Civil unrest and aggressive drivers: What Americans are warned about in France

Riots, drone laws and watch out for those aggressive French drivers - this is the advice that American tourists receive on travelling to France.

Civil unrest and aggressive drivers: What Americans are warned about in France
Planning a trip to France? Be careful! Photo: AFP

The US State Department maintains official government advice for Americans on travel to all countries, along with a four-step travel advisory system that rates the safety of the country.

And their comments on France make for fascinating reading. 

READ ALSO Why Americans should move to France – according to one Nobel prize winner

'Yellow vest' protests have largely fizzled out. Photo: AFP

France is currently rated as Level 2 and Americans considering to travel here are advised to 'exercise increased caution'. In that level it joins the UK, Germany, Spain and Italy which are all rated as a level 2 risk due to civil unrest or terrorism.

France gets its rating based on the risk of both terrorism and civil unrest, with American travellers warned that “terrorist groups continue plotting possible attacks in France”.

Civil unrest is also listed as a risk with the site stating: “The US Embassy is advising official US government travelers to avoid travel to Paris and other major cities in France on the weekends.”

Since the site hasn't been updated since April 2019 we assume they're referring to the weekly 'yellow vest' protests which were ongoing at the time but have now largely ceased.

The site warns: “Demonstrations in Paris and other major cities continue in France and are expected to continue in the coming weeks. Property damage, including looting and arson, in populated tourist areas has occurred with reckless disregard for public safety. Police have responded with water cannons, rubber bullets, and tear gas.”

Tourists are advised to avoid demonstrations, review travel plans if in France at weekends and find a safe location to shelter in if in the vicinity of large gatherings.

In fact the Saturday 'yellow vest' gatherings have dwindled hugely over the past year and ceased altogether in most parts of France.

Paris still sees the occasional protest, which sometimes merge with union marches protesting over plans for pension reform, but in most parts of the capital you wouldn't notice that anything was amiss.

READ ALSO These are the driving offences that can lose you your licence in France

It seems the reputation of French drivers has reached the US government. Photo: AFP

But it's not just the possibility of riots that has got the US State Department worried, French drivers also merit a mention, as “driving habits pose special dangers”.

French drivers do have something of a reputation as perhaps not being the world's safest, it is true.

Americans are warned that: “Driving is typically faster and more aggressive than in the United States. Lane markings and sign placements may not be clear. Drivers should be prepared to make last-minute manoeuvres.”

And it's not just if you plan to get behind the wheel either.

“Pedestrians should be cautious and aware of traffic even when they have a green walking signal since this is no guarantee against aggressive drivers. Do not assume cars will stop for pedestrians in a crosswalk.”

Here you will find a notable difference between Paris and the rest of France.

READ ALSO Why being a pedestrian in Paris can be a high risk activity

Anyone planning on bringing their drone on holiday should also watch out.
The use of drones in France is described as “highly regulated” and “it is against the law in France to operate drones over public spaces in urban areas, and near airports, military bases, prisons, nuclear plants, and large gatherings such as outdoor concerts and parades. The privacy of individuals captured in drone footage is paramount. Violators can be arrested and subject to fines of up to €75,000 and/or one year imprisonment.”
And we're not sure quite how many people this applies to, but the site adds: “US citizens interested in joining the French Foreign Legion should be aware that the cognitive and physical tests for acceptance are extremely challenging.”
The French Foreign Legion is always on the lookout for brave (or foolhardy?) new recruits. Photo: AFP
Well that is true, but if you make it through training alive you get to wear the extremely natty leather apron and gloves (above) – as well as potentially be eligible for the Foreign Legion veterans' vineyard.

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What changes in France in July 2022

Summer's here and the time is right for national celebrations, traffic jams, strikes, Paris beaches, and ... changing the rules for new boilers.

What changes in France in July 2022

Summer holidays

The holiday season in France officially begins on Thursday, July 7th, as this is the date when school’s out for the summer. The weekend immediately after the end of the school year is expected to be a busy one on the roads and the railways as families start heading off on vacation.

READ ALSO 8 things to know about driving in France this summer


But it wouldn’t really be summer in France without a few strikes – airport employees at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports will walk out on July 1st, while SNCF rail staff will strike on July 6th. Meanwhile Ryanair employees at Paris, Marseille and Toulouse airports will strike on yet-to-be-confirmed dates in July.

READ ALSO How strikes and staff shortages will affect summer in France

Parliamentary fireworks?

Prime minister Elisabeth Borne will present the government’s new programme in parliament on July 5th – this is expected to be a tricky day for the Macron government, not only does it not have the parliamentary majority that it needs to pass legislation like the new package of financial aid to help householders deal with the cost-of-living crisis, but opposition parties have indicated that they will table a motion of no confidence against Borne.

Parliament usually breaks for the summer at the end of July, but a special extended session to allow legislation to be passed means that MPs won’t get to go on holiday until at least August 9th. 

Fête nationale

July 14th is a public holiday in France, commemorating the storming of the Bastille which was the symbolic start of the French Revolution. As usual, towns and cities will host parades and fireworks – with the biggest military parade taking place on the Champs-Elysées in Paris – and many stores will remain closed.

As the national holiday falls on a Thursday this year, many French workers will take the opportunity to faire le pont.

Festival season really kicks in

You know summer’s here when France gets festival fever, with events in towns and cities across the country. You can find our pick of the summer celebrations here.

Paris Plages

The capital’s popular urban beaches return on July 9th on the banks of the Seine and beside the Bassin de la Villette in northern Paris, bringing taste of the seaside to the capital with swimming spots, desk chairs, beach games and entertainment.  

Summer sales end 

Summer sales across most of the country end on July 19th – unless you live in Alpes-Maritimes, when they run from July 6th to August 2nd, or the island of Corsica (July 13th to August 9th).

Tour de France

The Tour de France cycle race sets off on July 1st from Copenhagen and finishes up on the Champs-Elysée in Paris on July 24th.

New boilers

From July 1st, 2022, new equipment installed for heating or hot water in residential or professional buildings, must comply with a greenhouse gas emissions ceiling of 300 gCO2eq/KWh PCI. 

That’s a technical way of saying oil or coal-fired boilers can no longer be installed. Nor can any other type of boiler that exceeds the ceiling.

As per a decree published in the Journal Officiel in January, existing appliances can continue to be used, maintained and repaired, but financial aid of up to €11,000 is planned to encourage their replacement. 

Bike helmets

New standards for motorbike helmets come into effect from July 1st. Riders do not need to change their current helmets, but the “ECE 22.05” standard can no longer be issued – and all helmets sold must adhere to a new, more stringent “ECE 22.06” standards from July 2024

New cars

From July 6th new car models must be equipped with a black box that record driving parameters such as speed, acceleration or braking phases, wearing (or not) of a seat belt, indicator use, the force of the collision or engine speed, in case of accidents.

New cars II

From July 1st, the ecological bonus for anyone who buys an electric vehicle drops by €1,000, while rechargeable hybrids will be excluded from the aid system, “which will be reserved for electric vehicles whose CO2 emission rate is less than or equal to 20g/km”.

What’s in a name?

Historically, the French have been quite restrictive on the use of family names – remember the concern over the use of birth names on Covid vaccine documents? – but it becomes easier for an adult to choose to bear the name of his mother, his father, or both by a simple declaration to the civil status. All you have to do is declare your choice by form at the town hall of your home or place of birth.

Eco loans

In concert with the new boiler rules, a zero-interest loan of up to €30,000 to finance energy-saving renovations can be combined with MaPrimeRénov’, a subsidy for financing the same work, under certain conditions, from July 1st.

Rent rules

Non-professional private landlords advertising properties for rent must, from July 1st, include specific information about the property on the ad, including the size of the property in square metres, the area of town in which the property is in, the monthly rent and any supplements, whether the property is in a rent-control area, and the security deposit required. Further information, including the full list of requirements for any ad, is available here.

Perfume ban

More perfumes are to be added to a banned list for products used by children, such as soap-making kits, cosmetic sets, shampoos, or sweet-making games, or toys that have an aroma.

Atranol, chloroatranol (extracts of oak moss containing tannins), and methyl carbonate heptin, which smells like violets, will be banned from July 5th, because of their possible allergenic effects.

Furthermore, 71 new allergenic fragrances – including camphor, menthol, vanilin, eucalyptus spp. leaf oil, rose flower oil, lavendula officinalis, turpentine – will be added to the list of ingredients that must be clearly indicated on a toy or on an attached label.

Ticket resto limits

The increased ticket resto limit ended on June 30th, so from July 1st employees who receive the restaurant vouchers will once again be limited to spending €19 per day in restaurants, cafés and bars. The limit was increased to €38 during the pandemic, when workers were working from home.