C'est Quoi Le Metro?
The metro: a tangled web of dark tunnels, strange ticket rules and automated ticket machines that don't taken foreign cards. The underground is difficult enough to navigate but try doing it in a foreign language too. Trust me, the Parisians hate the metro just as much as Londoners hate the underground, if not more. Parisians do have the upper hand here though as a Navigo for zones 1-5 costs €75 a month whereas a Oyster Card for zones 1-5 in London costs £223.50 a month, thats a difference of £153.50 (taking exchange rate into account) for the exact same ticket type. And yet we still complain in Paris?!
So how to use the metro? Before anything else, download the RATP app. RATP is the company that owns the metro and it provides live traffic updates, a metro map and a route planner to help you get from A to B on public transport the fastest way possible, or the way with the least connections or the most wheel chair friendly routes, your choice. So much easier than running your finger along a map to find a connecting line, and they also offer all of this in their web browser. It is also especially useful as the French seem to always be doing work on the metro, and so stations are continually closed or platforms being renovated.
The metro is open from 5.30am-1.15am on weekdays, and on Fridays and Saturdays it runs until 2am, after this time the Noctilien (night buses) take over. There are 17 metro lines, including the Orlyval line, 3bis and 7bis, which are each numbered. There are also 9 tram lines including lines 3a and 3b. These are the main methods you will use when travelling in central Paris, alongside buses and night buses. If you are travelling into the suburbs, coming from the airport or visiting places such as Disneyland or Versailles, you will use the RER. There are 5 RER Lines, A,B.C,D and E.
Now, the most important thing, what ticket to get. Of course you want the best bang for your buck, so before we start, be aware that children under 4 travel free and you can buy a reduced carnet (10 tickets) if you qualify.
Who qualifies for reduced tickets:
children aged 4-10
Large Family discount cards - issued by SNCF
Solidarité Transport discount holders
Blind civilians (with a disability card alongside a travel coupon for the guide)
Disabled Veterans (with a priority card or disability card)
Under 16 year olds traveling in groups of 10 or more with their accompanying adult/teacher
Always buy your tickets at a metro station, tabac with the RATP sign or through parisinfo.com. Never from a person, and try to avoid buying them once on a bus. If you have to buy on the bus be aware that you must pay in cash, they do cost a few cents more and they are only valid on buses and trams, not the metro. There are several different types of ticket and depending on how long you are in Paris and how often you will be using public transport affects which will be the most cost effective for you.
**Most people visiting Paris for a few days will only travel inside Zones 1-2 which include all of the major landmarks and museums, for those wanting to travel further to La Defense, Disneyland, Versailles or any Paris airport you will need a Zones 1-5 ticket**
T+ Ticket = A one-way ticket suitable for use on metro, RER, bus lines (not Roissybus or Orlybus), tramways and the Montmartre funicular.
Cost : €1,90 at metro station, €2,00 onboard bus, €14,90 for a carnet of 10 and €7,45 for a reduced carnet of 10.
Vaguely Complicated bit (because why not overcomplicate things eh?): You cannot swap between Metro/RER to Bus/Tramway on one ticket. For the metro/RER the ticket is valid for two hours after the first validation whereas for the bus/tramway it is valid for 90 minutes from first validation to last validation. You can make as many transfers as you like within these times. Although not, for example, changing from the metro line to a bus line.
Paris Visite: A travel pass that can be bought for 1,2,3 or 5 consecutive days and offer unlimited travel on all public transport, depending on which zones you choose. This travel pass also offers discounts with RATP partners (see ratp.com for more information).
Cost: €11,65 - €63.90 dependant on how many days, and how many zones you choose.
Mobilis: This is a 1 day travel pass, that allows unlimited travel in the zones of your choice.
Cost: €7,50 -€17,80 depending on zone choices.
Navigo: You can purchase either a Navigo Jour, Navigo Semaine or a Navigo Mois. Yet again, you can choose which zones, and you have more flexibility than other passes e.g you can choose zones 2-4 unlike other passes were it is generally 1-2, or 1-3 or 1-5. However, with Navigo weekly it is only valid Mon-Sun. If you start your pass mid week it will only be valid until that Sunday. You must also buy a Navigo card in order to load it with any of these options, the card costs €5 and you must attach a passport style photo (although you will have to trim it down as the space is smaller than the standard passport photo size) and write your name on. If transport police ask for your pass and you haven't done this, they will fine you.
Cost: Navigo Jour - €7,50 - €17,80 Navigo Semaine - €19,85 - €22,80 Navigo Mois - €65,20 - €75,20 depending on zone choices.
Note: On the bus and tram you must be sure to validate your ticket or swipe your metro pass, there will be a small green machine near the doors to insert your ticket into, or a purple machine also near the doors to swipe your pass. If you haven't validated your ticket/pass and transport police catch you, you will be fined.
All in all, the maps are easy to use, the fares are pretty reasonable, and you should have a relatively easy time of it if the French aren't on strike.