Did you know that over 22 million of tourists visit Paris annually? That’s roughly 1/3 of the French population! And what do all of these people have in common? They take public transport to get around. Ha! Didn’t see that coming, did you?
Parisian public transport is the quickest and easiest way to go from point A to point B. Metro stations are literally 5 minutes walk from one another, and it is the most popular mean of transport here. There are also buses and trams if you like to contemplate the scenery from the window.
I’de been in Paris as a tourist many times. And now, I’ve been living here for over 4 years. So, if you’ve been planning to visit the French capital, then I can probably help you to figure out how to get around here.
How do metro and RER lines work?
There are a couple of things you need to know about metro and RER system.
Parisian area is divided in 5 zones. The 1st and 2nd zones are within Paris. The rest is outside it. Depending on the zones you travel to, the ticket fare may vary.
Metro lines are pretty easy. Even if the stations are outside zone 2, the ticket and the fare is the same as for the zones 1 and 2. The time between the stations is 1 minute. And, as all the metro station are quite densely situated, walking time from one station to another from 5 to 7 minutes. It can give you an idea of how close your next destination is.
RER is a train system that connects the city center and Parisian suburbs. It stops at each station within zones 1 and 2; and the ticket is the same as for the metro. If you go further, you need to look carefully at the information board that will tell you at which station the next coming train stops. Sometimes it is a computer screen that cites the stations, but most of the time it is a board with lights. If the light next to your destination is on, then the train will stop there. As someone who didn’t grasp that the first time I was in Paris, I thought it was worth mentioning…
RER covers a longer distance and the ride form one station to the next is about 3 minutes. AND you must always check you card/ticket more than once: when you change from a metro line to an RER line, or on the way in and on the way out.
And what about buses?
Buses and trams are not my area of expertise. I just don’t get along with these means of transport. Every time I want to take a bus, I never find the station I’m looking for. With one way roads it’s not always obvious, you see…
Two things I do know:
- the t+ ticket on board will cost you 2€ instead of 1,90€ if you get it at a metro station
- on bus and tram lines, you can use your t+ ticket multiple times in space of 1,5 hour
Should you get a Navigo card or buy tickets?
The two questions you should ask yourself are: for how long are you staying? and how often do you intend to use public transport?
If you stay here for a couple of days and will be mostly hanging out in the centre, then get a single ticket (~1,90€) or a 10 tickets pack (~ 14,50€). These tickets are valid for metro, RER (zones 1 and 2), bus and tram lines.
As a side note: don’t throw away your ticket until you’re out. Sometimes you need to check it twice or they can simply be controlled.
The city centre you can pretty much cover on foot. The distances between the main sights are not that big. Although, if you intend to go to the Versailles, the Disneyland park or take a train to/from the airport, then you will need a special ticket for RER where you will specify your destination. Here, prices will vary and can go over 2€, 4€ and 8€.
If you stay longer than 3 days I highly recommend you to get a Navigo Découverte card. As tickets, Navigo cards can be used on all means of public transport. You can get it at one of the stations for 5€ and will need an ID photo on hands. From the moment you use it for the first time, it is valid for 10 years! A weekly fare with all zones access costs ~22,15€. The last day when you can charge it is Thursday.
For instance, I got this card for my mom. Even if she comes for 3 days, she always takes a train from Charles de Gaulle airport. The ticket from there to the city centre is about 9€ one way! Multiply this cost by 2x, add expenses on public transport during 3 days in Paris… You can easily figure out that this card is a good deal.
How to get from the airport?
There are many ways to get from one of the airports to Paris, but I’m going to mention the easiest ones.
Charles de Gaulle Airport
My favourite way to get from the Charles de Gaulle airport to Paris is the train RER B. With my all-zones card (or with the Navigo Découverte) I don’t have to pay extra. And a direct train that skips suburb stations will get you to/from the airport in 30 minutes.
As for the ticket price, it is about 9-10€ one way.
You can also take the Car Air France, a bus that will take you from the Charles de Gaulle Etoile, Porte Maillot, Trocadéro, the Eiffel Tower or the Montparnasse train station to the Charles de Gaulle airport for 15€ one way.
You can learn more about it here.
I’m not an expert on Orly airport as I almost never fly from there, but one of the easiest ways to get to/from there is to take the Car Air France. The bus leaves from and arrives to: the Champs-Elysées, Trocadéro, the Eiffel Tower, La Motte-Piquet or the Montparnasse train station.
The cost is about 12€ one way.
Another way would be to take RER B and then to catch the Orly bus at Antony station. It costs around 12€ as well.
You can learn more here.
Maybe take a bike?
An alternative way would be a bike! Paris has a lot of bike stations called vélib’ all over the city. One day costs about 1,70€. One thing to bare in mind is that you need to check your bike in at one of the valid’ stations before 30 minutes are out. After you did so, the count is back to zero and you can take the same or another bike immediately to continue your journey.
A smart Vélib’ app will tell where are the nearest stations, with how many bikes and free parking places available.
P.S. I hope that information was helpful. If you have any further questions on this particular topic or Paris in general, don’t hesitate to comments below or shoot me a message!