Most visitors to Paris will make use of the city's life-line public transport network, the RATP Metro and the RER regional express trains. The Parisian Metro is considered safe by most visitors, but passengers should be aware of safety points when using the public transport.

Key Facts:

  • Pickpockets are active on the Metro network ( particularly in line 1 : the most touristic one)
  • Certain stations have become known as crime 'hot spots'
  • Thieves are good at what they do. Vigilance is required in order to beat them
  • Security on the Paris Metro has been under closer security since recent terrorist outrages in Europe.
  • Thefts of backpacks on RER from CDG to Paris. According to police common occurrence. Happened with significant loss of electronic items etc. 

Most Common Problems:

  • Theft of hand bags. These are usually snatched from the victim by a person outside the train as the automatic doors are closing or while entering or exiting through turn-styles. This is a common offence on many underground train systems
  • Theft of wallets/personal effects from jackets
  • Theft of wallets from trouser back pockets *
  • Theft of personal effects from hand bags
  • Theft of money directly from a person's hand - some people actually remove money from their wallets whilst on the Metro
  • Mugging
  • Thieves work in teams.  One will often prevent the Metro doors from closing, while an accomplice will snatch a bag or purse just as they are trying to close.  This enables them to escape quickly with the doors closing immediately behind them, leaving the victim and others locked inside of the train as it pulls away.  If you see anyone keeping the doors open by force, know they are scanning your railcar for a victim.

* This is just a no brainer. Do not even think about carrying your wallet in your back pocket when on a Metro train.

Stations that pose a higher risk:

It is difficult (perhaps impossible) to divide Parisian Metro stations into 'safe' and 'unsafe'. Generally speaking, you are unlikely to experience problems anywhere, but there is a higher incidence of crime at some stations that at others.

If you possess an iPhone or iPad, it could be a good thing to try the app BeSafe! which, on top of assessing the dangerousness of neighborhoods of Paris,  tells you which are the most dangerous subway stations in Paris based on Paris's public transportation data.

The following stations have been reported as having a higher risk: 

  • Châtelet Les Halles - This is a very large station which adjoins a shopping centre. You may see gangs wandering around the station or shopping center, but they are not usually the people responsible for theft and pickpocketing. Simply speaking, larger stations mean a higher incidence of crime by definition.
  • Charles de Gaulle Étoile - The station is at one end of Champs Elysées directly below the Arc de Triomphe. It is a very busy station and thieves are 'expert' at identifying tourists. Upon reaching street-level, you will often be approached by women asking, "Speak English?" Don't answer and keep walking. 
  •  Barbès-Rochechouart 
  • Gare du Nord - This station is served by Eurostar, Thalys, SNCF, RER and the Paris Métro.  
  • Gare de l'Est  - Metro and SNCF trains, use caution when walking from Gare de l'Est to Gare de Nord.
  • Pigalle- This station serves the Pigalle "Red Light" district.
  • Anvers - This station is close to the Montmartre funicular and the Basilica of Sacré-Coeur.
  • Republique

Possibly more secure stations:

Some stations have more transit security than others. If you are nervous about Metro travel, you may wish to stick to them.

  • La Defense - A closely guarded station in the business district outside of Paris.
  • Musee d'Orsay - Very popular with museum guests, this station is closely watched by the transport Police.
  • George V, Franklin Roosevelt, Champs-Elysées Clémenceau, - alternative stations which are less busy than Charles de Gaulle Étoile for visiting Champs Elysées.

The RER:

Some stations in central Paris are more closely guarded due to the increased security. RER lines run through stations listed as posing a higher rate of risk, including Châtelet - Les Halles and Charles de Gaulle Étoile.

  • The most popular RER line with tourists is RER A (which terminates at Marne-la-Vallée-Chessy, Parc Disneyland) is probably the safest line. It travels through good neighbourhoods and the largest stations are closely guarded. The final station, Marne-la-Vallée-Chessy, is also served by TGV and Eurostar and is therefore notably more secure.
  • The RER B line which serves Paris CDG and Orly Airports is considered safe but at certain times of the day is frequented by beggars which often use children and small puppies to illicit an emotional response from people to open their purses or wallets - do not give them money, just look away and ignore. 
  • Visitors using RER C are advised to consult train guides closely to make sure they are on the correct platform and taking the right train. Trains on RER C have many different destinations and some trains do not stop at every station between their origination and destination. Trains can be identified by names such as ELBA, MONA, ROMI. The RER C serves Versailles a popular destination for visitors wanting to visit Place de Versailles. 
  • RER D may not be for the faint of heart. Due to a high number of incidents and social disturbances. 
  • RER E does not appear to be frequented by tourists. 

Secure Yourself:

You can take steps to ensure your own safety on the Métro. Be vigilant and aware of your surroundings. If you are uncomfortable on a train, get off and wait for the next one. Trains are frequent in Paris and there is no reason to remain next to someone making you feel insecure or intimadated.

  • Take back packs off and carry them in front of you.
  • If you are a smaller female, or petite, consider hanging your handbag between yourself and your partner, or between yourself and the building you are walking alongside.
  • Invest in travel locks - miniature padlocks which make theft very difficult. Lock up you bags with them, but keep the keys handy as your bag may be searched by Police who will not be very understanding when you tell them that you cannot find the keys.
  • Take wallets and passports out of your back pocket.
  • Keep personal documents like passports close to your person, in a pocket where you can feel them.
  • If you are keeping your wallet or mobile phone in an inner jacket pocket, make sure your jacket is buttoned up.
  • Do not walk around brandishing a mobile phone, iPod, PDA or any other valuable item. It has been increasingly reported that mobiles such as iPhones being used to play games or text while on the Métro have been stolen out of peoples' hands as the Métro doors are closing.
  • Keep things like watches, pendants and expensive jewellery out of sight.
  • If you set your bag down on the floor, do not take your hand off it - even if it is just for a second. Thefts happen extremely quickly.
  • Do not take money out whilst travelling on the Metro (including when faced with a beggar including children begging for money). Keep your wallet and its contents to yourself.
  • If possible, leave passports, flight tickets and personal information in a safety deposit box at your hotel.
  • Hold bags, purses, luggage in front of you when passing through turn-style exits, or automatic door exits. 
  • Particularly if a train is packed, do not stand with your purse or valuables against the doors as they could be easily stolen as the doors are closing. 
For more generic traveller digital security tips read Computer Security for the Digital Nomad. The use of online cloud storage can be a life saver for active travellers, as can device tracking software, and encryption tools. 

Do not Worry:

Do not be scared of travelling on the Métro. It is relatively safe in comparison to networks in other cities. Your opinion of its relative safety will depend on where you are visiting from. It is very reliable and comprehensive. It is the cheapest and easiest way of travelling around Paris. The author of this guide uses it all the time. The best thing to do is act natural, do not wave you belongings around or draw attention to yourself. If a thief cannot pick you out as a tourist, he will probably leave you alone.