We're all for the French government's new drive to make the country more welcoming to visitors. Its new publication "Do You Speak Touriste?" is intended to help put tourism—and its impact on the national economy—on the radar of more French citizens.
However, one of the reasons France is considered unfriendly and unwelcoming—inspiring the country's 80+ million annual visitors to stay only a few days and spend less money than they do in the U.S. or Spain—is petty crime. Visit one of Paris's must-sees like the Louvre or the Eiffel Tower and you may get your pocket picked or your purse snatched.
While j'adore the potential long-term benefits of this pro-tourist initiative the French government is pursuing, at Budget Travel we kinda prefer to cut to the chase. Whether or not the average Parisian ever learns to speak touriste, these tips from the U.S. Embassy in Paris will help you hold on to your stuff:
Keep it simple. Don't carry more than you are willing to lose! That means a slimmed-down wallet with one credit/ATM card, an ID, and no more than $60 or so. Put a rubber band around your wallet and carry it in your front pocket.
Zip it. Purses should have zippers and should be carried tightly under your arm. Backpack-style purses should be carried in front, not on your back.
Copy that. Leave photocopies of your passports, credit cards, and other valuable papers at your lodging.
Know the hotspots. It's not difficult to identify the places your most likely to get robbed: They are the top sites in Paris, including the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, and the Champs-Elysées. In fact, pickpocketing at the Louvre got so out of control recently that workers there staged a strike to draw attention to the problem.
Be wary of groups of kids. Pickpockets tend to be young and they travel in packs. On the metro, they may swarm around you when getting on or off the train; try to stay away from the doors and be vigilant about strangers' access to your pockets or purse. On the street, be extra cautious if strangers ask for directions, try to sell you something, or spill a drink or ice cream on you. At ATMs, don't let yourself be distracted by strangers asking you questions.
TALK TO US! We love Paris and want to know: Have you ever had trouble with street crime while visiting the French capital?