Everyone wishes to visit Paris once in a lifetime – the home of the Eiffel Tower, spine-chilling yet interesting catacombs and the Mona Lisa.
There’s no denying the fact that Paris has certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ that puts it in the top of every traveler’s bucket list. In no other place in the world does romance hang so heavy in the air – what with its romantic bridges, Jardins, and even the fact that PDA is actually looked upon favorably. Well, that’s Paree for you! But there’s also a dark side to the city that doesn’t leave you feeling lightheaded with love! Petty thefts and scams are quite common though the local police does it’s best to counter these.
I’m in no way suggesting that cons to this city are more than the pros. On the contrary, it’s still one of my favorite cities, simply because I’ve learned that staying aware and alert allows me to enjoy the best in this city without falling prey to any cunning wolf or vulture.
We’ve been twice to Paris and during both the visits, we encountered some or the other safety issues in the French Capital. You are more likely to encounter scams or harassment outside of the main Parisian tourist areas. Let’s talk about these in detail:
Visit Paris – Stay safe, not sorry!
One of the most common scams in Paris is, undoubtedly, the taxi scam. We were headed to Disneyland back in 2017, and stepped into the first taxi that we came across. We did not check if it was a licensed taxi, neither did we check the shortest route using maps. Cutting a long story short, we ended up paying double the regular fee!
Wiser now, we rely on Guru Maps (formerly Galileo). It’s offline and lets us explore the city, stress-free! We’ve been making regular trips to Paris and Guru Maps has not let us down even once so far. What’s more, it makes you a harder target for scammers especially when you give an impression that you know the way around.
To avoid being duped like us, look for a licensed taxi with the “Taxi Parisien” sign on top and a plate on the front right wing showing the taxi’s license number. Verify the minimum price before getting on and watch the meter! Also, ask the driver to take the route that you’ve checked out on maps beforehand.
- If it’s getting very late in night after exploring some of the best places to visit in Paris, it would be wise to take a taxi.
- It’s common for Paris taxi drivers to overcharge tourists so save yourself some time by showing them a suggested route well in advance.
- You’ll mostly find illegal taxis at the airports and renowned places such as Gare du Nord.
- Look for a taxi with a working metre.
Crowed touristy areas are the hunting grounds for pickpocket gangs. Be alert around tourist attractions such as museums, monuments, restaurants, train stations, etc. Try to carry only as much money as you need for the day. Alternatively, you could hide bulk money and your passport under your clothing. Cross-body bags that you can carry in front are the best bet as they let you keep an eye while also keeping it guarded with one hand. I’ve started using this Ninja tactic of securing my purse, camera, and phone to the inside of my bag with chains!
- Don’t even think about leaving your valuables or handbags unattended in the public places especially metro. I remember, once in Louvre, a girl had asked us to take a quick picture and she left her jacket on the road for about 30 seconds. Within this duration, her jacket was stolen and she was left dumbstruck.
- Don’t fall for the RING SCAM. Pickpockets will come with their buddies and pretend to pick a ring off the ground and then they’ll ask you if it belongs to you. Just in case you fall for it and engage in a conversation with them, they’ll rob you. Better, just keep walking and tell them a simple ‘NO’ without making any direct eye contact with them.
- Always have some watch you or keep an eye whenever withdrawing money from an ATM in Paris.
- Leave your cash back in hotel’s locker. Carry only the amount that you might need during your visit to Paris.
Just when you least expect, you could have your phone snatched out of your hand – be extra vigilant while getting on and off the metro. Try not to walk with your phone in your hand in areas like Châtelet Les Halles or around Gare du Nord – in fact, these areas are notorious, so you could give them a miss altogether.
Areas to avoid after dark: Northern Paris suburbs of Saint-Denis, Aubervilliers, Saint-Ouen, etc. have a bad reputation. If you are a woman traveling alone, avoid these areas completely after dark. It is best to avoid wearing jewelry/clothing that could attract attention. You shouldn’t come across as a rich target or a member of any religion/political group. (Hate crimes have been on the rise.)
Make the Most of your Parisian Sojourn (TIPS)
Travel when the locals are on holiday – August is the month when most Parisians are on holiday giving the city a vibe that it’s there just for you! Though quite a few shops or restaurants are closed at this time, you can create a unique experience by going off the beaten track and discovering newer restaurants or street shops!
Save money without compromising on taste! – It’s quite hard to actually have a bad meal in Paris, so you needn’t feel sorry for giving the exclusive, pricey places a miss. Well okay, you could splurge on a meal or two. But inexpensive street stalls, bistros, and boulangeries serve up equally fresh crepes, sandwiches, and more!
Plan well, save more! – Make sure to pick a map from the info desk at the airport or railway station entrance. And check out this website for reduced rates on public transport tickets and online booking.
The most beautiful things are free to discover! – Take a walk by the riverside at sunset when Paris looks even more beautiful. Take a deep sigh as the sun goes down on the Eiffel Tower. Most things in life have a cost, but these sights –they are priceless!
To sum up, I’d like to have said that all areas of the city are 100% safe at all times. But on one particular occasion, when we were walking back to our hotel at 2 in the night after a fun trip to Disneyland Paris, this guy in a red luxury car stalked us and made obscene gestures. We were forced to board a bus instead of enjoying the 10-minute walk from the metro to our hotel. This experience left us bitter in the end
All I’m saying is that exercising a little caution goes that extra mile to make your visit to Paris all that it should be!