Health and Safety

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GO! Health and safety
GO! Personal safety
GO! Finding medical assistance
GO! French law

Health and safety

No one expects to become sick while vacationing, or to be victimized by a thief, but unfortunately such things do occur. By making some preparations before you leave, and taking simple precautions while in France, you can greatly improve your chances of avoiding problems.

Take heart in knowing that Paris is quite safe, and that French healthcare providers are well-trained, compassionate, and efficient. This page provides advice on how to stay safe and healthy, and what to do if you become ill or injured.

Personal safety

Traveling around Paris on foot, by bus, or on the métro is very safe if some commonsense precautions are observed. Petty theft is the most common threat, and tourists are a favorite target. RER Line B between Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport and Paris is watched for jet-lagged tourists who are not guarding their belongings. Métro Line 1, used by many visitors, is a popular hangout for pickpockets. To avoid problems, follow these simple suggestions:

  • Carry a minimum of cash.
  • Grasp a purse or bag hanging from your shoulder.
  • Carry your wallet and passport in a buttoned or zipped inside pocket.
  • Don't put valuables in a backpack; it is easy to slit it and remove them.
  • Distribute cash and other valuables over several places.
  • When riding in a car, lock the doors.
  • When car windows are open, put valuables on the floor, out of reach.
  • Don't leave valuables in parked cars.
  • Don't travel alone late at night.
  • Carry a note giving your temporary address.

Report the theft of personal items or credit cards, missing vehicles, and lost or stolen identity papers to the nearest Préfecture de Police (police station). For missing identity papers, you will be given a special receipt to use in obtaining replacements; also contact your embassy or consulate. Lost or stolen credit cards must be reported to your credit card company.

For lost personal items, contact the Paris lost property office. The RATP and the SNCF also have lost and found services. For lost pets contact the French animal protection society.

Finding medical assistance

If you are searching for someone who has been hospitalized, contact the l'Assistance Publique-Hôpitaux de Paris, an umbrella organization comprising more than 50 hospitals in the Paris region. For minor ailments such as headache, rash, or traveler's diarrhea, the place to begin is at a pharmacy or chemist. French pharmacists play a more active role in personal healthcare than, say, those in the United States. Rather than simply filling prescriptions, they will listen to your complaints, recommend remedies (over-the-counter, of course), and if necessary even suggest a local physician. Check our address book to locate a late-night or English-speaking pharmacy. On the street, look for a green neon cross. If a pharmacy is closed, it will have a sign posted giving the location of the nearest one that is open.

For more serious or persistent conditions, when a doctor or hospital is needed, consult a pharmacist, call the English-language crisis line SOS Help, or call SOS Médecins. If language is a problem and you need an English-speaking doctor, the American Hospital of Paris is an excellent facility, with some bilingual staff, that accepts U.S. dollars and major credit cards. It will feel familiar to Americans, but is expensive compared to French hospitals.

In case of a traumatic medical emergency, call the SAMU.

French law

The law requires that you carry your identity papers on your person. Your papers may be requested while walking or driving. If you've committed a minor offence, the French police will no doubt be lenient with you as long as you show good faith. However, you will be subject to the same punishment as a French citizen for any offence, whether disobeying traffic rules, defrauding the public transport system, displaying public drunkenness, fighting, etc. Remember that the usage of illegal drugs, including soft drugs, is strictly forbidden.

Free consultations are available from the Order of Lawyers at court buildings and some town halls in case you wish to bring proceedings.

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