How to get around in Paris
Whether you live in Paris or you’re planning a short break, it’s important to know how to get around. The great thing about Paris is the public transport system, and it needs to be because getting around by car in one of the most congested cities in Europe can be a complete nightmare. Even for petrolheads who would much rather travel anywhere by car, you’ll be better off leaving it on the drive for the sake of your own sanity.
The transport system in Paris is fantastic as it enables easy and fast connections throughout the city and the surrounding areas. And, if you’re feeling energetic, you could always rent a bicycle for a day, or better, and cheaper still, walk.
The transport system in Paris is run by two state run companies: the RATP and the SNCF-French railways. The RATP manages Paris’ Métro, bus and tram networks, as well as some of the RER-express train network. The SNCF manages the rest of the RER train network and the Transilien suburban trains.
Despite there being two companies running the various transport links in Paris, any ticket booth or machine of either RATP or SNCF will sell you a range of tickets and passes.
The public transport in Paris is truly brilliant and a great value. RAPT tickets are valid on the Métro, the bus and the RER. It’s also a cheap way of getting around too, a single ticket costs €1.70 and children between the ages of 4-10 pay half price. If you’re just having a short break in the city and want to experience as much of Paris as possible, then the best thing to do is to purchase a ‘Paris Visite’ pass which offers unlimited travel in zones on buses, the Métro and the RER train links, plus discounts on some visitor attractions. The only thing you’ll need to consider is how much of Paris you actually want to see as adult day passes for zones 1-3 will cost €11.00, a two-day pass costs €18.00 and a five-day pass will cost you €24.00.
If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, you can purchase a slightly more expensive pass which will include zones 4 and 5. The zone 1-5 pass will also take you to the airport, so from that aspect, it’s very convenient.
If you’re more of a person who just wants to get from a to b, you can purchase a slightly cheaper ‘Mobilis’ ticket which will offer you unlimited travel in zones 1 up to 5; a Mobilis pass for zones 1 and 2 costs €6.80 so it’s fantastic value for money. If you’re lucky enough to be under the age of 26, then look out for the ‘Ticket Jeunes’, a day pass which can be used on weekends and bank-holidays and offers unlimited travel in zones 1-3 for just €3.75, or zones 4-5 for €8.10.
If you’re staying in Paris for a while, you might be better off investing in a ‘Navigo Découverte’, a swipe card that you can buy from certain Métro or train stations for just €5. You have to provide a passport photo, but you once you have the card, it will offer you unlimited travel in relevant zones. The weekly tariff that runs from Monday to Sunday for zones 1 and 2 is €20.00, and the monthly tariff that runs from the first to the last day of the month will cost €67.00.
To get more information on the RATP tickets and their transport links, you can visit their website on www.ratp.fr.
By Métro (Subway)
Paris’ first Métro was on the cutting-edge of technology when it was unveiled in July 1900 during the World’s Fair, and over a century later, it’s still fully functional and is the second busiest subway system in Europe, catering to just over 4 million passengers per day.
The only inconvenience you might experience is strikes by the subway workers which can result in some delay and sometimes complete shutdowns of a few subway lines. Having said that, strikes are quite rare and the Métro still remains one of the most efficient and civilised ways of getting around in Paris, especially if you avoid rush-hour. Another advantage of the Métro is that it is safe to use during the evening, however you might want to find a different way to get home if you’re planning a night out in Paris as the Métro closes at 3am.
By RER (Train)
The RER would be a good choice if you’re looking to commute from a to b with limited stops, however, it does have a few downsides: they don’t run as often as the Métro, they’re not as pleasant and the routes are hard to understand as they run on a different track system and the same lines can have multiple final destinations.
Paris’ roads might be a nightmare for the average motorist, but thanks to the many bus lanes, buses can be an efficient way to get around the city. The majority of buses run from 6:30am to 9:30pm (a few operate until 12:30am) and service is reduced on Sundays and bank-holidays. You can use Métro tickets on the buses or you can buy tickets directly from the driver for €2.00.
The next stop of the bus is usually written on an electronic panel on the ceiling of the bus, which is a handy convenience that can prevent you from missing your stop. Another great convenience is, that your Métro ticket will give you a free transfer and can be used within 1 1/2 hours. If you buy your ticket on the bus, then no transfer is included.
Over the past few years, Paris has added three new tramway lines, with extensions and new lines in progress. They connect Paris with its suburbs. Within Paris they run along the outer circle of streets that trace the city boundaries. Tickets for the tram cost the same as the Métro.
If the thought of public transport gives you nightmares or you want to explore Paris on you own terms, then don’t worry. If you have some energy to burn, then there are many places in Paris where you can rent a bicycle. Rentals cost around €12.00 for half a day and €15.00 for a full day, however they will need €250.00 or a passport as a deposit.
Again, like the bicycle, if you have the energy and the time, arguably one of the best modes of transport in this beautiful yet small city is on your own two feet. You can cross the city in about 20 minutes without stopping. It is truly the best way to see and experience Paris in your own time and in freedom.