Quick Travel Update March 2023
As you have probably seen in the news, things are a little…unsettled in France right now. I wanted to share some quick updates and resources for you as I wrap a few new blog posts and a new podcast episode (soon, mes amis!).
France is currently experiencing a rolling wave of unrest across the country in protest against the Pension Reform and now water management in southwestern France.
First and foremost, how bad is it really?
It is mostly impacting urban centers (not just Paris) but also smaller cities and even small towns. For a lot of us non-French, this whole thing sounds pretty scary. And the media has been sharing some disturbing images of fires, violence, and all-around mayhem.
But by and large, the people actually on the ground are providing a different story. Jay Swanson just released a video today (perfect timing, Jay!) that provides his opinion:
The one thing that I would disagree with is waiting until there is a whiff of
grapeshot tear gas or burning garbage to leave a protest. Everyone’s tolerance level is different, but after being unintentionally caught up in the WTO Riots in Seattle back in 1999, I much prefer to avoid the whole scene.
The US State Department also warns against taking part in protests. Participate at your own risk. And recognize that there is risk involved. The Police won’t know you’re a tourist and will treat you as any other protestor.
Should You Go On Your Trip?
In general, I think yes. I just booked a trip for this fall, but am grateful that I will hopefully be missing the protests and garbage. Though, in six months, anything could happen!
That said, your decision is yours alone. As Jay and others have said, you will have to be extra flexible. Your transportation may be interrupted, sites may be closed (the Louvre shut down on Monday without warning for example), and that perfect outdoor cafe may currently be a breeding ground for the next Remy.
However, protests, transit strikes, random site closures, and alarming numbers of rats are de rigour in Paris. It’s just that currently they are a guarantee instead of a possibility. Except for the rats. They are pretty much always guaranteed.
That said, you should bring your Situational Awareness A-Game. I’m reminded of advice our dad repeatedly gave my brother and I as teenagers. It made absolutely no sense until we were slightly older and had lived enough to get it. His advice?
“Always look 10 minutes ahead.”
We were baffled—how could we possibly look into the future?! But as we got older and had more experience under our belts, it became clear. We could start to recognize when situations were about to go sideways. And the 10-minute rule suddenly was sound wisdom!
So if you are going to be in France in the coming days, do as Papa Keel said and look 10 minutes ahead!
In sum: if you are ok with these parameters, then I would say Paris is still a good idea! [With the big disclaimer that my advice is just advice. It does not guarantee your safety!]
Resources To Help
The good news is that we live in the 21st century and information is at our fingertips. Here are a few options to help keep you up-to-date:
Transit & Tourist Sites
Most of these also have apps that can help you stay updated, check the websites for more info.
RATP (Paris Area Transit) Includes Metro, RER, and the buses.
Your airline website. If you’re flying Air France, sometimes the French site has more info than the English/USA one.
The website and social media for any site, event, restaurant, etc. that you plan to visit.
Citymapper. The app recommended by Jay in his video. I will be trying it out this fall! For a full offline map of Paris, check out Map.me for Apple or Android. It’s great for when you lose connection in the Metro and other spots. And of course there is good ol’ Google Maps.
The Local. The most accessible English-language news but requires a subscription for some articles. If you are a Francophile, the subscription is worth it!
France24 – free website and YouTube channel.
Sortir a Paris: Has articles in both French and English, the French side is better for up-to-date news.
Evous. Only in French, but their weekly section has detailed information about strikes, protests, and transit interuptions.
For Americans: The US State Department France Page for current travel warnings. I also recommend signing up for their STEP (Smart Traveller Enrollment Program), just in case.
Bonus: The regular trash collecting resumes as of tomorrow (March 29). But if you are curious which arrondissements have municipal waste pickup and which have private, here is the map from the City of Paris (in French). It was the municipal waste collectors that were on strike this time (green on the map).
There are broadly two types of events happening:
Strikes. Called “grèves” in French, they are the usual cause for the transit disruptions, closures of sites, and piles of garbage.
Protests and Marches. These are commonly called “manifestations” (say it with a French accent) or “manif“s in French. Sometimes, in English you’ll see them called demonstrations or “demos” instead of protests. These are the cause for the violence and destructive behavior we see in the media.
Strikes and protests often occur in tandem but not always. For example a strike can be a one day thing (une grève) or an ongoing thing (une grève illimité or une grève reconductible). If it is a one day strike, protests are largely guaranteed. If it is an ongoing thing, there may not be protests every day (at least not big, disruptive ones).
Trash. The word for trash and trash can is “poubelle“, should you need it. Rat is conveniently rat.
Check out more strike and protest vocabulary here.
Do you have plans to travel soon to Paris? If so, how do you feel about what’s happening? And if you aren’t traveling soon, does this news discourage you from planning a trip or is it more of “c’est la vie”? Let us know below!
Merci, stay safe, and à bientôt!
To support PGB with a donation, you can buy me a (virtual) coffee through this magic button:
You can also follow along on Instagram and YouTube.
Simply want more history? Check out all the blog posts or the podcasts. Even your curiosité helps!
Looking for a new book or gift for a Francophile Friend? Browse the Boutique!
For more support ideas, check out the Support Page!
Lastly, if you would like to learn more and stay up-to-date, please sign up for the newsletter!
Header Image Protest Picture: “Manifestation contre la réforme des retraites, Paris, le 28 mars 2023 — 31” from Wikimedia Commons. Posted by Jules* under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.
July Column: “Paris-2023-03-23-manif28” from Wikimedia Commons. Posted by Teddyyy under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.
Police at Protest: “Paris-2023-03-23-manif29” from Wikimedia Commons. Posted by Teddyyy under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.
Stop Aux Rats!: Pinterest Pin 48132289752362407