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Background Information from the US State Department

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: France is a developed and stable democracy with a modern economy. Monaco is a developed constitutional monarchy.

ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: A passport is required for entry to France and Monaco . A visa is not required for tourist/business stays up to 90 days in France and Monaco . For further information concerning entry requirements for France , travelers may contact the Embassy of France at 4101 Reservoir Road, N.W. Washington , D.C. 20007, tel. (202) 944-6000, or the French Consulates General in Atlanta , Boston , Chicago , Houston , Los Angeles , Miami , New Orleans , New York , or San Francisco . The web site for the Consular Section of the French Embassy in the United States is: http://www.consulfrance-washington.org. For further information on entry requirements to Monaco , travelers may contact the Consulate General of Monaco at 565 5th Avenue , New York , N.Y. 10017, tel. (212) 759-5227. The Consulate General's web site is http://www.monaco-consulate.com.

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.

DUAL NATIONALITY: Dual nationals, who are French or Monegasque citizens as well as U.S. citizens, are subject to all French and Monegasque laws that affect U.S. citizens. Moreover, dual nationals also may be subject to other laws that impose special obligations on French and Monegasque citizens. In some instances, dual nationality may hamper U.S. Government efforts to provide protection abroad. For additional information, please see the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov for our Dual Nationality flyer .

SAFETY AND SECURITY: The Government of France maintains a national anti-terrorism plan, "Vigipirate Renforce." Under this plan, in times of heightened security concerns, the government mobilizes police and armed forces at airports, train and metro stations, and other high-profile locations such as schools, embassies, and government installations. In recent months, arrests have been made in France in connection with various possible terrorist plots. American citizens should remain alert and vigilant, and report any suspect packages or suspicious activities to local police. In the past, political assassinations and random bombings have occurred in France . One U.S. citizen was injured incidentally in these attacks, but none have been killed. All passengers on subways and trains are urged to be aware of their surroundings and to report any unattended baggage to the nearest authority.

The Basque Separatist Party (ETA) and the National Front for the Liberation of Corsica (FLNC) continue to operate in the south of France and occasionally bomb local government institutions, banks, travel agencies, etc. There have been numerous politically motivated bombings on the island of Corsica . While no deaths were caused by any of these acts of terrorism, Americans should remain vigilant when traveling to Corsica .

Violent civil disorder is rare in France . In the past, however, student demonstrations, labor protests and other routine demonstrations have turned into violent confrontations between demonstrators and police. Americans are advised to avoid street demonstrations, and can obtain current travel information at the State Department's Consular Affairs web site at http://travel.state.gov.

CRIME: Both France and Monaco have relatively low rates of violent crime, and the crime rate in both countries has fallen slightly in recent years. Thieves commonly target vehicles with non-local license plates and tourist attractions such as museums, monuments, restaurants, hotels, beaches, trains, train stations, airports and subways. Americans in France and Monaco should be particularly alert to pickpockets in train stations and subways. Photocopies of travel documents and credit cards should be kept separate from the originals.

Although thieves may operate anywhere, the U.S. Embassy in Paris receives frequent reports of theft from several areas in particular:

Paris : Gangs of thieves operate on the rail link (RER) from Charles de Gaulle Airport to downtown Paris , where they prey on jet-lagged, luggage-burdened tourists. In one common ruse, a thief distracts a tourist with a question about directions, while an accomplice steals their momentarily unguarded backpack, briefcase or purse. Thieves also time their thefts to coincide with train stops so they may quickly exit the car. Travelers may wish to consider taking a bus or taxi from the airport into the city.

Reports of stolen purses, briefcases and carry-on bags at Charles de Gaulle Airport have been on the rise. Travelers should monitor their bags at all times and never leave them unattended. As thieves commonly target laptop bags, travelers should avoid carrying passports and other valuables in computer bags.

There have been a number of violent armed robberies, including knife attacks that have taken place late at night, in the vicinity of the Eiffel Tower .

There have been reports of robberies in which thieves on motorcycles reach into a moving car by opening the car door or reaching through an open window to steal purses and other bags visible inside. Those traveling by car should remember to keep the windows up and the doors locked.

There have also been reports of bags stolen from pedestrians by thieves on motorcycles. In some of these cases, victims who did not release their bags were dragged by the motorcyclist and suffered serious injury.

Many thefts occur on the Number One Subway Line, which runs by many major tourist attractions (including the Grand Arch at La Defense, the Arc de Triomphe, the Champs Elysees , Place de la Concorde, the Louvre and the Bastille). Pickpockets are especially active on this metro line during the summer months.

Gare du Nord train station, where the express trains from the airport arrive in Paris , is also a high-risk area for pickpocketing and theft. Travelers should also beware of thefts that occur on both overnight and day trains, especially on trains originating in Spain , Italy and Belgium . Additionally, several sexual assaults involving American citizens have occurred recently in the immediate vicinity of the Gard du Nord train station.

Many thefts occur at the major department stores (Galeries Lafayette, Printemps and Samaritaine) where tourists often place wallets, passports and credit cards on cashier counters during transactions.

In hotels, thieves target lobbies and breakfast rooms, and take advantage of a minute of inattention to snatch jackets, purses and backpacks. While many hotels do have safety latches that allow guests to secure their rooms from inside, this feature is not as universal as it is in the United States . If no chain or latch is present, a chair placed up against the door is usually an effective obstacle to surreptitious entry during the night. There are, however, reports of thieves breaking into hotel rooms on lower floors through open windows while the occupants are sleeping. To guard against this, hotel room windows should be kept locked at all times.

There have been reports of thieves stealing hotel safes from hotel rooms in a broad range of Parisian hotels. Whenever possible, valuables should be kept in the hotel safe behind the reception desk rather than in the room safe.

Many Americans have reported thefts occurring in restaurants, where purses are stolen from the back of a chair or from under the table during the meal.

ATMs (Automatic Teller Machines) are very common in France and provide ready access to cash, allowing travelers to carry as much money as they need for each day. The rates are competitive with local exchange bureaus and an ATM transaction is easier than the cashing of travelers' checks. However, crimes committed around ATMs have been reported. Travelers should not use ATMs in isolated, unlit areas or where loiterers are present. Travelers should be especially aware of persons standing close enough to see the PIN (Personal Identification Number) being entered into the machine. Thieves often conduct successful scams by simply observing the PIN as it is entered. If the card becomes stuck, travelers should be wary of persons who offer to help or ask for the PIN to "fix" the machine. Legitimate bank employees never have a reason to ask for the PIN.

Pigalle is the red-light district of Paris . Many entertainment establishments in this area engage in aggressive marketing and charge well beyond the normal rate for drinks. There have been reports of threats of violence to coerce patrons into paying exorbitant beverage tabs.

Normandy : There has been an increase in break-ins and thefts from vehicles in the parking lots at the Normandy beaches and American cemeteries. Valuables should not be left unattended in a car, and locking valuables in the trunk should not be considered a safeguard. Thieves often pry open car trunks to steal bags inside.

Southern France : Thefts from cars stopped at red lights are common, particularly in the Nice-Antibes-Cannes area, and in Marseille. Car doors should be kept locked at all times to prevent incidents of "snatch-and-grab" thefts. In this type of scenario, the thief is usually a passenger on a motorcycle. Similar incidents also have occurred at tollbooths and rest areas. Special caution is advised when entering and exiting a car, as this presents an opportunity for purse-snatchers.

Purse-snatching and pickpocketing occur throughout southern France . Passports should be carried on one's person when necessary, and shoulder bags should be worn bandolier-style across the chest, not on the shoulder.

 

Break-ins of parked cars are also common. Locking valuables in the trunk is not a safeguard. Valuables should not be left unattended in a car.

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate, where you may obtain information about passport replacement. U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's pamphlet, A Safe Trip Abroad , for ways to promote a more trouble-free journey. The pamphlet is available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office , Washington , D.C. , 20402 , or via the Internet at http://www.gopaccess.gov/index.html, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.

MEDICAL FACILITIES: Medical care comparable to that found in the United States is widely available.

MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and if it will cover emergency expenses such as medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States . However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas, including emergency services such as medical evacuations.

When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the United States may cost well in excess of $50,000. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties, whereas travelers who have purchased overseas medical insurance have found it to be lifesaving when a medical emergency has occurred. When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, please ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or if you will be reimbursed later for expenses that you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.

Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000.

OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States . The information below concerning France and Monaco is provided for general reference only, and it may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

 


Safety of Public Transportation: Good
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Good
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Good
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Good

Roads in France are generally comparable to those in the United States , but traffic engineering and driving habits pose special dangers. Usually, lane markings and sign placements are not as clear as in the United States . Drivers should be prepared to make last-minute maneuvers, as most French drivers do. French drivers usually drive more aggressively and faster than Americans and tend to exceed posted speed limits. Right-of-way rules in France may differ from those in the United States . Drivers entering intersections from the right have priority over those on the left (unless specifically indicated otherwise), even when entering relatively large boulevards from small side streets. Many intersections in France are being replaced by circles, where the right-of-way belongs to drivers in the circle.

On the major highways, service stations are situated every 25 miles or less. Service stations are as plentiful on secondary roads as in the United States .

Paris , the capital and largest city in France , has an extensive and efficient public transportation system. The interconnecting system of buses, subways, and commuter rails serves more than 4 million people a day with a safety record comparable to or better than the systems of major American cities. Similar transportation systems are found in all major French cities. Between cities, France is served by an equally extensive rail service, which is safe and reliable. High-speed rail links connect the major cities in France . Many cities are also served by frequent air service.

For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites , please see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html. For specific information concerning French and Monegasque driver's permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, please contact the French and Monegasque National Tourist Office hotline at New York at (202) 659-7779 or via the Internet at: http://www.franceguide.com.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of France's Civil Aviation Authority as Category 1 -- in compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of France 's air carrier operations.

For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the United States at tel. 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet web site at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the DOD at tel. (618) 256-4801.

CUSTOMS REGULATIONS: French customs authorities enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from France of items such as firearms, antiquities, medications, business equipment, sales samples, and other items. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of France in Washington , D.C. , or one of France 's consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements.

French customs authorities encourage the use of an ATA (Admission Temporaire/Temporary Admission) Carnet for the temporary admission of professional equipment, commercial samples, and/or goods for exhibitions and fair purposes. ATA Carnet Headquarters , located at the U.S. Council for International Business, 1212 Avenue of the Americas , New York , NY , 10036 , issues and guarantees the ATA Carnet in the United States . For additional information, please call (212) 354-4480, or send an e-mail to atacarnet@uscib.org, or visit http://www.uscib.org for details.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating French or Monegasque laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in France or Monaco are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.

CURRENCY: The official unit of currency in France and Monaco is the Euro.   EMERGENCY NUMBERS: The emergency numbers in France for the police, fire and medical assistance are as follows: 17 (police emergency), 18 (fire department) and 15 (emergency medical/paramedic team/ambulance). In Monaco , the numbers are 17 (police emergency), 18 (fire department) and 9375-2525 (medical/paramedic team/ambulance).

CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html or telephone (202) 736-7000.

REGISTRATION/EMBASSY AND CONSULATE LOCATIONS: Americans living in or visiting France or Monaco are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Paris or the nearest Consulate and to obtain updated information on travel and security within France and Monaco .

The Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Paris is located at 2 Rue St. Florentin, 75001 Paris (Place de La Concorde, Metro Stop Concorde), tel. 011-33-1-43-12-22-22 or (in France ) 01-43-12-22-22; fax 011-33-1-42-61-61-40. Further information can be obtained at the U.S. Embassy's web site at http://www.amb-usa.fr.

The Consulate General in Marseille is located at Place Varian Fry, 13086 Marseille, tel. 011-33-4-91-54-92-00, ext. 304, or (in France ) 04-91-54-92-00, ext. 304; fax 011-33-4-91-55-09-47.

The Consulate General in Strasbourg is located at 15 Avenue d'Alsace, 67082 Strasbourg , tel. 011-33-3-88-35-31-04 or (in France ) 03-88-35-31-04; fax 011-33-3-88-24-06-95. The Consulate General in Strasbourg does not produce passports on the premises. American citizens in this area whose passports are lost or stolen and who have urgent travel needs should contact the U.S. Embassy in Paris .

The Consular Agency in Nice is located at 7, Avenue Gustave V, 3rd floor, 06000 Nice, tel. 011-33-4-93-88-89-55 or (in France ) 04-93-88-89-55; fax 011-33-4-93-87-07-38.

The U.S. Government also has consular representation in Bordeaux , Lille , Lyon , Rennes , and Toulouse that provide some emergency services to Americans. However, their primary focus is economic and commercial.

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