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How to travel on the Paris Metro

The Paris metro is a great way to explore the city and one of the safest public transportation systems in the world. The city and its regions are well serviced by the metro and RER (Réseau Express Régional) express trains and although on your first look at the metro map it can seem daunting, once you get the hang of how it works, it’s an efficient and easy way to travel. 

paris-metro-travel

Here are some general tips about travelling on the metro:

  • It can be overcrowded with the many people who visit the city and share the system with commuters. Avoid rush hour between 8 – 10am and 5 – 8pm, especially on the RER trains.
  • It’s not air-conditioned so it’s best to walk or take the bus on very hot days or if you are not heat tolerant.
  • Accessibility for disabled travelers is limited and the many stairs and tunnels can make using it, difficult for those who are less able to walk.
  • The busiest lines are 1,2,4,11,12,13.
  • You can use it to sightsee, as a number of lines run above ground e.g. Line 6 for the Eiffel Tower and Line 2 for the Sacre Coeur.
  • Be careful of pickpockets. Phones are a frequent target.
  • Stand to the right on the escalator.
  • Choose the route with the least amount of transfers if you have a buggy or luggage.

The Metro lines explained.

Once you get a Metro map, which is available from any metro information centre or to download at www.parismetro.com, you can get to grips with its layout and plan your journeys.

There are 16 lines that criss-cross the city and go out to the regions. They are identified by number, colour and end of line names.  The map is colour coded and here’s how to use it:

  • Find the station you want and the line that goes there.
  • Look for the destination at the end of the line, in the direction you wish to go and follow the signs in the Metro for that direction.
  • If you take the train in the wrong direction it is easy to turn around and come back.

Lines for the major sites

Louvre and Champs Elysee – Line 1

Sacre Coeur and Pere Lachaise- Line 2

Eiffel tower- Line 6

Montmartre- Line 12

Where to buy tickets

You can buy tickets at any metro or RER station, at newsstands and tabacs around Paris and at some tourist information centres. Passes can also be purchased online. Most self-service ticket machines only accept coins but some accept debit cards and you can change the interface to English on most machines to make things easier.

Ticket Choices

For a longer stay in Paris where you plan to travel a lot on the metro and buses, the Paris Visite Pass simplifies your travel.

The pass gives you unlimited travel on the Metro, buses, Trams, SNCF and RER trains and the Montmartre funicular in zones 1-3. It covers all of Paris but not the journey to the airport. It will also get you discounted entry for some attractions. It’s a stress free way to travel and having one ticket saves time during your stay.

You can also buy a single or packs of Standard T metro tickets if you don’t plan to visit so many attractions and simply want to get around city.

The Mobilis Day pass is a cheaper option than the Paris pass and will get you round all metro zones in Paris. The weekly or monthly Navigo Decouvertre pass for the Metro is also available for longer stays.

When choosing tickets you will need zones 1-5 if you are heading to Euro Disney or Versailles and zones 1-8 for greater distances outside Paris.

Express Trains or RER

The Paris RER consists of 5 express train lines A, B, C D and E, which are identified by colour, letter and direction. They criss-cross Paris and connect it with the suburbs. You will need to use the RER if you want to venture outside the city to Euro Disney or Versailles or to travel to and from the airport.

Learning to ride these lines will also get you to many central destinations in the city more quickly. Entrances to RER stations will have a large RER sign on a pole outside the station so you can see it when you are walking.

Within Paris, the RER simply acts like a fast metro and you can use the metro tickets to ride it. But outside Zone 1 you will need an RER ticket.

The primary stop for outgoing and incoming RER trains is Chatelet – Les Halles. Others are Gare du Nord, St Michel and Gare du Lyon. Use it in the same way as the metro, looking at the line you want and the direction in which you want to travel; then follow the signs for that direction.

Hours of Operation

The Metro starts early and finishes late. Mon-Thur and Sunday from 5.30am to 1.15 am. On Friday and Saturday it runs from 5.30am to 2.15 am

The RER runs from 4.45 am to 1.30 am 7 days a week.

The Paris Metro is a remarkable transport system; you will never be far from a station in this beautiful city especially near your city centre vacation apartment rentals. Once you have travelled on it a few times it is easy to navigate and an efficient way to get around Paris.

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