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Reader question: Is Paris a safe city to visit?

It's a question frequently posed by tourists, so here's a look at what you need to know to stay safe when visiting Paris.

Reader question: Is Paris a safe city to visit?
Few people deny that Paris is beautiful, but is it safe for visitors? Photo by JOEL SAGET / AFP

Paris is undoubtedly one of the world’s most beautiful cities – but it’s also a large, modern capital with litter, graffiti, homelessness and crime, just as you would expect in any big city. 

The reality of a bustling and noisy capital can come as a shock to some visitors (in fact there’s even a name for this ‘Paris syndrome’ – which refers to the moment that tourists with an overly-romanticised view of the city are confronted with the reality).

It’s home to 2.1 million residents and hosts around 10 million tourists a year, so clearly some people like it, but here’s what you need to know if you are planning a visit.

Hotels, tickets and scams: What to know if you’re visiting Paris for the 2024 Olympics

Crime rates

Overall, Paris is a relatively safe city and there are no specific risks to tourists. That being said, it is France’s largest city so as you would expect it has among the highest crime rates in the country.

France has a murder rate of 1.20 per 100,000 people, a steep fall from when the rate peaked in the 1990s and much lower than the USA (5.01 per 100,000 people) but slightly higher than the UK (1.12 per 100k).

FACTCHECK: How bad are crime rates in France?

However, physical attacks on tourists are very rare and in fact the biggest risk to visitors are financial – becoming the victim of pickpockets or scammers, both of whom frequently do target lost-looking tourists.


Pickpocketing is a particular problem around tourist sites and on certain parts of the public transport network, with Gare du Nord station a notorious trouble spot.

As with all cities, the best advice is to keep your valuables like a wallet and phone in a zipped pocket or bag that you can keep your eye on, and be aware of your surroundings. 

READ ALSO 14 ways to avoid pickpockets and petty thieves in Paris


Tourists are also frequently the targets of scammers, and a particular problem here is unlicensed taxis. Licensed Paris taxi drivers are forbidden to approach customers, so if someone comes up to you – especially at the airport or station – and offers a taxi ride, they will be unlicensed.

You can find a guide to using Paris taxis and VTC companies like Uber, as well as what you can expect to pay, HERE.

Other popular scams that frequently target tourists can be found HERE.


Separate to scammers and pickpockets are beggars, which tourists are often surprised to find exist in such a wealthy and elegant city as Paris.

It’s not uncommon to be approached in the street or on the Metro by someone asking for “une pièce, un ticket resto” (a coin or a restaurant voucher) – these people are very rarely aggressive and whether you give to them or not is entirely a personal choice.


One thing synonymous with France in general and Paris in particular is strikes, and tourists often wonder whether they should cancel a trip if there is a strike announced.

The first thing to be clear about is the difference between une grève – a strike, where people stop working – and une manifestation (sometimes shortened to une manif) – which is where people march or demonstrate.

These two often go together but not always, sometimes strikes happen without a demo while there are regular demos on topics from climate change to women’s rights that don’t involve strike action.

READ ALSO Should I cancel my trip to France if there is a strike?

Strikes themselves can be very inconvenient if services are cancelled but are hardly ever violent.

Demonstrations can flare into violence, especially at the end of the march, but these usually only involve a small minority of demonstrators (or more usually casseurs or hooligans) in a limited area. They often vandalise property such as shop windows, street furniture or bus shelters and sometimes attack police, but violence directed at passers-by is extremely rare.

Nonetheless, it’s worth avoiding the area when a demonstration is ongoing, as the police’s favourite crowd control tactic is to spray tear gas around, which is very unpleasant if you are caught in it. 


As in most capital cities, drugs are available to buy in Paris despite being illegal.

It is illegal to buy and to smoke cannabis, a fact which often surprises visitors since it’s very widely available and it’s not uncommon to see people smoking in public places. There are no legal cannabis shops in France, although there are CBD shops where cannabis oils that do not contain that active ingredient of the drug can be bought legally.


While unfortunately homophobic violence exists in all countries around the world it is no worse in Paris than any other big city and there is no cultural problem with holding hands, kissing or otherwise displaying affection in public.

If you would prefer to be in a gay-friendly space, head to the Marais district which as well as having a lively gay nightlife is also one of Paris’ most beautiful and historic areas.  

Paris was accepted into the international Rainbow Cities network of gay-friendly cities in 2019.


Paris is far from being the worst European city for people of colour to visit, but nonetheless unfortunately some visitors do report problems, from being denied entry to bars and restaurants to being followed by security guards when shopping.

There is also an issue with the police. French police have the right to make random stops of pedestrians to check ID and of drivers to check driving licences and other documents. France does not collect race-related data on police stops due to its ‘colour blind’ laws, but it would be very hard to deny that ‘random’ stops disproportionately affect people of colour. 


Female visitors to Paris are not generally the target of violent attacks so there is not a major risk when walking the streets, but street harassment is a problem, especially for younger women.

There is a culture of street ‘pick-ups’ in Paris so it’s not uncommon to be approached by a man who asks for your number, to go for a drink etc. In most cases this is non-threatening and you can simply politely say that you are not interested and keep walking, but there is also a problem with street harassment such as wolf-whistling, persistent attempts or even physical groping.

This is illegal in France under anti street harassment laws brought into effect in 2019, but unfortunately the laws are not always well enforced.  

Emergency in France: Who to call and what to say 


Prices for hotels and restaurants are high in Paris so many may choose to stay outside the city in the suburbs – you can find a guide to the inner and outer suburbs of the city here.

Because prices fall the further out of Paris you get, the suburbs are home to many of the capital’s low-paid workers while some have higher than average levels of poverty and crime.

The suburbs to the north and east of the city – within the département of Seine-Saint-Denis – have gained a reputation as violent and crime-ridden places where riots frequently break out. In truth, however, this is far from being the case for all of the north-east suburbs, although there are some areas that visitors would be wise to avoid.

Within Seine-Saint-Denis the suburbs of Pantin, Bagnolet, Les Lilas and Montreuil are all pleasant places to visit and have easy Metro connections into the city centre.  

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How to become a volunteer at the Paris 2024 Games

Organisers of the Paris 2024 Olympics and Paralympics are looking for 45,000 volunteers who speak either English or French to help out when the French capital hosts the Games.

How to become a volunteer at the Paris 2024 Games

The application process for volunteers for the 2024 Games is now open – and organisers say there is no requirement for helpers to be able to speak French.

There are three main criteria for volunteers; you must be aged 18 or over, you must speak either English or French (or both) and you must be available for a minimum of 10 days during the Olympics or Paralympics in the summer of 2024.

You do not need to be a resident of France, registration is open to everyone – although volunteers travelling from another country will need to organise their own travel and accommodation and will need to ensure they have the correct visa or right to be in France if they are not EU citizens. 

Those who benefit from the 90-day rule can use their 90 day allowance to visit during the Games, while others can enter on a tourist visa – since this will be a short stay and your work is unpaid.

The organisers are particularly keen to recruit volunteers with a disability, and have set an informal goal of 3,000 disabled volunteers as part of the team.

Registration is also now open for phase 2 of the Olympic ticket sales – click HERE for details on how to register

President of the Paris 2024 organising committee Tony Estanguet said: “Our volunteers will be at the heart of the greatest sporting event on the planet and directly contributing to its success.

“The positive energy transmitted by volunteers is unique and they will be the face of the Games.” 

Volunteers will mostly be helping with spectators and the visitor experience (around 60 percent of volunteers roles) with tasks including greeting and directing spectators and media.

Around 35 percent of roles will relate to event organisation such as helping competitors, organising equipment, assisting with timekeeping etc, while five percent of roles will be organisational such as distributing ID cards and equipment for officials.

Most of the volunteers will be needed for Paris and the surrounding area, but 5,000 volunteers are also needed for the others Games venues; Bordeaux, Nantes, Marseille, Nice, Saint-Etienne, Lyon, Lille and Châteauroux.

The sign-up is done online and organisers estimate that completing the form and submitting your application will take between 35 and 45 minutes.

The process is;

  • Head to the volunteer portal on the Paris 2024 website HERE.
  • Fill in your personal details, including what languages you speak
  • Indicate the dates that you will be available – this must be for a minimum of 10 days during the Olympics and/or the Paralympics. The Olympics run from July 26th to August 11th and the Paralympics from August 28th to September 6th – and the areas that you are available to work in eg Paris, Bordeaux, Nantes etc
  • Answer a questionnaire on your skills, previous experiences, areas of interest – this is done in the form of selecting statements based on your personality eg whether you prefer to work alone or in a team
  • Submit the application

The timetable for the volunteer process is as follows;

March 22nd – May 5th – applications open on the online portal. 

  • May – August 2023 – organisers study the profiles of people who have volunteered, at this stage you may be called for a further interview or asked to supply more information. If you have indicated that you speak a language other than your native tongue, at this stage you may be given a short test or interview, in order to confirm that your language skills are at the level you described.
  • September – December 2023 – successful volunteers will be given details of their assignments for the Games
  • First quarter of 2024 – volunteers will be given full details of their work, any training required and issued with their uniforms.
  1. In addition to Olympics volunteers, Paris City Hall is also seeking 5,288 volunteers to help welcome visitors to Paris.
  2. While Games volunteers will be at Olympic and Paralympic venues, City Hall volunteers will be across the rest of Paris – including at tourist sites and Metro and train stations, welcoming visitors and helping them with the practical aspects of their visit to the French capital. 
  1. Volunteers, whether for the Games or City Hall, will not be paid and will be responsible for paying their own accommodation and transport costs during the Games, neither do they get free Games tickets.