Paris Hotels Articles

April 19, 2010

Navigating the Paris Métro

Paris is divided into twenty neighborhoods or arrondissements. Each neighborhood spirals out like a snail shell from the center of the city, with the low digits all close to the center and the higher number forming the outer rim. The Seine divides the city into the right bank and left bank (rive droite and rive gauche). Because the city of Paris is roughly only 6 miles across, visitors have a wide range of options when it comes to transportation. While much of the more well known attractions are located in the center of the city and are best experienced by walking, there are many destinations that require other means of transport. While taxis offer a fast and relatively inexpensive means of travel, Paris’ public transportation system offers an enjoyable, stress-free way to explore the city.

The Paris Métro system is among the best in the world and it shouldn’t take you long to get acquainted with it’s operations. Constructed in 1900 by engineer Fulgence Bienvenüe and architect Hector Guimard, the French Métro covers over 124 miles with 368 stations and 15 lines. Servicing over 6 million residents and tourists every day, the Métro was designed to be an efficient and reliable alternative to the congestion of traffic. Every building in Paris is less than 500 meters from a train station, so accessibility is never a problem. The 15 Métro lines are identified by their final destinations, simply select the appropriate line and take it in the direction you want. The Métro stations are well marked, and there are ticket booths at most entrances.

If you are in town for only a few days, it may make more sense to buy a carnet (packet) of 10 tickets. However depending on the length of your stay you can opt for a carte orange, an unlimited weekly pass. By filling out a simple form and taking a photo you will receive a card that allows you to ride the system within a specified zone from Monday through Sunday. Prices depend on the zones covered. As with other cities, proof of payment is required on all trains. Failure to provide a valid ticket will result in an instant fine of €35, payable in cash on the spot. Needless to say, keep your ticket with you at all times until you depart the system.

Foreign travelers can also purchase special passes called Paris Visites, which are valid for unlimited use on the entire RATP network. Paris Visites can be purchased online before your departure to France and offer the option of 1-5 days of unlimited travel. In addition to Métro transportation, these passes offer up to a 30% discount on other modes of transportation and other select attractions. Another advantage of the Visites pass is that they can be used either for destinations within the city limits, or for trips to areas outside of Paris.

The Paris Métro trains run from 5:30 a.m. to 1:00 a.m., at which point travelers exploring the city’s nightlife turn to the Noctilien late night bus service. The Noctilien runs 7-days a week, between the hours of 12:30 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. with expanded service on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Individual tickets can be purchased once you board, however additional passes like the Carte Orange and Paris Visite are honored as well.

Outside of Paris, the RER is the regional transit system and can be used within city limits with metro ticket. RER stop are only given when no metro is nearby. The bus system is also an excellent way to get around but it is a bit more complicated to navigate. Each bus stop lists the bus lines that it services and their corresponding routes.

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