Crime and Scams in Nice 

First the good news: Nice came in #3 in a 2024 survey by Le Parisian as one of the  safest big cities in France!  Random violence and gun crimes are quite rare, graffiti is not gang related; and beggars and homeless people are generally friendly and not menacing.   

However, the French Riviera does attract world-class pickpockets, down-on-their-luck scammers, and roving gypsies.  Knowing what to watch out for and taking a few simple precautions that might not be necessary back home, can make all the difference between a great trip and a total fiasco.

  • Beach grabs are on the rise: if you go for a dip, don’t leave your stuff unattended, and if you are sunbathing, better to use your purse for a pillow rather than have it just lying there, waiting to be plucked.  Better yet, don’t take anything to the beach that would be a heartbreak if stolen.  …But if it happens, click here for what to do.

  • Empty your your wallet or purse of things that you don’t need (photos, address book, extra credit cards, agenda, etc.)   These things are a major pain in the ass to replace, and are often a worse loss than the money.   Keep big bills in one of those interior money pouches… best to not have much of value in your pocket or purse to be picked.   In the market, tramway, train station, or any crowded place, keep a hand on your wallet and your backpack in front, especially if you’re pulling a suitcase.  These guys are good: your wallet will be gone and you’ll never even feel it.  In a sidewalk café put one purse strap under the leg of your chair and don’t set your wallet or phone on the table or it could get whisked away in a blink of an eye, and unfortunately Asians are often prime targets.

The Most Common Scams in Nice

  • ‘Sign the Petition’ Scam… they’re not really deaf, and while you sign their petition you’ll lose your wallet! 
  • The Gold Ring Scam plays out like this:  A helpful passerby alerts you that you’ve lost something, and as you turn he picks up a thick gold band that you must have ‘dropped’, and hands it to you.  “Not mine!” you say, but since no one else is claiming it he generously offers it to you anyway.  As he’s handing it over he examines it a little closer and realizes it’s marked 14k and must be worth quite a bit since it’s so heavy…  After some discussion he finally insists that you go ahead and keep it anyway, but suggests that since it’s worth so much the only decent thing for you to do is to give him a little something for his trouble…  Sucker!
  • Nice used to be somewhat famous for a particular kind of robbery called the Vol a la Portiere, or Car Door Grab, where they yank the passenger’s car door open in parking lots or at stoplights and snatch the purse/wallet/phone right off your lap!  It’s much less frequent than a few years ago, but if you rent a car, just to be on the safe side, be sure to always lock your doors from the inside the moment you get in the car.  The Mayor himself even had an attempted vol a la portiere once when he was parked on the Prom!

All this sounds rather dire but it’s really just petty crime: if you prepare yourself, even if it happens, it won’t ruin your trip.  Here are a couple of things you can do before your trip that can really help keep an unfortunate incident from taking over your whole vacation:

  • If you have an iPhone, install the free app Find My Iphone and test it before you go.
  • Get a second debit card with a PIN code and keep it somewhere out of your wallet (hidden in your luggage lining, maybe?) so that if you get pickpocketed the problem is not compounded by a complete inability to get cash.
  • Make two copies of your passport and credit cards, then leave one with someone at home and keep the other in your luggage lining.

On a more institutional level, here are a few other scams to watch out for:

Restaurant Scams

  • Avoid restaurants that need a tout out front to rope you in
  • Beware of a waiter that talks you into a bottle of wine without telling you the price or showing you a wine list, and then – surprise! – it was a veeeery good year!
  • There are secret magic words to get tap water in a restaurant: “une carafe d’eau, s’il vouz plait.” If you don’t say ‘carafe‘ you will get your bill jacked up every time with pricey bottled water.

Shopping Scams

  • Nougat candyRipoff ‘Nougat’ stores  They offer you a free taste of a white sugary peanut candy, and when you want to buy a little bit just to be nice, they ask how much you want and cut off a slice.  You don’t even ask the cost because how much could an inch of sugar and peanuts possibly be?  Well, surprise, it’s a whole lot, and now that they’ve cut it off to your specifications and weighed it you have no choice but to pay for it, and that sweet sweet candy now leaves a very bad taste in your mouth!

Transpo Scams

  • The new Airport Tram Scam The new tram cards have a tourist scam already baked in: you can’t buy the cheap fares at the airport, only a ‘special airport ticket’ at 3 times the price.  The work-around is to go the the first tram stop (free) where they have regular machines that sell the cheaper cards.
  • Nice taxi drivers have the worst reputation in all of France, so always confirm the price before you board.  If you take a taxi from the airport, the fixed fee includes luggage, so don’t let the driver tell you otherwise. Also, they are supposed to take credit cards, but surprise, their card machines are usually broken, so then you continue to pay while they take you to a cash machine… Grrr…
  • Velo-taxis or pedi-cabs are supposed to be regulated now, but for years they have literally been ‘taking people for a ride.’  Be sure to agree to the price before you climb in… and they are not allowed to double it for two people!

See Related Page:  How to Deal with an Emergency in Nice

Photo credits: At the Beach and Pricey Slice of Nougat by Best of Nice

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