While it may seem complicated and even a little intimidating, Paris is actually easier to get around than you might think. For a start, Paris is extremely modest in size for a major European capital, and that means easy walking distances and short Metro rides, not to mention a rapid sense of “knowing” the city. Then there’s the fantastic public transportation system, which includes a great bus network, the famous Métro, and a network of cycle paths and rental bikes that make breezing through the city, well, a breeze. Check out your options here and find all the resources you need to get around Paris like a local!
Metro – Le Métro
The one and only! With its beautiful Art Nouveau entrances (originally designed by Hector Guimard) and red-glowing lamps, the Metro is never far away in Paris. If you’re visiting the city, a good Metro Map is indispensable, but don’t worry – every station has large maps to consult, as well as easy signage from line to line. You can also download the best apps to use - such as the official RATP app, or CityMapper.
To purchase tickets, go to the automated machine which has an English setting. If you’re not paying with cash, you can only use credit cards with the chip!
The Best Metro Tips
Chatelet may look like a handy station full of helpful Metro lines, but for many locals it’s considered the hellmouth of the Metro system. Vast and sprawling, a simple change of line can mean ten minutes’ walking and a lot of confusion, with signs criss-crossing each other in the major concourse below the Les Halles shopping mall above. It’s possible to find your way – of course, everything’s possible! – but it can be a mite stressful for the weary traveller. Avoid if you can!
Download the RATP application (available in English) onto your phone and stay one step ahead of the game. RATP is the main transport network, and the easy-to-use app covers bus maps, metro maps, times, delays, itineraries and bus routes.
If you’re planning to do a lot of walking but hop on the Metro here and there, buy a Carnet. This is a bundle of ten tickets with no expiry date, and you can use them on the Metro and the buses.
Consider a multi-day travel pass if you’re going to be using the Metro often during your stay. You can get these at any ticket window in the Metro stations, and choose from between 1 and 5 days validity. Find out more here.
RER- pronounced air-euh-air.
This is the one that will take you Beyond Paris, to romantic places like Fontainebleau, Chantilly, Versailles, and…the airport. You’ll need an RER ticket to take one of the these Lines (A, B and C) which you can buy from the machines in the Metro or at the ticket window. The RER lines also appear on the Metro Map as thicker lines, which is very useful when planning excursions further afield. A Paris metro ticket will not get you as far as the airports. Be sure to buy the proper ticket from your the ticket stand at the metro station.
Buses – Le Bus
The bus system is a great way to see Paris for a bargain price! Many of the buses take routes through the heart of the city, which can mean you’ll get a whistle stop tour of the city for the price of a Metro ticket! If you don’t have a ticket, don’t panic, you can buy one on the bus for €2 - it's best to have exact change!
The bus system is undergoing the first revamp in decades in 2019, and there's an entire website to those changed just here, so don’t be scared! Find your local neighborhood and hop on a bus: what’s the worst that can happen? You might just find you know the city better for travelling “topside” rather than disappearing into the Metro.
You may have seen these bike stations dotted across the city, or people whizzing by on the city’s many cycle lanes. But these bicyclettes aren’t just for locals – you can get pedalling too! At almost all Velib stations, you can use a Visa card to buy a 24-hour ticket (once you have it, keep it in your wallet – you’ll need it again!)
The Vélib were replaced starting in 2017 and after a slight debacle (read: complete and utter shambles) they are back and almost at full strength. One of the big benefits of the new system is that you can now get electronic bikes, making whizzing up to the hilly parts of the city (of which there are few), is made much easier!
You can get a day pass, or a 7-day pass, meaning you'll be free as a bird throughout your trip.
This is a great way to see the city, especially in hot weather when the Metro can be a little….cosy.
A new Paris phenomenon, electric scooters have taken the city by storm with people whizzing along the cycle lanes! Usually, you download an app on your smartphone to scan the QR code on the scooters you can find dotted around the city, and then you're off! Companies running these kinds of schemes in Paris include Lime, and usually cost around €1 for 15 minutes and then 15 cents per minute thereafter.
On Foot or à pied
Paris is one of the greatest cities for good walkers. Covering just over 40 square miles (compared to London’s staggering 607 – yep, you heard me!) you can easily stroll through a big part of the city without ever having to hop on anything with wheels. For walkers, we recommend the priceless Paris map book that is Paris Pratique, carried by many locals and available at a bargain price from most of Paris’ kiosks (the little green Newspaper stands). With every street in this little pocket-sized book, you’ll never be lost, and will easily be able to link place to place in a few moments. Also – you won’t be using Google Maps on your iPhone, which makes you a bit of an easy target for opportunistic thieves.
Extra Tips :
– Street numbers decrease as you go towards the Seine – “Quai” means platform and refers to the streets along the Seine – Street names often change, sometimes multiply, so keep an eye out! – Find out what arrondissement – neighborhood you’re in by looking at the street name sign