Paris is increasingly bike-friendly, with more cycling lanes and efforts from the city of Paris to reduce the number of cars on the roads.
The Vélib’ bike-share scheme changed operators in 2018 and issues with the new system were still ongoing at the time of writing; check the website for the latest information. Ultimately, it will put tens of thousands of bikes (30% of which will be electric) at the disposal of Parisians and visitors at some 1400 stations throughout Paris, accessible around the clock.
- To get a bike, you first need to purchase a one- or seven-day subscription either at the docking stations or online.
- The terminals require a credit card with an embedded smart chip (which precludes many North American cards), and, even then, not all foreign chip-embedded cards will work. Alternatively, you can purchase a subscription online before you leave your hotel.
- After you authorise a deposit (€300) to pay for the bike should it go missing, you’ll receive an ID number and PIN code and you’re ready to go.
- Bikes are rented in 30-minute intervals. If you return a bike before a half-hour is up and then take a new one, you will not be charged for a standard bicycle (electric bikes incur charges).
- Standard bikes are suitable for cyclists aged 14 and over, and are fitted with gears, an antitheft lock with key, reflective strips and front/rear lights. Bring your own helmet (they are not required by law).
- Electric bikes are also for those aged over 14. They have a top speed of 25km/h and a range of 50km.
Batobus runs glassed-in trimarans that dock every 20 to 25 minutes at eight small piers along the Seine: Eiffel Tower, Musée d’Orsay, St-Germain des Prés, Notre Dame, Jardin des Plantes/Cité de la Mode et du Design, Hôtel de Ville, Musée du Louvre and Champs-Élysées.
Buy tickets online, at ferry stops or at tourist offices. Two-day passes must be used on consecutive days. You can also buy a Pass+ that includes L’Open Tour buses, to be used on consecutive days. A two-day pass per adult/child costs €47/21; a three day-pass is €51/21.
Buses can be a scenic way to get around – and there are no stairs to climb, meaning they are more widely accessible – but they’re slower and less intuitive to figure out than the metro.
Paris’ bus system, operated by the RATP, runs from approximately 5am to 1am Monday to Saturday; services are drastically reduced on Sunday and public holidays. Hours vary substantially depending on the line.
The RATP runs night-bus lines known as Noctilien (www.vianavigo.com); buses depart hourly from 12.30am to 5.30am. The services pass through the main gares (train stations) and cross the major axes of the city before leading out to the suburbs. Look for navy-blue N or Noctilien signs at bus stops. There are two circular lines within Paris (the N01 and N02) that link four mainline train stations – St-Lazare, Gare de l’Est, Gare de Lyon and Gare Montparnasse – as well as popular nightlife areas (Bastille, Champs-Elysées, Pigalle, St-Germain).
Noctilien services are included on your Mobilis or Paris Visite pass for the zones in which you are travelling. Otherwise you pay a certain number of standard €1.90 metro/bus tickets, depending on the length of your journey.
Tickets & Fares
- Normal bus rides embracing one or two bus zones cost one metro ticket; longer rides require two or even three tickets.
- Transfers to other buses – but not the metro – are allowed on the same ticket as long as the change takes place 1½ hours between the first and last validation. This does not apply to Noctilien services.
- Whatever kind of single-journey ticket you have, you must validate it in the ticket machine near the driver. If you don’t have a ticket, the driver can sell you one for €2 (correct change required).
- If you have a Mobilis or Paris Visite pass, flash it at the driver when you board.
- As with metro tickets, paper tickets will be phased out by 2021, with contactless cards available from 2019.
Fondation Louis Vuitton Shuttle Bus
Car & Motorcycle
Driving in Paris is defined by the triple hassle of navigation, heavy traffic and limited parking. Petrol stations are also difficult to locate and access. A car is unnecessary to get around, but if you’re heading out of the city on an excursion, then one can certainly be useful. A Crit'Air Vignette (compulsory anti-pollution sticker) is also required in most instances. If you plan on hiring a car, it’s best to do so online and in advance.
To enter the city within the bd Périphérique (ring road) between 8am and 8pm Monday to Friday, a Crit'Air Vignette (compulsory anti-pollution sticker) is needed for all cars, motorcycles and trucks registered after 1997, including foreign-registered vehicles. Older vehicles are banned during these hours. The sticker is not necessary for the ring road itself.
There are six colour-coded stickers, ranked according to emissions levels, from Crit'Air 1 to the highest-polluting Crit'Air 6. In instances of elevated pollution levels, vehicles with stickers denoting higher emissions are banned from entering the city. Fines for not displaying a valid sticker start at €68.
For full details and to order stickers online, visit www.crit-air.fr, available in multiple languages including English. You'll need to upload a copy of your vehicle's registration certificate. Allow time for it to be mailed to your home. Prices for a Crit'Air Vignette start at €3.11.
Cityscoot Electric mopeds with a top speed of 45km/h are available to rent as part of Paris' scooter-sharing scheme, with all bookings via smartphones. No subscriptions are necessary. Any driver's licence (including a foreign-issued licence) is valid for those born before 1 January 1988; anyone born after that date requires a current EU driver's licence.
Freescoot Rents 50/125cc scooters in various intervals. Prices include third-party insurance as well as helmets, locks, rain gear and gloves. A motorcycle licence is required for 125cc scooters but not for 50cc scooters, though you must be at least 23 years old and leave a credit-card deposit of €1000.
Left Bank Scooters Rents Vespa XLV scooters including insurance, helmet and wet-weather gear; scooters can be delivered to and collected from anywhere in Paris. You must be at least 20 years old and have a car or motorcycle licence. Credit-card deposit is €1000.
- Parking meters in Paris do not accept coins; they require a European-compatible chip-enabled credit card. The machine will issue you a ticket for the allotted time, which should be placed on the dashboard behind the windscreen.
- Municipal public car parks, of which there are more than 200 in Paris, charge between €2 and €6 per hour or €20 to €36 per 24 hours (cash and compatible credit cards accepted). Most are open 24 hours.
- The prise en charge (flagfall) is €4. Within the city limits, it costs €1.07 per kilometre for travel between 10am and 5pm Monday to Saturday (Tarif A; white light on taxi roof and meter).
- At night (5pm to 10am), on Sunday from 7am to midnight and during peak travel times (7am to 10am and 5pm to 7pm Monday to Saturday) in the central 20 arrondissements, the rate is €1.29 per kilometre (Tarif B; orange light).
- Travel in inner Paris on Sunday night (midnight to 7am Monday) and in the outer suburbs is at Tarif C, €1.56 per kilometre (blue light).
- The minimum taxi fare for a short trip is €7.10.
- There are flat-fee fares to/from the major airports (Charles de Gualle from €50, Orly from €30).
- A fifth passenger incurs a €4 surcharge.
- There's no additional charge for standard-size luggage; larger pieces have a €2 surcharge.
- Flagging down a taxi in Paris can be difficult; it’s best to find an official taxi stand.
- To order a taxi, call or reserve online with Taxis G7 or Alpha Taxis.
- An alternative is private driver system Uber taxi (www.uber.com/fr/cities/paris); you order and pay via your phone. However, official taxis continue to protest about the service and there have been instances of Uber drivers and passengers being harassed.
Paris’ underground network is run by RATP and consists of two separate but linked systems: the metro and the Réseau Express Régional (RER) suburban train line. The metro has 14 numbered lines; the RER has five main lines (but you'll probably only need to use A, B and C). When buying tickets consider how many zones your journey will cover; there are five concentric transport zones rippling out from Paris (zone 5 being the furthest); if you travel from Charles de Gaulle airport to Paris, for instance, you will have to buy a ticket for zones 1 to 5.
For information on the metro, RER and bus systems, visit www.ratp.fr. Metro maps of various sizes and degrees of detail are available for free at metro ticket windows; several can also be downloaded for free from the RATP website.
- Metro lines are identified by both their number (eg ligne 1 – line 1) and their colour, listed on official metro signs and maps.
- 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 (such as lines 7 and 13), the terminus of each train is indicated on the cars and on signs on each platform giving the number of minutes until the next and subsequent 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 platform to the next can take a very 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 1.15am (2.15am on Friday and Saturday).
- The RER is faster than the metro, but the stops are much further apart. Some 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 the metro.
- If you’re going out to the suburbs (eg Versailles, Disneyland), ask for help on the platform – finding the right train can be confusing. Also make sure your ticket is for the correct zone.
Tickets & Fares
- The same RATP tickets are valid on the metro, the RER (for travel within the city limits), buses, trams and the Montmartre funicular.
- A ticket – white in colour and called Le Ticket t+ – costs €1.90 (half price for children aged four to nine years) if bought individually; a carnet (book) of 10 costs €14.90 for adults.
- Tickets are sold at all metro stations. Some automated machines take notes and coins, though not all. Ticket windows accept most credit cards; however, machines do not accept credit cards without embedded chips (and even then, not all foreign chip-embedded cards are accepted).
- One 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, which encompasses all of central Paris.
- Transfers from the metro to buses or vice versa are not possible.
- Always keep your ticket until you exit from your station; if you are stopped by a ticket inspector, you will have to pay a fine if you don’t have a valid ticket.
- Paris is phasing out paper tickets by 2021. From April 2019, a new Navigo Easy contactless card (€2) will allow infrequent transport users including visitors to prepay for journeys (single or banks of 10) by topping the card up; there is no expiry date, and cards can be shared between passengers. In October 2019, a Navigo Liberté+ will allow passengers to link the card to their bank card, with journey costs automatically deducted.
The Mobilis and Paris Visite passes are valid on the metro, the RER, SNCF’s suburban lines, buses, night buses, trams and the Montmartre funicular railway. No photo is needed, but write your full name and date of use on the ticket. Passes are sold at larger metro and RER stations, SNCF offices in Paris and the airports. Passes operate by date (rather than 24-hour periods), so activate them early in the day for the best value.
Mobilis Allows unlimited travel for one day and costs €7.50 (for two zones) to €17.80 (five zones). Buy it at any metro, RER or SNCF station in the Paris region. Depending on how many times you plan to hop on/off the metro in a day, a carnet (book of 10 tickets) might work out cheaper.
Paris Visite Allows unlimited travel as well as discounted entry to certain museums, and other discounts and bonuses. The 'Paris+Suburbs+Airports' pass includes transport to/from the airports and costs €25.25/38.35/53.75/65.80 for one/two/three/five days. The cheaper 'Paris Centre' pass, valid for zones 1 to 3, costs €12/19.50/26.65/38.35 for one/two/three/five days. Children aged four to 11 years pay half price.