Ah, Paris. I was in Paris, France about 19 years ago when Frans proposed to me under the Eiffel Tower. It was only a half-day trip so we didn’t have time to explore the area. Not to mention, we weren’t really in the right frame of mind to do so either. Also, much of that time we were lost since we didn’t understand how the Paris Metro worked then. Fast forward to our return trip as a family and things went much smoother. Not only did we have the help of detailed mobile apps, but we could check official English sites or Google Translate to decode any French text.
Getting Around Paris with Public Transportation
Paris is a very, very walkable city. But, after walking about 10 miles each day, you get really tired, really fast. That’s when you will truly appreciate the wonderful public transportation available throughout the city. The best way to get around Paris is by Metro (subway) and, at times, by bus. We used the Metro every day. By the fourth and last day during our visit, though, we rode it as much as possible to save our poor, swollen legs and feet.
Using the Paris Metro
Metro trains run most of the day and arrive every 2-10 minutes. As long as you know the line you need and which direction to go, getting around is pretty easy as you follow the clear signage throughout the tunnels. If you get lost, you can always ask the service clerk or a kind local for directions. (As long as you greet them first with a “Bonjour!” and ask in a nice way, most locals are super helpful. 😛 ) Just so you know, it does get extremely crowded during rush hour. All “personal space” limits will disappear so try to go with the flow and make way for people to get in and out.
FYI, from what we saw most Paris Metro stations did NOT seem very ADA-friendly. We could be wrong but, if you or someone in your party can’t do stairs, you might want to look into renting a car or taking the bus.
Navigating Paris Metro & Bus Lines w/ Free Mobile Apps
Apple Maps was AMAZING to use for the Paris Metro and buses with step-by-step directions and transfers. It even showed how long each route took, which exit to take, and included alternate routes based on where you wanted to go. If you don’t have an iOS/Apple device, you can use Google Maps or the RATP app (but neither of these are quite as good, sorry). You do need internet access to use these navigation features. Fortunately, we actually had excellent connection (FULL bars) everywhere in Paris, even in the Metro. But, on the off-chance that you lose connection at any point, you might want to download an offline map in Google Maps as a backup.
Paris Metro Public Transportation Costs & Buying Tickets
So how much does it cost? Well, that depends on how much you plan on using public transportation during your trip. If you only need to use the transit occasionally, then single-use (Ticket t+) tickets are fine. One adult ticket is €1.90. But, you can save about 20% per ticket if you buy a book of 10 tickets for €14.90 or 20 for €29.80. Fares for children 4-9 are less and those 3 and under ride free.
You can get tickets at any Metro station. These are good for one-way trips on the Metro, bus, RER trains, or on the Montmartre Funicular. You can transfer lines but it has to be on the same kind of transport (train to train or bus to bus, not train to bus or visa-versa).
Paris Metro ticket vending machines and screen prompts could be confusing at first so here’s a video tutorial. (TIP: Choose English first. 😀 )
You do need to use a debit or credit card with a smart chip to buy tickets at these vending machines. If you don’t have one with a chip, go to the service counter. To enter a Metro station or use the bus, insert your ticket into the validation machine and retrieve it when it pops out. Something is printed on it so you cannot use the ticket again.
If you plan on using public transit a lot during your stay, then you might want to purchase single-day (Ticket Mobilis) or multi-day (Paris Visite) passes. These give you unlimited access to the Metro or bus lines while the ticket is valid. But, these could be more cost-effective as long as you use them a minimum number of times each day. You can also choose tickets to travel to the airport, Disneyland Paris, or Versailles by public transport on the RER trains.
Using the Paris Metro Public Transportation to Keep the Family Happy
In general, it is very easy to get around Paris whether by foot or by public transit. All you have to do is get an idea of what types of transportation you’ll need and how often you’ll use it. Then you can choose the best type of ticket for your time in Paris. We ended up getting three books of 10 + 3 single tickets during our 3-1/2 day visit. Most of that was used on Paris Metro rides. We spent about €50.40 total for all three of us so it ended up being a better deal for us than getting full-day passes. But, if we were there any longer or we knew ahead of time how sore we’d be from walking so much, we might have chosen one of the other ticket options. ?
For a more information on the public transportation system in Paris visit the official RATP site or this comprehensive guide by Paris by Train.