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France

If you’re travelling to France, our travel advice and updates give you practical tips and useful information.

Get travel and medical insurance

Before travelling, the Department strongly recommends that you obtain comprehensive travel insurance which will cover all overseas medical costs, including medical repatriation/evacuation, repatriation of remains and legal costs. You should check any exclusions and, in particular, that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.

Overview

Security status

If you’re planning a trip to France, we advise you to take normal precautions.

Register with us

If you’re visiting or planning to stay in France, you should register your details with us so we can find you quickly if there’s an unforeseen crisis like a natural disaster or if you have a family emergency while you’re abroad. And, if necessary, we can offer help to you and your family.

Our advice

We suggest you learn as much as you can about France before your trip.

We also recommend reading our Know Before You Go travel guide for practical tips on travelling abroad.

European Health Insurance Card

We advise you to get a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before you travel to France. This card replaces the E111 form and entitles you to emergency medical treatment on the same terms as French nationals.

The EHIC is not a substitute for travel insurance and doesn’t cover medical repatriation, ongoing medical treatment or treatment of a non-urgent nature. Therefore we recommend that comprehensive private medical insurance is still obtained before travelling as the EHIC covers emergency treatment in public hospitals only. You can apply for an EHIC online at www.ehic.ie.

Emergency assistance

The best help is often close at hand so if you have problems, try talking to your local contacts, tour operator representative or hotel management.

Contact the Embassy

If there is an emergency, or if you need help and advice, you can contact the Irish Embassy in Paris.

If you phone outside of working hours, leave us a message giving:

  • Your name
  • The nature of your problem
  • Where you are now
  • Your contact details (mobile phone number or phone number of where you’re staying)

We regularly monitor these messages and one of our staff members will be in contact with you.

How we can help you

We have a lot of experience helping Irish citizens who run into problems when they’re abroad. Learn more about the kind of emergency assistance we can offer you.

Safety and security

Practical advice

  • Read our Know Before You Go travel guide for useful security tips when travelling abroad
  • Get advice locally about areas of risk and security concerns
  • Take common-sense precautions about safety and security
  • Know who to contact in case of an emergency

Social unrest

The political situation in France is reasonably stable but there can be occasional outbreaks of social unrest. Strikes, marches and demonstrations often result in confrontation between the demonstrators and the riot police so we recommend that you avoid areas where large-scale demonstrations are taking place.

Always keep yourself informed of what’s going on around you by monitoring local media and staying in contact with your hotel or tour organiser.

Terrorism

Since 2005, France has maintained its terrorism alert level at ‘red’, the second-highest on a four level scale. There is still a global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks, which could be against civilian targets, including places frequented by tourists and expatriates. 

As part of the Government's Vigipirate security programme, there’s a highly visible police and army presence in cities and near main tourist attractions. Many museums, galleries and tourist attractions have security screening programmes in place and you may be asked to present your bags for inspection before being admitted.

If you’re travelling by train, make sure your luggage is clearly marked with your name and never leave it unattended. Many left-luggage offices in train stations have been closed for security reasons so try and confirm their availability beforehand or make other arrangements.

Crime

Crime remains relatively low in France but you should take sensible precautions: 

  • Don’t carry your credit card, travel tickets and money together - leave spare cash and valuables in a safe place. 
  • Don’t carry your passport unless absolutely necessary and leave a copy of your passport (and travel and insurance documents) with family or friends at home.
  • Avoid showing large sums of money in public and don’t use ATMs after dark, especially if you’re alone. Check no one has followed you after conducting your business.
  • Avoid dark and unlit streets and stairways, and arrange to be picked up or dropped off as close to your hotel or apartment entrance as possible at night.
  • Keep a close eye on your personal belongings and hold on to them in public places such as internet cafés, train and bus stations.

Petty theft

There is a risk of petty crime, such as wallet/handbag theft and pickpocketing, particularly at tourist attractions and on the transport systems in the greater Paris area (Métro, RER train, in particular the line B that goes to/from the airports).

Some overnight inter-city trains have also been targeted by thieves. On metros and trains, take particular care of your belongings when the doors are closing, as opportunistic thieves on the platform have been known to snatch passengers’ bags just as the train doors close. 

Theft from vehicles 

This is common, particularly in the south of France so keep your doors locked, windows rolled up and valuables out of sight while driving and parked. In some tourist areas along the south coast, it’s common to remove the parcel shelf so that potential thieves can see that there’s nothing worth stealing in the boot.  

Mobile homes and camper-vans have also been targeted by thieves so make sure you take appropriate steps such as an alarm or using a safety-deposit box to protect your belongings there.

Reporting crime

If you’re a victim of a crime while in France, report it to the local police station ‘commissariat’ or gendarmerie immediately. And you can contact us at the Irish Embassy in Paris if you need help.

Taxis

You should only use properly licensed and marked taxis. Beware of people claiming to be taxi drivers who often tout for business at the arrivals areas in airports, train stations or at major bus stations – registered taxi drivers are not allowed to solicit business in this way. 

Drivers of unlicensed taxis frequently don’t respect rules on fares and, more importantly, will not have undergone security and police checks that are compulsory for registered taxi drivers. There have been recent cases of assaults on foreign tourists by unlicensed taxi drivers so if you’re in any doubt, don’t use the service.

Licensed taxis are marked by a white roof sign and the driver's professional identity card is displayed on the left-hand side of the windscreen. A meter will be visible in the centre of the dashboard and there will be a sticker in the left rear window setting out the main rules governing taxis and fares.

Driving

If you’re planning to drive in France, remember that traffic travels on the right. If you’re not used to driving on the right, be extra cautious, particularly at junctions, where traffic coming from the right has priority. 

If you want to drive:

  • Bring your international driving licence and make sure you have adequate and appropriate insurance. You must be at least 18 to drive in France and learner permits are not valid
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is against the law and you risk being detained, fined or banned from driving if caught
  • Be aware of France’s traffic laws, such as speed limits. Speed cameras are common and the French police are vigilant
  • Wear your seatbelts at all times
  • Keep your vehicle doors locked and your bags kept out of sight to prevent opportunistic bag-snatching if you’re stopped at traffic lights

Driving penalties

Follow the traffic laws carefully as there are stiff penalties for breaking the law. These can range from an on-the-spot fine, to confiscation of your driving licence, to imprisonment (for serious offences such as driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs or negligent driving). 

If your licence is confiscated, you won’t be allowed to continue driving and your vehicle will be impounded unless another fully-licensed driver is available to drive it.  

Breathalysers

Since 2012, you’re legally obligated to have a single use breathalyser in your vehicle, (this  includes motorcycles. Buy a kit that complies with French regulations and carries the ‘NF’ label. And we advise you to carry at least two breathalysers at all times.

Safety equipment

You must carry a red reflective warning triangle and a high-visibility vest in your vehicle at all times. There are frequently police checkpoints at the exits of the major ferry ports to check whether drivers have the required safety equipment, so make sure your vehicle is stocked before you travel to France. If you can’t produce this safety equipment at an accident or breakdown scene or during a police inspection, you could be liable for a fine. 

You must display the warning triangle 30 metres from your vehicle in case of a break-down or accident (except in the case of a break-down on a motorway where it’s not safe to walk back 30 metres – in this case, place the triangle a reasonable distance from your vehicle, taking into account safety considerations). 

You must carry the high-visibility vest in the main body of your vehicle (not in the boot). You need to wear the vest in case of a break-down at any time and must put it on before you get out of your vehicle. 

High traffic season

The traditional French summer holiday periods sees extremely heavy traffic on the weekends of 4 July, 11 July, 1 August and 15 August. Allow plenty of extra time and take regular breaks on your journey on these weekends, particularly on routes connecting Paris to the south. 

There can be severe traffic jams on the motorways so always make sure you have enough fuel, and refuel regularly, as it may take longer than you think to reach the next service station.

These French websites have colour-coded maps and graphics that can be understood by non-French speakers so they may help you plan your journey:

Incident assistance

Failing to stop and help a third party in difficulty, if you witness an incident (on the road or elsewhere) is an offence in France. If you need to stop on the roadside to help someone, you must put on your high-visibility vest before leaving your own vehicle.

Truck drivers

If you’re a truck driver, make sure you are familiar with French traffic regulations, particularly details on when you can or can’t use the motorways.

Pedestrians

As a pedestrian, remember that traffic will be coming from the opposite direction to traffic in Ireland. Be particularly aware of the additional danger at night, if you’re walking along roads without a proper pavement or crossing roads, even at a designated crossing place.

Cyclists

Paris and many other cities now have public bicycle-rental schemes. As a cyclist, you’re not allowed to cycle on the footpaths unless a cycle lane is marked as part of the path. Obey all relevant traffic rules and take appropriate safety precautions, particularly if you’re not familiar with cycling on the right-hand side of the road. Avoid cycling if you’re under the influence of alcohol. 

All cyclists must wear a high-visibility vest when cycling outside urban areas at night.

Vehicle hire

If you’re hiring a vehicle, we advise you not to hand over your passport as a form of security. If you’re allowing your passport to be photocopied, keep it in your sight at all times.

Check that you have adequate insurance and read the small print of the vehicle hire contract (particularly any waiver that will come into effect if the vehicle is damaged).

Local laws and customs

Practical advice

  • Read our travel advice, inform yourself before travelling and get advice locally when you arrive
  • Remember, the local laws apply to you as a visitor and it is your responsibility to follow them
  • Be sensitive to local customs, traditions and practices as your behaviour may be seen as improper, hostile or even illegal

Illegal drugs

Illegal drug use (no matter what the drug) carries stiff penalties. If you are found in possession of illegal drugs or smuggled goods, you can be held in pre-trial detention for the period of the investigation (which can last for several months or even years). If your vehicle was carrying illegal drugs or smuggled goods, French Customs can impound it for the investigation period.

Buying property in France

If you’re planning to buy property in France, we strongly advise you to consult an independent legal advisor from the beginning of the process. Be aware that as a property owner, you may be liable for annual taxes on the value of your property. 

The Embassy cannot advise you on buying property or intervene in property disputes.

Natural disasters and climate

Practical advice

  • If you’re travelling to France, make sure you know what to expect – then plan and pack so that you’re prepared
  • Get local advice on how to manage in the case of a serious incident or dangerous conditions
  • Co-operate with local authorities and emergency services in the case of serious incidents 

Travel Advice Hot Cold Climates

Additional information

Entry requirements (visa/passport)

You need a valid passport to visit France and we advise you to take a number of photocopies of your passport with you. During your stay you should carry a photocopy of your passport at all times.

Trains

Eurostar operates from Paris, Lille, Calais and Brussels to London St Pancras. Bookings are through www.eurostar.com or (from within France – premium rates apply) 0892-353539.

You can book trains from within France through www.voyages-sncf.com.

Car sharing

We’re aware of various websites offering car-sharing possibilities but we can’t vouch for the validity of these companies. Any decision to avail of such services is taken at your own risk.