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Health and personal safety risks

France is, in general, a safe and welcoming place to live.

With a settled political climate and the kind of environment most westerners will be familiar with, it's the ideal place to settle down with your family and earn a living. It's relatively free of dangerous infectious diseases and parasites, and quality health care is usually easily accessible in an emergency.

As with anywhere else in the world, however, there are common sense precautions everyone must take to preserve their wellbeing and that of their family.

Vaccinations you’ll need before travelling

While there are no specific additional vaccinations required for travel to France, it’s a good idea to check with your GP 6-8 weeks before travelling that all your vaccinations are up to date and that you have had all necessary boosters.

Depending on your individual medical history, and on what you are planning to do during your stay in France, your GP will offer specific advice and you may require additional particular vaccines. While relatively rare, there are also some risks worth taking into account.

Recommended for all travellers

Ensure all you are up to date with your routine immunisations, including the MMR vaccine (measles, mumps and rubella), and the combined diphtheria, tetanus and polio vaccine.

It is particularly important that your Tetanus vaccination is up to date before travelling to France. A toxin released by bacteria, tetanus, is carried in soil and manure and is often transmitted through open wounds. Symptoms include spasms, stiffness in the jaw and difficulty swallowing. In the UK, the tetanus vaccine is often combined with Diphtheria and Pertussis and Polio. Speak with your doctor to confirm if you have received the combination vaccine covering these. A booster dose is recommended if the standard course was completed over ten years ago.

Recommended for some travellers

Tick-borne Encephalitis (TBE) is a viral infection transmitted through the bites of infected ticks, which can often be found in long grass, meadows, and forested areas. They are most active between spring and autumn (March-November). The most affected areas are the Alsace region, and Faverges, Nancy, and Grenoble. The disease can also be transmitted through ingestion of unpasteurised milk products.

Initial symptoms can include a fever, vomiting, a stiff neck, muscle aches, and headaches. These usually last eight or so days, after which many people make a full recovery. It is possible for the virus to spread to the spinal cord or the brain, at which point, symptoms may develop into sensitivity to light, seizures, and paralysis. At this stage, immediate hospitalisation is vital, as 1 in 100 of cases can be fatal.

While a vaccine is not typically offered for TBE as cases are rare, it’s strongly advised that you take precautions. If visiting these areas,  regularly check your skin for ticks (there are anaesthetic properties in their bite, so you may not feel it happen), avoid unpasteurised milk, and make yourself aware of the symptoms and the correct way to remove a tick.

Rabies (Bat Lyssavirus) is transmitted to a human, or another animal, through the saliva of an infected bat, usually by way of a bite. Though rare, symptoms of the virus can be slow to develop, and the condition is almost always fatal.

While the virus has not been reported in wild or domestic animals in France, exposure to bats carries a risk of infection. For most travellers, avoiding contact with bats may be relatively straightforward to accomplish, but for veterinarians, or people planning to go caving, there is a higher risk of exposure. If a bite does occur, or any situation in which the saliva from a bat may get into mucous membranes (such as the eyes or mouth), or open wounds, immediate medical advice should be sought, and the wound/exposure site thoroughly cleaned.

If your occupation puts you in the higher risk category, you should make sure you’re vaccinated against Bat Lyssavirus before travelling to France, or that your vaccination is up to date.

National guidelines relating to post-exposure treatment can be found here.

Other risks

As of August 2016, France has declared a high threat status for terrorism following the attacks in July 2016. The French Government has launched a campaign to raise awareness and for more information, check out this website.

Eager to put citizens' minds at rest while keeping them up to date, they have also introduced a free app called SAIP (Système d’alerte et d’information des populations) to alert users to incidents. This useful app is available in English and French, and you can download it from the Apple App Store or Google Play. 

If you’re from the UK, check out the British government’s advice on their website. The US government’s guidance is much the same and can be found here.


Sunburn is possible when you live in France — often the wind can mask the high UV levels produced by the sun, which can be hotter in the South. Make sure you remember to apply sun cream, limit the amount of time you spend in direct sunlight, and keep hydrated.

Altitude sickness is also a risk in some areas of France, as there are places above 2,500m, such as Mount Blanc which is 4,807m. Altitude sickness, which can be fatal, can occur in people travelling at a height over 2,500m when ascending to high altitude without allowing sufficient time for the body to acclimatise to the reduced oxygen levels. There are some different conditions which vary in severity, and it's important to be aware of their respective symptoms and immediate treatments. For information, check out the NHS travel health pro website.


As in any country, it pays to exercise caution in certain situations. Be mindful when withdrawing large amounts of money or walking in busy streets as there may be pickpockets operating, particularly in more major cities like Paris.

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