Is France Safe for Tourists Following Attacks and Riots?


In the past 48 hours France has experienced utter chaos as rioting has erupted throughout the country, some of the worst they have seen in decades, and a man was found beheaded in a suspected terrorist attack at a factory on the outskirts of the southern city of Lyon.

The decapitated body, believed to be that of a local businessman, was discovered early on Friday at the site of a U.S. owned gas factory located 25 miles from Lyon. It is believed that two suspects had driven a car through the factory gates and into the facility in an attempt to blow the factory up. 

An Islamic flag with a message written on it in Arabic was found close to the body. Authorities have opened a terrorism investigation and French President Francois Hollande has raised the region’s security threat level to the highest possible. At least one man is already in custody. 

Police officer block the area where an attack took place, Friday, June 26, 2015 in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, southeast of Lyon, France. (Photo: AP)

The incident certainly raises concern for travelers to the country.

While the U.S. State Department is yet to release a statement, the British Foreign Office has warned travelers that there is a high threat from terrorism by Islamic group in France. It advises both tourists and locals to be especially vigilant. American and British nationals are considered to be most at risk due to the ongoing involvement of both countries in the conflict in Iraq and Syria.

U.S. tourists traveling overseas should regularly check the U.S. State Department website for more detailed travel related safety and security updates, and if you have any concerns, contact the local U.S. Embassy.

But terrorism isn’t the only threat in France right now.

Related: Tourism in France Drops Following Charlie Hebdo Attacks

Just the day before, an estimated 2,800 French taxi drivers took to the streets in protest of the American ride-hailing company Uber, after weeks of rising tensions. 

The cab drivers attacked Uber cars with rocks and batons, turned over vehicles, set fire to tires and blocked roads leading to and from some of the country’s busiest airports, forcing travelers to walk alongside the roads with their luggage. 

French taxi driver Gerard Gomez puts a poster on his cab reading “ Stop Uber” during a blockade by taxi drivers in Biarritz’s airport, southwestern France, Thursday, June 25, 2015.  (Photo: AP)

American singer Courtney Love, 50, got caught up in the violent clashes when the car she was riding in was attacked as she made her way from Charles De Gaulle airport into Paris. 

“They’ve ambushed our car and are holding our driver hostage,” the Hole front woman tweeted. “They’re beating the cars with metal bats. This is France?? I’m safer in Baghdad.” 

Related: Are America’s Airports Really Safe?

Riot police responded to strikers on the Peripherique, Paris’ main ring road, where they were setting fire to tires placed in the middle of the highway and blocking off ramps during peak morning rush hour traffic. 

Similar scenes were observed in Toulouse and Marseilles, where angry drivers blocked roads in order to slow access to airports and train stations. 

The French government has issued a countrywide ban on UberPop conducting business in the country. With UberPop drivers, and their passengers, being targeted in these attacks, travelers are advised to avoid attempting to use the service for the time being.

Luckily, there have been no further reports of rioting since Thursday afternoon and access to all French airports has been reinstated with the traffic now back to normal.

Related: How Safe Are Ride-Sharing Services?

Meanwhile, in the North of the country, police and port authorities have been dealing with a separate issue. 

Police in Calais were involved in a heated standoff on Wednedsay with migrants who are illegally attempting to flee to the UK. Large groups of men have attempted to take advantage of the huge lines of trucks that were queuing for the ferry port and Eurotunnel following a port workers strike that took place on Tuesday. 

French police officers stand guard on the motorway leading to the ferry port to cross the English Channel, in Calais, northern France.  (Photo: AP)

While trucks were at a standstill waiting to get into the port, several of the migrants charged them in an attempt to break into the trucks. Police armed with batons, battled with men, some of whom were restrained with the help of pepper spray. 

In Calais, the Eurostar and passenger ferries between France and the UK are all back to normal scheduled service, however, the backlog of freight trucks at both ports is yet to be fully cleared and is still causing traffic disruptions on the roads.

Security services in both countries are carrying out extra checks on freight traffic at both borders using scans, CO2 readings and heartbeat monitors, causing further delays and slowing the boarding process.

Due to these delays, travelers in or out of the country are likely to need extra time if traveling through the ports and are advised to double check with their transport company ahead of time.