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Transportation in Paris

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Paris is a cosmopolitan and eclectic city full of wonderful sights. On top of being the world capital of fashion, gastronomy and culture, Paris also boasts an outstanding architecture which is unrivalled in the rest of the world. Many will tell you that the best way of getting around in Paris is to walk through the cobbled streets and elegant boulevards of the city or to hop on one of the city’s “Velibs” (shared bicycles). For longer distances or daily commutes however, the city has an extensive bus, train and tram network, as well as a multitude of taxi operators, as well as a very popular electric car-sharing system called Autolib.

Public transportation in Paris

The public transportation system is divided into 5 zones; zone 1 includes the centre of the city and stretches to the first suburban areas. The business district of La Defense lies in zone 3, and zones 4 and 5 stretch out to the suburban areas and also engulf the much-visited Versailles. Charles de Gaulle airport, which is accessible through the train network, is situated at the end of the RER line and is located in zone 5.

Train and tram

The train system comprises the Metro and the RER. The metro is a network of underground and overground trains serving the heart of Paris and immediate suburbs. Launched in 1900, the network has evolved significantly since and is very comprehensive. The system is very popular and everyday more than 4 million people use the trains. The Metro is probably one of the places where Parisians of all classes, backgrounds and occupations interact the most. If you ride on the Metro however, be sure to watch out for your personal belongings as pickpockets regularly pry on unwitting tourists and newcomers.

If you live outside Paris or need to travel to the suburbs, you can use the Réseau Express Régional or RER. The RER passes through Paris, but connects neighborhoods which are located significant distances away from the heart of Paris. Of the 257 stations of the RER, only 33 are located within the city per se. To travel to Charles de Gaulle airport for example, the RER often offers a much faster and cheaper alternative than taxis, particularly during peak hours.

You can also use the RER to visit the forests around Paris as well as touristic locations, such as Versailles. The tram is becoming increasingly popular in Paris, and these are available in the Southeast and Southwest of Paris. They are generally located towards the end of the metro lines and many extend to the newly developed areas around Paris. There are plans for the construction of new tram networks around the city.

Ticket prices for inner Paris (zones 1 or 2) cost 1.70 euros per ride. You can purchase tickets individually or in packets (livrets) of 10 tickets, in which case the individual tickets will be slightly cheaper. Tickets can be bought at the stations and at some newspaper kiosks, but be wary of touts loitering around the metro stations claiming to have cheaper tickets. A ticket from the center of Paris to Charles de Gaulle Airport only costs 10 euros (one-way).

If you intend to use the trains regularly, it is better to get a Navigo pass. These are available on weekly, monthly or yearly subscriptions, and many companies refund part of the cost of the pass. For visitors to Paris, multiple-day tickets are also available, allowing an unlimited use of the public transportation system.

Bus

Paris has an extensive bus network, many of which operate 24/7, unlike the metro or RER, which stop operating shortly after midnight (or a bit later during the weekend) and resume operation in the early hours of the morning. For partygoers and revelers, the night buses (distinguished by an “N” sign) are a lifesaver in a city where nightclubs and bars are open till late. Night buses go from the North to the South and from East to West serving the major stops such as Montparnasse, Auber, Pont de Neuilly and Vincennes to name a few. The best way of organising your bus trips is to use the website or app of the RATP (the public transport system company).

The small ring of Paris is served at night by the PC1 which goes from Champerret-Berthier, to the Garigliano Bridge. PC3, for its part, goes from Porte Maillot to the Porte de la Villette. In general, tickets can be purchased from the driver, but it is better to buy tickets before getting on board or to have exact change. Note, however, that the bus system can be quite slow during peak hours.

 Good to know:

You are likely to come across controllers in most means of transports, including the subway. They are quite strict, and will not hesitate to issue fines if you are unable to show a ticket, so be sure to hold on to yours. If you did not have time to punch your ticket, show a non-punched ticket. You will only pay half the fine if you wish to settle it immediately.

Taxis and taxi hailing apps

Paris has an extensive network of “Taxis Parisiens”. These vehicles are equipped with a meter and fares cannot be negotiated with drivers. The drivers have a bit of a reputation for being grumpy, and very often they might even refuse clients for short rides. If they do, know that it is illegal for a driver to refuse a client and make sure you note the registration plate of the driver before he sets off. In recent years, the world has witnessed the anger and conservatism of French (and particularly Parisian) taxi drivers when the latter staged violent protests against taxi apps such as Uber. In spite of repeated requests to clamp down on Uber-like services, there is still a very wide offering of taxis which can be booked through apps. The app “Chauffeur Privé” is the French equivalent of Uber and offers top-notch service as well as a frequent user program.

Parisian sharing schemes

Velib and Autolib (bicycle and car sharing respectively) are very popular in Paris. To use either of the services, you need to pre-register. Alternatively, you can also pay with a credit card at the bike terminals, but the fees are higher if you do not have a membership. Both the bicycle and car networks are available 24/7. Needless to say, Paris is a big city with heavy traffic, and be mindful of your surroundings if you are using a Velib, and avoid very crowded areas such as the Arc de Triomphe.

 Useful links:

Paris Official Tourism Portal – Getting around
Public transportation zones
Transilienn
Via Navigo
Chauffeur Privé
Taxis G7
Uber
Vélib’

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