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I have a trip booked to Paris from December 22 to December 30, for a family of three, including a 1 year old child.

I have heard of the strikes in Paris, and I am seriously considering cancelling this trip. Regardless of whether or not I cancel, I won't be able to do a similar trip for at least two years, so I can't reschedule.

Personal safety is of course a concern, but more than that, I am concerned about whether or not Paris itself is functioning.

My analysis is as follows: if there is severely reduced public transportation (I read that is working at 30% and less capacity), it will be at several hundred percent or more capacity. Taxis and roads will also be at several hundred percent capacity.

Many will then walk, which will put sidewalks at several hundred percent capacity, which will spill to roads, leading to complete gridlock.

With all transportation collapsed, people can't get to work, and supplies won't make it to their destinations. This means no food at restaurants or supermarkets, hotel personnel can't go to work, so hotels will close.

Maybe I'm overestimating the importance of public transportation in Paris. My reference is Tokyo, which completely depends on public transportation for the city to function.

Is this the case with Paris? Is Paris on its way to complete collapse with these strikes?

  • "Should I cancel" is opinion-based, so we cannot answer this question for you. Public transportation is a mess, but the city is not collapsing yet. I have not heard of any restaurant being out of food. – Taladris Dec 17 '19 at 10:41
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In terms of safety, probably nothing special of note, except:

  • Avoid areas where demonstrations take place. There are sadly always a few over-excited individuals who play dumb with the police and the police are a bit quick to react these days.

  • There are lots of bikes, scooters and other mobility devices everywhere, including on sidewalks where they're supposedly no longer allowed. Keep your eyes open.

In terms of supplies, I wouldn't worry. Yes, there's a lot of traffic and thus deliveries are more difficult than usual, but it's not like it's a siege either.

Hotels and restaurants are more concerned by the fact that there are less customers as people avoid Paris during the strike than the lack of personnel or supplies, as far as I know.

However, in terms of transportation, it can be quite difficult.

  • Metro lines 1 and 14 (fully automated) have run every day since the start of the strike, however they can be very, very, very busy at peak hours.

  • Lines 4 and 7 have usually run with reduced service and limited stops during peak hours. Again, can be very, very, very busy.

  • There are segments of other lines (the Eastern parts of lines 8 and 9 for instance) which have also worked with reduced service. Ditto.

  • All other lines have had varying service, ranging from none at all whatsoever to limited and reduced service.

  • Note that last Sunday, there was no Metro service at all except lines 1 and 14.

  • Bus and tramways lines are quite irregular. Some run (usually with limited service), others don't. You can see a bus that's filled to the brim and the next one will be nearly empty. You will need quite a bit of patience.

  • Traffic is bad for cars and Uber-like services. Taxis enjoy bus lanes which, as there are less busses, can be quite easy to navigate at times, except when crossing another street.

  • RER has a situation similar to metro.

So it all depends where you are staying, where you want to go, and whether you're averse to walking. If you have a hotel close to line 1 or 14 (ideally both) and avoid peak hours, you can relatively easily travel to all parts of Paris they serve, including the Champs Elysées, Arc de Triomphe, Grand Palais, Place de la Concorde, the Tuileries, the Louvre, Bastille, the "grands magasins" (department stores) Printemps Haussmann and Galeries Lafayette, Ile de la Cité (Notre Dame, what's left of it), Ile Saint Louis, le Marais... The Quartier Latin isn't too far away either.

Getting to the Eiffel Tower will probably need a bit of a walk, but it's flat (from Franklin D. Roosevelt) or downhill (from Charles de Gaulle-Etoile, which is the best approach, go towards Trocadero along Avenue Kleber).

Getting to Montmartre will need a bit of a walk, and it's uphill (quite steeply). You will want to take a taxi for that.

To get to/from airports and train stations taxis are the best option at the moment, though plan for a lot of margin, it can take time to get one, and in some areas with no bus lanes, they're stuck like the rest.

You can probably forget about the Chateau de Versailles, though.

If you have booked a hotel elsewhere, then see if you can cancel and rebook closer to lines 1 and 14. As they have lots of cancellations, there may be quite a few good deals available.

Note that the strike could stop at any time, or be suspended over the Christmas holidays (though this is more likely to happen for long distance trains than for public transit in Paris).

Note that even though long distance train traffic is limited, there are actually trains running to many places (and still seats available on many of those!), and many cities are not affected by public transport strikes, so you could very well come to France but decide to visit some other city/cities. It's a bit difficult to plan, though, as knowing which trains will be running or not is a bit difficult more than a couple of days in advance.

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  • (+1) The police is not merely “reacting” to peaceful protesters, over-excited individuals, hardened anarchist troublemakers, dangerous criminals or whoever is on the receiving end. France has a well-documented systemic police violence problem that is compounded by more aggressive crowd management tactics adopted since December 2018. That is the real reason to avoid protests. – Relaxed Dec 20 '19 at 20:21
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From a safety point of view, the main reported risk is that road accidents involving bikes and motorbikes show a 40% progression. Apart from this, nothing more or less than usual.

Regarding transportation, automatic subway lines (1 and 14) are up but are expected to be overcrowded. Transportation from and to airports is more difficult.

About food, Rungis, the main "farmer's" market also called the "belly of Paris", expects some difficulties but is prepared to the situation. Their main concern is more in the lack of sales than in the lack of incoming products.

Nevertheless, usually when strikes arise in december, they stop during Christmas time. This is the so-called "Trève de Noël". This may or may not be the case this year. Unions are still debating on this point.

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Transport woes aside, Paris is functioning pretty much normally. People take much longer to get to work, but they get there. A few shops are having irregular hours. Streets are packed (with additional vehicles, not people overspilling form the sidewalks). There is absolutely no shortage in services or supplies.

I won't reiterate the other answers, but the main challenges for tourists are:

  • Aside from the 1 and 14 metro lines, transport is affected. You will take longer and/or it will be more expensive to move around. I'd say a bike will or walking will be the best option.
  • A few flights and most of the trains in and out of the city are affected.
  • Public museums are affected (e.g. the louvre says that they may open later and/or close some exhibition rooms depending on the circumstances)
  • Many opera performances were cancelled
  • The Eiffel tower has already been closed twice, there is a risk it'll happen again

On the plus side: The center of Paris is fairly compact and most areas are quite walkable - it is much less spread out than Tokyo, for example.

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I've been to Paris from 07. Dec to 10. Dec while there was strike (see question) and virtually no Metro was running. Arriving by car in the 9th Arrondisment was kind of a nightmare, but once the car was parked (make sure to reserve and pay for a spot in a car park beforehand!) I did not have the impression of pure chaos in Paris.

Of course it depends on where you are. Given your accomodation is somewhere in the city with reasonable walking distances, it is nice to discover Paris by foot. Public transport was kind of out of question, because the few busses where packed with people.

So if the situation at the end of the month will anything like in the beginning, I guess you will be fine. Restaurants and hotels were working as usual, so I guess they will continue to do so.

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