Getting there & around
Few roads don’t lead to Paris, one of the most visited destinations on earth. Practically every major airline flys through it, and most European train tracks and bus routes cross it.
As for getting around – easy! The metro system is vast, efficient and spans every pocket of Paris. Buses are more scenic but can be slowed by traffic, while getting to know the many different routes is an art in itself.
For those who prefer a spot of fresher air in their lungs, or who simply want to make getting from A to B a historical and aesthetic feast in itself, walking and rollerblading are serious options. With city sights spread across a distance no greater than 10km, the major places of interest are pleasurably walkable. That is, of course, if Paris’ innovative, highly praised communal bicycle scheme, Vélib’, doesn’t tempt you into some footloose and fancy-free pedal-powered action.
Book flights, tours and train tickets online at www.lonelyplanet.com/travel_services.
Bicycles are not allowed on the metro except on line 1 on Sunday and public holidays. You can, however, take your bicycle to the suburbs on some RER lines on weekdays before 6.30am, between 9am and 4.30pm, after 7pm, and all day on the weekend and on public holidays. More lenient rules apply to SNCF commuter services. Contact SNCF for details.
The prise en charge (flagfall) is €2.10. Within the city limits, it costs €0.82 per kilometre for travel between 10am and 5pm Monday to Saturday (Tarif A; white light on meter). At night (5pm to 10am), on Sunday from 7am to midnight, and in the inner suburbs the rate is €1.10 per km (Tarif B; orange light on meter). Travel in the outer suburbs is at Tarif C, €1.33 per kilometre. There’s a €2.75 surcharge for taking a fourth passenger, but drivers often refuse for insurance reasons. The first piece of baggage is free; additional pieces over 5kg cost €1 extra. When tipping, round up to the nearest €1.
Flagging down one of Paris’ 15, 500-odd licensed taxis can be hard, particularly after 1am. Some ‘freelance’ (illegal) taxis nip around town but are not organised (like minicabs are in London) and offer no guarantee on price or safety.
To order a taxi, call Paris’ central taxi switchboard (01 45 30 30 30, passengers with reduced mobility 01 47 39 00 91; 24hrs) or reserve online with Alpha Taxis (01 45 85 85 85; www.alphataxis.com),Taxis Bleus (01 49 36 29 48, 08 91 70 10 10; www.taxis-bleus.com) or Taxis G7 (01 47 39 47 39; www.taxisg7.fr, in French).
Paris' bus system, operated by the RATP, runs between 5.45am and 12.30am Monday to Saturday. Services are drastically reduced on Sunday and public holidays (when buses run from 7am to 8.30pm) and from 8.30pm to 12.30am daily when a service en soirée (evening service) of 20 buses – distinct from the Noctilien overnight services – runs.
After the 'evening buses' have finished their last runs, some 42 Noctilien (www.noctilien .fr) night buses kick in, departing every hour between 12.30am and 5.30am. The buses serve the main train stations and cross the major arteries of the city before leading out to the suburbs; many go through Châtelet (rue de Rivoli and bd Sébastopol). Look for blue N or 'Noctilien' signs at bus stops. There are two circular lines within Paris (the N01 and N02) that link four main train stations, St-Lazare, Gare de l’Est, Gare de Lyon, Montparnasse (but not Châtelet), as well as popular nightspots such as Bastille, the Champs-Élysées, Pigalle and St-Germain.
Noctilien services are free if you have a Navigo pass, Mobilis or Paris Visite pass for the zones in which you are travelling. Otherwise you pay a certain number of standard €1.50 metro tickets, depending on the length of your journey. Ask the driver how many you need to get to your destination.
Short bus rides embracing one or two bus zones cost one metro/bus ticket (€1.50); longer rides require two tickets. Transfers to other buses or the metro are not allowed on the same ticket. Travel to the suburbs costs up to three tickets, depending on the zone. Special tickets valid only on the bus can be purchased from the driver.
Whatever kind of single-journey ticket you have, you must oblitérer (cancel) it in the composteur (cancelling machine) next to the driver. If you have a Mobilis or Paris Visite pass, flash it at the driver when you board. Do not cancel the magnetic coupon that accompanies your pass.
Eurolines (01 43 54 11 99; www.eurolines.fr, in French; 55 rue St-Jacques, 5e; 9.30am-6.30pm Mon-Fri, 10am-1pm & 2-5pm Sat; Cluny-La Sorbonne), an association of more than 30 national and private bus companies that links Paris with points all over Western and Central Europe, Scandinavia and Morocco, can organise ticket reservations and sales. The Gare Routière Internationale de Paris-Galliéni (08 92 89 90 91; 28 av du Général de Gaulle; Gallieni), the city’s international bus terminal, is in the inner suburb of Bagnolet.
Most international airlines fly through Paris; for flight, route and carrier info contact Aéroports de Paris (39 50, from abroad +33 1 70 36 39 50; www.aeroportsdeparis.fr).
Paris is served by Aéroport d’Orly and Aéroport Roissy Charles de Gaulle, both well linked by public transport to central Paris. More of a trek is Aéroport de Beauvais, which handles charter and some budget carriers, including Ryanair and Central Wings.
The older, smaller of Paris’ two major airports, Aéroport d’Orly (ORY; 39 50, from abroad +33 1 70 36 39 50; www.aeroportsdeparis.fr), is 18km south of the city. Its two terminals, Orly Ouest (Orly West) and Orly Sud (Orly South), are linked by a free shuttle bus service that continues to/from the airport car parks and RER C station Pont de Rungis-Aéroport d’Orly; the Orlyval automatic metro links both terminals with the RER B station Antony.
Aéroport Roissy Charles de Gaulle (CDG; 39 50, from abroad +33 1 70 36 39 50; www.aeroportsdeparis.fr), 30km northeast of central Paris in the suburb of Roissy, has three aérogares (terminals) – aptly numbered 1, 2 and 3 – and two train stations served by commuter trains on RER line B3: Aéroport Charles de Gaulle 1 (CDG1), which serves terminals 1 and 3, and the sleek Aéroport Charles de Gaulle 2 (CDG2) for terminal 2. A free shuttle bus links the terminals with the train stations.
To get to/from Charles de Gaulle and Orly, take the RER line B3 to the Antony stop then pick up the Orlyval automatic metro (adult/child four to ten years €9.30/4.65) or hop aboard the Air France shuttle bus 3 (adult/child 2-11yr €16/8; 6am or 7am–10.30pm) linking the two airports. Both journeys take an hour, as does a taxi (€50 to €60).
Charter companies and Ryanair, Central Wings and various other budget airlines land/take off at Aéroport Paris-Beauvais (BVA; 0 892 682 066; www.aeroportbeauvais.com), 75km north of central Paris.
The quickest way of turning your stay in Paris into an uninterrupted series of hassles is to drive. If driving the car doesn’t destroy your holiday sense of spontaneity, parking the thing certainly will.
You can get a small car (eg a Renault Twingo or Opel Corsa) for one day for no more than €100, including unlimited mileage and insurance. Most of the larger companies have offices throughout Paris and at airports and main train stations, including Gare de Nord (Gare de Nord). Several are represented at Aérogare des Invalides (Invalides) in the 7e.
Avis (08 02 05 05 05; www.avis.fr, in French)
Budget (08 25 00 35 64; www.budget.fr, in French)
Europcar (08 25 35 83 58; www.europcar.fr, in French)
Hertz (08 25 88 92 65; www.hertz.fr)
National Citer (08 25 16 12 12; www.citer.fr)
Sixt (08 20 00 74 98; www.sixt.fr, in French)
Smaller agencies often offer more-reasonable rates and have several branches throughout Paris. Find a complete list in the Yellow Pages (www.pagesjaunes.fr, in French) under ‘Location d’Automobiles: Tourisme et Utilitaires’.
ADA (08 25 16 91 69; www.ada.fr, in French) ADA has a dozen branches in Paris including 8e arrondissement (01 42 93 65 13; 72 rue de Rome, 8e; Rome) and 11e arrondissement (01 48 06 58 13; 34 av de la République, 11e; Parmentier).
easyCar (www.easycar.com) This budget agency has cars at competitive prices from branches at main train stations including Montparnasse (Parking Gaîté, 33 rue du Commandant René Mouchotte, 15e; Gaîté). Branches are in underground car parks and are fully automated systems; book in advance and fill in the forms online.
Rent A Car Système (08 91 70 02 00; www.rentacar.fr, in French) Rent A Car has 16 outlets in Paris, including Bercy (01 43 45 98 99; 79 rue de Bercy, 12e; Bercy) and 16e arrondissement (01 42 88 40 04; 84 av de Versailles, 16e; Mirabeau).
If you’ve got the urge to look like you’ve just stepped into (or out of) a black-and-white French film from the 1950s, a motor scooter will fit the bill perfectly.
Free Scoot (01 44 93 04 03; www.free-scoot.com, in French; 144 blvd Voltaire, 11e; 9am-1pm & 2-7pm Mon-Fri; Voltaire) Rents 50cc scooters per day/24 hours/weekend/week from €30/35/75/145, and 125cc scooters for €45/55/110/245. Prices include third-party insurance as well as two helmets, locks, raingear and gloves. To rent a 50/125cc scooter you must be at least 21/23 and leave a credit card deposit of €1300/1600. Freescoot runs a seasonal branch in the 5e arrondissement (01 44 07 06 72; 63 quai de la Tournelle, 5e; 9am-1pm & 2-7pm Mon-Sat mid-Apr–mid-Sep; Maubert Mutualité).
For a more flexible, hop-on-and-off approach to pleasure-cruises on the Seine, sail with the Compagnie de Batobus (08 25 05 01 01; www.batobus.com ; adult 1-/2-/3-day pass €12/14/17, student €8/9/11, child 2-16yr €6/7/8; 10am-9.30pm May-Aug, 10am-7pm Sep–mid-Nov & mid-Mar-Apr, 10.30am-4.30pm mid-Nov–mid-Dec & Feb–mid-Mar, 10.30am-5pm mid-Dec–Jan). Its fleet of glassed-in trimarans dock at small piers along the Seine and tickets are sold at each stop or tourist offices. For those keen to combine boat with bus, its Paris à la Carte deal allows two/three consecutive days of unlimited travel on Batobus boats and Open Tour buses for €37/40. Boats depart every 15 to 30 minutes from various stops:
Champs-Élysées (Port des Champs-Élysées, 8e; Champs-Élysées Clemenceau)
Eiffel Tower (Port de la Bourdonnais, 7e; Champ de Mars-Tour Eiffel)
Hôtel de Ville (quai de l’Hôtel de Ville, 4e; Hôtel de Ville)
Jardin des Plantes (quai St-Bernard, 5e; Jussieu)
Musée d’Orsay (quai de Solférino, 7e; Musée d’Orsay)
Musée du Louvre (quai du Louvre, 1er; Palais Royal-Musée du Louvre)
Notre Dame (quai de Montebello, 5e; St-Michel)
St-Germain des Prés (quai Malaquais, 6e; St-Germain des Prés)
The RER and the commuter lines of the SNCF (Sociéte’ Nationale des Chemins de Fer; 08 91 36 20 20, 08 91 67 68 69 for timetables; www.sncf.fr) serve suburban destinations outside the city limits (ie zones 2 to 8). Purchase your ticket before you board the train or you won’t be able to get out of the station when you arrive. You are not allowed to pay the additional fare when you get there.
If you are issued with a full-sized SNCF ticket for travel to the suburbs, validate it in one of the time-stamp pillars before you board the train. You may also be given a contremarque magnétique (magnetic ticket) to get through any metro-/RER-type turnstiles on the way to/from the platform. If you are travelling on a Mobilis or Paris Visite pass, do not punch the magnetic coupon in one of the time-stamp machines. Most but not all RER/SNCF tickets purchased in the suburbs for travel to the city allow you to continue your journey by metro. For some destinations, tickets can be purchased at any metro ticket window; for others you have to go to an RER station on the line you need to buy a ticket.
Thanks to very fast TGV (train à grande vitesse) trains, of which the French are inordinately proud, many of the most exciting and scenic cities in provincial France are all within a few hours of the capital from one of six major train stations, each with its own metro station: Gare d’Austerlitz (13e), Gare de l’Est (10e), Gare de Lyon (12e), Gare du Nord (10e), Gare Montparnasse (15e) and Gare St-Lazare (8e). Each station handles passenger traffic to different parts of France and Europe. Information for SNCF mainline services (36 35, 08 92 35 35 35; www.voyages-sncf.com) is available by phone or internet.
The super-speedy Eurostar (08 36 35 35 39; in UK 0875 186 186; www.eurostar.com) links Gare du Nord with London’s sizzling new St-Pancras International train station in a lightening two hours and not much longer with dozens of other regional stations in the UK; through-ticketing to/from Paris and 68 regional stations in the UK is now possible. Gare du Nord is likewise the point of departure/terminus for Thalys (36 35, 08 92 35 35 36; www.thalys.com) trains to Brussels, Amsterdam and Cologne.
Mainline stations in Paris have left-luggage offices or lockers (consignes). They cost €4/7.50/9.50 per 48 hours for a small/medium/large bag, then €5 per day per item. Most left-luggage offices and lockers open from around 6am to 11pm.
If you’re staying a week or more, the cheapest and easiest way to use public transport in Paris is to get a combined travel pass that allows unlimited travel on the metro, RER and buses for a week, a month or a year. You can get passes for travel in two to eight urban and suburban zones but, unless you’ll be using the suburban commuter lines extensively, the basic ticket valid for zones 1 and 2 should be sufficient.
The Navigo system (www.navigo.fr, in French), like London’s Oyster or Hong Kong’s Octopus cards, provides you with a refillable weekly, monthly or yearly unlimited pass that you can recharge at Navigo machines in most metro stations; swipe the card across the electronic panel as you go through the turnstiles. Standard Navigo passes, available to anyone with an address in Paris, are free but take up to three weeks to be issued; ask at the ticket counter for a form. Otherwise pay €5 for a Nagivo Découverte, issued on the spot but – unlike the Navigo pass – not replaceable if lost or stolen. Both passes require a passport photo and can be recharged for periods of one week or more.
A weekly ticket (coupon hebdomadaire) pass costs €16.30 for zones 1 and 2 and is valid from Monday to Sunday. It can be purchased from the previous Thursday until Wednesday; from Thursday weekly tickets are available for the following week only. Even if you’re in Paris for three or four days, it may work out cheaper than buying carnets and will certainly cost less than buying a daily Mobilis or Paris Visite pass. The monthly ticket (coupon mensuel; €53.50 for zones 1 and 2) begins on the first day of each calendar month; you can buy one from the 20th of the preceding month. Both are sold in metro and RER stations from 6.30am to 10pm and at some bus terminals.
Each metro train is known by the name of its terminus. On maps and plans each line has a different colour and number (from 1 to 14); Parisians usually refer to the line number.
Signs in metro and RER stations indicate the way to the correct platform for your line. The direction signs on each platform indicate the terminus. On lines that split into several branches (like lines 3, 7 and 13), the terminus of each train is indicated on the cars with backlit panels, and often on the increasingly common electronic signs on each platform giving the number of minutes until the next train.
Signs marked correspondance (transfer) show how to reach connecting trains. At stations with many intersecting lines, like Châtelet and Montparnasse Bienvenüe, walking from one train to the next can take a long time.
Different station exits are indicated by white-on-blue sortie (exit) signs. You can get your bearings by checking the plan du quartier (neighbourhood maps) posted at exits.
Each line has its own schedule, but trains usually start at around 5.30am, with the last train beginning its run between 12.35am and 1am (2.15am on Friday and Saturday).
RERThe RER is faster than the metro, but the stops are much further apart. Some of Paris' attractions, particularly those on the Left Bank (eg the Musée d’Orsay, Eiffel Tower and Panthéon), can be reached far more conveniently by the RER than by metro.
RER lines have an alphanumeric combination – the letter (A to E) refers to the line, the number to the spur it follows out in the suburbs. Even-numbered lines generally head for Paris' southern or eastern suburbs while odd-numbered ones go north or west. All trains whose four-letter codes (indicated both on the train and on the light board) begin with the same letter share the same terminus. Stations served are usually indicated on electronic destination boards above the platform.
Tickets & faresThe same RATP tickets are valid on the metro, the RER (for travel within the city limits), buses, the Montmartre funicular and Paris' three tram lines. A single ticket – now white in colour and called un ticket t+ – costs €1.50; a carnet (book) of 10 is €11.10 (€5.55 for children aged four to 11 years). Tickets are sold at all metro stations. Ticket windows and vending machines accept most credit cards.
One metro/bus ticket lets you travel between any two metro stations – no return journeys – for a period of 1½ hours, no matter how many transfers are required. You can also use it on the RER for travel within zone 1. A single ticket can be used to transfer between buses and between buses and trams, but not from the metro to bus or vice versa.
Always keep your ticket until you exit from your station; you may be stopped by a contrôleur (ticket inspector) and will have to pay a fine (€25 to €45 on the spot) if you are found to be without a ticket or are holding an invalid one.
Two-wheeling has never been so good in the city of romance thanks to Vélib’ (a crunching of vélo, meaning bike, and liberté, meaning freedom), a self-service bike scheme whereby you pick up a pearly-grey bike for peanuts from one roadside Vélib’ station, pedal wherever you’re going, and park it right outside at another.
A runaway success since its launch in 2007, Vélib’ (01 30 79 79 30; www.velib.paris.fr ; day/week/year subscription €1/5/29, bike hire 1st/2nd/3rd & each additional half-hr free/€2/4) has revolutionised how Parisians get around. Its 1451 stations Vélib’ across the city – one every 300m – sport 20-odd bike stands a head (at the last count there were 20, 600 bicycles in all flitting around Paris) and are accessible around the clock.
To get a bike, you need a Vélib’ account: One- and seven-day subscriptions can be done on the spot at any station with any major credit card providing it has a microchip and pin number (be warned North Americans!). As deposit you’ll need to pre-authorise a direct debit of €150, all except €35 of which is debited if your bike is not returned or is reported as stolen). If the station you want to return your bike to is full, swipe your card across the multilingual terminal to get 15 minutes for free to find another station. Bikes are geared to cyclists aged 14 and over, and are fitted with gears, antitheft lock with key, reflective strips and front/rear lights. Bring your own helmet though!