Paris Hotels Articles

May 20, 2010

Local transport in Paris, France

Paris has three different rail networks, a bus service and taxis.

The three rail networks are;

* Metro – an underground network covering all of Paris
* RER – a network that covers Paris and the residential regions (the banlieu) around Paris. Within Paris the RER is underground, while outside the trains are above ground
* SNCF – the national rail network

The transport networks for the Île-de-France (region that contains Paris and surrounding area), all fall under a single organisation, the RATP (Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens). The RATP control the metro, RER and tram networks, and their website is an excellent source of information for maps, travel information (timetables, delays and ticket information).

For the national train network, the reponsible body is the SNCF (Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Français – National Society for French Railroads). Through their website you can buy tickets to any where in France, and get information such as timetables and delays. The train in france is called the TGV (Train à grande vitesse – really fast train, an appropriate name!), although you may see other international trains such as the german ICE (InterCityExpress) or Eurostar (to the UK and Belgium).

Metro

The metro has 16 lines covering all of Paris. The lines are identified by a number, and the direction to travel is indicated by the end destination – for instance, if you travel westerly on line 1, then you’re heading in direction ‘La Defense’. There are multiple entrances to most metro stations, and inside the station there are street maps showing the local area to help you find the most convenient exit.

The trains are very frequent, often only 5 minutes between stations. Sundays and public holidays have a reduced service, although trains are still fairly frequent. The metro stations are fairly close to one another, so often walking is easier than changing lines to go just one stop.

A ticket will allow a single journey of unlimited distance, and is 1.40€. Rather than buying individual tickets, packets of 10 can be bought for 10.90€ – a packet is called a ‘carnet’ (pronounced ‘car-nay’). The tickets also allow travel on the RER, but only within Paris (Zones 1 & 2 on the RER map). Tickets can be bought at the metro stations (be aware that not all entrances have ticket vending machines or tellers), or at newspaper vendors or tabacs (bar/tobacconists) which show the RATP sign outside.

Ticket machines require the ticket to be inserted into a slot, and then you take the ticket before proceeding through the gate. Don’t thow the ticket away – even though you don’t need the ticket to exit, if you’re caught without one it’s a 25€ on the spot fine.

Travel passes give you a single ticket that allows unlimited travel. The Carte Orange (pronounce Orange as Awe-wronj) is available for either a weekly (Hebdo) or monthly (Mensuel) period. The weekly period is from Monday to Sunday, rather than from the day of purchase. You’ll also need to get a ticket pass holder at the metro station, which you sign and stick in a passport photo. For a zone 1 & 2 pass (just Paris) the weekly ticket is 16€ and the monthly ticket is 52.50€.

An alternative travel pass is the Paris Visite ticket. This gives unlimited travel for either 1, 2, 3 or 5 days, from the first day of use (not purchase, so you can buy them in advance). The prices for this ticket are;

1 day – 8.35€
2 days – 13.70€
3 days – 18.25€
5 days – 26.65€
Although more expensive than a Hebdo carte orange, you are not fixed to the Monday to Sunday days, and the ticket also gives discounts to museums and department stores. It also covers the Roissybus and Orlybus.

A map to the metro can be found on the RATP site here, but street maps of Paris which include the metro and RER are freely available from almost all hotels, department stores and tourist information offices.

RER

The RER has four lines that cross Paris (A, B, C and D). The lines only stop at a few stations, and generally only useful to the tourist if you rapidly want to cross the whole city, or are travelling to the airports. Line B takes you to the Charles de Gaulle or Orly airports, while line A goes to Eurodisney (Chessy Marne-la-Vallée station).

The RER is split into zones, with Paris being covered by zones 1 & 2. Metro tickets allow travel within zones 1 & 2. Be aware that some metro stations are in zone 3, such as La Defense. and even though a regular metro ticket will get you to the metro stop, you won’t be able to exit the RER station with the same ticket.

Ticket gates to the RER are similar to the metro, and you’ll need to insert the ticket to enter. You’ll also need the ticket to exit the RER, so don’t throw it away, eat it, or screw it into a little ball!

Bus

The bus network in Paris covers a wider range of areas than the metro system (particularly in the outer arrondissements), and being above ground they are also more pleasant to use. However, the maps may be a bit confusing at first glance.

Each bus has a number, and the direction is simply a matter of standing on the appropriate side of the road. The buses stop only at the bus-stops, and you need to wave to stop a bus (although they often stop anyway just in case).

The buses use the same tickets as the metro system, and if using regular tickets they need to be inserted in the stamping machine on each bus. If you have a Carte Orange or Paris Visite ticket, do not stamp the ticket. Tickets have to be already purchased and cannot be bought on the bus.

The buses are fairly frequent – usually 15 minutes apart. Each bus shows the number on the front, back and sides, with the sides also showing the major stops.

Inside the bus will be a map showing the route and each stop. However, there is usually no indication of which stop is being approached, so keep your eyes open and don’t be afraid to ask which stop is next. It may be best to ask your neighbour rather than the driver though.

Taxis

Taxis are well organised, and generally easily available. There are illegal taxis operating, but it is not advised to use them.

Official taxis are recognised by the white light on top of the car. The white light has three other lights underneath which show which tariff the taxi is running on – these are for the police to see when a taxi is overcharging it’s client.

When the main white light is lit, the taxi is available to pick you up – if it’s not lit then it’s not for hire. If you’ve phoned for a taxi don’t be surprised if there’s already 5 or so euros on clock, as the hire begins the moment the call is received rather than when it picks you up.

You can wave a taxi down from the street, unless you are within 50 meters of an official taxi rank.

Taxis have three rates, Paris daytime (tariff A), Paris nighttime (tariff B), and outside Paris (tariff C). The driver should switch the rate when he drives across the boundary around Paris – that boundary is the périphérique motorway, and the motorway is classed as part of the Paris zone (tariffs A & B).

There is a minimum charge of 5.20€. The rates are fairly reasonable, and to cross the entire city would cost about 20€.

Taxis to the airports are typically 50 to 60€.

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