You are planning a trip to Paris soon, but are a little but afraid of getting lost in the labyrinth of transfers between the metro, the bus, the tramway, the RER, the « Batobus », etc ? Then this guide is made for you ! It is true than the capital has a great amount of means of public transportation that can make visitors a bit dizzy. But rest assured, here you will find every bit of information you will need to go about Paris without trouble, and fully enjoy your stay without wasting any time !
Buying tickets : where and how ?
Whatever the means of transportation you pick, if you are more than 4 years old, you will need to carry a valid ticket. Otherwise, prepare to pay a steep fine !
If you are staying within Paris, the single ticket will allow you to take any means of transportation (bus, metro, RER, tramway, etc). Note that you can still travel until the end of any metro line, even if the last stop is technically outside of the city. On the other hand, if you wish to get outside of Paris, to go to Versailles or to the airport for instance, by taking the RER further or any kind of specific transportation, a special fee will apply according to where you are going. The price will depend on the « zone » in which you want to go. Paris is zone 1, and zones 2 to 5 are consecutive rings further and further away from Paris.
For children : free for children under 4. 50% reduction for children between 4 and 10 (only applicable if you get a 10 tickets pack, or a visit pass)
For all the others : the single ticket inside Paris is 1€80, the pack of 10 tickets is 14€10. For tickets to go outside of Paris, the price will depend on the zone : you will simply have to enter the destination on the machine and pick one ticket for a one-way journey, or 2 if you want to be prepared for the return.
An easy option for visitors : the Paris Visite travel pass. It is valid for 1, 2, 3 or 5 consecutive days, and adaptable for zones 1 to 3 or 1 to 5 (do not forget to check your map to decide what zones you need). According to the option you pick, the price for one adult will go from 11€15 (for one day for zones 1 to 3) to 61€25 (for 5 days for zones 1 to 5).
Where and how to buy your tickets ?
You can buy your tickets and passes on the machines (with instructions available in 5 languages) inside of the metro and RER stations, as well as at the tramway stations all around the city. Some tobacconists sell them too. If you are taking the bus, do not forget to get your tickets beforehand, because there are no machines at the bus stops ! However, do not panick if you have forgotten : you will be able to by single tickets from the driver when you get in. They will cost you 2€ each (better prepare change) and will allow no change.
You will be able to pay for your tickets with coins, bills or credit card on the machines. If you have any trouble, agents are available at the counters and will help you and/or sell you tickets directly at the counter.
Note : make sure to keep your ticket until you are outside, you might well need it to get out !
From A to B
While getting your first tickets, do not forget to drop buy a counter and grab one of the free maps of Parisian transportation. Then keep it in your pocket, it will come in handy to always find your way around the city ! It has maps of the metro, RER and bus lines : everything you need.
And if you were still unsure …
RATP offer a very simple and helpful itinerary service on their website : http://www.ratp.fr/itineraires/en/ratp/recherche-avancee
Just type in your departure point and your desired arrival point, and the website will generate the easiest itinerary to take you where you want to go. And even better : you can also specify the time you want to leave and/or arrive, and even your preferences in terms of transportation (the quickest, the less changes on the way, rails or road...) !
Bits of advice for the road
If you have other options, try to avoid the infamous metro and RER central station « Châtelet-Les-Halles » ! It is a labyrinth of corridors, always crowded (and sometimes smelly too!) in which metro changes can turn into a true obstacle course (especially if you are carrying luggage)
To make it easier to go to the airport (Roissy CDG, Orly or Beauvais), opt for the dedicated buses. They leave from Opéra, Denfert Rochereau or Porte Dauphine, and are the easiest way to make sure you arrive without trouble at your terminal. Warning : special fees apply.
During rush hour in the week, try to avoid buses. They are usually more crowded, slower and less comfortable than the metro at these busy times.
And finally, to move around the city while enjoying the view along the water of the Seine, why not take a Batobus ? Website here : http://www.batobus.com/english/index.htm