Avoid travel to France Official advice: High degree of caution
Latest advice, 20 Nov 2015
The overall level of advice for France has been increased. We now advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in France due to the threat of terrorist attack (see Safety and security). Australians in France should remain vigilant, follow the instructions of local authorities and follow the media for latest information on security.
- We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in France due to the threat of terrorist attack.
- At least 129 people were killed and over 300 injured in coordinated attacks at six locations in Paris on 13 November. ISIL has claimed responsibility for the attacks. The French Prime Minister has advised that further attacks are expected.
- French authorities have declared a 12 day nationwide state of emergency following these terrorist attacks, after which it will be reviewed.
- The state of emergency gives the French authorities additional powers to deal with the security situation. Large public gatherings have been banned. Access to public areas may be restricted.
- French authorities also have announced border controls at airports, and land and sea crossings. A number of road border crossings have been closed. Travellers should expect increased security checks at borders, including the checking and recording of identification.
- Australians in France should remain vigilant, follow the instructions of local authorities and follow the media for latest information on security.
- We assess there is a heightened threat of terrorist attack in a number of European countries, including France. This heightened risk exists across the whole of France, including Paris and Ile de France region.
- 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.
- Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
- organise comprehensive travel insurance and check what circumstances and activities are not covered by your policy
- register your travel and contact details, so we can contact you in an emergency
- subscribe to this travel advice to receive free email updates each time it's reissued
- follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
Entry and exit
France is a party to the Schengen Convention, along with a number of other European countries, which allows you to enter France without a visa in some circumstances. See our travel bulletin on the Schengen Convention for more information before you leave Australia.
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 arrival in France. 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).
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 the most up to date information.
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.
While in France, you should carry identification at all times. Make sure your passport has at least six months validity from your planned date of return to Australia.
Safety and security
We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in France due to the threat of terrorist attack.
At least 129 people were killed and over 300 injured in coordinated attacks at six locations in Paris on 13 November. ISIL has claimed responsibility for the attacks. The French Prime Minister has advised that further attacks are expected.
French authorities have declared a 12 day nationwide state of emergency following these terrorist attacks, after which it will be reviewed. The state of emergency gives the French authorities additional powers to deal with the security situation. Large public gatherings have been banned. Access to public areas may be restricted.
French authorities also have announced border controls at airports, and land and sea crossings. A number of road border crossings have been closed. Travellers should expect increased security checks at borders, including the checking and recording of identification.
Australians in Paris and surrounding areas should remain vigilant, follow the instructions of local authorities and follow the media for latest information on security.
We assess there is a heightened threat of terrorist attack in a number of European countries, including France. This heightened risk exists across the whole of France, including Paris and Ile de France region.
From 7 to 9 January 2015, 17 people were killed in related shooting incidents in Paris, including the gun attack on the ‘Charlie Hebdo’ offices in east Paris. On 26 June 2015, a terrorist attack on a factory in southern France, south east of the city of Lyon, killed one person and caused a small explosion.
The French domestic terror threat level was raised to the highest level ‘Alerte – Attentat’ in response to these incidents. Heightened security measures remain in effect in public places, including shopping areas, tourist sites and transportation hubs. You should be vigilant in public places and report any suspicious activity to police.
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 police conduct random identity checks, particularly at border crossings. Under French law you are required to carry photo I.D at all times.
Local information on public safety issues is available at the following French Government website.
Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. See our Terrorist Threat Worldwide bulletin for more information.
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.
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.
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 landmark 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-Elysées, 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
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 place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.
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.
COP21 climate change talks in Paris
From 30 November to 11 December 2015 France will host the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21/CMP11) in Paris. Heightened security arrangements are in place for over 40,000 attendees at the Conference, including a number of heads of state and high-level delegations. Australians planning to travel to Paris during this period should be aware that:
- Traffic flows, particularly around the conference site at Le Bourget (15 miles north of central Paris), including the major freeways leading from Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (located north of Le Bourget Area) to the centre of Paris will be disrupted. Drivers should expect increased congestion and delays to normal traffic routes during the Conference.
- Due to the high number of visitors to Paris, there will be a shortage of all types of accommodation in Paris and its outskirts. Travellers should book their hotel accommodation prior to arrival in France.
- Protests, demonstrations and rallies are likely throughout the Conference period. You should avoid protests, demonstrations, political rallies and large public gatherings as they may turn violent. See also Safety and security.
- Entry controls will be tightened at French airports and seaports and also introduced at all French land borders (road/train) between 13 November and 13 December 2015. Australian travellers who lose their passport while travelling in Europe should apply for a valid form of identification from any Australian Mission prior to seeking to enter France by road or by train from Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Luxemburg and Belgium. Travellers who cannot produce valid identification during random border inspections may be refused entry into France. While in France, you should carry valid identification papers with you at all times.
We encourage you to monitor the media for the latest information on safety and security issues and follow the instructions of local authorities.
Other local travel issues
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.
There has been a significant influx of asylum seekers into France. In some cases, police have been deployed to prevent asylum seekers from crossing borders and accessing transport. As a result, there has been disruption to some cross-border road, rail and ferry transport services, including the Eurostar train service between London and Paris.
You should be aware of the possibility of further disruptions to cross-Channel services between Calais and the UK. Monitor the local media and other information from transport providers for up to date information. If travelling by road, rail or ferry, you should allow additional time to cover any disruption, remain vigilant and follow the instructions of local authorities. You should make appropriate contingency plans to cover any disruption to travel plans.
You should exercise caution whilst driving in France or travelling in a vehicle as a passenger. We advise you to keep vehicle doors locked in slow-moving traffic and secure your vehicle when left unattended.
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: If you wish to drive in France, you must have a valid Australian driver's licence issued by a relevant authority before leaving Australia. We recommend obtaining a valid International Driving Permit (IDP) prior to leaving Australia, which may be required by car rental companies, issued by the relevant IDP authority 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.
The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See instead the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in France.
Please also refer to our general air travel page for information on aviation safety and security.
You are subject to the local laws of France, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards. 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. Research laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.
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, such as your passport, at all times.
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
See our Dual nationals page.
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. There is no reciprocal medical agreement between Australia and France.
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 provides more information for travellers.
Where to get help
Depending on the nature of your enquiry, your best option may be to contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurance provider in the first instance.
If the matter relates to criminal issues, contact the local police on 112. The national emergency number is 112. You should obtain a police report when reporting a crime.
If the matter relates to complaints about tourism services or products, contact the service provider directly.
The Consular Services Charter explains what the Australian Government can and can’t do to assist Australians overseas. For consular assistance, see contact details below:
For consular assistance, see contact details below:
Australian Embassy, France
See the Embassy website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.
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.
If you are unable to contact the Embassy in a consular emergency, you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305, or 1300 555 135 within Australia.
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.