As a former French police officer, I am often asked whether or not Paris is a safe city for women traveling to and living in Paris. While it’s true that France’s murder rate is less than 1 in 100,000, there were still 1,971,812 thefts and 532,138 assaults reported in France in 2014. An Indian woman once told me that in her home country she was cautious because she knew her streets could be dangerous. But when she came to Paris, she forgot all of her street smarts and fell victim to an assault-robbery when she was least expecting it.
She is not alone – it is a common belief that France is not a “dangerous” country, which many visitors equate to zero crime. The statistics cited above prove that is not true. However, tourists can definitely enjoy Paris by following the expert safety tips below.
Paris Safety Tips for Women
The Government of Canada advises travelling with the least amount of luggage possible to reduce the risk of assault and theft. This is wise advice, because the less you have and the less you show-off, the less likely criminals are to choose you as their victim. So please leave your expensive watch/camera/phone at home. The only things you really need on you are a means of payment and a photocopy of your passport. The rest should remain concealed or be in a safe place.
Learn about local travel scams
Paris has as many scammers as other big cities. Before working in the police and then on a video series on travel scams, I myself fell victim to many scams throughout my travels to Egypt, Thailand, and even on my honeymoon in the Caribbean Islands! Now that I am better informed, I can enjoy travel without being constantly on guard or paranoid. I am able to recognize a suspicious situation, and more importantly, I know how to say “no” to a scammer.
Top 5 Travel Scams to Avoid in Paris
Adapt your behavior at night
The main safety tip given by the British Police is to be careful when walking alone at night, as the majority of victims are assaulted after nightfall. Criminals will choose the easiest target. For example, a single person who is drunk and attempting to use an ATM at night. It may sound obvious, but refraining from walking home alone, or while intoxicated, will significantly reduce your chance of assault.
Don’t be afraid to make a scene
If you are assaulted or threatened, a loud scream can both alert and deter an attack, allowing you to escape. The best example of this is a victim who once filed a report at my police station. She was coming home after dinner and, as she entered her building, a strongly-built stranger shoved her hard from behind and pushed her on the floor, face down. He immediately put a hand over her mouth and tore her dress with his other hand. The young lady had a personal alarm in her purse, but could not reach it. She had the good sense however to scream as loud as she could — and it worked! The assaulter got scared, fled the scene, and neighbors came to her rescue.
Preventing Female Assault
Learn self-defense and situational awareness
According to the National Self-defense Institute, “you are your best defense.” I personally encourage self-defense lessons for women, and here’s why:
- Self-defense classes improve safety, confidence, physical health, and they are fun!
- Women can easily learn a few simple techniques, such as a knee to the groin or poking a finger in the eyes, in order to free oneself from an assaulter.
- The classes also give you better situational awareness, to help you detect and avoid danger before it happens.
Check online, or with your police department, to find recommendations for a local female self-defense program.
Of course, in some ways, it seems unfair to ask the potential victims — in this case, female travellers — to modify their behaviors in order to avoid crime, when the only person responsible for it is the criminal himself. However, knowledge is the only thing which will truly keep you safe. There are a million places to discover in Paris, and becoming an informed traveler will ensure that you enjoy them all safely.