France

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Friday, 20 June 2014.   This advice has been reviewed and reissued with editorial amendments. We continue to advise Australians to exercise normal safety precautions in France.

France overall

Summary

  • We advise you to exercise normal security precautions in France. Exercise common sense and look out for suspicious behaviour, as you would in Australia. Monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks.
  • Protect your personal belongings at all times, especially your passport. Petty crime, including bag snatching and pickpocketing, is a serious problem in tourist areas and on public transport.
  • There is an ongoing threat of terrorist attacks in France. In recent years, French authorities have arrested a number of people on terrorism-related charges and made statements about the heightened risk of terrorist attack in France. Terrorist attacks could be indiscriminate and could target places frequented by tourists.
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
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Entry and exit

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) change regularly. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of France for the most up to date information.

France is a party to the Schengen Convention, along with many other European countries, which allows Australians to enter France without a visa in some circumstances. Australian tourists may qualify for entry into France under the 90-day visa waiver program within the Schengen Zone. The 90 days are cumulative (over a six month period) and apply to the Schengen Zone as a whole. See our travel bulletin on the Schengen Convention for more information before you leave Australia.

Australians cannot apply for a visa for France inside French territory, nor can they change the status of their visa (for example, from a tourist visa to a student or resident visa).

If you plan to travel to France for reasons other than tourist travel, or for more than 90 days, you are required to obtain a visa issued by the French authorities in Australia prior to departure.

People travelling directly to or from a country outside the European Union (EU) who are carrying 10,000 euros or more (or the equivalent in another currency) are required to declare the cash at the place of their arrival or departure from the EU. Travellers failing to declare the cash or providing incomplete or incorrect information will incur a fine. In France, this requirement also extends to people travelling to or from another EU country. Failure to declare such funds, or incorrect declarations, can result in prosecution.

Make sure your passport has at least six months validity from your planned date of return to Australia.

Safety and security

Terrorism

We advise you to exercise normal security precautions. Pay close attention to your personal security and monitor the media for information about possible new safety and security risks.

There is an ongoing threat of terrorist attacks in France. In recent years, French authorities have arrested a number of people on terrorism-related charges and made statements about the heightened risk of terrorist attacks in France. Terrorist attacks could be indiscriminate and could target places frequented by tourists.

The French Government maintains high security in a range of public venues including airports, train stations, local public transport systems, government ministries, popular tourist sites, major shopping districts, and foreign embassies and consulates across the country. It is normal to see police officers accompanied by armed military personnel in such locations. On 12 January 2013, the French government increased security measures around transport and public buildings following the commencement of French military operations in Mali. The French police conduct random identity checks, particularly at border crossings. Under French law you are required to carry photo I.D at all times.

In recent years, terrorist attacks have occurred in a number of European cities, such as Glasgow, London, Madrid, and Moscow. Targets have included public transport and transport hubs, and public places frequented by foreigners. In addition, a number of planned attacks have been disrupted by European security services, underscoring the continuing interest of terrorist in attacking European locations.

In mid-March 2012, a series of shootings occurred in Toulouse and Montauban, south-west France. Seven people were killed in the attacks.

On 21 March 2012, a bomb exploded outside the Indonesian Embassy in Paris causing significant damage within a 50 metre radius. No injuries were reported.

The National Front for the Liberation of Corsica (FLNC) has been conducting a sporadic bombing campaign in Corsica for several years. French government buildings and private residences have usually been the target of such attacks.

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. See our Terrorist Threat Overseas bulletin for more information on terrorism and our General advice to Australian travellers for tips on staying safe overseas.

Civil unrest/Political tension

Protests and large demonstrations occur regularly in France and can sometimes escalate into violence and rioting. You should avoid protests, demonstrations, political rallies and large public celebrations as they may turn violent. You should also avoid, particularly at night, outlying Paris suburbs where in the past there has been civil unrest and clashes between local youths and police forces.

Crime

There is a high and increasing incidence of petty crime, especially bag snatching and pickpocketing, throughout France, particularly on the streets of larger cities such as Paris, Marseilles and Nice.

There has been a significant increase in violent theft on public transport, especially in Paris and its suburbs. Airports, public transport, tourist areas, hotel lobbies, restaurants and cafes, and beaches are prime targets for thieves who frequently work in groups using a variety of sophisticated or aggressive methods to distract and rob potential victims. Children can be used to distract tourists or even play an active role in theft.

There have been a number of crime-related shootings in Marseille in 2012 and 2013.

You should take care to protect your personal belongings (bags, cameras, passports) at all times, especially in high density tourist areas such as Pigalle, the Latin quarter, around the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, Versailles, in department stores, restaurants, on public transport and at airports. Every monument in France that attracts tourists will attract interest from criminals.

There are frequent reports of crime, including robbery and muggings, on the train system servicing Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle (CDG) and Orly Airports. Travellers are advised to consider other means of transport from the airports to Paris, such as bus or taxi, particularly late at night and early in the morning.

There is a growing incidence of violent attacks against tourists by groups of young people, usually occurring late at night around major tourist attractions such as the Champs-Elysees, the Louvre and the Palais Royal areas, the Les Halles district, the Latin Quarter in central Paris and the environs of the Gare du Nord train station, main train stations in the provinces and on the RER (regional) train lines linking Paris and its suburbs.

Vehicles are frequently the target of crime, such as purse snatching from cars stopped in traffic and theft from unattended vehicles, particularly in the south of France near the Spanish border, near the Italian border and in the north, on the remembrance trail around the Somme and in Normandy. You should be particularly vigilant at isolated automated service stations and avoid sleeping in rest areas beside autoroutes (motorways) and major roads, or in makeshift or unauthorised camp grounds on the outskirts of cities. Rental vehicles are often targeted even in remote small villages. You should not leave valuable objects in the vehicle at any time.

Credit card and ATM fraud involving 'skimming' machines which can store card data is rising, particularly at automated service stations and in tourist areas. You should use ATMs within controlled areas such as banks, shops and shopping centres.

You should be wary of strangers that invite you for a complimentary drink or show at a private club. Some foreigners who have accepted such offers have had large sums debited from their credit cards before they have been permitted to leave the venue.

Money and valuables

Before you go, organise a variety of ways to access your money overseas, such as multiple credit cards, travellers' cheques, cash (Euros), debit cards or cash cards. Australian currency and travellers' cheques are not accepted in many countries. Consult with your bank to find out whether your ATM card will work overseas, and confirm your ATM and credit card withdrawal limit. Thefts at ATMs, ATM scams and credit card fraud, such as double billing, are common in France.

Avoid keeping all your valuable documents and credit cards in one place. Always keep one credit card or other form of accessing funds separate to others. Share the carrying of valuable documents between group members. Make two photocopies of valuables such as your passport, tickets, visas and travellers' cheques. Keep one copy with you in a separate place to the original and leave another copy with someone at home.

While travelling, don't carry too much cash and remember that expensive watches, jewellery and cameras may be tempting targets for thieves.

As a sensible precaution against luggage tampering, including theft, lock your luggage. Information on luggage safety is available from Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe and dry place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible. Your lost or stolen passport will be cancelled. If you find your passport again, you will still need to apply for a replacement passport before further travel.

If you have lost, or had your passport stolen, go to the nearest Commissariat de Police (police station) to report the crime. They will provide you with a declaration of theft or loss. This declaration could be useful if you intend to lodge an insurance claim.

You are required to pay an additional fee to have a lost or stolen passport replaced. In some cases, the Government may also restrict the length of validity or type of replacement passports.

Local Travel

Industrial action in France may affect various forms of transport, which could affect your travel plans, we advise you to monitor your travel bookings and keep in contact with transport providers for the most up to date information available to your situation.

Taxis: You should only use licenced, official taxis in France, as assaults and robberies have occurred in unlicensed taxis. Unlicensed taxis often target high traffic destinations such as airports, train stations, theatres and nightclubs. In Paris, licenced taxis have the sign ‘Taxi Parisien’ located at the top of the car. Private car companies are legal but must be pre-booked.

Public transport: If you use any of France’s public transport systems, you need to ensure you retain your used or “validated” ticket until you exit the system. Inspectors conduct random checks and passengers who fail to present a validated ticket for their journey are subject to an on-the-spot fine. Failure to co-operate with inspectors can result in arrest.

Driving: Australians wanting to drive in France must have a valid Australian driver's licence and a valid International Driving Permit (IDP), issued by the relevant IDP authority in your state before leaving Australia, listed on our Road travel page. The minimum age to drive a vehicle is 18. Australians resident in France may exchange their Australian driver licence for a French licence within the first 12 months of their residency.

It is obligatory for all vehicles to carry a reflective vest and warning triangle for use in case of breakdown.

For further advice, see our Road travel page.

Airline safety

Please refer to our Air travel page for information about aviation safety and security.

Laws

When you are in France be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.

In France, failing to offer assistance to 'a person in danger' is illegal. This means that if you fail to stop upon witnessing a motor accident, fail to report such an accident to emergency services, or ignore appeals for help or urgent assistance, you may be charged. Penalties include suspended prison sentence and fines. The law does not apply in situations where to answer an appeal for help might endanger your safety or the safety of others.

Under French law you are required to carry an identification document at all times, for example your passport.

It is illegal to conceal the face in public places in France. This includes balaclavas, full veils or any other garment or mask that is used to conceal the face. Failure to comply with the ban is punishable by a maximum fine of 150. Under this law, forcing someone to hide their face is also a crime and is punishable by a year’s imprisonment and a fine of up to 30,000. If the person forced to hide their face is a minor, the sentence is doubled. The law does not provide any exemption for tourists.

There are severe penalties for traffic infringements. Penalties may include immediate confiscation of your licence and vehicle and on the spot fines.

It is illegal to photograph security services, including police. Penalties may include detention and confiscation of film and/or camera.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.

Information for dual nationals

Our Dual nationals page provides further information.

Health

We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our Health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

The standard of medical facilities in France is very high. Costs per day in a public hospital range between $A1,350 to $A3,350, depending upon the treatment.

If you require prescription medicine, it is important that you have this medicine with you so you remain in good health. Make sure to check whether your medication is legal in France and always take a copy of the prescription with you or a letter from your doctor stating what the medicine is, how much you will be taking and that it is for personal use only. The website of the Consulate-General of France in Sydney can provide more information for travellers.

Where to get help

In France, you can obtain consular assistance from the:

Australian Embassy

4 Rue Jean Rey,
75015 Paris FRANCE
Telephone: (33 1) 4059 3300
Facsimile: (33 1) 4059 3315
E-mail: consular.paris@dfat.gov.au
Website: http://www.france.embassy.gov.au/

If you are travelling to France, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency - whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.

In a consular emergency if you are unable to contact the Embassy, you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 6261 3305.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

Avalanches and mudslides are a danger in some mountain areas. There have been a number of fatalities in recent years. If you are skiing or mountaineering you should monitor advice on weather and safety conditions. It is highly dangerous to move off marked slopes or trails and may result in detention and prosecution in some areas.

During the summer months, forest and grass fires are a regular occurrence, particularly along the Mediterranean coast and on Corsica.

Flash flooding can make road travel extremely difficult, affect infrastructure including communications and has resulted in the loss of lives. You should monitor media reports for potential hazards.

If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities.

The beaches along the French Atlantic coast can be particularly dangerous, especially on the south western coast. A number of people drown every year. We recommend you swim on supervised beaches and respect the colour coded flags which warn against dangerous swimming conditions. If in doubt, seek local advice.

For parents

For general information and tips on travelling with children see our Travelling with children page.



While every care has been taken in preparing this information, neither the Australian Government nor its agents or employees, including any member of Australia's diplomatic and consular staff abroad, can accept liability for any injury, loss or damage arising in respect of any statement contained herein.

Maps are presented for information only. The department accepts no responsibility for errors or omission of any geographic feature. Nomenclature and territorial boundaries may not necessarily reflect Australian Government policy.