In general, Provence is a safe destination. Petty theft and burglary are the main problems – especially in touristy cities such as Marseille and Nice – but assault is rare. It's sensible to take the usual precautions: don't flash money around, keep expensive electronics and camera equipment concealed, and beware of pickpockets in busy areas (rucksacks are a favourite target).
- Mobile phone theft is now probably the most common theft of all – tourists wandering around following directions on Google Maps are favourite targets. Try not to wander round city streets and train stations staring at your phone, and keep it hidden it when not using it.
- Theft from luggage, pockets, cars, trains and laundrettes is widespread, particularly along the Côte d’Azur. Beware pickpockets in crowded tourist areas.
- If you carry a rucksack in very crowded areas, slinging it across your front makes it harder for pickpockets to undo the zips without you noticing.
- Keep close watch on bags, especially in markets, at train and bus stations, at outdoor cafes, on beaches and during overnight train rides (lock your compartment door).
- If travelling on trains, don't leave laptops, tablets and smartphones on display. If you go to the toilet or plan to sleep, lock your compartment door.
- If you're worried, lock your passport in your safe, or ask at reception to use the hotel's safe if your room doesn't have one. Don't forget it when you leave!
- Carry your passport number (or a photocopy) and your driver's licence for ID.
- Email yourself scans, or upload cloud copies of important documents such as passports, travel insurance documents, driving licences and so on. They're much easier to replace if you have copies. Photocopies are a useful back-up.
- When swimming, don't leave valuables unattended – you might have to take turns. On the Prado beaches in Marseille, consider placing valuables in one of the free (staffed) lockers.
- Break-ins on unattended vehicles are a big problem – leave nothing of value inside.
- Aggressive theft from cars stopped at red lights is an occasional problem in Marseille, Nice and larger cities; keep doors locked and windows up when idling.
- Common cons: thief finds a gold ring in your path, or lays a newspaper on your restaurant table, or approaches to ask if you speak English. Ignore children with clipboards, especially those playing deaf.
Beaches & Rivers
Watch for pale-purple jellyfish on beaches.
Major rivers are often connected to hydroelectric stations and flood suddenly when dams open. Ask tourist offices about l'ouverture des barrages – commonplace in summer.
Swimming is prohibited in reservoirs with unstable banks (eg Lac de Ste-Croix, southwest of Gorges du Verdon; Lac de Castillon; and Lac de Chaudanne, northeast of the gorges). Sailing, windsurfing and canoeing are restricted to flagged areas.
Thunderstorms – sometimes violent and dangerous – are common in August and September. Check weather (la météo) before embarking on hikes. Carry pocket rain gear and extra layers to prevent hypothermia. Year-round, mistral winds can be maddening.
In fire emergency, dial 18. Forest fires are common in July and August, and spread incredibly fast. July to mid-September, high-risk trails close. Never walk in closed zones.
Forests are criss-crossed by fire roads. Signposted DFCI (forest-fire defence team) tracks are closed to motorists but open to walkers.
Campfires are forbidden. Barbecues are forbidden in many areas in July and August.
France's hunting season runs September to February. Warning signs on trees and fences read ‘chasseurs’ or ‘chasse gardée’. Wear bright colours when hiking.