Transport around Paris

Between the Metro system, buses, good old-fashioned walking and the romantic French ideal of cycling (with a basket for your baguettes of course), getting around Paris is a breeze.


Paris metro sign by FlickrDelusionsThe Metro (Metropolitan Railway) subway system in Paris is by far one of the easiest and quickest ways to get around. It runs from 05:30 until 00:45 Sunday to Thursday and until about 01:45 on Friday and Saturday. The Metro system is perfect for exploring the most central areas of Paris, with 300 stations covering a 10km² swathe of central Paris. The 16 lines are number and colour-coded so you can get almost anywhere by interchanging at the right stations. Take a Metro map with you to keep on track. Trains come every two to 10 minutes.

While many tourists buy Paris Visite cards from travel agents before they go to Paris (10.55€ per day or 33.70€ for five days for zones 1 to 3), it is more cost-effective to buy tickets from the station when you’re there. You’re likely to spend the majority of your time in zone 1, where a single fare costs 1.70€, or a packet of 10 single tickets (called a ‘carnet’) costs 13.30€. Alternatively, unlimited travel for a day in zones 1 to 2 costs 6.60€ on a ‘Ticket Mobilis’. Weekly passes are also available in the form of plastic contactless cards, but only run from Monday to Sunday (i.e. you can’t buy them to commence mid-week). They are reasonably priced, with a week-long pass for zones 1 to 2 costing 19.80€.


The RER (Regional Express Network) is another rail system with five lines (RER A to E), connecting the suburbs with central Paris. With fewer stops and the ability to use it interchangeably with the Metro, it can be a useful option for visitors to travel between larger stations in Paris more quickly, or to travel slightly further out of the central Paris zones. If you stay within zones 1 and 2, you can travel on the same ticket as you’d use on the Metro. Outside of these zones you’ll need another ticket, priced according to the stations you’ll be travelling between. Fares range between 1.70€ and 11.00€ for a single journey, depending on how far you’re travelling. The RER runs on a schedule, with trains approximately every 15 minutes between 05:00 and midnight.


Bus Parisien by wirewipingA network of buses connect Paris well and any bus can also be used interchangeably with the Metro and RER. Many prefer to take the Metro to avoid heavy traffic, particularly in rush hour. Most bus stops these days have electronic displays and maps to help you find your way; tourist offices across the city also offer free bus route maps. A combination of day and ‘Noctilien’ night buses means Paris can be travelled efficiently at any time of day. Tickets and fares are the same as the ones used on the Metro.


As is the trend in many cities at the moment, Paris has its own bike-sharing system complete with 20,000 bicycles available for casual hire. Vélib has 1,800 bike stations across the city and you’re never further than 300 metres away from one. A one-day ticket costs a mere 1.70€ or a 7-day ticket 8€ and tickets can be bought on the day or online in advance. To take your bike, just walk up to any bike terminal, follow the on-screen instructions at the terminals there and your bike will be released. All Vélib bicycles come with a handy basket on the front too. Very Parisian! Note bicycles are not allowed on the Metro, except on line 1 on Sundays. The RER does allow bicycles outside of peak travel times.


Paris has thousands of taxis zipping around, identifiable by the white light on top that says ‘Taxi Parisien’. You can flag them down or queue at a smattering of taxis ranks across the city. The starting fare is 2.10€, increasing by a rate of approximately 0.80€ per kilometre from 10:00 to 17:00 Monday to Saturday. Outside of these times the rate is closer to 1.10€ per kilometre. Taxis mostly take a maximum of three passengers, as insurance reasons makes taking a fourth difficult. You can also pre-order a taxi by calling the Paris central taxi switchboard on 01 4530 3030.


Paris Breaks by Batobus by AndyRobertsPhotosFor more scenic journeys, it’s possible to travel via boat on the Seine with a company called  Batobus. With a network of major stops including Champs-Élysées, the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame, it can incorporate an interesting mode of transport to your travel plans. A day pass costs 12€ and a 3-day pass costs 17€; you can hop on and off of boats as much as you want to during that time. Boats run every 15 to 30 minutes between 10:00 and 21:30 in summer and 10:30 until 16:30 in winter.


With most of the main sights of Paris contained within a relatively small area, getting around by foot is easy and helps you experience more of the city. Either collect a map from a tourist office or your hotel and find your own way around, or take advantage of one of the city’s many walking tour operators.