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Should I cancel my trip to Paris because of the mass strikes in France?

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Should I cancel my trip to Paris because of the mass strikes in France?
Were you planning a December trip to Paris? Photo: AFP
12:57 CET+01:00
As what looks likely to be a major and long-running strike begins in France, we have received many questions from readers worried about whether to cancel planned trips to Paris. Here we look at some of the issues.

With its beautiful city centre, festive decorations, great shops and nearby attractions like Disneyland, Paris is a very popular destination for a December trip - whether it's a weekend mini-break to do the Christmas shopping or a week of culture amid its world famous museums.

But with unlimited strike action possibly causing chaos throughout December, many tourists are now wondering whether to cancel altogether.

READ ALSO 'Unlimited' strikes in France in December - what you need to know

The strike is set to be the biggest in France since 1995. Photo: AFP

So what do you need to think about if you have a trip planned?

Will I be safe?

First things first, you will not be in any danger if you come. Strikes in France are generally very disruptive but not violent affairs and unlike in other countries do not lead to mass social unrest and all-out riots, although union-lead protests that accompany strikes can sometimes end in trouble.

You may have seen some dramatic news footage of a small group of black-clad youths who had joined a big union protest smashing windows and setting things on fire on Thursday.

However these type of actions are committed by a tiny minority and are generally on pre-planned demonstrations, the routes of which are publicised in advance so they are easy to avoid.

Although the 'Black Bloc' rioters look pretty scary, their actions are usually targeted at shops, banks etc and they are not violent towards people. Skirmishes with the police frequently end in the police using tear gas and rubber bullets, neither of which are fun to be around so we would advise giving demonstrations a miss.

People have also asked if they will be safe walking around the city. Like all big cities Paris does have its share of crime, but pickpocketing is by far the most common crime and in general Paris is a safe city to walk around.

Will I be able to get there?

Although the strikes involve a large number of public sector workers including teachers, lawyers, postal workers and civil servants, for tourists the biggest impact will be on transport services.

These will be heavily disrupted on December 6th and the disruption will likely continue in a similar vein as the dispute goes on.

Around 20 percent of flights over France have been cancelled but many are still running and long-haul flights are less disrupted. If you have pre-booked flights airlines will contact you 48 hours in advance if your flight has been cancelled.

If you are coming by Eurostar you will find services disrupted but running - the company is running about half its normal timetable and the same applies if you are travelling by train from another European country.

The Channel tunnel will be running as normal, and ferries have seen some disruption from striking dock workers but are largely running, albeit with some delays.

Although if you take those options you will still have to connect from Calais to Paris and train services will be severely disrupted with 90 percent of services cancelled.

On the roads there is the possibility of blockades which can cause traffic jams and traffic in Paris itself is likely to be extremely heavy as commuters who normally use public transport take to their cars.

If you're flying, bear in mind that transport between the city and the airport is likely to be disrupted so it might be better to book a connection in advance.

Many Metro lines and stations will be closed altogether. Photo: AFP

Will I be able to get around Paris?

Public transport in Paris is very heavily disrupted, with many Metro lines closed altogether and severely limited services on buses and trams.

So we wouldn't advise relying on the public transport network. Fortunately there are plenty of other options for getting around.

READ ALSO Six ways to get around Paris without public transport

For a capital city Paris is very compact - just 9km across - so most things are within walking distance. Walking is also much the best way to see the city as you can see the sights and drink in the atmosphere as you go.

If you're going a little further there are a lot of bike hire schemes, plus options to hie electric scooters or mopeds and of course there are taxis.

Basically if you're infirm or not able to walk long distances this might not be the best time for a visit, but if you're reasonably fit and active you should be able to get about without too much trouble.

Will everything be closed?

No, the strike largely affects the public sector so businesses should be open as usual. If there is a big demo planned shops, bars and restaurants along the immediate route may be closed, but everything else will be open.

Indeed many Paris shopkeepers, worried about a dip in custom, are pleading with shoppers not to be put off.

READ ALSO Strikes leave Paris shopkeepers fearing another Christmas slump

Museums and tourist attractions are not directly affected, but of course their staff will be trying to get to work without public transport, so this could cause problems. The Louvre has warned visitors that some sections could be opening later than normal and there might be some rooms that are not open and the Eiffel Tower closed on the first day of the strike.

A stroll by the Seine is to be advised even if the buses are running. Photo: AFP

What are they striking about?

The strike is about pension reforms. The French government wants to do away with the 42 different systems that France currently operates and create one single system for everybody. But many public sector workers have 'special regimes' that either give them more generous pensions or the right to retire early, so they stand to lose out if the pension system changes.

We asked four French unions to explain to us why they feel they have no option but to take action.

When will it end?

That's the million dollar question! We don't know yet. 

On Thursday December 5th - the first day of the strike - unions for Paris transport workers announced they would continue their action until Monday, December 9th at least. But they warned the government that they were prepared to go on until Christmas.

One rail workers' union says they 'expect to be eating Christmas cake together' - ie still be on strike at Christmas - while a French political analyst that we spoke to said the action could last until the New Year.

The last time the French government attempted a major overhaul of the pension system was in 1995 - that lead to three weeks of strikes before the government caved.

But generally as strikes go on services become less disrupted as more employees return to work.

READ ALSO France strikes: 'Expect major disruption that could last until the New Year'


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Chez Moi - 05 Dec 2019 12:01
In a word? YES!
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