Concerns about the safety of traveling to Paris and other cities in France amid ongoing violence have arisen for many individuals planning their summer trips. Violent protests and disturbances have unfolded, leading to the implementation of curfews in certain towns near the capital. The disruption to transportation services has been significant, with a nationwide shutdown of bus and tram services ordered at 9 p.m. on Friday in an effort to control the violence.
Given that the peak travel season coincides with the start of the Tour de France, a globally watched sporting event, potential visitors may have numerous questions about the current situation in France. Here are some answers to address their concerns:
Current Situation in France
Violence has erupted in various areas of major French cities over consecutive nights following the fatal shooting of Nahel Merzouk, a teenager of Algerian descent. The incident, captured on video, has sparked confrontations between the police and protesters. The protests initially began in Nanterre, a Parisian suburb where Merzouk was shot, but have since spread to other parts of Paris and several other cities. The intensity of the outrage has led to the arrest of over 800 people on the night of June 29. Merzouk’s death has become a focal point for expressing anger about racial inequality and allegations of police discrimination in France.
Protests initially started in Nanterre and later extended to other areas surrounding Paris, such as Bezons, Gennevilliers, Garges-lès-Gonesse, Asnières-sur-Seine, Montreuil, Neuilly-sur-Marne, Clamart, and Meudon. In addition to the central Paris “arrondissements” where most tourist attractions and accommodations are located, protests have also taken place in Trappes, Clergy, Guyancourt, Vigneux-sur-Seine, as well as in key tourist cities like Marseille and Bordeaux in the south and Lille and Roubaix in the north.
Curfews in Place
Limited curfews have been imposed in two towns near Paris that have experienced some of the most severe violence. In Clamart, a curfew from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. is enforced and will continue nightly until July 3. Neuilly-sur-Marne has implemented restrictions from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Impact on Transportation
Protests have significantly affected transportation networks. France has ordered the nationwide shutdown of all bus and tram services by 9 p.m. on Friday. Prior to this measure, some services in and around Paris had already been suspended due to the violence, which also targeted transport infrastructure. Incidents include a tram being set on fire in Clamart and buses being torched in the Paris suburb of Aubervilliers. Although the Metro system in Paris is operating normally, disruptions to some bus services have occurred. The Nanterre-Préfecture train station has been closed. In Lille, bus and tram services were suspended after 8 p.m. on Thursday but resumed with diversions on Friday. Public transport in Marseille was scheduled to stop at 7 p.m. It is advisable to check transportation websites for updates before traveling, as further shutdowns or disruptions may occur if the protests continue.
Safety of Visiting
While the death of the teenager and subsequent outrage have had a profound impact on France, much of daily life remains unaffected. The central areas of Paris, where major tourist attractions such as the Louvre Art Museum and the Eiffel Tower are located, have largely been untouched by the protests. Similarly, rural and coastal areas, popular destinations for many visitors, have not experienced significant disruptions.
However, the duration of the protests and the measures the French government might adopt to address them remain uncertain. Various countries have issued travel advisories warning about the protests and advising people to monitor the news and stay in touch with tour operators. Nevertheless, none of these advisories currently discourage travel to France altogether.
On June 29, the US State Department issued a security alert cautioning its citizens about the violent aftermath of the teenager’s shooting and advising them to avoid trouble spots. It also highlighted the possibility of ongoing demonstrations that may turn violent. Similarly, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office issued warnings but emphasized that most visits to France occur without incident. While the protests may disrupt road travel or lead to incidents targeting parked cars near protest areas, the majority of the approximately 17 million British nationals who visit France annually do so without encountering any trouble.
Travelers are advised to exercise caution, stay informed through media outlets such as France24, RFI, and The Local, and follow the guidance of local authorities. It is also recommended to have travel insurance and inform friends or family about one’s whereabouts. As the situation may change rapidly, it is essential to stay updated on any developments before embarking on a trip to France.