For travel abroad, non-E.U. nationals should consider buying medical travel insurance. For U.S. citizens, Medicare and Medicaid do not provide coverage for medical costs incurred abroad, so check what medical services your health insurance covers before leaving home. U.K. nationals will need a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to receive free or reduced-cost medical care during a visit to a European Economic Area (EEA) country or Switzerland (go to www.ehic.org.uk for further information).
If you suffer from a chronic illness, consult your doctor before your departure. Pack prescription medications in your carry-on luggage and carry them in their original containers, with pharmacy labels -- otherwise they won't make it through airport security. Carry the generic name of prescription medicines, in case a local pharmacist is unfamiliar with the brand name.
For further tips on travel and health concerns, and a list of local English-speaking doctors contact the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers (IAMAT; tel. 716/754-4883 in the U.S., or 416/652-0137 in Canada; www.iamat.org). You can also find listings of reliable medical clinics overseas at the International Society of Travel Medicine (www.istm.org).
Safety -- In general, Paris is a safe city and it is safe to use the Métro late at night. However, certain Métro stations (and the areas around them) are best avoided at night: Châtelet-Les Halles, Gare du Nord, Barbès Rochechouart, and Strasbourg St-Denis. Violent incidents and robberies have been known on the RER, particularly RER B, so it is best find alternative transport to and from the airport (such as buses or taxis) late at night or early in the morning.
The most common crime in Paris is the plague of pickpockets. They prey on tourists around popular attractions such as the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame, St-Michel, Center Pompidou, and Sacré-Coeur, in the major department stores, and on the Métro. Take precautions and be vigilant at all times: don't take more money with you than necessary, keep your passport in a concealed pouch or leave it at your hotel, and ensure that your bag is firmly closed at all times. Also, around the major sites it is quite common to be approached by a young Roma girl and asked if you speak English. It's best to avoid these situations, and any incident that might occur, by shaking your head and walking away.
In cafes, bars, and restaurants, it's best not to leave your bag under the table or on the back of your chair. Keep it between your legs or on your lap to avoid it being stolen. Never leave valuables in a car, and never travel with your car unlocked.
The government of France maintains a national antiterrorism plan; in times of heightened security concerns, the government mobilizes police and armed forces, and installs them at airports; train and Métro stations; and high-profile locations such as schools, embassies, and government installations.
Paris is a cosmopolitan city and most nonwhite travelers won't experience any problems. Although there is a significant level discrimination against West and North African immigrants, there has been almost no harassment of African-American tourists to Paris or France itself. In fact, many expatriate Americans including such cultural figures as Josephine Baker and author James Baldwin, fled to Paris in decades past to escape the racism of America. S.O.S. Racisme (51 av. de Flandre, 19e; tel. 01-40-35-36-55; www.sos-racisme.org) offers legal advice to victims of prejudice and will even intervene to help with the police.
Female travelers should not expect any more hassle than in other major cities and the same precautions apply. Avoid walking around the less safe neighborhoods (Barbès Rochechouart, Strasbourg St-Denis, Châtelet-Les-Halles) alone at night and never get into an unmarked taxi. If you are approached in the street or on the Métro, it's best to avoid entering into conversation and walk away.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.