PARIS - GETTING AROUND

Walking

In our opinion, Paris is best explored on foot! The City of Light, which is divided into 20 arrondissements (or neighborhoods), spiraling out from the center of the city, is a compact masterpiece of sprawling boulevards, inviting parks and romantic squares. Although Paris is the second largest city in Europe, it was made for wandering, and the French have a lovely word for a person who wanders the streets: le flâneur, one who strolls or loiters, usually without a destination. In Paris the streets beckon, leading you past monuments, through arches and down narrow alleyways. As a flâneur, you become attuned to the rhythm of the city, and no matter how aimlessly you stroll, chances are you'll end up somewhere amazing. Of course, a sensible pair of walking shoes is highly recommended; and when you want a lift, public transportation is easy and inexpensive.

By Metro

The Métropolitain (Métro) is an extensive transportation network that runs throughout Paris and a short distance into the adjacent suburbs. Not only is it safe, it is one of the most efficient and reliable transportation systems in the world. The biggest problem is subway workers who are fond of strikes (grèves) and periodically instigate slowdowns or complete shutdowns of a few lines. Usually, strikes are merely annoying and most of the time your route will not be affected, though your trip might take a little longer than normal. Strikes aside, we strongly urge you to try it in order to get a taste of the true Paris of Parisians. Of course pickpockets can be an issue, especially for tourists, so pay close attention to your bags, wallets and purses on the platforms and in crowded Métro cars.

You can buy 'T+' tickets at the green 'Vente' (sale) machines at the stations. More and more stations now accept foreign credit cards (but only those with a smart chip) or bills, but not all, so be prepared with change in order to save time. Most stations have a 'guichet' (ticket window) where you may use your credit card or bills to purchase tickets. A single trip costs €1.70 with unlimited transfers (correspondances) between lines per one trip. A Packet (carnet) of 10 tickets costs €13.30. A ticket allows you to transfer to other Métro lines and commuter trains (RER) within Paris, but it does not permit transfers to buses.

Each Métro line is coded by number, color, and name of the stations at the ends of the line. For your trip, you will need to find out which direction you should take. Trains run from about 5am to 1am (try to avoid rush hours from 7:30-9:30am and 6-8pm). On weekends and the evenings before holidays they run until 2am. ALWAYS keep your ticket. An agent may ask to see it at any time, and there are heavy fines for being without a stamped one.

By Bus

Paris and its suburbs are served by an extensive bus network, which is a scenic way to experience Paris, compared to the Métro. The T+ tickets that work for the Métro and RER (within Paris) also work for buses, but you cannot transfer from a Métro to a bus or vice versa. However, bus-to-bus transfers can be made with one ticket for 90 minutes after the ticket is stamped (validated) with the time on the first bus. You can buy tickets directly from the driver (2€), but if you buy your ticket on the bus there is no transfer included.

Paris buses are marked by a two digit number and suburban buses are marked by a three digit number. Bus schedules are varied with some lines running only during the day, while others extend well into the evening, and only a few running on Sunday. Generally, they run from 6:30am to 9:30pm (a few operate until midnight and Noctilien night buses operate from 12:30am–5:30am. Tickets cost the same as for the regular bus).

You have to signal to the bus driver when your stop is approaching by pushing a red button, located on various seat poles and labeled with 'pour ouvrir appuyer,' (press to open door) which will illuminate a red 'arrêt demandé' (stop requested) sign at the front of the bus. Always pay attention to the stops as the bus approaches them since sometimes your stop may not be announced.

IMPORTANT: It is common courtesy to say 'Bonjour (used in the morning and afternoon) or 'Bonsoir' (used in the evening) to the bus driver. And ALWAYS keep your ticket. An agent may ask to see it at any time, and there are fines if you cannot produce a correctly-stamped one.

By Tram

There are four tramway lines that run around the edges of Paris and you can use the T3 to travel in the outer 13th, 14th and 15th arrondissements. Tramway stops are indicated by the letter 'T' displayed on a pole. The same T+ tickets for the Métro, RER and bus work for the tramway. Again - ALWAYS keep your ticket to display if requested.

By Commuter Rail (RER)

RER commuter trains, running daily from 4:45am to 1:30am connect the suburbs to central Paris and provide a fast way to get around the city and to and from the airports. The RER has 5 lines: A (red on the Métro map), B (blue), C (yellow), D (green) and E (lavender). Each line has at least one 'hub' station on the Paris Métro where you can catch the RER. You may use your Métro T+ ticket to ride both the RER and Métro within Paris. Most basic tickets cover Zones 1 and 2. When traveling farther outside the main city limits and past Zones 1 and 2 into the other 6 zones, the cost depends on the distance you are traveling. Be careful navigating the RER; it is slightly more complicated than the Métro because of the fare differences and service directions. ALWAYS keep your ticket. You will need it at the end of your trip to go through the exit turnstiles, and an agent may ask to see your ticket at any time.

By Taxi

Rarely will a taxi pull over when you try to hail one. Your best bet is to proceed to one of the city's taxi stands (marked by square blue signs, with 'taxi' in white letters). Taxis that are available to pick up passengers have a long white light on the roof while taxis that already have passengers or are on call have a small orange light. The flag-drop charge is €2.50 and the minimum fare for any ride is €6.86. Surcharges apply for extra luggage and people (a driver is not obliged to accept more than three passengers; the charge for each additional passenger is €3). Tipping is not obligatory, but a .50€ to 1€ tip is customary for short trips; for longer hauls a 5 to 10 percent tip should do. Taxis can be called, but they will charge for the distance traveled to pick you up. The central number for all taxi companies is 01-45-30-30-30. Avoid minicabs or unlicensed taxis.

By Bicycle

Vélib', also known as vélos libres (public bikes) or vélos à libre service (open-service bikes), is the city's system of rentable bikes, which operates automatically 24 hours and 7 days a week. You buy a 1 or 7 day subscription (1.70€ or 8€, respectively) from the machine at one of the bike stands, which gives you the right to as many 30 minute rides as you'd like for 1 or 7 days. If you want to go over 30 minutes, you can either check in your bike, wait 5 minutes, and check it out again, or you can pay 1€ for your extra 30 minutes, 2€ for the 30 minutes after that and 4€ for the third 30 minute increment on. Everything is meticulously explained in English on the website, www.velib.fr, and there's a number you can call for English speaking assistance (tel. 01-30-79-79-30). However, in order to use the machines you must have a credit or debit card with a chip in it. Helmets are not provided, so if you're feeling uneasy about driving into traffic, bring one along. There are few bike lanes at this point, but new ones are being added, and cyclists have the right to ride in the bus lanes. The service is eco-friendly, and, as the website says, lla ville est plus belle à vélo' - the city is more beautiful by bike. All users must be 14 years or older.

Note: Before you ride, get a map of the city that shows where the bike stands are so you don't waste precious time looking for a place to check in or check out.

Alternatively, you can rent a bike from Paris à vélo, c'est sympa!, 22 rue Alphonse Baudin (tel. 01-48-87-60-01). Rentals cost 12€ for half a day and 15€ for a full day, but they do require 250€ or a passport as a deposit. Vespas are available for rent from Left Bank Scooters (tel. 06-78-12-04-24) from 70€ per day (55€ if you rent 4 or more days), and the company will deliver the scooters to your hotel or apartment. A credit card deposit of 1,200€ is required, but this can be reduced to 500€ for an additional fee. This amount is held rather than charged on a credit card.

By Boat

The Batobus (tel 08-25-05-01-01) is a fleet of boats that operates along the Seine, stopping at such points of interest as the Eiffel Tower, Musée d'Orsay, the Louvre, Notre Dame, and the Hôtel de Ville. Unlike the Bateaux-Mouches, the Batobus does not provide a recorded commentary. The only fare option available is a day pass valid for either 1 or 2 days, each allowing as many entrances and exits as you want, a sort of hop-on, hop-off on water. A 1 day pass costs 15€ for adults, and 7€ for children 16 and under. From September to April boats operate daily every 25 minutes between 10am and 7pm; April to September boats operate daily every 20 minutes between 10am and 9:30pm. The timetable changes slightly every year so it's always worth purchasing tickets in advance on our website.

By Car

Our best advice on driving in Paris would be: don't! Between parking, navigating, traffic congestion and bouchons (literally, a bottle stopper or cork), or jams that tie up traffic you'll find the ease and efficiency of public transportation to good to pass up. On the other hand, if you are planning on taking any day trips or touring the countryside then we suggest you pick up your rental car as you depart the city to avoid excessive rental/parking expenses. Alternatively, you may consider renting the car in a town where you will be visiting and then traveling there by train and picking up the car once you arrive.

If you must have a car in the city then be sure to get your hands on a good street map and a basic explanation of international street signs (this should be available at your car rental agency). Finally, there is the trauma of parking. Spots are elusive and all parking is payant, which means you must pay. And you can't use coins in the horodateur (parking meter) anymore - you must either pay with a credit card or buy a 'Paris Carte' parking card at a tabac, or smoke shop. This card is inserted directly into the meter, which will print out a ticket that you must put on your dashboard. Parking costs from 1.20€ to 3.60€ per hour, and you can't stay in the same spot for more than 2 hours. On Sundays and after 7pm the rest of the week, all street parking is free. If you are not prepared for the headache, try one of the many underground parking lots, indicated by a sign with a white 'P' on a blue background where parking is between 3€ - 4€ per hour, and you can stay all day (no parking card necessary).