Crime & safety

A traveler's guide to safety in France: Pickpockets, scams, terrorism, and more

Random, violent crime rates are much lower in France (all of Europe, really) than in the United States. Murder is rare, and terrorism is more a scary bluff than harsh reality.

Be smart, be safe, and enjoy yourself. With your valuables in your money belt, the worst that might happen to you is that the day’s spending money in your wallet gets stolen.

French big cities are, on the whole, safer than U.S. ones. Your two biggest worries should be pickpockets and the traffic—especailly those kamikaze Euro-scooters that routinely go the wrong way up one-way streets and even drive on the sidewalks.

Take all this stuff with several grains of salt. Other than taking some sensible precautions against theft, you shouldn’t have to worry much about safety at all.

I gotta tell you, I have spent a total of about eight years living or traveling in Europe, and I've had far more instances of feeling distinctly unsafe in the course of my everyday life in New York City than I ever have anywhere in Europe (and the only time I've ever been mugged was in my hometown of Philadelphia).

Dandy PickPockets Diving: Scene Near St. James Palace (ill. by Isaac Robert Cruikshank, 1789–1856) (Photo from an illustration by Isaac Robert Cruikshank (178–1856), in the Lewis Walpole Library)

How to keep your valuables safe from pickpockets while traveling

 
 (Photo by Viewminder)

From dishonest taxi drivers to thieving restaurant waiters—you won't run into too many scams in France, but here are a few common rip-offs to watch out for

 
Despite a recent slight uptick, you can see that Europe is actually safer, overall, now than it was when I lived there back in the 1980s and 90s (Photo © Datagraver.com)

Why I am not afraid

 
Travel warnings (Photo )

Or, "How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Vacation Plans"