Is it safe to travel to France during strikes and protests?

Is it safe to travel to France during strikes and protests?

On Tuesday, piles of rubbish built up over the last few weeks were set on fire around central Paris.

Armed police were out in force and fire engine sirens could be heard throughout the evening in the City of Light.

Near the Place de la Concorde, protesters and officers clashed.

And from the city’s rooftop terraces, often the place where travellers flock for the best views of the Eiffel Tower and other landmarks in the world’s most visited country, large smoke plumes could be seen rising up from the streets below.

There are further strikes planned and for travellers heading to Paris or France at this time, here’s what to know.

Why are there strikes and protests in France?

Protests and strike action have been taking place across France since the government announced a contentious bill to raise the country’s retirement age from 62 to 64.

Demonstrators believe authorities are not listening to the people.

On Monday, President Emmanuel Macron narrowly survived a vote of no confidence — a move that sparked more protests across Paris.

On Wednesday afternoon, the French president spoke live on national television about the proposed new bill, and said he was “willing to accept unpopularity over the pension reform”.

Sanitation workers remain on strike and rubbish piles littered around the city, the ones that haven’t been ignited, continue to grow.

Further national strikes are planned with several industries due to take part.

Is it safe to visit France currently?

Travellers have not been told not to travel to France during strikes and protests.

The UK Foreign Office has warned of disruption and delays, but does not imply that travel plans should be cancelled.

The protests are against the government and not aimed at travellers, meaning tourists in Paris should remain safe, so long as they avoid protest activities.

Holidaymakers wishing to avoid protests can check with their hotel concierge and local news services to find out which areas have protests planned each day.

Public gatherings and protests have been officially forbidden on Concorde square, but travellers should still avoid this area and its surroundings during official days of strike action.

Are protests in Paris affecting holidays?

While unsightly piles of rubbish aren’t the best inclusions in holiday pictures, they are somewhat unavoidable in many parts.

Some roads and paths where streets are narrower are quite difficult to pass, especially in the evening when rubbish is strewn onto the roads and set alight.

Public transport services are impacted by the strikes, with several metro trains being cancelled on Tuesday evening after protests took place in the city centre.

Tourists with tickets booked for the Louvre Museum on Thursday, the next day of national strikes, have been advised that some areas of the museum may not be fully accessible.

Are flights being cancelled at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport?

On Tuesday and Wednesday, Air France cancelled 5 per cent of its services from Paris airports, including long-haul services.

Emirates and Etihad Airways flights to and from Paris are operating as normal at the time of writing. Other airlines including KLM and Ryanair have announced possible disruption to flight services this week.

It’s possible more flight cancellations or delays could occur at airports around the country on Thursday as air traffic controllers are expected to take part in the action.

What should I do if I have upcoming travel to Paris?

Tourists with upcoming travel plans to France should reconfirm itineraries, booked activities and flight details before travelling.

When in the city, leave time for disruption to travel plans. Recent protests have caused disruptions at train stations and on metro services, and some roads in central Paris have been blocked.

The state-owned public transport operator RATP posted a statement on its website advising travellers to expect “very disrupted traffic” on Thursday on rail and metro networks. It also said that bus and trams will operate almost as “normal”.

Eurostar has also confirmed it will operate a revised service on Thursday, with trains to London, the Netherlands and Belgium cancelled.

Travellers should consider not using public transport to get to and from the airport. Instead, try to pre-book an airport transfer. It’s also a good idea to leave extra time at the airport, as some operations such as immigration services, may only have skeleton staff.

Are other cities in France impacted?

While Paris has been at the forefront of protests, other cities around Paris are also facing disruption as the national day of strike action on Thursday will take place across the country.

Protests have been reported by local media in Nantes, Marseille, Bordeaux and other cities around France.

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