France Country Report
During normal periods, the vast majority of trips to France (population 67 million) - one of the world's most popular tourist destinations - proceed smoothly. Nonetheless, as is the case for many other Western countries, there remain a few points of concern that those planning a trip to the country should take into account.
Since early 2015, France has been regularly targeted by terrorist attacks and tightened security measures have been taken to face this threat. Security forces patrol public places and the entrances of public buildings have been reinforced.
On the evening of Friday, November 13, coordinated attacks claimed by the terrorist organization the Islamic State (IS) were carried out in the Paris region. Targeted sites included the exterior of the Stade de France stadium (located in the suburb of Saint-Denis, just north of Paris), various establishments in the 10th arrondissement/district (Rue Bichat and Rue Alibert), and a concert hall in the 11th arrondissement (Le Bataclan), where some 100 people were killed.
This series of attacks resulted in a casualty count that was unprecedented in the country. More than 130 confirmed deaths were reported with hundreds of people injured, many seriously.
Immediately after the attacks, the French government declared a nationwide state of emergency for three months, which has since been extended several times. In mid-December, the French government further extended the state of emergency until November 1, 2017. The terrorist alert level (the Plan Vigipirate) was increased to its highest level ("Attack") on the evening of November 13 in the Paris region and will remain at this level until further notice.
On July 14, 2016, another major attack took place in Nice, leaving 84 people dead when a tractor trailer drove into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day on the Promenade des Anglais. The Plan Vigipirate was subsequently raised to "Attack" in the department of Alpes-Maritimes.
On February 3, 2017, a man armed with machetes assaulted a soldier running towards him at the entrance of the Louvre museum carousel. After trying to control the man without using arms, the four soldiers present stopped him by shooting him five times in the abdomen. One soldier sustained non-life-threatening injuries after he was struck in the head by the assailant with a machete. The investigation of the attacker's motivation is ongoing, but the incident was qualified by the Interior Ministry as a terrorist attack.
It is estimated that at least 1600 French citizens have left to fight for IS in Iraq and Syria.
Protest movements regularly take place in mainland France as well as in overseas departments and territories. Fringe violence often breaks out along the peripheries of large rallies and protests in urban areas. These troublemakers do not hesitate to damage property and often clash with security forces.
On May 10, 2016, the French cabinet approved using special powers to pass very controversial labor law reforms without parliamentary approval. The decision sparked nationwide protests and strikes throughout the public sector and transportation industries, causing significant transit disruptions across the country.
There have been clashes between protesters and police in several cities, especially in Paris outside the National Assembly and at Place de la République. Protests have repeatedly turned violent with officers clashing with demonstrators and police firing tear gas at protesters. As of May 20, the French government estimated that approximately 1300 arrests had been made in the weeks of labor protests. The most violent rallies occurred in Paris, Rennes, and Nantes.
Several unions responded to the government's measure by announcing 24-hour strikes every Wednesday and Thursday until the law is repealed. Flights and train services in the country are at risk of disruption until further notice. In May 2016, oil refinery workers in the west of the country went on strike and erected barriers to block truck access, leading to a fuel shortage at many stations.
While violent crime is relatively rare, petty crime is common, particularly on public transit; foreigners can be specifically targeted.
The risk of flooding is relatively high; 5 to 7 percent of France's territory is located in flood zones. In November 1999, flooding in areas of Aude and Pyrénées-Orientales departments left some 30 people dead. Strong winter storms, such as Xynthia in February 2010, also occasionally strike the country. This storm brought violent winds and very high tides, which generated unprecedented flooding, leaving some 40 people dead, principally in the Vendée, Charente-Maritime, and des Côtes d'Armor departments. In October 2015, floods in the southeast of the country killed at least 18 people. More recently, in February 2017, the French Meteorological Institute - Météo France - issued red alerts for several departments, including Charente, Charente-Maritime, and Gironde, due to severe wind.
High-quality medical care is available nationwide and health conditions in the country are generally good.
France has been a member of the European Union since 1958 and is a member of the visa- and checkpoint-free Schengen Area.
France has a temperate climate with four main climatic regions.
In the west, the climate is oceanic and humid, with mild winters and relatively cool summers.
The climate in Alsace, Lorraine, along the Rhone corridor, and in mountainous regions (Alps, Pyrenees, Central Massif) is semi-continental with harsh winters and hot summers.
In the north (Paris and Central Region), winters are cold and summers hot.
The south of France enjoys a Mediterranean climate with mild winters and hot summers.
Useful NumbersCountry Code: +33 Police: 17 Fire Dept.: 18 UAS: 15
Voltage: 230 V ~ 50 Hz
France: Regional rail strike in Centre-Val de Loire February 22-23
TIMEFRAME: from 2/22/2018, 12:00 AM until 3/23/2018, 11:59 PM (Europe/Paris).
COUNTRY/REGION: Centre-Val de Loire
France: Air France strike February 22 /update 1
TIMEFRAME: from 2/21/2018, 12:00 AM until 2/23/2018, 11:59 PM (Europe/Paris).