Avoiding Trouble in France
When driving in France, bear in mind that car theft and break-ins are quite common, especially in quiet tourist areas. Always make sure that nothing of value is left in the car, particularly overnight. Foreign number plates are a give-away and it is amazing the number of people who, when having an overnight stop, don't bother to unload their car, leaving rich pickings for thieves. No matter how tired you are, take time to unload because if you have not taken reasonable care to look after your belongings you may well find that you are not covered by your insurance. Keep your car doors locked at all times when travelling, especially in the South, where thieves on motorbikes sometimes draw up beside you at red lights and grab whatever they can.
Lying on the beach or sitting at an outdoor café can often mean that you relax your guard. Make sure that you know where your belongings are at all times. Don't leave your handbag over the back of your seat or at your feet, and try not to take anything of value to the beach. Waterproof money belts can be bought at good camping shops and whilst not always the most comfortable things to wear on a hot beach, they are nevertheless well worth having.
Apart from Paris, Nice and Marseilles have the highest crime rates against tourists. Areas to avoid:
- The Old Port
- The Canebière area
- Cours Saleya
- Promenade des Anglais
- Les Moulins
A couple of handy phrases if you are the focus of unwanted attention are:
Laissez-moi tranquille – Leave me alone
Je suis occupé – I'm busy
The only other dangers that you may encounter in France tend to be natural ones. Watch out for rip tides, especially on the Atlantic and North coasts, and swim only in the zones de baignade surveille where there is a lifeguard. Weather conditions can change quickly in mountainous areas and if you are walking, or canyoning, take the advice of locals and go prepared for the worst. Make sure that someone knows where you have gone and what time you expect to be back so that if you don't turn up, help can be sought. Drink more water than you would normally when hiking in the Alps to avoid dehydration as the air is dry, and use plenty of sunscreen to take account of the stronger UV radiation at high altitudes.