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


Protests and strike action have swept across France in recent months following President Emmanuel Macron’s attempts to push through a controversial pension reform bill without a vote in the lower house.

Workers across the transport, education, fuel and utility sectors have walked out in protest of the bill, which would push the retirement age from 62 to 64.

Industrial action by sanitation workers has resulted in giant stacks of rubbish piling up in the French capital, plus Marseille, Nantes and Angers, a visible (and pungent) symbol of the resentment felt by public-sector workers.

And on Thursday (23 March), another general strike is set to take place across France, with further disruption expected.

But is it safe to travel to Paris during this period of protest and strikes? Here’s everything you need to know.

Is it safe to travel to Paris amid strikes and protests?

A woman walks past a pile of uncollected rubbish in Paris as strikes entered their 15th day

(AFP via Getty Images)

France has a proud reputation of being a nation unafraid of taking to the streets to make its disdain for political processes felt.

While recent protests have been significant in their scale, protests are not an uncommon sight in France, particularly in the capital.

Last weekend, police clashed with protesters after they lit a fire in the Place de la Concorde near the National Assembly building in Paris.

Footage showed police firing tear gas at protesters, while hundreds of people were arrested.

And on Friday (17 March), police pepper-sprayed students near the Sorbonne University.

Current guidance from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) advises visitors to avoid demonstrations and remain vigilant.

“On 16 March, large-scale demonstrations started in central Paris and elsewhere in France and police presence increased.

“Protests could turn violent and/or continue. These could lead to disruptions to road travel.

“You should monitor the media, check the latest advice with operators before travelling, avoid demonstrations and follow the advice of local authorities.”

It adds: “If demonstrations do turn violent, a heavy police/gendarmerie presence is to be expected. In all cases, you should avoid demonstrations wherever possible and follow the advice of the local authorities.”

Travellers visiting Paris should avoid the Place de la Concorde, situated between the Champs-Élysées and the Jardin des Tuileries (the park adjacent to the Louvre) in the eighth arrondissement and the National Assembly, which are assembly points for the protests.

How will travel be affected?

Travel disruption across France is highly like on 23 March 2023

(Getty Images)

Transport services across France are likely to be severely impacted by the general strike.

Eurostar has confirmed it will be running a revised service on Thursday 23 March, with eight services currently cancelled – click here to see the full list.

In a statement, Ryanair said it was expecting possible cancellations and delays on flights to and from France from 20 to 23 March.

“Any affected passengers will be notified as soon as possible,” it said.

“Ryanair advises all passengers to monitor their Ryanair app and the Ryanair website for the latest updates regarding their flight.

Elsewhere, the French Civil Aviation Authority (DGAC) has asked airlines to reduce their flight schedules to and from Paris Orly and certain French airports as a result of the strike action.

In a statement, Air France said: “Air France plans to operate on these days 95 per cent of its flight schedule, including all its long-haul flights and its flights to and from Paris Charles de Gaulle.

“Last-minute delays and cancellations cannot be ruled out.

“The flight schedule is updated and customers affected by cancelled flights are notified individually by SMS and e-mail.”

Anyone planning to travel to France over the next 48 hours should check with their provider ahead of departure.


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