Paris is huge and full of tourist attractions, what means you will need to get around a lot to enjoy everything the City of Light has to offer! But don’t fear, because getting around the city is far from a problem, since the Paris public transport system is very efficient, consisting of several lines of tram, bus, train, boats and subway, which is the 2nd largest in the world.
As there are endless options of routes, in the beginning, it’s common the visitor to get a bit confused, but the system is very simple and you will quickly learn the best way to wander around the city. To help you, I put some tips together on how to get around Paris using its sophisticated public transport.
The subway is no doubt the simplest and quickest way to get around Paris. Created in 1900, the system is considered one of the most efficient in the world and offers a huge network of 16 lines, dozens of stations (they are very close to each other, about 500 meters), tickets at fair prices and a short waiting.
The subway lines connect several regions of the city to each other, there are also some that reach neighbouring counties, such as Vincennes, for example, which is part of Paris Metropolitan area. For the visitor, there are metro stations very close to all tourist attractions!
There’s no secret to using the subway. The lines are identified by numbers and colours, the stations are well signed and indicate where the boarding of each line is. Paris Metro’s opening hours are from 05:30 am to 12:40 pm and until 01:40 pm on Fridays, Saturdays and before holidays. The standard ticket is unified so it can be used along with other subway lines and the RER train within a period of 2 hours from the first validation.
RER is the acronym for Réseau Express Régional, a high-speed train system that connects Paris to neighbouring cities such as Versailles and Giverny, where Monet’s house and gardens are located. Moreover, it is among the main means of transport that connects the centre of Paris to the airports Orly and Charles de Gaulle.
The system has five lines (A, B, C, D, and E), each of them with bifurcations. Some stations work together with those of the subway (Ex: Gare de Montparnasse, Gare de Lyon, etc.), but the boarding is done on different platforms. On the platforms themselves, there is information about the lines and stations in which the train will pass, be careful not to get in the wrong direction. The ticket is the same used on the subway and bus.
Bus & Tram
Paris offers a good bus and tram system. This is the best way to go around observing the landscape along the journey. However, compared to the subway it has a major disadvantage: heavy traffic. So, if you want speed, opt for the subway. The bus stops have a board that contains the name of the bus lines, schedules and the end points.
In the early hours of the morning, the night buses, called “Noctiliens”, operate at reduced schedules and pass through strategic points of the city. The ticket on the bus is valid for 1:30h and allows integrations with other bus and tram lines. To access the subway or train, you must use another ticket if you have opted for the single ticket.
Tickets: Price & Type
There are 5 options to choose from, and each has advantages and disadvantages for each situation. How long will I stay in Paris? What days of the week? How will I get the transfer to the airport? Those are questions you will have to ask yourself to not spend money for nothing.
The ticket is standard for all types of public transport in Paris: subway, bus, RER and tram. There is a wide variety of tickets available, including tickets for a single trip, packages of 10 or 20, full day pass, multi-day pass, Monday to Sunday pass, monthly passes and even yearly passes. See the difference between them and choose the right one for you:
Those are the single tickets, valid for a single journey within the entire transport system, including changes between metro lines and RER trains in zone 1 (doesn’t include airports). These tickets are sold as individual units or in packages of 10.
The tickets are sold at the stations or through automatic ticket machines that accept coins and credit cards with a chip, super easy to use and with service in several languages. The price of the single ticket is €1.90 (€2 on board a bus), or discount of approximately 24% for the purchase of the multiple of 10, for €14.50.
Children from 4 to 9 years old can use reduced fare tickets, which are only available in packs of 10 for €7.50. Children under 3 travel for free.
The full day pass enables unlimited travel on the transportation system during the hours of operation for the day when it’s used. Unfortunately, it doesn’t include any of the transport used to go to the Parisian airports, but it’s the ideal option for those going to La Défense (Zone 3), Palace of Versailles (Zone 4) or Disney of Paris and Fontainebleau (Zone 5). Prices:Since the Ticket Mobilis can be used on any date after purchase, it’s essential to write the date of use and your name on the back of the ticket, otherwise, a ticket inspector may give you a fine. This prevents fraud by avoiding more than one person from using the same ticket.
Just like the single ticket, the daily ticket is not valid to access the airports of Orly and CDG, except using buses 183 and 285 to Orly, or 350 and 351 to Charles de Gaulle. However, these buses are not direct, with several stops along the way, which increases the journey time by up to 3 times.
It’s worth it if you use it more than 6 times in one day, or if you have to cross areas to visit more distant sights, such as those mentioned above.
The multi-day ticket, known as Paris Visite, is the card that gives you unlimited access to public transport (subway, bus, tram and RER) for 1, 2, 3 or 5 consecutive days, available in 3 and 5 zone versions. It’s also necessary to put date and name on the ticket.
As the Paris Visite gives you the right to use the transport that connects the centre of Paris to the airports of Orly and CDG, it’s worth it if you intend to use public transport for this transfer, in addition to exploring every corner of Paris on the other days.
For example, if you will stay 5 days in Paris, buy the €63.90 pass, go back and forth from the airport and visit most of the sights, without rest. Then it’s worth it! Apart from that, the Paris Visite also offers discounts on some attractions, such as Arc de Triomphe, Montparnasse Tower, Picasso Museum and Salvador Dali.
It’s a smart plastic card, for unlimited use, and without any limitation of public transport, rechargeable with passes for a week or a month. This pass is valid for trips strictly from Monday to Sunday, rather than any continuous 7-day period, which makes it less attractive to mid-week visitors. The monthly pass is valid from the 1st to the last day of the month.
The card can be purchased at the subway and train stations, as well as kiosks scattered throughout the city. It’s possible to recharge it from Friday, for use in the following week. The card costs €5, non-refundable, and requires the user to take a 3×4 photo, which can also be printed in black and white. The weekly pass costs €22.15 and the monthly costs €73.
For those who manage to arrive on a Monday and stay the whole week in Paris, it’s worth so much, because it gives you literally the entire Paris public transport system, including access to the airports. The only exception is the OrlyVal, but a direct bus from Orly Airport to the centre solves the problem!
The Paris Pass combines the Paris Visite with the Paris Museum Pass. This option is not very advantageous, with a very sour price. It costs from €129 the version for 2 days, to €229 for 6 days, giving you the right to take the tourist bus and to enter in some tourist attractions, varying according to the chosen pass.
The price is high, and will only be worth it financially if you use it a lot every day. In addition, the included transport card doesn’t entitle you to travel to the airports. The great advantage is the “skip the line” feature, what means you won’t queue to enter the main attractions of Paris, such as the Louvre Museum, the Palace of Versailles and many others, which can save you a lot of time.
Paris Public Transport: Planning & Buying
Most of the tickets can be purchased at the ticket machines or at the subway, bus and RER stations, with the exception of the Paris Pass, which is worth it buying online (you can buy it HERE). Always remember to validate the tickets before using it!
Another important tip is to never throw away the ticket before leaving the stations or vehicles, as there is inspection and the fine is high. To know the best option when buying your ticket, put your itinerary together and do the maths! With good planning, you can save a lot of money and enjoy Paris at the same time!
If you’re only spending 24 hours in Paris, take a look at our itinerary suggestion HERE.