Health: 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. That said, medical costs are a fraction of what they are in the U.S. (for example, a visit to a GP costs 23€), so you may even decide to do a little medical tourism (be sure to bring your prescriptions). 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 Union (E.U.) country, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, or Switzerland (go to www.nhs.uk/ehic).
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; www.iamat.org; [tel] 716/754-4883 in the U.S., or 416/652-0137 in Canada). You can also download a list of English-speaking dentists and doctors in Paris at the U.S. Citizens Services page on the U.S. embassy website (http://fr.usembassy.gov) and click “Resources for US Citizens.” See also “Dentists & Doctors,” “Emergencies,” “Hospitals,” and “Pharmacies” in this section.
Hospitals: In my experience, French public hospitals are very good. Most Parisian hospitals have 24-hour emergency rooms, and some have a specialty (Hôpital Necker is the best children’s hospital, for example). For addresses and information on all Paris’ public hospitals, visit www.aphp.fr.
Two private hospitals in nearby suburbs have English-speaking staff and operate 24 hours daily (and cost much more than the public ones): the American Hospital of Paris (63 bd. Victor Hugo, 92200 Neuilly-sur-Seine; www.american-hospital.org; [tel] 01-46-41-25-25; Métro: Pont de Levallois; 15 min. walk from station; bus: 43, 82, 93, 163, 164, and 174); and the Institute Hospitalier Franco-Britannique (3 rue Barbès or 4 rue Kleber, Levallois; www.ihfb.org/en; [tel] 01-47-59-59-59; Métro: Anatole-France).
Pharmacies: You’ll spot French pharmacies by looking for the green neon cross above the door. If your local pharmacy is closed, there should be a sign on the door indicating the nearest one open. Pharmacists give basic medical advice and can take your blood pressure. Parapharmacies sell medical products and toiletries, but they don’t dispense prescriptions. Both the Pharmacie du Drugstore des Champs-Elysées (133 ave. des Champs-Élysées; www.pharmacie-drugstore-champselysees.com; [tel] 01-47-20-39-25; Métro/RER: Charles de Gaulle Etoile) and the Pharmacie Européene (6 place de Clichy; [tel] 01-48-74-65-18; Métro: Place de Clichy) are open 24 hours daily. See also “Emergencies” and “Health,” above.
Police: In an emergency, call [tel] 17 for the police, or 112, the European Union–wide toll-free emergency number. The Préfecture de Police has stations all over Paris. To find the nearest one, call [tel] 17 or go to www.prefecturedepolice.interieur.gouv.fr/English. See also “Emergencies,” above.
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. The RER can get scary late at night; try to 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 problem in Paris is pickpockets. They prey on tourists around popular attractions such as the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame, St-Michel, Centre Pompidou, Versailles, 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 or boy and asked if you speak English. It’s best to avoid these situations, and, in 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.
In times of heightened security concerns, the government mobilizes police and armed forces, so don’t be surprised to see soldiers strolling around transport hubs and carrying automatic weapons. Also see “Terrorism,” below.
Paris is a cosmopolitan city and most nonwhite travelers won’t experience any problems, outside of some unpleasant stares. Although there is a significant level of discrimination against West and North African immigrants, harassment of African-American and Asian tourists is exceedingly rare. S.O.S. Racisme (51 ave. de Flandre, 19th arrond.; www.sos-racisme.org; [tel] 01-40-35-36-55) 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. French men tend to stare a lot, but it’s generally harmless. 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.
Terrorism: France has reinforced its domestic security measures following the terror attacks of 2015 and 2017. But don’t let the fear of terrorism dissuade you from traveling here. Just be vigilant and follow the advice of the local authorities. When you enter a new place, familiarize yourself with the emergency exits. If you see something untoward, or notice an abandoned bag or package on public transport, get off the train/bus/tram or move away, and alert either a member of staff or the police ([tel] 17 or 112). Elsewhere, if you see anything suspicious, call the police or go to the nearest police station. In the unlikely event that you find yourself in danger, the words to remember are “escape, hide, alert.” Move away from the danger, help others to move away, and alert the people around you. If you need to hide, turn off both the ring and vibration mode on your telephone. If you see security forces, do not run toward them or make sudden movements, and keep your hands up or open.
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.