linger in the area to observe.

Although violent civil disorder is rare in France, in the past, student demonstrations, labor protests, and other types of demonstrations have developed into violent confrontations between demonstrators and police. This was the case in March/April 2006, when a series of large demonstrations took place in central Paris. Several weeks of unrest occurred in the suburbs of Paris, as well as in other French cities and towns, in November 2005. Neither of these periods of disorder exhibited any anti-U.S. sentiment, but it is important to remember that even a passer-by can be harmed should demonstrations devolve into violence. Americans are advised to avoid street demonstrations, particularly if riot police are on the scene.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs web site at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, including the Worldwide Caution, can be found.

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the U.S., or, for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas. For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, please see A Safe Trip Abroad.

CRIME:

While both France and Monaco have relatively low rates of violent crime, a limited number of neighborhoods in the larger French cities merit extra caution. Additionally, although the overall crime rate has fallen slightly in recent years, the violent crime rate has increased. Thieves commonly target vehicles with non-local license plates, and work in or near tourist attractions such as museums, monuments, restaurants, hotels, beaches, trains, train stations, airports, and subways. Americans in France and Monaco should be particularly alert to pickpockets in train stations and subways. Travelers should keep photocopies of travel documents and credit cards separate from the originals, along with key telephone numbers to contact banks for credit card replacement.

Although thieves may operate anywhere, the U.S. Embassy in Paris receives frequent reports of theft from several areas in particular:

Paris:

The Paris Police Prefecture publishes a pamphlet entitled "Paris in Complete Safety" (download PDF, 2.19MB), which provides practical advice and useful telephone numbers for visitors.

  • Thieves operate on the rail link (RER) from Charles de Gaulle Airport to downtown Paris, where they prey on jet-lagged, luggage-burdened tourists. In one common ruse, a thief distracts a tourist with a question about directions while an accomplice steals a momentarily unguarded backpack, briefcase, or purse. Thieves also time their thefts to coincide with train stops so they may quickly exit the car just before the automatic doors close. Travelers should consider taking an airport shuttle bus or taxi from the airport into the city.
  • Reports of stolen purses, briefcases, and carry-on bags at Charles de Gaulle Airport are not uncommon. Travelers should monitor their bags at all times and never leave them unattended. As thieves commonly target laptop bags, travelers should avoid carrying passports and other valuables in computer bags. Another common method involves picking up a traveler's shoulder bag that has been placed on the floor while the traveler is busy at the ticket counter. Also be aware that unattended bags are subject to destruction by airport security.
  • There are reports of robberies in which thieves on motorcycles reach into a moving car by opening the car door or accessing an open window or even breaking the window to steal purses and other bags visible inside. The same technique is used against pedestrians walking with purses/bags/cameras slung over their street-side shoulder. Those traveling by car should remember to keep the windows up and the doors locked and items that may be attractive to thieves out of sight. Pedestrians are encouraged to remain aware of their surroundings at all times, and to keep bags slung across the body, with the bag hanging away from the street.
  • Many thefts occur on the Number One Subway Line, which runs through the center of Paris by many major tourist attractions (including the Grand Arche de La Défense, the Arc de Triomphe, the Champs Elysées, Place de la Concorde, the Louvre, and the Bastille). Pickpockets are especially active on this metro line during the summer months and use a number of techniques. The most common, and unfortunately the most successful, is the simple "bump and snatch," where an individual bumps into the tourist while at the same time reaching into the pockets/purse/bag. Visitors should be particularly careful when metro doors are closing, as this is a favored moment for the less-sophisticated pickpockets to simply grab valuables and jump through the closing doors, leaving the victim helplessly watching as the thief flees. Visitors are encouraged NOT to confront thieves aggressively; they often operate in groups and may become violent if cornered. Simply drawing attention to an attempted theft will most likely stop the operation, and result in a tactical withdrawal by the thief.
  • Gare du Nord train station, where the express trains from the airport arrive in Paris, is also a high-risk area for pocket-picking and theft. Travelers should also beware of thefts that occur on both overnight and day trains, especially on trains originating in Spain, Italy, and Belgium. These involve the theft of valuables while passengers are sleeping, or when the bags are left unattended.
  • In hotels, thieves target lobbies and breakfast rooms, and take advantage of a minute of inattention to snatch jackets, purses, and backpacks. While many hotels do have safety latches that allow guests to secure their rooms from inside, this feature is not as universal as it is in the United States. If no chain or latch is present, a chair placed up against the door and wedged under the handle is usually an effective obstacle to surreptitious entry during the night. There are, however, reports of thieves breaking into hotel rooms on lower floors through open windows while the occupants are sleeping. To guard against this, hotel room windows should be kept locked at all times. Whenever possible, valuables should be kept in the hotel safe.
  • Many Americans report thefts occurring in restaurants and nightclubs/bars, where purses are stolen from the back of a chair or from under the table. Again, keep valuables on your person and do not leave them unattended or out of sight. Thefts also occur at the major department stores such as Galeries Lafayette and Printemps where tourists often place wallets, passports, and credit cards on cashier counters during transactions.
  • Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) are very common in France and provide ready access to cash, allowing travelers to carry as much money as they need for each day. The rates are competitive with local exchange bureaus, and an ATM transaction is easier than cashing a traveler's check. However, crime involving ATMs is increasing. Travelers should not use ATMs in isolated, unlit areas or where loiterers are present. Travelers should be especially aware of persons standing close enough to see the Personal Identification Number (PIN) being entered into the machine. Thieves often conduct successful scams by simply observing the PIN as it is entered and then stealing the card from the user in some other location. If the card becomes stuck, travelers should immediately report it to the bank where the machine is located.
  • Large criminal operations in Paris involving the use of ATMs that "eat" the user's ATM card have been reported. This most often happens during a weekend or at night when the bank is closed. The frustrated traveler often walks away after unsuccessfully trying to retrieve the card, with plans to return the first day the bank is open. In such cases, a criminal gang has modified the machine using an add-on device equipped with a microchip that records the user's PIN when it is typed in, and also prevents the card from being ejected. The criminal retrieves the card from the device once the visitor departs, downloads the recorded PIN and then goes to other ATMs and withdraws as much cash as possible. ATM users are strongly encouraged to carry a 24-hour emergency number for their ATM card and bank account that will enable the immediate prevention of withdrawals from the account if difficulties occur.
  • Pigalle is the "adult entertainment district" of Paris. Many entertainment establishments in this area engage in aggressive marketing and charge well beyond the normal rate for drinks. Reports of threats of violence to coerce patrons into paying exorbitant beverage tabs are not uncommon. There have also been several violent confrontations between rival gangs in the district, including one in August 2007 one block from the famous Moulin Rouge cabaret. Visitors are encouraged to avoid this area unless touring with a well-organized and reputable tour company.

Normandy:

  • There has been an increase in break-ins and thefts from vehicles in the parking lots at the Normandy beaches and American cemeteries common. Valuables should not be left unattended in a car, and locking valuables in the trunk should not be considered a safeguard. Thieves often pry open car trunks to steal bags inside.

Southern France:

  • Thefts from cars with unlocked doors or open windows stopped at red lights or caught in slow traffic are very common, particularly along the Riviera of the Nice-Antibes-Cannes area, and in Marseille. Car doors should be kept locked and windows raised at all times to prevent incidents of "snatch-and-grab" thefts. In this type of scenario, the thief is usually a passenger on a motorcycle.
  • Break-ins of parked cars are also fairly common. Valuables should not be left in the car, not even in the trunk, when the vehicle is unattended.

INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends, and explain how funds could be transferred.

Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed. Under French law, compensation is available to victims of crime committed on French soil under certain circumstances. To learn about resources in the U.S., including possible compensation, see our information on Victims of Crime.

The local equivalents to the "911" emergency line in France are as follows: 17 (police emergency), 18 (fire department) and 15 (emergency medical/ paramedic team/ ambulance). In Monaco, the numbers are 17 (police emergency), 18 (fire department) and 9375-2525 (medical/ paramedic team/ ambulance).

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:

Medical care comparable to that found in the United States is widely available.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via the CDC web site.

International Travel and Health
Available online as a PDF
or in 250-pg. paperback.

For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization (WHO) web site. Their 2010 publication International Travel and Health may be downloaded as a PDF in its entirety (3.16MB) or one chapter at a time, and is also available for purchase (soft cover, 250 pages, U.S. $30.00).

At the present time, there are no vaccination requirements for any international travelers headed to France. However, yellow fever vaccination certificates are required for certain overseas departments (such as French Guiana), while they may be required in others (French Polynesia, Guadeloupe, etc.) only if travelers are coming from infected areas.

MEDICAL INSURANCE:

The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and if it will cover emergency expenses such as medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas, including emergency services such as medical evacuations.

When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the United States may cost well in excess of $50,000. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties, whereas travelers who have purchased overseas medical insurance have found it to be life-saving when a medical emergency has occurred. When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, please ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or if you will be reimbursed later for expenses that you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.

Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad.

OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION:

Medical emergencies can be compounded if the patient and practitioner cannot communicate effectively. Fortunately, the U.S. Embassy in Paris has prepared this 10-page list of anglophone hospitals, pharmacies, and physicians — grouped by medical specialty — for the cities of Bordeaux, Lyon, Paris, and Toulouse. (208k PDF file, requires Acrobat Reader plug-in, free from Adobe.)

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS:

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning France and Monaco is provided for general reference only, and it may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

  • Safety of Public Transportation: Good
  • Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Good
  • Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Good
  • Availability of Roadside Assistance: Good

Roads in France are generally comparable to those in the United States, but traffic engineering and driving habits pose special dangers. Usually, lane markings and sign placements are not as clear as in the United States. Drivers should be prepared to make last-minute maneuvers, as most French drivers do. French drivers usually drive more aggressively and faster than Americans and tend to exceed posted speed limits.

Right-of-way rules in France may differ from those in the United States. Drivers entering intersections from the right have priority over those on the left (unless specifically indicated otherwise) even when entering relatively large boulevards from small side streets. Many intersections in France are being replaced by circles, where the right-of-way belongs to drivers in the circle.

To learn more about operating a motor vehicle in France, including car rental requirements, accepted drivers' licenses, insurance, rules of the road, where to find service stations and rest areas, speed limits, highway tolls, parking, and a glossary of useful terms — consult Driving In France. For specific safety issues, including links to foreign government sites, please see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs page: Road Safety Overseas.

Note: Drivers from the U.K. may face special challenges when motoring in France — getting accustomed to driving on the right side of the road, and/or taking a right-hand drive vehicle into Europe. Two web sites are particularly helpful for U.K. drivers: Driving.co.uk and Travel Spot - Motoring Into Europe.

To obtain information concerning French and Monegasque driver's permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, please contact the French and Monegasque National Tourist Office hotline in New York City at (202) 659-7779.

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION:

Paris, the capital and largest city in France, has an extensive and efficient public transportation system. The interconnecting system of buses, subways (the Métro), and commuter rails serves more than 4 million people a day with a safety record comparable to or better than the systems of major American cities. Similar transportation systems are found in all major French cities. Between cities, France is served by an equally extensive rail service, which is safe and reliable. High-speed rail links connect the major cities in France. Many cities are also served by frequent air service.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of France's Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of France's air carrier operations. For further information, travelers may visit the FAA web site.

CUSTOMS REGULATIONS:

French and Monegasque customs authorities enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from France of items such as firearms, antiquities, medications, business equipment, sales samples, and other items. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of France in Washington, D.C., one of France's consulates in the United States, or the Consulate General of Monaco in New York for specific information regarding customs requirements.

French customs authorities encourage the use of an ATA (Admission Temporaire/Temporary Admission) Carnet for short-term importation of professional equipment, commercial samples, and/or goods for exhibitions and fair purposes. ATA Carnet Headquarters, located at the U.S. Council for International Business, 1212 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10036, issues and guarantees the ATA Carnet in the United States. For additional information, please call (212) 354-4480, or send an e-mail to atacarnet@uscib.org, or visit the USCIB site for details.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES:

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses.

Persons violating French or Monegasque laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in France or Monaco are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in illicit sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

CURRENCY:

In January 2002, the Eurozone Countries, including France, converted from their national currencies to the Euro for all monetary transactions. Monaco also converted from the French franc to the Euro.

EMERGENCY NUMBERS:

The emergency numbers in France for police, fire and medical assistance are as follows: 17 (police emergency), 18 (fire department) and 15 (emergency medical/paramedic team/ambulance). In Monaco, the numbers are 17 (police emergency), 18 (fire department) and 9375-2525 (medical/paramedic team/ambulance).

CHILDREN'S ISSUES:

For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction please refer to the Office of Children's Issues web site.

REGISTRATION/EMBASSY AND CONSULATE LOCATIONS:

Americans living or traveling in France or Monaco are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department's Travel Registration web site, and to obtain updated information on travel and security issues within France and Monaco. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in cases of emergency.

The Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Paris is located at 2, rue St. Florentin, 75001 Paris (Place de la Concorde, Métro stop: Concorde). Tel. 011-33-1-43-12-22-22 or (in France) 01-43-12-22-22; fax 01-42-61-61-40. Further information can be obtained at the U.S. Embassy web site.

In Marseille, the Consulate General is located at Place Varian Fry, 13086 Marseille; tel. 011-33-4-91-54-92-00, ext. 304, or (in France ) 04-91-54-92-00, ext. 304; fax 011-33-4-91-55-09-47.

The Consulate General in Strasbourg is located at 15, avenue d'Alsace, 67082 Strasbourg; tel. 011-33-3-88-35-31-04 or (in France ) 03-88-35-31-04; fax 011-33-3-88-24-06-95. The Consulate General in Strasbourg does not produce passports on the premises. American citizens in this area whose passports are lost or stolen and who have urgent travel needs should contact the U.S. Embassy in Paris.

In Nice, the Consular Agency is located at 7, avenue Gustave V, 3rd floor, 06000 Nice; tel. 011-33-4-93-88-89-55 or (in France ) 04-93-88-89-55; fax 011-33-4-93-87-07-38.

Other Cities

The U.S. Government also has consular representation in Bordeaux, Lille, Lyon, Rennes, and Toulouse that provide some services to Americans, by appointment only.

  • Bordeaux: 10, place de la Bourse, 33076 Bordeaux (entry on rue Fernand Philippart); tel. 011-33-5-56-48-63-80 or 05-56-48-63-80 in France; fax: 011-33-5-56-51-61-97.
  • Lille: 107, rue Royale, 59800 Lille; tel. 011-33-3-28-04-25-00 or 03-28-04-25-00 in France; fax: 011-33-3-20-74-88-23.
  • Lyon: 1, quai Jules Courmont, 69002 Lyon; tel. 011-33-4-78-38-36-88 or 04-78-38-36-88 in France; fax: 011-33-4-72-41-71-81.
  • Rennes: 30, quai Duguay Trouin, 35000 Rennes; tel. 011-33-2-23-44-09-60 or 02-23-44-09-60 in France; fax: 011-33-2-99-35-00-92.
  • Toulouse: 25, allée Jean Jaurès, 31000 Toulouse; tel. 011-33-5-34-41-36-50 or 05-34-41-36-50 in France; fax: 011-33-5-34-41-16-19.

This replaces the Country Specific Information for France and Monaco dated May 5, 2008, to update the sections on Entry/Exit Requirements, Safety & Security, Crime, Medical Facilities and Health Information, Children's Issues and Registration/Embassy Location.

 
 

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