Staying Safe In Paris

It is true that some of the big cities in Europe certainly don't feel as safe as Singapore. I think many times we take the safety and security we have in Singapore for granted, so when we go overseas we get a little shocked at what we see.

But having said that, and of course assuming you take the normal common sense precautions that every tourist should take, the large cities are by and large very safe places. Think about it; if the locals were being robbed every day, they would have moved out long ago. I myself have stayed in Europe for four years and travelled around quite a bit. In fact, most of the houses don't have grills; so go figure.

Yes, petty theft is quite common especially in touristy areas where there are lots of clueless tourists; but I've never once had any incident. Maybe I look like I am very poor. Haha. But seriously, the neck pouch hung around my neck and tucked inside my shirt helps a lot; the moment they see you don't have a wallet in any pocket, they just go for some other easy tourist target. And yes, they are professionals.

I've heard the story of a guy in a tour group who had his wallet pickpocketed twice. While I sympathize with anyone who loses his valuables for the first time, losing it in the same way for the second time in the same trip is just plain stupid.

Here are the things I have learned from talking with the locals and from other seasoned travellers:

  1. Neck pouches tucked into your shirt are the best investment. No waist pouches, wallets in buttoned or zipped pockets, no wallets in the front pocket, and certainly no wallets in the back pocket. That's saying help yourself to my wallet.

  2. The only thing in your pockets should be coins, tissue paper, and other valueless items. Handphones in pockets are ok only if your pants are quite tight; else again it says pickpocket me.

  3. Don't talk to anyone, don't entertain anyone, don't make eye contact, and walk away. Don't be the foolish nice guy. Someone is lost and you follow him down a deserted side road? Get ready to make a police report. Think kids are harmless? Think again; kids work in gangs and they are good with their small hands and nimble fingers. Big black guy comes up to you and says "Hello friend, interested in a friendship band?" Better keep walking. Stop and he ties it around your wrist and he will demand EUR 50 from you; his friends will come over to "persuade" you to buy it. Some chinese person asks you "ni hui jiang hua yu mah" and you stop? Don't. It's always about money, one way or the other.

  4. If someone offers to help carry your heavy luggage, what do you say? Yes? If you think he can't run fast enough with your heavy luggage, think again. They seldom work alone. Someone smudged ice cream on your pants, and you are frantically cleaning it off? I think you've just lost your luggage.

  5. Valuable items in your backpack should not be easily stolen. Your camera, handphone, etc. should be at the bottom of your backpack, hidden by other items like sweaters, etc. You should be able to feel if someone is digging into your backpack.

  6. Backpacks should (ironically) not be carried on your back. Carry them in front, or hold them down on the side like you would hold a plastic bag.

  7. Don't let any "kind soul" offer to take your picture for you. Say bye to your camera. Instead, look for people who look like tourists and ask them instead.

  8. When taking the metro and arriving at a station for the first time, don't exit the train and stop to look at the various exits. That says "tourist" all over. Come out and just start walking in (what you think is) the right direction. If wrong, then just immediately turn around and continue walking. Don't stand around looking blur or worse still; pointing here and there arguing which way to go.

  9. Common places to take care: in the metro (especially just before the train doors close), at the Macdonalds queue (while you are intensely looking at the menu, someone is helping himself to your handphone), at crowded and touristy spots, at hotel reception counters. I think you get the gist.

In conclusion, there is no need to be paranoid (it's not Baghdad or anything), but having some common sense, being streetwise, and being alert will ensure a smooth and trouble free holiday. We've enjoyed Paris each time we were there and we never had any incident (people did approach us but we always just walked away); there is nothing like the buzz and excitement of a large city.

Back to Paris for around SGD 2,000 per person.

Last updated: Monday 9 November 2009, 22:10:18 hrs