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

Civil unrest and aggressive drivers: What Americans are warned about in France
Planning a trip to France? Be careful! Photo: AFP
Riots, drone laws and watch out for those aggressive French drivers - this is the advice that American tourists receive on travelling to France.

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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