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Question on safety at Paris train stations

On our (fingers crossed) trip to Paris in October we'll be taking the train to Chartres. How safe are the train stations in Paris? My husband was reading about pickpockets in Paris and is concerned about being in a train station. Thanks.

Posted by
6412 posts

I have taken trains all over France since 2002 the last trip 6 months ago, keep anything you can't afford to lose under your shirt in a neck wallet or in a money belt and not in a pocket or bag and everything will be ok.

I live in Chicago; we have pickpockets.
They are a factor anywhere in the world tourists go.

Posted by
11551 posts

nwnews2, can there be pickpockets at train stations or on the trains themselves?
Yes.

Can there be pickpockets on the streets and around attractions in Paris and other locations in France?
Yes.

Can (and should) you protect your valuables from light fingers?
Yes, but it's not difficult so follow some basic protection methods and there's little to be afraid of. Read up about things like money belts, theft-proof bags, using hotel safes for valuables (cards and bulk of your cash) that you don't need for daily sightseeing, and other general tips about keeping your goodies out of nefarious hands. This website is FULL of those tips; just put "Pickpockets, Paris" into the search box and you'll pull up articles and/or threads like these:

https://blog.ricksteves.com/blog/pickpocketed-paris/
https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/france/pickpocketing-in-paris-increases

You posted on this one:
https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/trip-reports/paris-metro-ambush-pick-pocketing

Pickpockets are not just a hazard that visitors to Paris should be aware of, as they can be encountered in many other countries - including your own - as well.

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/05/pickpocket-smartphones/585997/

Posted by
488 posts

As Kathy said, there is a lot of good info on the RS website including the section under Travel Tips,
Theft & Scams.

My brother-in-law didn't believe all the hype about it until he got his wallet lifted on the RER train. Thieves had already charged a lot on his credit card by the time they got back to their Airbnb and could contact visa to cancel. Because their main charge cards had the same card number they were left with 1 functioning debit/charge card for the start of a 2 week tour. My husband and I have different accts/card numbers so worst case we have backup.

Posted by
4212 posts

To focus on your specific question, you're as safe at a station, or on a train, as you are on the Metro or in any area where visitors congregate, like the museums and monuments. If you let pickpocket risk deter you from going to a station, you might as well let it deter you from going to Paris. There are lots of common-sense ways to protect yourself, so pickpocket (and other crime) risk is no reason to forego a train trip (the best way to go) to Chartres.

Posted by
5702 posts

Pickpockets are ubiquitous -- this is not dangerous, just annoying and easily prevented by not being a walking buffet. Most of the time you don't know you have lost anything until you reach for it later -- they are skilled. Occasionally they are more obvious. Train stations are not dangerous in particular -- probably the most likely spots to have a wallet lifted are the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, the metro -- particularly the lines that serve tourist sites like line 1. Don't keep valuables in pockets, backpacks or carelessly held purses and you will be fine. Grabbing luggage is not common although be particularly careful to not set down high value small bags like computer bags or purses -- always have those attached to you -- in your hand or over your shoulder.

Last time we were in Vienna, the British couples next to us on the train to Prague had their wallets taken while boarding the train; the wallets emptied of money but not cards were found in a trash bin on the train and returned to them. In Italy years ago, a woman had her purse taken from the seat in front of her as she stood to put a bag in the overhead bin; someone walking through the train snagged it and was probably off the train before she finished putting her bag up and noticed. And of course, Hadley Hemingway lost all the original and carbon copies of Hemingway's unpublished work on a train when she left the small bag in which she was carrying the material under her seat when she visited the rest room or dining car.

Violent crime is the danger in the US; it is rare in France. Pickpocketing is quite rare in the US; it is common in all tourist sites in Europe.

Posted by
915 posts

My family and I have been to train stations in Paris and France. There is nothing to be afraid of if you follow some advice. Always have purses, suitcases and bags zipped. If you take out money, put you wallet back in your purse and close it. You'd be surprised how many people have open zippers and purses. Never put money or wallets into pants or coat pockets unless you want it stolen. Be aware of your surroundings.

I was a nervous wreck before Spain due to all the warnings, however I've been there twice. rode on public transport and never had a problem. I've taken the train from Paris to Chartres and back and felt perfectly safe. Enjoy Chartres is a lovely city to just walk around the old town.

Posted by
7680 posts

The good thing is if you are just doing a day trip to Chartres you’ll have less to worry about. The pickpockets watch for people to be distracted. If you’ve not got luggage and have your valuables stowed In your money belt you will not be As distracted.

You can buy your tickets from a kiosk so you’ll have a CC in an accessible spot, get your ticket then step to the side out of a crowd to put it back to that safe spot. You would not access your money belt in public. I put one CC plus day money in an inside zipper pocket in my purse. I have it fixed with a carabiner.

Chartres is so cool!

Posted by
4687 posts

nwnews2, your history shows that you've already traveled, and read this board regularly. Have you seen our host's Travel Tips (top left blue menu), particularly https://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/theft-scams/outsmarting-pickpockets .

If you normally use your automobile for every errand, you may be inexperienced with walking around in crowds of strangers. You need to learn to judge how accurate "internet information" may be. There is no particular reason to consider the train to Chartres as a more "pickpocketed" location than your airport, Metro, or walk in the park. Street crime exists. Luckily, in Europe, it is much less violent that crime in the USA. You should not let your vacation be ruined by newsboard chatter. I would also remind you that someone is much more likely to "post" about a negative experience than about a positive one.

Posted by
3367 posts

NWnews2,

The best advice is what you have received - use a moneybelt for your credit cards, passport, large Euros. I also keep my phone (which is my camera) in the back zipper pocket of my crossbody purse. Leave your expensive jewelry at home.

To ease your mind, I am 62 and for the last two years I have traveled on two 3-week independent trips to Italy & France - no issues. I have my metro route decided ahead of time while in my hotel room and don’t pull out my phone on the metro, looking confused or lost.

I absolutely loved Chartres cathedral last year! Be sure to take one of the English-speaking tours at the cathedral from Malcom or his substitute! I also brought a tiny pair of binoculars which was very helpful to view the details.

Posted by
1953 posts

I can reiterate the good advise given up thread. Using precautions to secure your valuables are key. We've been to many train stations throughout Europe and have always felt comfortable. I do remember our experience at the Montparnasse train station 6 years ago. Our only "concern" was making sure we found the right track! ;) Once we boarded the train it was a short 1 hr. journey. We stayed in a hotel within walking distance from the station. As already mentioned the Cathedral and Malcolm Miller's tour was the highlight of Chartres. We were there 2 nights and enjoyed the stunning light show at the cathedral. It brought the facade come to life in all colors. We loved Chartres!

Posted by
2427 posts

To focus on your specific question, you're as safe at a station, or on a train, as you are on the Metro or in any area where visitors congregate, like the museums and monuments. If you let pickpocket risk deter you from going to a station, you might as well let it deter you from going to Paris. There are lots of common-sense ways to protect yourself, so pickpocket (and other crime) risk is no reason to forego a train trip (the best way to go) to Chartres.

Well said Dick. I will add that pickpockets exist around the world where ever tourists can be found. Certainly Boston has them as do other tourist locales. That being said, I will disagree with those who say you will run across more violent crime in the USA as a tourist.

I have traveled to Europe since 1976, and more than yearly since 2000. I often travel solo, and I am a public transportation fanatic. Sometimes I use a money belt and, more often, not. However, I prepare for the worst, by splitting my financial items up, and always put them in the same spots so I don't lose them. (I do this at home as well.) Losing something would be more of a problem for me. I have never had a problem anywhere with pickpockets. I intentionally do not wave a flag saying "unaware tourist here".

Story: I once traveled with my 30 year old step-daughter, circa 2000. In the airport she'd pulled her money belt out and proudly waved it about to show me she had one. I said, "it won't do you any good in your purse". She put it on. I then told myself I would not nag her any more as she was an adult. I'd just worry about my 15 year old. Leaving Termini station in Rome, she was holding her waist belt in one hand and waving her guide book with the other, and had her pack on her back. I held my tongue although I knew she was now a target. C and I crossed the street and turned the corner and wondered where she was. She'd been pickpocketed before she'd even made it across the street by a bunch of little old women. Because she'd had her money belt on, she lost only her address book. Some handsome young men came to her rescue and asked her if she'd lost her passport. She patted her stomach proudly that she still had it. Had she pointed it out anywhere else I suspect that too would have been taken by the second group. LOL We now have a funny story, but my point is 'just don't wave a flag' indicating you are a target and be prepared regardless. Utilize public transportation!

Posted by
1509 posts

So I am a single female and have traveled in France several times using trains. I’ve never been pickpocketed but I do have a couple of things I think that help. One, the valuables are in my money back. So if I am pickpocketed they get €20 and a credit card that I can call and cancel. There’s another credit card , debit card ID etc. in my money belt. I take my passport out if I have to, for the Eurostar for example, when I get to the checkin. Second, I never carry more luggage than I can easily handle. As a matter of fact when I’m flying into Paris and taking the train down into the city I consolidate my carry-on and a personal item into one bag so that’s all I’ve got. If you are trying to corral to much luggage and have a lot of stuff it’s much easier for you to get distracted and someone to take something Or just for you to lose something

Posted by
79 posts

Thanks so much for all your replies. Thanks Carol for yours too - it made my husband feel better about taking trains. Yes hubby is going to have a money belt and i'm using a neck wallet for our cash & cards. I found a thin wire key ring that will make a good lock for the zippers on my day pack. Now we just have to wait and see if the travel gods smile on our trip.

Posted by
7173 posts

Pickpockets are of no consequence if you have nothing in your pockets.

Posted by
4153 posts

We have visited Paris several time. I have had two family members that had their wallets stolen from their purses in Paris. One was on the RER from CDG Airport into the city.

When I visit Paris, I ALWAYS wear a money belt and my wife has a pac-safe purse that she locks in on her shoulder with both. Places like Barcelona, Paris and Rome are terrible for pickpockets, but they are great places to visit, so you have to prepare yourself before you arrive. The METRO, RER, Train Stations or just walking down the street (even in the Lourve) you must be prepared.