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France

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Summary

  • Exercise a high degree of caution due to the high threat of terrorist attack. Be alert. Follow the instructions of local authorities. Monitor the news and other sources for changes to local conditions.
  • There have been several major terrorist attacks in France. Since 2015, over 200 people have been killed and hundreds injured. We continue to receive information terrorists may be planning further attacks. Attacks could occur at any time. Exercise particular caution around locations known to be possible terrorist targets.
  • Due to the current threat level, access to public areas may be restricted. Expect increased security checks at borders, including the checking and recording of your identification. See Safety and security.
  • Protect your personal belongings, especially your passport. Petty crime, including bag snatching and pickpocketing, is a serious problem in tourist areas and on public transport.
  • Demonstrations occur regularly in major cities around France. Avoid protests and public demonstrations.
  • During the summer, forest fires can occur in the Mediterranean coast region. Monitor the media for up-to-date information and follow instructions from local authorities. See Natural disasters.

Entry and exit

Visas

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

France is part of the Schengen area. This allows you to enter France without a visa in some circumstances. 

In other circumstances, you'll need a visa. If you're travelling for reasons other than tourism, or for more than 90 days, get a visa from French authorities in Australia before you arrive. You can't apply for a visa or change your visa status once inside French territory (for example, from a tourist visa to a student or resident visa).

More information: Schengen area

Other formalities

Ensure you get a legible entry stamp in your passport when you enter the Schengen area for the first time.

By law you must carry photo ID at all times. Police conduct random identity checks, particularly at border crossings.

Unaccompanied minors (under 18 years of age) who normally live in France and wish to depart French territory, will need to have their own identity document, a copy of a parent/guardian's identification and a completed form issued by the French Ministry of Interior (in French only).

More information: French Ministry of the Interior (in French only)

Passport

Ensure your passport is valid for at least six months after the date you intend to return to Australia and has at least one blank page. Carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement while overseas.

If your passport is lost or stolen, you must notify the Australian Government as soon as possible.

Your passport is a valuable travel document. If it has been lost or stolen, go to the nearest Commissariat de Police (police station) to report the crime. A declaration of theft or loss will be provided, which may be useful for lodging an insurance claim.

Money

The currency in France is the Euro (€).

Declare cash of €10,000 or more (or the equivalent in another currency) if you are travelling between France and any non-European Union (EU) country. This includes notes and coins, money orders, cheques and travellers cheques. If you don't declare your cash or give incorrect information on entry or exit you will be fined. You don't need to declare cash if you are travelling to or from another EU country.

Safety and security

Terrorism

Exercise a high degree of caution due to the high threat of terrorist attack. The domestic terror threat level is currently at the second highest level (Enhanced security due to risk of attack' or 'Sécurité renforcée Risque d'attentat).

We continue to receive information terrorists may be planning further attacks. Attacks could occur at any time. Exercise particular caution around locations known to be possible terrorist targets.

There has been a number of attacks in France:

  • On 12 May 2018, one person was killed and several injured in the central Paris district of Opera. The attacker was killed by police.
  • On 23 March 2018, an armed gunman killed four people in related incidents in the towns of Carcassonne and Trèbes. The attacker was killed by police.
  • On 29 September 2017, two people were killed in a knife attack in Marseille's main train station. The attacker was killed by police.
  • On 9 August 2017, a vehicle struck a group of soldiers in Levallois-Perret in Paris; six soldiers were injured, three seriously.
  • On 20 April 2017, an individual attacked a police checkpoint on the Champs-Élysées in central Paris resulting in the shooting death of a police officer. The attacker was killed by police.
  • On 18 March 2017, a military patrol was attacked at Orly Airport in Paris. The attacker was killed by military personnel.
  • On 14 July 2016, a terrorist attack in Nice killed at least 84 people and injured more than 100.
  • On 13 November 2015, 130 people were killed and over 300 injured in coordinated attacks at six locations in Paris. ISIL claimed responsibility.  

Counter-terrorism laws give authorities additional powers to deal with security. Access to some public areas may be restricted and searches of baggage and vehicles may be conducted in certain areas.

Authorities have also announced the continuation of border controls at certain entry points. Expect increased security checks at borders, including the checking and recording of identification, which may cause delays.

There are heightened security measures in public places, including shopping areas, at tourist sites and transportation hubs, and at major events which attract large crowds.

  • Be alert to possible threats, especially in public places.
  • Exercise particular caution around locations known to be possible terrorist targets.
  • Report any suspicious activity or items to police.
  • Monitor the news for any new or emerging threats.
  • Take official warnings seriously and follow the instructions of local authorities.
  • If there is an attack, leave the affected area immediately if it is safe to do so. 

More information:

Civil unrest and political tension

Protests and large demonstrations are common and can escalate to violence and rioting. Organised strikes occur frequently, and may disrupt transport systems including trains and airline traffic. Monitor local media and contact your travel provider for the latest information.

  • Avoid protests, demonstrations and political rallies.
  • Avoid, particularly at night, outlying Paris suburbs, where there have been civil unrest and clashes.
  • Monitor local news and other sources for information on planned and possible unrest.
  • Follow the advice of local authorities.

Crime

Petty crime

Petty crime, including bag snatching, pick-pocketing, passport theft and theft from cars is common, particularly on the streets of larger cities such as Paris, Marseilles and Nice. 

Take care to protect your personal belongings (bags, phones, cameras, passports), especially in high-density tourist areas. Every landmark that attracts tourists will attract interest from criminals.

There is a growing incidence of violent attacks against tourists by groups of young people, usually occurring late at night around major tourist attractions. These include the Champs-Elysées, the Louvre and the Palais Royal areas, the Les Halles district, and the Latin Quarter in central Paris.

Crime on public transport

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 to distract and rob potential victims. Children can be used to distract tourists or even play an active role in theft.

Crime, including robbery and muggings, is frequently reported on the train system servicing Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle (CDG) and Orly airports. Consider other means of transport from the airports to Paris, such as bus or taxi, particularly late at night and early in the morning.

Violent attacks have been reported around the Gare du Nord train station, main train stations in the provinces and on the RER (regional) train lines linking Paris and its suburbs.

  • Pay close attention to your personal belongings, particularly in places frequented by tourists.
  • Carry only what you need for the day. Leave other valuables, including your passport, in a secure location, but carry photo ID.
  • Don't tempt thieves – avoid wearing expensive watches, jewellery and cameras.
  • Avoid walking in quiet and poorly lit streets, especially at night.
  • Keep your car doors locked and luggage and valuables out of sight – when driving and when parked.
  • Only use ATMs in secure locations such as banks, shops and shopping centres.
  • Always keep your ATM and credit cards in sight.
  • Monitor local sources for information about possible new safety or security risks.

Vehicle break-ins

Vehicles are frequently the target of crime, including purse snatching from cars stopped in traffic and theft from unattended vehicles, particularly in the south of France near the Spanish and Italian borders and in the north, on the remembrance trail around the Somme and in Normandy. Rental vehicles are often targeted, even in small villages. 

  • Never leave valuables in your car.
  • When you leave your car, ensure it is locked.
  • Use secure parking facilities when available, especially overnight.
  • Be alert at isolated automated service stations.
  • Avoid sleeping in rest areas beside autoroutes (motorways) and major roads, or in makeshift or unauthorised camp grounds on the outskirts of cities.

Fraud and fake money

Credit card and ATM fraud involving 'skimming' machines which can store card data is rising, particularly at automated service stations and in tourist areas.

Be wary of strangers who invite you for a complimentary drink or show at a private club. Some foreigners accepting such offers have had large sums debited from their credit cards before being allowed to leave.

Exercise caution when booking travel by only choosing reputable travel providers. Avoid providing your identity details to unknown sources. We've had reports of accommodation scams resulting in identity theft.

More information:

Local travel

Since 2015, there have been significant pressures on border controls in Europe due to the movement of asylum seekers. Carry your passport when crossing borders, including within the Schengen area. Monitor border conditions by checking local news sources and asking transport providers directly.

Road travel

Exercise caution while driving or travelling as a passenger. Keep vehicle doors locked in slow-moving traffic and secure your vehicle when left unattended. There are severe penalties for traffic infringements. Penalties may include immediate confiscation of your licence and vehicle and on-the-spot fines.

Authorities have cleared the migrant camp in Calais. However there continue to be reports of disturbances in the area. Remain alert when crossing from France to the UK by car.

Vehicles must carry a reflective vest and warning triangle for use in case of breakdown.

The minimum driving age is 18.

More information: Road safety and driving

Driver's licence

To drive in France, you'll need a valid Australian driver's licence. Before leaving Australia get a valid International Driving Permit (IDP), which may be required by car rental companies. See Road safety and driving for relevant IDP authority.

If you're living in France you may exchange your Australian driver's licence for a French licence within the first 12 months of your residency.

Taxis

Only use licensed, official taxis. 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, licensed taxis have the sign 'Taxi Parisien' located on the top of the car. Private car companies are legal, but must be pre-booked.

Public transport

Organised strikes occur frequently, and may disrupt transport systems including trains and airline traffic. Monitor local media and contact your travel provider for the latest information.

If you use any of France's public transport systems, ensure you keep your ticket until you exit the system. Inspectors conduct random checks and passengers who don't present a valid ticket for their journey are given an on-the-spot fine. Failure to co-operate with inspectors can result in arrest.

Air safety

The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in France.

More information: Air travel

Laws

You're subject to local laws and penalties, including those that appear harsh by Australian standards. Research local laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

If you're arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter. But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail. 

More information: Arrested or in prison

Drug laws

Penalties for drug offences are severe and convicted offenders can receive long jail sentences.

More information: Carrying or using drugs

Other laws

You're required to carry an identification document, such as your passport, at all times.

Failing to offer assistance to 'a person in danger' is illegal. 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 sentences and fines. The law doesn't apply if an appeal for help might endanger your safety or the safety of others.

It is illegal to conceal your face in public places. This includes motorcycle helmets, balaclavas, full veils and any other garment or mask. Failure to comply is punishable by a maximum fine of €150. Under this law, forcing someone to hide their face is also a crime and 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. Tourists are not exempt.

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

Australian laws

Some Australian criminal laws apply overseas. You can be prosecuted for them in Australia. These offences include, but are not limited to:

  • child sex offences and child pornography
  • female genital mutilation
  • forced marriage
  • drug trafficking
  • people smuggling and human trafficking
  • bribery of foreign public officials
  • money laundering
  • terrorism and foreign incursions.

More information: Staying within the law

Dual nationals

France recognises dual citizenship.

More information: Dual nationals

Health

Travel insurance

Take out comprehensive travel insurance before you depart to cover overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation.

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 your medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs. This can be very expensive and cost you many thousands of dollars up front.

Confirm:

  • what circumstances and activities are and are not covered under your policy
  • you are covered for the whole time you will be away.

More information: Travel insurance

Physical and mental health

Consider your physical and mental health before travelling, especially if you have an existing medical condition.

  • At least eight weeks before you depart, see your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and implications for your health.
  • Get vaccinated before travelling.

If you need counselling services while overseas, contact the Australian Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 and ask to speak to a Lifeline telephone counsellor.

More information:

Medication

Some medications available over the counter or by prescription in Australia aren't readily available or are considered to be illegal or a controlled substance, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor.

Before you leave Australia: 

  • check if your medication is legal in France by contacting the Embassy or Consulate-General of France.
  • get medical documents authenticated by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade before you depart (if needed).
  • consult your doctor about alternative medications (if needed).

Even if your medication isn't on the list of illegal or controlled medications, carry:

  • a copy of your prescription
  • a letter from your doctor
  • all medication in its original packaging.

More information:

Health risks

Health risks are broadly similar to those in Australia.

Medical facilities

The standard of medical facilities are comparable to Australia.

There is no reciprocal medical agreement between Australia and France. Before admitting patients, hospitals usually require:

  • guarantee of payment
  • confirmation of medical insurance
  • up front deposit.

Costs per day in public hospitals range between A$1,350 to A$3,350, depending upon the treatment.

Natural disasters

Avalanches and mudslides

Avalanches and mudslides are a danger in some mountain areas. There has been a number of fatalities in recent years.

If you're skiing or mountaineering:

  • monitor advice on weather and safety conditions
  • don't move off marked slopes or trails
  • follow the advice of local authorities
  • monitor local media.

In some areas, skiing or mountaineering off marked trails may result in detention and prosecution.

Forest fires

During the summer months, forest and grass fires occur regularly, particularly along the Mediterranean coast and on Corsica.

If you're in an area affected by forest fires:

  • follow the advice of local authorities
  • contact friends and family in Australia with updates about your welfare and whereabouts
  • monitor local media.

Flooding

Flash flooding can make road travel extremely difficult, and has resulted in the loss of lives. Communication infrastructure may also be affected.

If you're in an area affected by flooding:

  • follow the advice of local authorities
  • contact friends and family in Australia with updates about your welfare and whereabouts
  • monitor local media.

Beaches

The beaches along the French Atlantic coast can be particularly dangerous, especially on the south-western coast. A number of people drown every year. Swim at supervised beaches and respect the colour-coded flags warning against dangerous swimming conditions. If in doubt, seek local advice.

 

Where to get help

Depending on what you need, your best option may be to first contact your family, friends, travel agent, travel insurance provider, employer or airline. Your travel insurer should have a 24-hour emergency number.

Emergency phone numbers

  • Firefighting and rescue services: 112
  • Medical emergencies: 112
  • Criminal issues, contact police: 112

Always get a police report when reporting a crime.

Tourism services and products

For complaints relating to tourism services or products, contact your service provider directly.

Australian Government

Read the Consular Services Charter for what the Australian Government can and can't do to help you overseas.

For consular assistance, contact an Australian mission.

Australian Embassy, France

4 Rue Jean Rey,
75015 Paris FRANCE
Telephone: +33 1 4059 3300
Facsimile: +33 1 4059 3310
E-mail: consular.paris@dfat.gov.au
Website: france.embassy.gov.au

See the Embassy website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

In a consular emergency, if you're unable to contact the Embassy or Consulate-General, you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305, 800 877 790 (Italian toll free number) or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

Additional information

Additional resources