Victims lay on the pavement near a Paris restaurant on Nov. 13. Police officials in France on Friday reported a shooting at a restaurant and an explosion in a bar near a stadium in the French capital. It was unclear whether the events were linked. (Photo: Thibault Camus/AP)
The world is watching the horrifying developments after a series of attacks Friday night in the French capital of Paris.
Situations like this are terrifying for anyone in the city, but especially so for the tens of thousands of tourists who are there right now. Not knowing the local streets, having anyone to turn to in a crisis or speaking the language adds another layer of fright to an already scary situation.
Here are a few of the things you should do if you are visiting Paris right now.
1. Find shelter. In a wonderful display of humanity, locals are offering up their homes and businesses using the hashtag #porteouverte or “open door” to let people know they have a safe place to stay. Alternatively you can tweet #porteouverte along with your location to try to find a place to stay.
Local hotels are also offering shelter and assistance to get you safely where you need to go. Use Google maps to find the closest one.
2. Get cash. You don’t want to be caught in any kind of crisis without local currency. If you can safely get to an ATM, do so and try to have at least a couple hundred dollars in euros available to you.
3. Account for everyone in your group. Confirm the whereabouts of everyone traveling with you. If any family or group members are missing, first check with the hotel and then inform the local embassy or consulate for your home country. The State Department (U.S.), Foreign Office (U.K.), or other local diplomatic authority will maintain a list of their citizens who have been killed, are missing, are injured, or have been accounted for.
4. Check in back home. Inform family and friends back home of your whereabouts and situation as soon as possible. Amid the confusion and devastation following an attack, it can be hard for people to get word out to loved ones via phone. Consider alternative forms of communication, such as social media accounts or email.
5. Follow @TravelGov on social media. This will give you real-time updates and instructions.
6. Touch base with the local American Embassy. It’s their job to help you, and they can better assist if they know where you are and what your situation is. Plus, “It’s comforting to know that someone knows you’re there,” says Andrea Ross, owner of travel company Journeys Within.
7. Avoid crowds. In the wake of a crisis, don’t use public transportation during rush hour. Instead, travel at off-peak times or use a licensed taxi. And stay away from crowds and congested areas. “People are on edge, so if they think something is happening and panic, there could be a stampede or other dangerous situation,” advises Ross.
8. Be extra alert. “Very often people on holiday let down their guards and are not as aware of what’s going on around,” explains the State Department’s Michelle Bernier Toth, Managing Director for Overseas Citizen Services. “Look for things like unattended packages, weird behavior, and people overdressed for the environment,” says George Taylor, VP of Global Operations at integrated risk management company iJet.