Ultimate guide to Paris’ Transportation System

I noticed LOADS of people asking the same questions on Reddit and TripAdvisor .. again and again. How do I get to Paris from the Airport? How much does a Ticket for Paris Metro cost? Where can I buy a Navigo Decouverte? What’s the best way to get around? And most of them did not even dig so deep and wonder about Vélibs or water Taxis.

Public Transportation is a pain in the butt when you are in a foreign country, leaving you feel like an idiot not knowing how to ride a damn bus. We’ve all have been there and we all took a taxi, or walked cause we just couldn’t figure it out.

I will help you out and share everything you need to know to rock Paris Public Transportation services like you do. However, the following is NOT a complete guide covering every aspect of every mode of transportation. It’s rather equipping you with enough know-how to get around Paris without issues.

Let’s start with the basics.

Tickets and Fares for Paris’ Public Transportation in Paris

First things first: you can purchase tickets at every train, tram and metro station. Also at the airport, either at the ticket machines or at the RATP counter, machines are multi lingual! Single fare tickets are also available for purchase on buses, but cost more and are not valid for transfer if bought on board. Generally, transfers between Metro and RER trains as well as transfers from bus to tram are possible. You can’t transfer though with the same single fare ticket from metro/RER to bus/tram.That being said, your ticket does expire when living the metro station.

Be sure you keep your ticket during your journey, you might get controlled and you might need it for transfers and exit.. Children under 4 are traveling without fee, kids until 10 are should buy the reduced fare.

one of the metro stations of Paris - picture not taken by me. source: www.pixabay.com

one of the 303 metro stations of Paris – picture of Paris Metro not taken by me. source: www.pixabay.com

single fare ticket for Paris, t+ ticket: 1,90€ (less if bought by 10 (carnet), usable for Metro, Trains, Trams, Buses inside one zone (Paris for instance) and also the Funiculare de Montmartre

Paris Visit: flexible ticket that lets you adapt lengths and range according to your needs.. You can take 1 or up to 5 consecutive days and choose between Paris or Paris plus Airports and suburbs (Versailles and Disney included), prices vary between 13,20€ and 72,40€.

Navigo Semaine: comprises all zones including Versailles, Disney and the airports and comes for around 22€ for the entire week. However, its valid from only from Monday 00:00 to Sunday 23:59:59 and has an inscription fee of 5€. You also need a passport photo when requesting the pass.

Orlyval the skytrain operating between the airport Orly and the next RER Station costs 9,30€ and is not included either in Navigo Semaine or Paris Visit pass. Depending on the size of your party, it might be cheaper to take a taxi or uber from Anthony to Orly (10-15€).

How to get to Paris?

You can access Paris obviously by more than the following means of transportation, however, I trust you that you can find Paris on your own if approaching by car and also to make it to the next Metro if arriving by bus. However, IF you decide to come by car, know that parking in a garage will start at 25€/day, free parking is as good as non existent. Alternatively you can park outside Paris and take public transportation into town.

view from Musée d'Orsay to Louvre - the Musée d'Orsay is situated in an old train station and the remains are very visible throughout the building

view from Musée d’Orsay to Louvre. The Musée d’Orsay is situated in an old train station and the remains are very visible throughout the building

 by plane

Paris is served by 3 airports and you have a trillion options to actually make it from airport to town. I won’t exemplify each and every possibility but the most convenient and the least stressful. I don’t believe anyone is up for changing buses thrice or walking from the airport into town anyway. Besides, if walking is your thing, it’s better to check your GPS 🙂

Charles de Gaulle (often referred to as Roissy), 20 km north of Paris. The simplest way from and to there is by RER B (suburb train line B). The RER B circulates all few minutes and takes around 40m. That being said; there are also busses running between Charles de Gaulle Airport and Paris but personally I would not take my chance on them if not needed; traffic can be worse than hell. If you want to get into town by cab, you’ll be charged between 50€ and 55€ as flat rate fee.

Orly: about 10km south of Paris. This airport is also served by RER B (it’s connecting both airports, Roissy and Orly). Know that the airport station is “Anthony” from where the skytrain Orlyal (around 12€/person incl. fare to Paris) brings you directly to the terminal.

You also have the possibility to access Orly/Paris by bus, Orlybus or Cars Air France for example, that are stopping at several stations in Paris. You can purchase the ticket on every ticket machine and counter. Taxis are charging a flat rate fee between 30€ and 35€

Beauvais: an airport that operates only low-cost companies such as Ryan Air; around 80km north-west from Paris. It’s an airport that I try to avoid by all means. It is just SO fucking far out. If you are not having a person around that loves you enough to give you a ride, you can add 30€ (roundtrip, 20€ for kids under 12) for bus transfers from Port Maillot to Beauvais.

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by train

Paris has a few main train stations and are basically a safe bet if you are not up for much transfer. As soon as you arrive at a station, you shouldn’t run into any problems to journey on.

Gare du Nord:  trains that are departing or coming from north of Paris. This includes the Eurostar that connects Paris with London and Thalys that links Paris with Brussels, Amsterdam and Cologne.

Gare du Lyon: Trains from and to Lyon, Marseilles.. the sunny south

Gare du Montparnasse: goes west, Bretagne

and Gare de l’est … well, trains from the east.

How to move within Paris?

Paris Metro

With 303 stations, 214 km tracks and 16 lines, the Paris Metro is probably the fastest and most convenient way to get around. It runs in Paris and adjacent suburbs and the general average distance between stations is 548m, so you have an idea how easy it is to find one. Just know that Paris is not a barrier free city, especially when it comes to transportation. It is doable with a stroller (other passengers are usually happy to help), but you better check this map to find stations with elevators if you are of reduced mobility.

The first metro departs it’s terminus at 5:30am and the last comes back at 1:15am, 2:15am on weekends. A ticket is valid 1,5h from it’s first validation and can be used for the entire metro line, no matter in which zone your destination lays. It does not expire when changing metro lines.

Paris Metro Sign - picture taken from www.pixabay.com

Paris Metro Sign – picture taken from www.pixabay.com The Metro is the most convenient Paris Public Transportation

RER

The RER is much like Paris Metro, but a little faster and with less stations. However, the RER is basically a suburb train that connects Paris with surrounding cities. If you want to visit Versailles for example, you would take the RER C, Disney is served by RER A.

If not using the Navigo Semaine or the 5 zone Paris Visit pass, make sure to purchase a ticket with the appropriate amount of zones. Paris and it’s surrounding is divided in 5 zones. You need to purchase a ticket for all zones that you cross on your way.

Bus

Busses are simply running everywhere; inside Paris, outside Paris, from Paris to suburb and from suburb to suburb. The tickets are the same than for Metro. You can transfer with the same ticket from bus to bus or to tram, but not to Metro or RER, that would require a new ticket.

If you are not depending on getting around by bus (Busses are barrier free), I’d recommend to avoid them during a short term stay. Schedules and maps are rather complicated and due to the Parisian traffic, they can be really sloooow.

Noctilien night busses

To fill the gap between last and first Metro/Tram/RER, night buses are operating in Paris and connecting the city with the greater Paris suburbs. Noctilien busses are clearly the cheapest way to get home after a long night as you can board them with the usual metro tickets. Just be aware that your fellow passengers might be everything but sober.

Tram

The Tramway is relatively new in Paris and is build roughly as a circle around Paris, more or less parallel to the freeway. Tickets are again identical with tickets for busses, metro and the RER within Paris. But again, you can only transfer from Tram to Tram, for a transfer to Metro or RER you need a new ticket.

Velib

Every 300m you will find one of the 1800 stations with a total of 23600 of Rental Bikes  waiting for you.  It is not thaaat uncomplicated as they are trying to make you believe on their page; I needed 3 tries to get it right the first time but you’ll get a hold on it, don’t worry.

You pay a usage fee of 1,70,€ that allows you to grab a bike during the next 24h. But: only the first 30 minutes of each trip are free. If your trip is longer than 30 min, you get charged. Renting a velib requires a credit card. First of all to pay the usage fee and the charges for your over 30min tours but also to block a deposit of 150€. This  will obviously be returned to you once you bring your bike back and play by the rules. Also, you need to keep the receipt that you’ll receive at your first usage. It has your customer number on it that you need to rent another bike on the same day.

Pro Tip: bring your bike back to the station before your free 30min are over, check it in .. and rent a new bike. New trip, new 30 free minutes 🙂

Pro Tip 2: Make absolutely sure that when you put your bike back in, that the green lamps flashes up after 10 seconds. Not red. Green! This is crucial. If it’s red, you did something wrong, Most likely pushed the bike in a wrong angle and blocked it for future users. If it should happen to you, don’t walk away and shrug it off like “someone I know” . Call the number indicated on each machine to report it, because: No future user, no money for Vélib and a penalty of 75€ taken from your credit card. BIM! 

The metro is probably the most convenient transportation within Paris

The Paris Metro is probably the most convenient transportation within Paris. The fastest and due to the countless changes as well the most flexible

Taxi

There’s ins’t really anything Paris specific here; you can get one at a taxi stand or stop one on the street. The white or green light means its free. The service charge lays at around 2,60€ for every ride, no matter how far or close your journey will be. Also, if you order a taxi by phone, you’ll pay a charge between 4€ and 7€

Most Taxis are only accepting cash. Also, the majority of taxis is not equipped with car seats for children as they aren’t obligatory. Know as well that you might have to pay an extra fee if you are more than 3 people and if your destination lays outside Paris.

Pro Tip: don’t accept offers from drivers that are approaching you on their own initiative at airports, stations or tourist areas. Those are not licensed cabs and they might scam you. But don’t worry about it, really, don’t. Paris is not Bangkok. I never paid much attention to it (except from not accepting offers) and never had any trouble or worry. Official Taxis having the Taxi Sign on top, a taximeter and their license visible. This applies to every taxi that you stop in Paris or that waits at a taxi stop for you.

Uber

Since a few years Uber runs in Paris and obviously like anywhere else: you have the app and with the usual features, you don’t even need a french version. Price, Itinerary and waiting time are visible before you decide to order it. You pay by the payment method you set up in your profile. However, they don’t take cash.

Safety in Paris’ Public Transportation

I read very often that people are worried about their safety when it comes to traveling to Paris. Sometimes it’s fear caused by recent terror attacks in European cities but more often it’s about getting robbed or scammed. I can’t deny that there is of cause a risk that this will happen to you. Paris is a capital and besides all it’s glory and beauty, there are also people that you rather don’t wanna have there. Oh well.

I’d say Paris Metro is safe. Every Parisian takes the metro at all times, often you’ll find the Metro fuller at midnight than at 3pm and the passengers are not any dodgy weirdos but absolutely random folks.

There are still some things you should keep in mind:

  • take care of your stuff and be concious about your belongings. Don’t have your bag just above your shoulder, but hold the string. You don’t need to hold your bag like a maniac but show that you’ re weary and aware
  • try to avoid using your phone. It can happen that someone grabs it and runs just in the very moment the doors are closing. Bye Bye phone
  • if there is a alert about pickpockets, DO NOT check if your wallet is still where it should be. Someone might check for exactly this reflex and you happily tell the thief where he has to look for your treasures
  • don’t get distracted and forget about your belongings (see the first point). I got my wallet stolen once; while I was trying to to push a stroller with one hand while trying to hold a damn gate open with the other.

TL;DR get yourself a Navigo Decouverte and stick to Paris Metro/RER 😀

Are you planning a trip to Paris and are wondering what else is there to see apart from the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre? Check out our 75 offbeat tips and see Paris through the eyes of a local!

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19 Responses

  1. I must say Paris is one of the best cities for well-connected local transport. Since its so large in size, one does end up walking A LOT despite taking the metro or the bus from one spot to another. And not to mention the long distances between metro lines inside the stations 🙂 But its all very convenient. And enjoyable.

    • fouronaworldtrip@gmail.com says:

      oh I am sure you talk about Montparnasse when thinking of long distances between Metro lines! We try to avoid that change by all means haha 😀

  2. SindhuMurthy says:

    I will never get tired of reading about Paris. But all glitz and glamor of Paris comes with the super expensive transportation if hired privately. So, this post on public transportation and all teh tips you have mentioned ( especially the one about red and green indicators after parking the bike) would definitely help any one willing to explore the city on budget.

    • fouronaworldtrip@gmail.com says:

      yeah, getting around privately is really expensive! We often use a mix of public transportation and Uber

  3. Suma says:

    A very useful post for everyone who want to get acquainted with the transport system of Paris city. You have listed dowm every single useful information regarding the topic and I can see how much effort you taken. I usually take up metros and buses rather than taxis as its very economical but as there’s Uber in the city I sometimes just go for it.

    • fouronaworldtrip@gmail.com says:

      awww thank you for your kind words; I really appreciate it <3 the combination of public transport and Uber is perfect for us, too... especially when going out 🙂

  4. Eve Kay says:

    Thanks for the comprehensive guide and safety tips! I’ve been to Paris only once but when I was there, I actually ended up ditching the metro and just do the bus. While the metro is very well-connected and coverage is good, I find that it’s often making detours. With the bus, my destination would actually be a straight line within 15 minutes ride, but with metro, I needed to go in the wrong direction to a connecting stop to get on the right line. But I can understand that sometimes metro is still the convenient to go. With the bus you need to figure out bus lines and that can be an issue as tourists don’t have all the time in the world for that.

    • fouronaworldtrip@gmail.com says:

      Thank you for sharing your experiences! I often take the bus as well, for exactly the reason you’ve mentioned; I don’t want to go to the north of Paris to get to the east! But I live in Paris.. when being a tourist somewhere, I really don’t wanna spent time with figuring out, as you said 🙂

  5. It’s so nice that the metro runs late on the weekends! Also, good to know that buses are a bit complicated so not that great as an option for short term visitors. You’re article on all transport options is very thorough and complete! A great guide!

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