Will protests in France affect Easter holiday plans - and is it safe to travel?

A protester makes his way through damaged cafe furniture during a demonstration, Tuesday, March 7, 2023 in Paris. Demonstrators were marching across France on Tuesday in a new round of protests and strikes against the government's plan to raise the retirement age to 64, in what unions hope to be their biggest show of force against the proposal. (AP Photo/Aurelien Morissard)
A Paris cafe's furniture is strewn across a road as riot police monitor demonstrators. Credit: AP

By Elisa Menendez, ITV News Content Producer

France continues to face civil unrest after demonstrations erupted across the country amid a wave of industrial action - leaving many unsure whether it is safe to travel to the popular holiday destination.

Protesters have been taking to the streets to voice their rage at President Emmanuel Macron's order to force through Parliament a bill raising France’s legal retirement age from 62 to 64 without a vote.

Violence has flared, dozens have been arrested, while thousands of tonnes of stinking garbage piled up on Paris’ streets after sanitation workers also went on strike for more than three weeks.

At times, roads, airports and railway stations have been blocked by protests. On Tuesday, passengers were held up at one of Paris' busiest railway stations, and another in Marseille, after demonstrators jumped onto train tracks.

On Tuesday, police security across France was ramped up amid government warnings that some radical demonstrators intended “to destroy, to injure and to kill."

Human rights campaigners and political opponents allege officers have used excessive force.

For Brits travelling to France for the Easter holiday break, uncertainty has grown around safety and insurance coverage. Here, ITV News takes a closer look at how travellers could be impacted.

Is it safe to travel?

French unions have called for new strikes and protests to take place next on April 6, in a bid to keep up pressure on the government.

The UK's Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) updated its travel advice amid the "spontaneous protests" in central Paris and elsewhere in the country.

Brits travelling to France have been warned to "avoid demonstrations" and keep checking the news and local authorities' guidance for updates.

"Protests are likely to take place and could occur with little notice," the FCDO says. "Some protests have turned violent. The protests may lead to disruptions to road travel."

Thousands have taken to the streets of Paris to protest the pension reforms. Credit: AP

An unprecedented 13,000 police officers have been deployed, with nearly half of them concentrated in the French capital, said France's Interior Ministry in its latest update.

However, the number of protesters taking to the streets does appear to be dwindling. The French government put the number of demonstrators nationwide on Tuesday at 740,000 - down from more than one million five days ago - with 93,000 of those in Paris.

On Tuesday, sanitation workers in Paris also announced they were suspending their strike.

The UK FCDO advice adds: "You should monitor the media, check the latest advice with operators before travelling, avoid demonstrations and follow the advice of local authorities."

It added that "it is more important than ever" to get travel insurance and check it provides sufficient cover.

Will travel insurance cover any disruption due to protests or strikes?

Some travel insurance policies only offer limited cover for claims related to or caused by civil unrest.

Claims that arise due to strikes or industrial action that were known publicly when your trip was booked, or when your travel insurance policy was purchased, may not be covered.

According to recent data by Which?, only six out of 199 travel insurance policies covered "unexpected events" - which include civil unrest and industrial strikes - as standard.

Protesters jumped onto a railway track at one of Paris' busiest stations. Credit: AP

"Riots and outbreaks of civil unrest have emerged sporadically in recent times," said the company. "Some insurers now cover this eventuality, making it worth considering if you are travelling to a potential hot-spot."

Helen Phipps, director at comparethemarket.com, said it is important for travellers to "check your policy wording or contact your insurance provider to confirm what you are covered for".

Ms Phipps told ITV News: "It's a good idea to take out insurance as soon as you book your trip, so you're covered immediately for unforeseen events that could force you to cancel bookings before you depart.

"Many people risk failing to take out insurance far enough in advance, leaving them unprotected if something goes wrong.”

Some 119,000 people demonstrated in Paris on Thursday. Credit: AP

In the case of strikes, the expert added that some travel insurance policies may cover industrial action.

"In many cases, policies that do cover for this event will stipulate that the cover must have been taken out prior to the announcement of a strike," added Ms Phipps.

What are your rights if your holiday is impacted?

It will depend largely on the insurance company and policy that you have taken out.

If you need to cancel, cut your trip short, or request a refund, it is advisable get in touch with your holiday company or travel provider as soon as possible to find out what your options are.

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