‘Hotel rats’: Paris tourists warned about thieves who prey on guests

Gangs of thieves dubbed "the hotel rats" are preying on guests at Paris hotels using various scams and techniques to steal tourists' belongings, French police have said.

'Hotel rats': Paris tourists warned about thieves who prey on guests
Photo: AFP

With the number of tourists visiting Paris set to swell over the next few weeks during the summer high season, thieves who prey on visitors will also be out in numbers.

Visitors might know about the pickpockets on the Metro or the street scams to avoid, but are less likely to be aware of the thieves targeting them in their hotels, often pretending to be fellow tourists.

These kind of thieves and pickpockets have been dubbed “hotel rats” because of the way they sneak and scurry around in the background often unnoticed, but they are known to target some of the capital's poshest hotels.

“They go to hotel complexes in Paris but also in suburbs around the city like Courbevoie or Vincennes, where there are also tourists,” Tony Mariet, the commissioner of the capital's anti-scam BRB (Brigade de répression du banditisme) police unit told Le Parisien newspaper.

“Some of them mingle with groups of tourists and leave with their luggage and others book rooms in hotels under false names and tour the rooms looking for safes,” said Mariet. “We are dealing with international professional criminals.”

“They work in teams,” the commissioner added. “They carry out raids over a few months in Paris, before leaving for other foreign capitals like Rome.”

The main area of Paris targeted by thieves is the so-called “Golden Triangle” around the Champs-Elysées Avenue and the surrounding plush shopping district.

Many hotel staff all have stories of being caught out by these thieves, who blend into the crowd before either stealing tourists' bags and suitcases or breaking into their rooms.

One hotelier named Stephane said a small team of thieves managed to take off some of the magnetic locking devices on hotel room doors without anyone noticing.

The commissioner Mariet said his teams will work closely with hotel groups to try to track down the thieves, which will often depend on the quality of images caught on the establishment's video surveillance network.

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Revealed: The fastest way to get across Paris

Car, moped, public transport, or electric bicycle - which means of transport is the quickest way to get across Paris?

Revealed: The fastest way to get across Paris

One intrepid reporter for French daily Le Parisien decided to find out. 

The challenge was simple. Which mode of transport would get the journalist from the heart of Fontenay-sous-Bois in the eastern suburbs to the newspaper’s office on Boulevard de Grenelle, west Paris, fastest?

Over four separate journeys, each one in the middle of rush hour, the electric bicycle was quickest and easiest. More expensive than conventional bikes, electric bikes do come with a government subsidy.

The journey was described as ‘pleasant and touristy’ on a dry but chilly morning going via dedicated cycle lanes that meant the dogged journalist avoided having to weave in and out of traffic.

It took, in total, 47 minutes from start to finish at an average speed of 19km/h, on a trip described as “comfortable” but with a caveat for bad weather. The cost was a few centimes for charging up the bike.

In comparison, a car journey between the same points took 1 hour 27 minutes – a journey not helped by a broken-down vehicle. Even accounting for that, according to the reporter’s traffic app, the journey should – going via part of the capital’s southern ringroad – have taken about 1 hr 12.

Average speed in the car was 15km/h, and it cost about €2.85 in diesel – plus parking.

A “chaotic and stressful” moped trip took 1 hour 3 minutes, and cost €1.30 in unleaded petrol.

Public transport – the RER and Metro combined via RER A to Charles-de-Gaulle-Étoile then Metro line 6 to the station Bir-Hakeim – took 50 minutes door to door, including a 10-minute walk and cost €2.80. The journey was described as “tiring”.

READ ALSO 6 ways to get around Paris without the Metro