In Paris, you can move around on foot, by subway, bus, taxi…but first off, you need to know: where you are and where you are going. They seem like existential questions, or obvious to some, but they really are the key to situate yourself in Paris (and any other city) and be able to choose the best means of transportation.
Imagine that you are going from point A (your starting point), to your first destination of the day: B, from there you’ll be hitting C (your second destination), then D, then E and from E you’ll need to make it back to A.Well, that is the summary of what happens during a day of tourism in Paris. If you leave your lodging and don’t know where you are heading, you’ll lose valuable time and will surely go around in circles or end up skipping interesting things you may catch on the way.
To answer a few questions concerning getting around the city, you’ll need to ask yourself the following questions:
- Where are you ?
Are you at the airport ? Which airport? Where is the map? Are you in a station? Which one? Do you need to get to your lodging? Where is it located? To answer these questions, we suggest the following: quickly find an information center and kindly ask for a map, and that they show you on this map where you are and what options are available to you to get to the place that interests you. For more information read the “
If you are already at your lodging: Besides knowing the address of your lodging, find the nearest metro (or bus) station to you. For this, ask for a map at the front desk of the hotel (Or your Airbnb host) for a map and ask them to show you which metro station and busses are near you. Memorize the name of the station, or write it down somewhere, and lastly ask how to get there.
- Where are you going?
What do I want to do today? Think about the itinerary that allows you to visit what you’ve always dreamed of and enjoy Paris. A tool that is complete and, once downloaded, doesn’t require internet, are our Detailed Guides. We invite you to check out the different circuits we propose in our E-SHOP.
How far/close am I to the monuments and/or places I want to visit? Maybe they are very close and I can walk there (the ideal option!), or maybe I need to use transportation (subway, bus, taxi, Uber) to get there faster and save time, or maybe I can mix it all up and enjoy to the fullest. Ask for advice at the front desk at your hotel (or from your Airbnb host) or simply buy one of our detailed guides or, even better, consider soliciting a personalized detailed guide for your trip to Paris.
It is possible to get around most of the city center by foot. In different stages, of course, but it will depend on your physical state, the weather, as well as the distances between monuments/activities and the amount of time you have. To get around by foot it is absolutely necessary that you have the following:
- A city map (not of the metro, this is a different map.) A map where you have the names of the streets and the main monuments as well as the metro and commuter train stops (RER).
- Comfy shoes: this is essential because if not your trip could become painful due to blisters, or simply from getting tired early on. The worst part is you stop enjoying the views surrounding you. Choose your shoes wisely.
- Adequate clothing: if it is cold, you’ll need to bundle up, and if it’s hot you will need to wear comfortable clothing and have a good sunblock on you.
- A good sense of direction or not being afraid of asking for directions on the street: some people may find this to be intimidating or difficult when feeling lost. We suggest you approach someone who will probably be better informed, such as a policeman, a street vendor or store vendors (they aren’t always the nicest, but you may be surprised.)
- A phone with Google Maps or City Mapper installed: you don’t need to have data at all time, but these tech tools on your phone can be of great help if, before leaving your hotel, you select the distance and can save the itinerary or take screenshots of it. If you want to be carried away, download one of our Detailed Guides.
- Remember you can stop whenever you wish to do so, take a coffee break, at a park, at a fountain; do not hesitate in taking a break and catching your breath to renew your energy and carry on with your visit, enjoying to the fullest.
This option implies alternating walking with public transportation. Of course you need to walk as well, you can’t visit the Jardins de Tuileries by bus. The idea is to identify the main points of interest for you in a way that you can get to them alternating the use of public transportation and walking shorter distances (that is compared to trying to walk through the entire visit.)
For this, always identify from where you are leaving and where you are headed to, find the nearest metro or commuter train stop (if you don’t see it, ask someone or try and find it on a map.) Locate where you are on the map.
Tip: In all metro stations there are several types of maps hung up on the walls: a map of the ENTIRE transportation system and another map of the zone surrounding the metro station you are in, this way before you leave the metro you will be able to choose the right exit according to your final destination without “going around the world” to get there.
- The Parisian transportation system, or RATP, consists of a multimodal network of transportation (bus, tramway, metro, and commuter trains) that cover the entire Île-De-France region.
- 5 commuter train lines ( A,B,C,D and E),14 metro lines, 8 tramway lines, and ove 325 bus lines connect all of Paris and the Île-de-France region.
- Pricing is decided depending on the zones needed, as the region is divided into 5 zones.
-The “center” or Paris and it’s direct suburbs cover zones 1-3
-Anything farther out is zone 4 (the Orly Airport and Versailles, for example) and zone 5 (Disney Paris and the Charles de Gaulle Airport).
-ZONE MAP: RATP Plan
- The Paris metro lines are numbered from 1 to 14 and identified with different colors as well.
- The commuter trains (RER) are identified by letters A,B,C,D, and E and they each have a color that identifies them as well. Out of these lines, only lines A and B are part of the Parisian transportation system company, the other three are controlled by the SNCF, which is the national train company in France.
- Every line has two senses and each way is named according to the last station or TERMINUS. For example: Line 6 (light green color) has for a final destination or terminus NATION, and going the other way it’s final destination is Charles de Gaulle-Étoile.
- In Detail:
-Identify the metro line that interests you
-Identify the stop that interests you and what direction the metro is located at
-Look for the platform corresponding to the direction you are headed towards
-Get off the metro and check out the screens that will show you the direction and time it will take the next two metros to come by (at this moment you’ll be able to check and make sure you are headed the right way.)
- In order to use the public transportation system you must acquire a ticket that will need to be validated every time you use it, and that you will need to keep with you throughout the ride and up until you exit the station; you may be asked to show your ticket by an RATP controller (if you do not have a ticket on you or have not validated it you will be fined.)
- To validate your ticket, slide it through the slot (or feed it into the slot, depending on the machine) at the turn-style and make sure to recuperate it before going through the door. If the ticket is valid, you will have no issues and a green light will allow you to go through. If not, a red light will go off signaling that the ticket is not valid.
This is a very interesting subject. The type of ticket you choose will ultimately depend on the amount of days you’ll be staying in Paris for, where you are staying, and if you like to walk or not.
- Single-ride ticket:
This ticket can only be used once and has a cost of 1.90€. If you like walking and only wish to reduce your travel time every once in a while, you can buy this type of ticket anytime you need it.
- Pack of 10 tickets or more:
In this option, when purchasing the 10-pack, one will be free. Once again, this option is good for those who will be alternating walking with public transportation, while choosing to walk more often and only use transportation here and there. For example, a couple that enjoys walking a lot, and will only be in Paris for a couple of days.
- Paris Visite Travel Pass:
These are tickets that have unlimited rides on them, with a certain amount of days and pre-selected zones. The Parisian public transportation system (RATP), proposes a type of ticket that has unlimited rides, and the price variation will depend on the amount of days selected and the zones.
The advantage is that the most important things to see are all within zones 1,2, and 3, and you can choose a ticket that will cover all of them. The airports, Disney and the Palace of Versailles are farther out and are part of zones 4 and 5. You can buy a ticket for zones 1-3 or 1-5, depending on what works best for you.
Each ticket will indicate the zones it covers and the days (consecutive) selected. This ticket will require you to write down the passengers name, the date of purchase and you will need to keep it with you at all times, as well as having to validate it with each use. If for whatever reason the ticket does not allow you to go through while it is still valid, immediately head over to the information desk; it is possible that the magnetic band on the ticket has been deactivated if it came in contact with a cellular device, for example.
Price: The price varies according to the number of zones and days selected. To give you an estimate, an unlimited adult ticket covering zones 1-3 for 1 day is priced at 12€, 2 days is 19.50€, and 3 days goes for 26.65€. Check out the current rates of this ticket on: RATP PARIS
- All machines accept credit card payment (except American Express) and coins. Some of them accept bills. Please make sure to check what payment methods the machine takes before proceeding to purchase your tickets.
- You can purchase them yourself on the multilanguage machines that are available at every metro station. Some of them are touch-screen and others use a roller.
-Select your language, then select “Buy tickets”, and the machine will guide you through the process.
-Remember to always VALIDATE what you’ve selected.
-If you made a mistake, you can always cancel and start over. Do not stress or worry, what is important is that you make the correct purchase for the ticket you need.
- You can also approach the information desk and ask the person at the counter to sell you the ticket (only card payments are accepted here) and/or for them to help you.
- Remember to always keep your receipt and to not throw away your ticket !
- Sometimes when there is a problem with public transportation (a strike, an accident, or a technical problem that may interrupt the transportation service) or if you simply wish to travel more comfortably by car, you can or may need to use a taxi or an Uber.
- The Taxi service in Paris is regulated by the Police Department. The rates from the airport to the city and back are calculated based on your final destination (right bank, or rive droite, or the left bank, rive gauche). See Practical information.)
- The Parisian taxi service may be different than that of your home country. For example, the cab drivers here are not very talkative, they may seem a bit cold and sometimes rude perhaps, but don’t be taken aback by this. However, they will not try to swindle you. What is important is that you know exactly where you are going and can show them the address. Make sure he understands where you are heading.
- Be sure to take a taxi at the pre-established stops they are assigned to. There are fake taxis that try to get tourists and charge outrageous amounts for rides. At the airports and train stations, locate the official access point for taxis. Uber’s services are available in France, and not controversy free. Today they are authorized, providing the following services: UberX, UberPOOL, and Uber BERLINE.
- Price-wise the difference is not that different, although there may be some, and Uber is still more economic. For example, a taxi between the Gare Montparnasse and the Charles de Gaulle airport (around 37 km) can cost you 50€ with Uber and 55€ with G7 (taxi company).
- At Descubre Paris, we suggest using a taxi or an Uber when you’re travelling in groups of 3 or 4 people, or 5+ groups as well. In this case you will need to select a larger vehicle, such as a Berline, due to the fact that if your airplane departs from the Charles de Gaulle airport, located in zone 5 North of the city, taking a taxi is a better option and travelling comfortably in a car than paying 14€ per person to take the metro (for example). Sometimes comfort is better, especially if you’ll end up spending the same amount.
- Attention: Please be aware that there may be additional charges when booking a cab in advance. Approximately 4 to 7€, and a 4€ supplement from the 5th passenger forth.
- Open Tour
Another way of getting around Paris is through tour busses. At Descubre Paris, we find that the best option is the Open Tour, that belongs to the Parisian transportation system’s company (RATP). It has many stops on its tours and good frequencies between busses. You need to be prepared to pay the price they charge and wait for the busses to come by according to their schedules. The main set-back this option present, according to our vision, is that traffic in Paris is highly unpredictable and can either flow nicely or be extremely congested due to different events or other in the city; this can mean long waits and losing time, that is why we wish to let you know if you choose this option you must be willing to wait patiently. These busses have traditionally been green and blue, however starting in 2018 the busses carry the colors of the French flag (Blue, White, and Red). This company offers different plans, for example purchasing the Open Tour ticket along with the Bateaux Bus (Boat bus), or a river tour of the Seine on the Bateaux Mouches. The prices go from 33€ for a full day up to 3 days for 41€.
These Boat Busses have 9 stops along the Seine River and can replace, to an extent, that Seine River Tour proposed by the Bateaux Mouches (Bateaux Mouches, Vedettes de Paris or Bateaux de Paris) as well as complementing your walks during your stay in Paris. Evidently, it is more expensive, but it can be used for a longer time and can be used as a less convenient means of transportation. Remember the Seine crosses the city from East to west. Frequencies between boats are approximately every 30 minutes, and their hours are from 10 h. (10:00 a.m.) to 17 h. (5:00 p.m.), sometimes until 19 h. (7:00 p.m.) and during the summer until 21:30 h. (9:30 p.m.). The prices are 17€ for 1 day and 19€ for 2 days.