What's going on in France and why are people on strike?
A wave of discontent in France was caused by the unpopular government pension reform, according to which the retirement age will be raised from 62 to 64 years.
Levels of anger and violence rose after the government used a controversial method to push the bill through without putting it to a vote in Parliament, where it would surely face fierce opposition.
Millions of people took to the union-organized protests. The next day of protests is set for April 6. The unions have promised to continue strikes until the bill is withdrawn.
Is it safe to visit Paris?< /p>
Some countries are advising their citizens in France to exercise extra caution “because of the threat of terrorism and civil unrest.” People are advised to avoid demonstrations and areas with significant police activity, to be vigilant of those around them, and to regularly notify friends and family of their safety. Place de la Bastille, Place de la République and Place de la Concorde were the most popular protest venues.
In general, the sanctioned protests were mostly peaceful and even celebratory in atmosphere, with music, food and dancing. However, any atmosphere tends to deteriorate as protests continue, crowds of peaceful demonstrators begin to thin out, and clashes between anarchists and riot police escalate. These violent protesters set fires, set off fireworks, smash shop windows and throw projectiles; in response, the police use tear gas, water cannons and batons to disperse the crowd.
Travelers should also be aware that it is not uncommon for protesters, mostly young people, to stage spontaneous, unsanctioned protests and sit-ins, which also often end in violence.
To minimize the risk of being drawn into the chaos and getting caught under bullets or tear gas, you need to stay as far away from the protesters as possible.
How can I keep up with the latest events?
The best way to keep up to date with the latest happenings in Paris — follow local online news outlets. Such resources have all the information about how Paris was littered with 10,000 tons of uncollected waste after garbage collectors joined strikes in support of pension reform. Waste collection has since resumed, but workers warn that the strike could continue.
Tourist attractions and public transport operators are using social media to post closures and outages in real time. The city's official tourist office also regularly issues a detailed list of how the strike will affect the metro, RER and Transilien regional rail lines, as well as Paris airports and attractions. On March 28, strikes led to the closure of the Eiffel Tower, the Musee d'Orsay, the Louvre and the Château de Versailles.
How do strikes and protests affect public transport and airports?
On strike days, activity on rail lines, including the Eurostar, buses, ferries and air travel drops sharply.
The French Civil Aviation Authority is asking airlines to cancel up to 30 percent of flights on strike days when air traffic controllers are off work. Most of the cancellations so far have affected short-haul flights to and from Paris Orly; there are fewer cancellations on long-haul international flights from Charles de Gaulle Airport. Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary has called for political intervention, complaining that strikes in France have forced his airline to cancel 230 flights and that a million passengers have been affected.
Travelers should check with their airlines for up-to-date information.
It must be borne in mind that protesters are storming Paris airports and setting up blockades on motorways, forcing travelers to get to the airport on foot. It will definitely take longer to get to the airport, especially if you are traveling on the day of the strike.
Overcrowding of trains in the metro, as well as cancellations, is quite possible. You will need a good pair of walking boots.
Restaurants and shops are generally open, but may close on strike days if located along protest routes.
Instead of the closed Louvre, you can visit the Museum Bourdelle, which is dedicated to the sculptor Antoine Bourdelle and reopened to the public after a major renovation. Instead of the Eiffel Tower, consider climbing to the top of the Montparnasse Tower for stunning views of the city, including the best view in the city of the Eiffel Tower itself.
Versailles can be replaced by the Château de Chantilly — magnificent building 40 minutes by train from Paris. It houses the second largest collection of old paintings in France (after the Louvre), as well as beautiful gardens.
In general, you need to remain vigilant, be flexible about last minute changes and be open to new experiences. Then your stay in Paris will go smoothly.