Will the French Strikes Affect Your Paris Holiday Plans?

Paris, December 18th, 2019.

Paris is a great holiday destination any day you choose to visit. More often than not, your trip will be a memorable experience, one to savor for life. However, as the recent strikes all over the country show, France is not always the idyllic holiday destination most know it to be. 


Although France is no stranger to strikes, anyone travelling in the country now will tell you it is facing its most extensive strike in years. On December 5, 2019, trade unions representing most transportation workers, and their members, went on strike, effectively crippling the nation’s transport system. 

The strike affected practically all modes of transportation, bringing travel around the country to a standstill. The Paris public transportation system, including airport buses and trains, the national rail system and even flights entering and leaving the country were severely disrupted. 


As at December 18, 2019, the strikes have entered their third week and there are fears that they may continue over Christmas. If you are planning a trip to France anytime soon, you will need to be prepared for hitches posed by the strike. 

How will the French strikes affect your visit to Paris or other parts of France this December? Here’s all you need to know.

Photo: AFP

What is the cause of the strikes and protests?

There are actually several reasons bound up together. But the most immediate reason for the strikes is public disillusion with the French government’s plans to reform the country’s pension system


Although promises to reform the pension system formed part of President Emmanuel Macron’s election campaign, his proposed measures have been controversial. The government plans to overhaul the pension system by streamlining it from the current 42 separate schemes into a single system. The new system would incorporate a points-based system which the government says will be fairer. 


The trade unions have kicked against the plans though. They argue that the proposed reforms, though aimed at saving money, will force French workers to work for longer, and for less pension. Certain professions such as hospital workers are also concerned that the reforms will affect the special rules put in place for strenuous work such as theirs. 


While the government has made moves to find common ground with the trade unions, there has been a lot of strong feeling about the proposed reforms. The government maintains its commitment to reform the pension system so France can compete more favorably in the 21st century. The trade unions likewise have expressed their determination to see that French workers are not dealt with unfavorably in the process. 

As mentioned earlier though, this is not the first time that the country will be rocked by demonstrations. Since his election and inauguration, the Macron presidency has been dogged by protests of one nature or the other. 


The Yellow Vest Movement, which has staged several protests against the government’s economic policies is reported to be in its 13th consecutive month of protests. There have been demonstrations against the government every week for more than 1 year. 

Overall, reports indicate that there have been pockets of unrest and protest almost continually in France over the past 3 years. The current strikes have had the most effect in recent times however.

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What do the French strikes affect?

The strikes have mainly created havoc in the French transportation system. All around the country, normal transportation has been brought almost to a standstill, stranding locals and tourists alike. 


When the strikes first began, there was almost total interruption of train, metro line and national rail service. The RATP, Paris’ public transportation operator, provided almost no service for its airport trains, OrlyBus and RoissyBus service. 11 of the city’s 16 Metro lines were completely shut down on December 5 as well. 


The national rail system, serviced by SNCF, also experienced severe disruption in service. Up to 90% of its service was canceled, with the operator recommending that travelers check back on its site at 5pm each day for travel information. 

As at December 17, severe disruption was still being reported with SCNF’s national rail service. High speed trains were running at just 25%, local TER service was 30% while the Intercité was running at a low 5%. 


Public transport in Paris was just as bad. Only two of the Metro lines – 1 and 14 (which are automated) – were functioning as normal while six other lines were offering only limited rush hour service. Eight other lines remain completely closed. 

None of the tram networks was running a full service, with some running all day but with fewer services, running only during rush hour, or only between 12pm and 3pm. To cope with the transport difficulty, many have turned to ride sharing, bike sharing and moped sharing apps to ease their locomotion. 


Flights are much better though. While French airspace controllers asked all airlines to cancel 20% of their flights on December 5th, the disruption is much less now. Only Paris Orly was hit with cancellations on December 17 and other French airports were fully functional, with only slight delays in takeoff and landing. 


Apart from the transit disruption, the strikes have been marked with pockets of violence, especially from “black bloc” rioters. The violence has resulted in some level of mayhem, including burned vehicles and smashed windows, forcing the police to engage the rioters.

Photo: AFP

By how much will the strikes disturb your Paris visit?

There has been a lot of concern over how the strikes have been affecting tourist visits to France. Many travelers have been facing cancellations, delays and disruption on all manner of transport options. Quite a few have had to cancel their visit, preferring to reschedule for much calmer times. 


Many hotels, cafés and restaurants, especially those along protest routes have had to close shop several times in the past few weeks. Several shopping establishments have had their revenues impacted during the period, reporting shortfalls of 20-30%. Many large shopping establishments like Galeries Lafayette and Printemps have had to contend with overflowing shopping isles devoid of tourists. 


Certain tourist sites have also been affected, although to a lesser extent. For instance, the Orsay Museum was closed on December 5 and the Louvre closed off certain rooms due to the strike, though it remained open. The Eiffel Tower has been totally closed during periods of the strike though. 


In all, the disturbance created by the strikes has been restricted mostly to the disruption in transportation services and protests against the reforms. Apart from the establishments forced to close due to the proximity of the protests, other tourist hotspots have remained mostly untouched, albeit lacking their usual droves of visitors. 


Some choose to see this in a great light though, with one delightedly exclaiming at the absence of queues at Printemps. “I expected to spend my whole morning waiting in line,'' she said, “this is incredible that there is no queue”. So, if you have a way to get around in France, and make sure to stay clear of trouble spots, your Paris holiday could still be on track.

We can still help you plan a worthy trip

Go Local Private Tours Paris can put together an itinerary that keeps you out of trouble and still allows you enjoy the best of Paris. With our private transportation services, which include pick-up at your location and drop-off anywhere in Paris, ensures that you’ll never be stranded. 


Our tour guides know the best local spots to truly enjoy Paris and are armed with the information you need to make a swell time of your visit. We know you have invested a lot of time and effort in planning your Paris visit and are prepared to do all we can to help ensure it’s a success. 


Contact Go Local Private Tours Paris today and we’ll immediately start up on planning you a great trip. Contact us today on contact.info@golocalprivatetours.com or book your tour now and let our tour guides show you the best of Paris.