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The metro is the ideal way to get around Paris fast and easily. There are 16 lines (including 2 "bis") traversing the city. Each line has a different color and number. So even if the abundance of lines appears overwhelming when you first look at a metro map, it quickly becomes easy when you understand how it works. At any given Metro station each Metro line will have 2 platforms, one for each direction. Each direction is marked by its terminus station, the last station on the line.
Upon descending into a Metro station line platform, find a Metro map located on the platform wall. Find the current station you're at and then find the station you're traveling to. Once you find the destination station on the map, follow the Metro line to its end, the terminus, which will be the direction name you're after for this Metro line. By keeping the terminus stations in mind when switching Metro lines, you'll know which lines and in which directions you must travel to get to your destination.
A table with current metro ticket prices can be found below, but as the table indicates it gets cheaper if you buy 10 at a time (local's call it a “carnet”). Then you have a large choice of different passes (1 or several days, 1 week, or even 1 month: La carte orange) which are really convenient and cheaper than purchasing individual tickets. Note that, if you don’t have a pass, each ticket is valid only for one trip (including changes within the Metro system).
|Metro, Bus and Tram Tickets
|Carnet of 10 tickets full fare||12.70|
|Carnet of 10 tickets reduced fare||6.35|
1-day-ticket "Mobilis" full fare, Zone 1+2
1-day-ticket "Mobilis" full fare, Zone 1-3
1-day-ticket "Jeunes", Zone 1-3
(only valid on SAT/SUN/public holidays,
only for agegroup under 26)
The Ile de France region is divided into 6 concentric zones. The Paris metropolitan area fits into zones 1-5. CDG airport is in zone 5, Orly and Versailles in Zone 4. The city of Paris, within the Périphérique, is Zone 1. A RER Ile-de-France zone map can be found online.
The validity range of a single ticket depends on the transportation you are using.
On the Métro : a single ticket is valid for any trip, even to the terminus stations outside Zone 1. Transfering to a bus or tram with the same ticket is not permitted.
On the RER : a single metro ticket is valid only inside Zone 1 (within Paris). Don't be fooled if there is a "2" on your ticket, it does NOT mean Zone 2, but is simply a thing of the past (it actually means 2nd class, at a time there were 2 classes on the Paris Metro).
On the bus and trams: a single ticket 't' or 't+' is valid for 1 hour and 30 minutes, in a single direction, with interchanges to other buses/trams as long as the ticket was not purchased on the bus itself and is marked "sans correspondence". Certain bus lines (Balabus, Noctilien, Orlybus, Roissybus, and lines 299, 350 and 351) are not valid with Ticket t and require tickets priced according to the length of the trip, available for purchase at the point of departure.
As an example, if going to La Défense (located in Zone 3) on the Line 1 of the métro, a single ticket is enough. If you ride the Line A of the RER, you have to buy a slightly more expensive ticket.
If travelling from overseas one of the cheapest methods of travel may be the Paris Visite Card. This card lets you travel as often as you wish and varies in cost depending on the number of days and zones you are going to be travelling. Most importantly, unlike the Passe Navigo/Carte Orange, these are valid from the first day of use (rather than from Monday to Sunday). It can therefore be purchased in advance to avoid last-minute queuing.
Paris Visite is on sale in all metro stations, RER stations, sales agencies, bus terminal booths, SNCF Transilien stations, Paris airports and in all offices of the Office de Tourisme de Paris. Abroad, it is sold by travel agents and tour operators.
Fares for Adults as of Nov 2012 were as follows while children (4-11) fares are approximately half the adult price. The card also provides a number of 2-for-one offers and discounts, the added benefits can also make it well worth the purchase of the Paris Visite.
|Zones||1 day||2 days||3 days||5 days|
the Paris A la Carte or the Paris Visit Card can be pre-ordered as a Redeemable Voucher or conveniently sent to your home on http://www.parismetro.com. More information can be found on the RATP website, just follow in the International Visitor links.
They are strictly weekly (Mon to Sun, no sliding week) or monthly (as above, no sliding month) passes. They are the best value for money if you plan on using extensively the transportation system.
The pass recently changed from a paper card + reusable magnetic ticket to a plastic smart card (Passe Navigo Découverte) + paper card with fold-over self-adhesive plastic to contain your photo (3cm tall x 2.5cm wide) and hand written name.
Buses are also a great option as they allow you to see and enjoy the city while moving around. There are so many buses in Paris, you can go almost everywhere by bus. The only issue is to find where they stop! Bus stops are more tricky to find than metro stations. Tickets are the same as the ones you use in the metro. The bus fare structure was recently (July 2007) changed to allow limited transfers between buses. A "t+" ticket (which is what you will receive if you buy a carnet in a Metro station) allows transfers among buses for up to 90 minutes from the first trip. However, if you buy a ticket on board the bus, there are no transfers. Also, there are no transfers between bus and metro.
Keep in mind that the Parisian metro stops between 12.30 and 1 am, and buses usually stop between 9 and 10 pm, with reduced service continuing with night buses and Noctilien buses.
The RER is also a good way to get from one point to another very fast. The lines are fewer though, so are the stops. It’s mainly used to travel to nearby suburbs, but can be convenient to cross the city in minutes. Although the Eiffel Tower has a metro station at Bir-Hakeim on Line 6, the closest access is through a RER stop (Champ de Mars - Tour Eiffel). Tickets are the same as metro tickets, but you must be careful if you go outside of Zone 1 around the city, which requires a billet Ile-de-France rather than a normal Ticket t.
If you need to go in suburbs that are located a bit further from Paris, or just not reachable in RER, you may need to use SNCF commuter trains. All of the 6 Paris train stations have trains for the suburbs. (Gare Saint Lazare: western and south-western suburbs; gare de l’Est : eastern suburbs, gare du Nord: northern suburbs, gare de Lyon: south-eastern suburbs, gare Montparnasse: south-western suburbs, gare d’Austerlitz: southern suburbs).
Some TER trains that serve the cities outside Île de France overlap with commuter trains (e.g. those to Vernon for Giverny, Fontainebleau, or Chartres).
A fun and original way to get about in Paris is the boat. The Batobus is a unique line with 8 stops along the Seine. Batobus stops at every relevant monument in the city (Eiffel Tower, Orsay Museum, Louvres, Notre Dame…). A one-day pass is 11 euros for an adult. Information on rates and purchasing passes for the BatoBus can be found at Batobus.com.
There are 6 train stations in Paris: gare Saint Lazare, gare du Nord, gare de l’Est, gare de Lyon, gare d’Austerlitz and gare Montparnasse. Each of them serve a different part of France, and some of them also serve other countries. There are RER or metro services to access all of them.
Gare Saint Lazare is located in the Grands Magasins area, near the Opera Garnier, in the 8th arrondissement. Its trains serve western and south-western suburbs of Paris and Normandy.
Gare du Nord is located in the North of Paris, in the 10th arrondissement. In addition to all the northern cities of France, it serves London (Eurostar), Brussels, Cologne and Amsterdam (Thalys), Berlin…
Gare de l’Est is right next door to gare du Nord, in the 10th arrondissement. Its trains mainly serve eastern suburbs of Paris, and cities in the east of France. But there also are some international connections for Luxembourg, Germany and Central Europe (Orient Express).
Gare de Lyon is located in the east of Paris, in the 12th arrondissement. It covers the south-eastern suburbs of Paris as well as Lyon, Burgundy, Franche-Comté, all the south-east of France (TGV Méditerranée), but also Switzerland and Italy.
Gare d’Austerlitz is located in the south-east of Paris, in the 13th arrondissement. It covers the center of France. You can also find old night trains for Portugal and Spain there.
Gare Montparnasse is located in the 15th arrondissement, in the south west of Paris. It mainly covers western and south-western suburbs of Paris, but also all the west and south-west of France by TGV.
You will find all the train schedules and prices on the SNCF website; and to book tickets and train passes from abroad, go to the Rail Europe website.
To find your way to the station, check the RATP website (metro, bus, RER).
The almost free bicycle system in Paris, called VELIB (a contraction of Velo = Bike, and Libre = Free), is an excellent way to get around
the Paris, particularly for short trips. You can find more information about the system on the official website, or at their wikipedia page (perhaps easier for English speakers).
The terminals provides a selection of languages that makes it easy for non-French speakers to use Velib.
Basically, all you need is a chip-embedded credit card (magnetic-strip only cards do not work) to get yourself a short-term membership
(one day or 7 days). When the 150 Euro bond (reversed at the end of the hire period) is processed, your membership number is printed out. Next step is to enter your own personal identification number (PIN).
You use your membership code and PIN to check-out bikes from the many stations around the city. You just have to return the bicycle into a free dock when you're finished - you may sometimes push hard to engage the locking tab. A beep and green light after about 5 seconds indicates the system has acknowledged its return.
Although regularly maintained, have a quick look at the bike before you select it out as it may have problems with the tires, chains, brakes or seat.
The bikes are sturdy, heavy and strong, with 3 gears. The only adjustment available is the seat height. The bikes come with simple locks; just pop the cable end of the lock into the slot and you can take the key with you. But usually there are enough stations around the city that you can just return the bike right away, and hop on another one when you need to.
The Velib stations all have handy maps of the area, which also show the location of the other nearest Velib stations - which is useful as occasionally the whole station will not be working - no bikes will be left to take out, or in some cases, there are no free spaces left to return the bikes!
Ask the tourist office for a large fold-up map that shows the location of all the Velib stations in Paris as this will facilitate your locating the nearest drop-off station when your free 1/2 hour hire is almost up. This map will save you searching as parked vehicles can hide the discreetly located stations from view. The stations do not stand out from view as the bicycles are grey.
Cycling around Paris is remarkably easy. If there is not a dedicated bicycle lane, ride on the dedicated bus and taxi lane - the painted bicycle symbols on the road will guide your lane selection. There are many bicycle lanes, including a beautiful one alongside the Seine. The only difficulty is figuring out the many one way streets or riding into a busy pedestrian area.
Observing the Velib system is also a fascinating way to see the ebb and the flow of the city. Why are some stations empty of bikes at certain times of day? Why are some stations practically unused?
A last recommendation: riding a Velib to see Paris at night is astounding: passing by the Musee d'Orsay, the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre - during the summer between 9pm and midnight is good for this. A very late ride is fun too - as the streets are quieter but not that quiet, it's still Paris!) - but they turn the lights off from the major sites.