Getting around Paris is much easier than many other capital cities. With it’s excellent public transport system and it’s compact size it’s incredibly easy to get from A to B in a relatively short space of time.
On foot - Paris is a surprisingly easy city to navigate on foot and it is really only in the Montmartre district that there are any hills, however that is the charm of this gorgeous village. Walking really is, in our recommendation, the best way to see the city - as you walk from arrondissement to arrondissement you see and feel the atmosphere's change. However take care at pedestrian crossings as the green man does not necessarily mean that the traffic will stop. Get a Paris map from the Paris Tourism website - https://en.parisinfo.com/practical-paris/paris-maps-plans
Petite B&Bs will soon be revealing DIY walking tours of each arrondissement.
Metro - The Paris metro system is by far the easiest way to get round the city. Opened from 5.30am to 12.30am everyday. Many of the stations are worth a visit in their own right with beautiful tiling (Liege - Line 13), fantastic murals (Abbesses – Line 12) or the Louvre (Line 1) which makes you feel like your train has pulled directly into the museum itself. Single tickets or blocks of 10 (carnets) along with various passes can be purchased from any of the stations, tourist offices and some tobacconists. Please see www.ratp.fr for more information.
Please note that any RATP tickets are valid on the metro, RER trains and all buses in the city.
Free pocket-sized metro maps are available at any of the metro stations. They are free on request at the counter.
A Brief Metro Tutorial
On a Paris Metro map, you'll see 14 metro lines crisscrossing all over Paris and complemented by the ever-expanding (RER) suburb-bound express lines. Lines have been given numbers and colour codes as well as the name of the last stop, to help you recognise your target line/s easily. One example is the 'Nation - Porte Dauphine' line which is the No. 2 blue line. If you were at Anvers station which sits on the blue line, and needed to go to Monceau station, you would look for the signs naming the final stop of this blue line in the direction that you would need to go to reach Monceau. In this case in the direction of 'Porte Dauphine' and not 'Nation'.
If your destination (metro stop) is not on the current line you are traveling on, your trip requires a change of lines (or 2). You will need to find a station where your current line crosses with another line that does include your station. That line transfer is called 'correspondence' and you will see orange correspondence signs inside the stations where these transfers are made.
The lobby of each Metro station usually has an electronic Paris map itinerary. Locate your metro stop and push the matching button - your chosen stop and itinerary will light up in a dotted string of all the stations in your trip including line changes, if any.
We recommend carrying a small Paris map that includes a metro map. Official metro foldout maps are freely handed out at metro stations, including pocket-sized metro maps.
For the purpose of preparing and planning your trip we recommend looking up your itinerary online prior to going out. The Paris transit authority (RATP) has a fancy page that gives you detailed routes for linking any two points you wish, in the Paris region. The itinerary includes the Metro, buses, RER regional trains. Go to RATP.fr and click on International passengers, then itinerary or interactive map.
It is cheaper to buy a booklet of 10 tickets (approx 13euros) than to buy individual (2.20euro).
There are also weekly, monthly or 3-5 day passes. If you stay atleast 4 nights in Paris and do not like to walk, we advise you to take a weekly ticket (approx 20euro for the week from Monday to Sunday) Note: If you buy the ticket on Saturday if will only last 2 days. For weekly and monthly and 3-5 day tickets, take an identity photo and ask for an orange card. Be careful, some counter employees will tell you the orange card is only for Parisians or working people and offer you a 5 day tourist card instead. But this is incorrect.
One metro ticket allows you to ride between as many metro stations as you like in one day, but as soon as you exit a metro station that ticket is invalid and you need a new one to re-enter.
Finally it should be noted that the subway is not dangerous and even if you take the last subway at around midnight you will find the trains are still always busy with folk. However as with all capital cities, there are pick-pockets, so never carry too much money, airplane tickets or your passport with you. They will be safer left in your 'Petite Paris' guest house.
RER Regional Trains - There are 6 major rail stations in Paris (Gare du Nord, Gare de Lyon, Gare d’Austerlitz, Gare St Lazare, Montparnasse, and the Gare de l’Est) where trains depart for various destinations within France and other European countries. The Gare du Nord is the site for the cross channel train the Eurostar which connects France to the UK in under 3 hours. The RER (Réseau Express Régional) suburban express network has five lines (A, B, C, D & E) covering five zones and is open between 5am to 1am. The system is linked by the metro network and some SNCF trains.
Buses - There are a number of companies offering hop on/hop off tourist buses that go stop off at all the major sites. Some of these are seasonal so please ensure that you check before purchasing tickets. The bus network operates between 6.30am to 8.30pm with some routes continuing until 12.30am. Your metro ticket is valid (see above) otherwise it is possible to purchase a ticket on boarding the buis. All tickets must be validated by punching them in the machine situated next to the driver. After the metro closes and the buses stop the only public transport available is the Noctambus which operates 18 different routes between the Place du Chatelet and the suburbs. Routes A to H, P, T & V serve the right bank and northern suburbs and routes I to M, R & S serve the left bank and southern suburbs. An owl logo on bus stops will tell you whether the Noctambus will stop.
Waterways - There are various different companies offering river cruises, however these are much more for sightseeing as opposed as getting around the city.
Taxi's - It’s often much easier to find a taxi rank than it is to hail one in the street. The white light on the roof indicates whether the taxi is free whilst an orange light means that it is busy. Ensure that the meter is operating otherwise you will have to haggle with the driver to agree a price. Please note that taxis levy a charge per item for any luggage stored in the boot and also a charge at night.
Velib Bike Riding - When the weather is right, forget the usual modes of transport - metros, buses or cabs - and take up bike riding with Paris Velib. Velib is a clever and virtually free self-service bicycle system, since 2007. Click here for more information about how to use the Velib system as featured in our Newsletter.