A wave of violent protests and police mobilizations radiating from Paris have left many travelers wondering if it’s still safe to visit the popular City of Light.
On June 29, the U.S. Embassy in Paris, France issued a security alert in response to potentially dangerous protests following the fatal police shooting of 17-year-old Nahel Merzouk in the Parisian suburb of Nanterre.
The embassy stated that the demonstrations are probably going to continue and could turn violent. They called for travelers to stay vigilant and avoid areas with heavy protest and police activity.
While tourism isn’t the primary concern during this critical moment in French society, many vacationers are left with questions about their safety.
Should travelers reschedule or cancel planned trips to Paris? How safe or unsafe is this situation for tourists right now? What steps can visitors take to stay safe during their stay?
Here are a few things to consider about the safety situation for travelers in Paris amid recent civil unrest:
What Do Locals Think Tourists Should Do?
Juliette, a student and experienced traveler living in Paris’s 10th Arrondissement, spoke to Travel Off Path about the local Parisian perspective on tourism during this turbulent time:
“This is the sixth night that things have been a bit hectic in the city. But that doesn’t mean Paris is dangerous for tourists. It’s absolutely not dangerous, at least in the center. There may be some unrest after dark, with fireworks, fires, looting – but it’s never violent towards passersby in the street. Still, we don’t really know yet how the movement will develop.”
Rémi, a young professional in Paris’s Belleville neighborhood, agrees. “Place de la République or Chatelet are the slightly affected areas, but otherwise the touristic places are still very open and accessible,” he says. “Tourists won’t really be affected.”
Location Is Everything
Protests so far have been focused in the suburbs outside of Paris’s Peripherique, which divides the city center and its arrondissements from the city’s outskirts (extra muros).
Almost all tourist attractions and hotels are squarely within the boundary of central Paris, which remains largely unaffected by violent protests.
Tifenn, a public clerk living in the Olympiades neighborhood of Paris, sees little risk for travelers who stay away from the suburbs. “Paris is still very safe,” she says, “especially during the day, when nothing is really out of the norm. If tourists stay in a hotel in Paris city center, there won’t be any issues.”
This isn’t to say that tourists won’t feel the impact of the current unrest in any central tourist destinations. On Saturday night, tourists and protestors alike were evacuated by police from the Champs-Elysees, one of the most popular attractions in Paris.
However, the kind of disruptions we’re talking about here are logistical and minimal.
The suburbs seriously affected by both peaceful and violent protests so far are: Nanterre, Bezons, Gennevilliers, Garges-lès-Gonesse, Asnières-sur-Seine, Montreuil, Neuilly-sur-Marne, Clamart, Meudon, Trappes, Clergy, Guyancourt, Vigneux-sur-Seine, and L’Île-St.-Denis.
Tourists should note that the situation in the suburbs is volatile and should be avoided. Early Sunday morning, protestors crashed a car into the home of the mayor of the southern Paris suburb L’Haÿ-les-Roses – then lit it on fire. The mayor’s wife and one of his children were injured.
Should a traveler be in the wrong place at the wrong time on the outskirts of the city, they risk coming across the more violent fringes of these protests. Tourists are strongly encouraged to remain within the city center.
Risks Are Mostly Nocturnal
The vast majority of protesting and nearly all of the violent risk is happening after sundown. To err on the side of caution, many tourists might make changes to their evening itineraries, such as:
- Opting for indoor activities
- Making dinner reservations a close walking distance from their hotel
- Wining and dining on upper floor terraces rather than streetside tables
Curfews have been in effect in the nearby towns of Clamart and Neuilly-sur-Marne, and seem to be spreading to other nearby suburbs.
The city of Paris has no curfew right now, but the metro is closing early at night.
Plan Around Public Transport Restrictions
The civil unrest in Paris is more likely to affect tourists’ itineraries than their safety.
Early public transportation closures in the evenings mean travelers should plan to either stay a close walking distance from their accommodation at night, or arrange for taxis or rideshares.
Public transport within Paris’s city center remains safe to use. However, in Parisian suburbs like Aubervilliers and Clamart, buses and trams have been set on fire.
Justine, a French NGO worker living in Paris’s Pigalle neighborhood, spoke with Travel Off Path about the situation:
“I’ve been living my normal life, mostly because I don’t really live in or go to the areas where the protests are. The main thing I noticed is that the metro has been closing earlier than usual, which could be pretty annoying for the travelers.”
Travelers should stay up to date with changes on the French regional transport agency’s website.
Staying Informed And Aware
The situation in Paris and across France is dynamic. Tourists should stay frequently informed and aware of their surroundings.
While some news outlets are predicting that the streets will calm down following the funeral of the shooting victim, other reports show upticks in violence and arrests in cities across France over the past 24 hours.
Travelers should monitor their home country’s embassy in Paris for security updates. English-language French local news outlets such as France 24 En can help tourists stay up to date on current risk levels and avoid the protest hotspots of the day.
So, Can Tourists Safely Visit Paris Right Now?
For now, here’s the bottom line:
Tourists should feel safe in the city center before sunset, but plan for difficulty getting around at night. Remember, even the most violent protests in the suburbs are very unlikely to affect innocent bystanders.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com