The Paris Metro The Paris Métro – Image courtesy of thesavvybackpacker.com

How to get around Paris

Apart from walking – always a pleasure in Paris – the efficient and inexpensive Paris Métro (underground rail) system is the easiest and most convenient way of getting around Paris.

Taxis, buses, hire cars and bicycles are also available; and a fleet of glass-covered boats ply the Seine offering a hop-on hop-off service along the river.

While hire cars are available, driving in central Paris is usually more trouble than it's worth. Parking is difficult (illegally parked cars are towed away) and traffic jams are frequent. Petrol stations are also difficult to locate and access.


Transport options in Paris

Public transport in Paris is plentiful, easy to use and good value for money. Free transport maps are available at Paris Métro stations, bus terminals, hotels and tourist offices.

The integrated, five-zone system of bus, metro and trains – operated by Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens (RATP) (www.ratp.fr) – is both inexpensive and efficient.

Rail: The rail network consists of two separate but linked systems: the Métro and the Réseau Express Régional (RER) suburban train line.

The RER has five main lines; the underground Métro network has 380 stations, 16 lines, and more than 200km (125mi) of track. Métro trains are frequent so you should rarely have to wait more than four or five minutes between trains.

When buying tickets consider how many zones your journey will cover; there are five concentric transport zones rippling out from Paris (zone 5 being the furthest); for instance, if you travel from Paris to Charles de Gaulle airport you will need to buy a ticket for zones 1 to 5.

The Paris Métro (short for Métropolitain de Paris) is the quickest way to get around the city and is easy to navigate once you’ve used it a few times.

The Métro operates from 5:30am to 1:15am (around 2:15am on Friday and Saturday nights), depending on the line. RER commuter trains operate from around 5:30am to 1:20am daily.

The Métro uses small cardboard tickets: a single ticket will get you anywhere in the Métro network — whether it’s a single stop or 30 stops with multiple line changes.

Tickets are sold at all metro stations. A single ticket (called Le Ticket t+) costs €1.90. However, it’s almost always best to buy a carnet – a pack of 10 single tickets. A carnet costs €14.50 (a 20% discount compared to single tickets).

Don’t discard your ticket until you leave the station — there are frequent ticket checks and you’ll face a €25-€50 fine if you don’t have a ticket.

The same RATP tickets are valid on the Métro, the RER (for travel within the city limits), buses, trams and the Montmartre funicular.

You can also buy a Paris Visite pass, which offers an Unlimited Day Pass (1-Day – €11.65) and Multi-Day Passes (2-Day – €18.95; 3-Day – €25.85; 5-Day – €37.25). There are also Paris City Passes, which include entrance to many attractions and unlimited public transportation.

If you want to go outside of the city center (zones 1-2) to La Défense, Versailles, Disney, Fontainebleau, etc. then you’ll need to buy tickets that reach those zones — those tickets will cost between €9.70–€17.30.

The Navigo Pass (www.navigo.fr) allows unlimited travel on the metro, the RER and buses for a week, a month or a year. Passes cover all zones in the Île-de-France. A weekly pass costs €22.80 and is valid Monday to Sunday.

Note: The Métro has a lot of stairs and very few lifts or escalators. If you have a lot of luggage or mobility issues you may want to find alternate transportation.

RER: The RER network is faster than the Métro, with the stops much further apart. Some attractions, particularly those on the Left Bank, including the Musée d’Orsay, Eiffel Tower and Panthéon, can be reached far more conveniently by the RER than by the Métro.

Bus: Buses offer a scenic way to get around Paris; but they are slower and less intuitive to figure out than the Métro.

Local buses, operated by RATP, run from approximately 5am to 1am Monday to Saturday; with reduced services on Sunday and public holidays. Hours vary substantially depending on the line.

Transfers to other buses – but not the Métro – are allowed on the same ticket as long as the change takes place within 90 minutes between the first and last validation.

Whatever kind of single-journey ticket you have, you are required to validate it in the ticket machine near the driver. If you don’t have a ticket, the driver can sell you one for €2 (correct change required). If you have a Mobilis or Paris Visite pass, simply show it to the driver when you board.

The RATP runs night-bus lines known as Noctilien (www.vianavigo.com); Look for navy-blue N or Noctilien signs at bus stops. Buses depart hourly from 12.30am to 5.30am.

There are two circular lines within Paris (the N01 and N02) that link four mainline train stations – St-Lazare, Gare de l’Est, Gare de Lyon and Gare Montparnasse – as well as popular nightlife areas (Bastille, Champs-Elysées, Pigalle, St-Germain).

Noctilien services are included on your Mobilis or Paris Visite pass for the zones in which you are travelling. Otherwise you pay a certain number of standard €1.90 metro/bus tickets, depending on the length of your journey.

Bicycle: Paris has a 24/7 self-service bike system called Vélib’ (www.velib.paris.fr) that offers both traditional and electric bikes.

With 1,800 stands dotted throughout the city centre you are never more than 300m (1,000ft) away from picking up one of the 26,000 bikes available.

The first 30 minutes of every ride is free, and you can make unlimited free 30-minute rides. After 30 minutes there's a charge of €1.

You can also hire by day or buy a subscription to use the service from €1.70 per day, €8 per week, €29 per year (Vélib’ Classique), or €39 per year (Vélib’ Passion). Subscriptions can be purchased online or at the Velib station. The Vélib’ app provides the location of all the stations.

You need a credit or debit card to use the Velib’ bikes. Check your bike before you ride it: it’s not uncommon for bikes to have flat tires or other mechanical issues.

Paris is a fairly bike friendly city with numerous bike lanes many of which are separated from traffic.

Taxi: Taxis in Paris can be hailed in the street or found at official taxi stands. The minimum taxi fare for a short trip is €7.10. Tipping is not compulsory but drivers expect around 10%. Taxi firms include Taxis Bleus, Alpha Taxis and Taxis G7.

The flagfall (prise en charge) is €4. Within the city limits, it costs €1.07 per kilometre for travel between 10am and 5pm Monday to Saturday (Tarif A, white light on taxi roof and meter).

The rate rises to €1.29 per kilometre (Tarif B, orange light) at night (5pm to 10am), on Sunday from 7am to midnight and during peak travel times (7am to 10am and 5pm to 7pm Monday to Saturday) in the central 20 arrondissements.

Travel in inner Paris on Sunday night (midnight to 7am Monday) and in the outer suburbs is charged at €1.56 per kilometre (Tarif C, blue light).

There are flat-fee fares to/from the major airports (Charles de Gualle, from €50; Orly, from €30). A fifth passenger incurs a €4 surcharge. There's no additional charge for standard-size luggage; larger pieces have a €2 surcharge.

Motorbike taxis are also available through companies that include Paris Motos and Taxi Moto Paris.

River: The Batobus is a handy hop-on, hop-off service stopping at nine key destinations along the Seine.

These glassed-in trimarans dock every 20 to 25 minutes at small piers along the Seinel, including the Eiffel Tower, Musée d’Orsay, St-Germain des Prés, Notre Dame, Jardin des Plantes, Hôtel de Ville, Musée du Louvre and Champs-Élysées.

You can buy tickets online, at ferry stops or at tourist offices. Two-day passes must be used on consecutive days. You can also buy a Pass+ that includes L’Open Tour buses, to be used on consecutive days. A two-day pass per adult/child costs €47/21; a three day-pass is €51/21.

Car hire: To hire a car in Paris you’ll need to have a credit card, be over 21 (sometimes over 25) and have held your licence for at least a year.

Major companies include Budget (www.budget.com), Europcar (www.europcar.fr) and Hertz (www.hertz.fr).

Scooter hire: Cityscoot rents electric mopeds with a top speed of 45kph are available to rent as part of Paris' scooter-sharing scheme, with all bookings via smartphones. No subscription is necessary. A driver's licence (including any foreign-issued licence) is valid for those born before 1 January 1988; anyone born after that date requires a current EU driver's licence.

Freescoot rents 50cc to 125cc scooters. Price includes third-party insurance as well as helmets, locks, rain gear and gloves. A motorcycle licence is required for 125cc scooters but not for 50cc scooters, though you must be at least 23 years old and leave a credit-card deposit of €1000.

Left Bank Scooters rents Vespa XLV scooters. Prices include insurance, helmet and wet-weather gear. Scooters can be delivered to and collected from anywhere in Paris. You must be at least 20 years old and have a car or motorcycle licence. Credit-card deposit is €1000.


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Latest update: How to get around Paris: 30 June, 2020


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