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Best Tips on Using the Paris Metro

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Paris can be a tough city to navigate, but don’t worry, even if you’ve never used public transport.

This guide will help you get around Paris safely, quickly, efficiently and best of all without breaking the bank.


Paris Public Transportation & Tickets

Paris has an integrated public transport system run by RATP that includes the Metro, RER (now just called the train) and buses.

The Paris Metro is one of the oldest in the world. With over 300 stations, you're never very far from a Metro stop, and it is often the fastest way to get around the city.


Quick Tips for Taking the Metro in Paris:

  1. The classic rectangular ticket has been replaced with a credit card-sized travel card call Navigo Easy. We cover more about that below.
  2. The doors to the train do not always open automatically. You need to push the open button or unlatch in the older trains.
  3. You can (and many Parisians do) unlatch the doors to open them before the train comes to a complete stop.
  4. Paris Metro Lines are numbered, so if you're in a station with more than one line and looking for Line 1 - just follow the number 1 signs.
  5. You'll need to know the last station to know what direction you're heading. There will be a list of stops on each platform, so it's not hard to follow.
  6. The RER is now just called the Train. Lines A, B, C, D are a high-speed urban system that goes further outside than just central Paris. If your stops are on the RER/train line, it is a much faster option than the Metro, but it has fewer stops.
  7. The Paris Metro is open 530am - around 1 am (2 am on weekends/holidays)
  8. Keep Moving - When you board a train, move to the center. When you get off a train, move away from the doors if you need to figure out which way to go. There is almost always someone behind you, so don't prevent them from getting on or off a train.


Tickets are priced on a zonal system, so you need to know what zone you are heading to.

Most of the sights are within zones 1 and 2.

Read our guide on what Metro station is closest to popular attractions below.


Cost of Public Transportation in Paris

In the summer of 2019, Paris introduced the Navigo Easy card.

A credit card-like travel card that you can load tickets (think Oyster Card in London or SmarTrip card in DC).

There is a 2€ fee to purchase this card.

  • A single ticket for zones 1 and 2 costs 1.90€.
  • A great idea is to buy a Carnet of 10 tickets for 14.50€. These can be used throughout your stay with no expiration date.
  • A Carnet of 10 tickets for children (4-10 yrs) costs 7.50€
  • Children under the age of 4 ride Free.

You can get unlimited Metro rides for free with the Paris City Pass.

This discount pass offers reduced or free admission to many top attractions, and includes unlimited public transportation in central Paris!

Read more about it here.

Paris Tourist Discount Pass

How to Use Public Transportation in Paris

To find a Metro station in Paris is simple; some of the older stations are preserved for their historic architecture!

Look for the lampposts or wrought-iron entryways that have METRO or METROPOLITAN written on them.

Paris Metro Station

To know where you want to go, you can use our quick stop guide to popular stations below.

It is also very helpful to keep a Metro map on your phone or with you. You'll find them in each station as well.

You'll want to know which stop you plan on getting off at, and the direction of the train (it is labeled based on the last stop).

If you need to change trains, look for stations denoted by a white circle, which will then have the different train lines that stop there underneath.

Stations where you cannot transfer are solid circles.

Not sure where you need to go?

Many stations have interactive computers where you can put in your destination to figure out the best way to get there!

Paris Metro Station Map

BUYING A METRO TICKET IN PARIS:

The ticket machines in the stations can be set to English and are easy to use.

They accept cash or credit card (though for Americans, make sure it's a chip & pin card!)

When entering the Metro and RER/train stations, you will need to insert a ticket into the automatic barriers or if you're using the Navigo Easy card, just tap the top. This will stamp your ticket.

Keep the ticket for the duration of the journey in case you get stopped by an inspector.

On the buses, there are automatic machines to validate your ticket.

T+ Single Ticket Paris Metro

Lines are numbered color-coded on both the Metro and the RER/train - Metro lines are numbered, and RER/trains are lettered.

The direction of the train is indicated by the name of the last station on that line.

So, to get the train in the right direction you will have to know what the last stop on the line is in the direction you want to go.

There are RATP maps in each station by the ticket machines before you go through the barriers and on each platform.

If you wish to plan in advance, check out this interactive RATP map.

Official Paris Metro Map
Click image for a Full-Size Map

WHAT IS THE NEAREST METRO STOP TO...

  • Louvre - Louvre Rivoli or Palais Royal Musée du Louvre - Metro Line 1, Chatelet Les Halles - RER/train A.
  • Musee d'Orsay - Solferino - Metro Line 12 , Musee d'Orsay - RER/train C
  • Eiffel Tower -Champ de Mars / Tour Eiffel on line RER C., Ecole Militaire - Metro Line 8, or Bir-Hakeim - Metro Line 6
  • Arc de Triomphe - Charles de Gaulle Etoile – Metro Line 1 2 or 6, RER/Train
  • Champs d'Elysee - Concorde - Metro lines 1, 8, 12), Champs-Élysées - Clemenceau  - Metro lines 1, 13, Franklin D. Roosevelt - Metro lines 1 and 9), George V - Metro line 1,  Charles de Gaulle Étoile - Metro lines 1, 2, 6
  • Montmarte - Anvers - Metro Line 2, Abbesses - Metro Line 12, Blanche - Metro Line 2 (tickets are also good on the funicular to get to the top of the hill to visit the Sacre-Couer
  • Notre Dame - St-Michel Notre Dame – RER B Train Line, St-Michel Notre Dame – RER C Train Line, or Cité – Metro Line 4

Getting to Paris from:


Charles de Gaulle (Zone 5)

The RER B train line (the thick blue line on the map) runs straight into Terminal 1 and Terminal 3 (if you arrive at terminal 2, follow the sign marked walkway to Terminal 2 station.

Read our guide on how to get to CDG Airport from Paris...


Orly (Zone 4)

The OrlyVal shuttle train takes you from both airport terminals (West and South) to Anthony on the RER B (the thick blue line).

Unfortunately, this is the exception to the rule and is not covered by other Paris transport tickets so you will need a separate ticket even if you have a pass for the rest of the system.

Tickets can be purchased from the airport terminal stations for the OrlyVal train and RER B into Paris. This costs 12.05€ (at the time of writing).

The OrlyVal trains run from 6am – 11pm and the RER from 5am – midnight.

The OrlyVal link takes 10 mins to and from Anthony.

From Anthony, the RER B will take you to Sant Michel (20 mins), Châtelet-Les-Halles (25 mins) and Gare du Nord (30 mins).

Be aware trains when returning to Orly the RER B splits. Some trains go to Robinson and do not pass through Antony. You will need to take a train heading towards Saint-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse which will pass through Antony.

If you'd rather avoid public transportation, the GO Airport Shuttle offers reliable 24/7 airport shuttles and car service from Charles De Gaulle, Orly and Beauvais airports.

With upfront pricing, you'll know exactly how much it will cost before you hop in!


Beauvais (Outside of Paris Zones)

Many low-cost airlines fly to Beauvais, but be aware the airport is 80km (55 miles) from the city.

The airport shuttle bus is timed to coincide with flights rather than having a regular timetable.

The bus takes about 1 hour 20 mins direct between the airport and the shuttle stop at Boulevard Pershing (near the Hotel Concorde Lafayette).

It’s about 300m from the Porte Maillot station exit.

(This is the stop during construction at Porte Maillot station, be sure to check the location in case it moves back to Porte Maillot before we can update this page)

Buses leave the airport (Terminals 1 & 2) 20 mins after each flight lands and leave Porte Maillot 3 hours before every flight.

You do not have to be on the bus scheduled for your particular flight, if another leaves 5 mins later, you are free to take that bus, but be aware that if the next bus is not for 3 hours, then you will be stuck and probably miss your flight.

Single one-way tickets cost 17€ (free for children under 3) if purchased at the Airport or 15.90€ if purchased online.

When returning to Beauvais from Paris the bus leaves from the coach park on the Boulevard Pershing (near the Hotel Concorde Lafayette). It’s about 300m from the Porte Maillot station exit.

If you'd rather avoid public transportation, the GO Airport Shuttle offers reliable 24/7 airport shuttles and car service from Charles De Gaulle, Orly and Beauvais airports.

With upfront pricing, you'll know exactly how much it will cost before you hop in!


Gare du Nord (Zone 1)

If you’re arriving in Paris by Eurostar or train from the north, the main station Gare du Nord is very centrally located and well connected by Metro (line 4 & 5) and RER (line B & D).


4 Tips for Using Paris Metro Maps and Apps

The RATP Mobile App has maps of all the routes, and it even shows scooter (Cityscoot) and bike-share (Velib’) docks. 

There is also the Vianavigo app, which you can use to buy and use Metro tickets and passes.

The only downsides are that the Vianavigo app’s ticket function only works with Android, and that there are portions of both apps that are only in French (see THIS ARTICLE for more details about Vianavigo).

You can figure out routes and get real-time updates on service through either app. You can always download maps on your phone to consult off-line, or use trusty paper maps.

There are Metro, bus, and neighborhood maps posted in the Metro stations for you to consult, or pick up a paper map at any hotel or tourist venue (look for Metro maps on the back of Paris tourist maps).


1. Figure out what type of ticket you need (single or pass)

The paper tickets will be phased out by 2021, but for now, you can still use them. If you’ll be in the city for a few days, consider buying a ten-pack of t+ tickets.

Ask for un carnet at a ticket window or use one of the automate ticket machines. For more information, click here for our guide to tickets and passes.


2. Know your line

If you’re trying to figure out which train to take, it will be important to remember that Metro uses numbers and the RER uses letters.

On the transit maps, solid black dots are served by only one line, and stops with white centers serve more than one line.

The transfer points of some stations have very long hallways, multiple sets of stairs, or both, so be prepared for a bit of a hike.


3. Know your direction

On both maps and apps, trains are listed by number and the final stop, so figure out the name of your line’s final destination, and look for the closest platform which services the train going there.


4. Know your zones

The RATP serves five zones in the Paris area.

Most tourist destinations are in Zone 1, but if you’re taking the RER from one of the airports or going out to a destination such as Versailles, you’ll be traveling into a different zone and the ticket will cost more.

If you’re using individual tickets (called t+), you will have to purchase separate, higher-priced tickets to get to and from your Zone 2-5 destinations.


Finding a Station

Finding one of Paris’s hundreds of Metro stations can be simple. Some of the station entrances are even works of art!

Look for lamp-posts or wrought-iron entryways that have METRO or METROPOLITAN written on them, or even a simple M.

To figure out which stop is closest to your destination, check out our guide to popular stations below.

  1. Louvre – Louvre Rivoli or Palais Royal Musée du Louvre – Metro Line 1, Chatelet Les Halles – RER/train A
  2. Musee d’Orsay – Solferino – Metro Line 12 , Musee d’Orsay – RER/train C
  3. Eiffel Tower - Champ de Mars / Tour Eiffel on line RER C., Ecole Militaire – Metro Line 8, or Bir-Hakeim – Metro Line 6
  4. Arc de Triomphe – Charles de Gaulle Etoile – Metro Line 1 2 or 6, RER/Train
  5. Champs Elysee – Concorde – Metro lines 1, 8, 12), Champs-Élysées – Clemenceau – Metro lines 1, 13, Franklin D. Roosevelt – Metro lines 1 and 9), George V – Metro line 1,  Charles de Gaulle Etoile – Metro lines 1, 2, 6
  6. Montmartre – Anvers – Metro Line 2, Abbesses – Metro Line 12, Blanche – Metro Line 2 (tickets are also good on the funicular to get to the top of the hill to visit the Sacre-Coeur
  7. Notre Dame – St-Michel Notre Dame – RER B Train Line, St-Michel Notre Dame – RER C Train Line, or Cité – Metro Line 4

Rules and Procedures

Ready to dig a little deeper? Here are some rules to follow when using public transportation in Paris:

Fare gates: Only fare gates with green lights or arrows on the right are available for use; ones with red are exit-only. 

If you’re using Navigo or a pass, tap your card on the circle on top of the right panel next to the gate and walk through.

If you’re using a single ticket, insert it in the slot to the right of the gate and pull it out at the second slot… and hold onto it.

If you’re using Metro or buses, Metro police may ask to see your ticket; if you’re using RER, you will need to reinsert your ticket to exit the system. 

Fare gates
Janericloebe, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Keep your ticket. On the RER, you’ll need to put your ticket into the fare gate both entering and exiting the system, so be sure to hold onto it on your trip.

While you won’t need to use your Metro ticket again exiting, Metro police are known to ask passengers for their tickets aboard trains, on platforms, or at stations.

Show them your ticket (or Navigo or other pass LINK TO PASS ARTICLE), or risk a fine, which they will charge you on the spot with the handy fine-collecting machines they carry.

And, of course, don’t even think about jumping the turnstiles, even if you see locals do it!

Tangopaso, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Train etiquette. As in most city transit systems, a little consideration is key. Here are some things to keep in mind when using the Paris metro:

Have your ticket or pass in hand before getting to the fare gate.

Once through the gate, keep walking or move out of the way so others can get past you

On the platform, stand to the side of the doors when the train arrives, and let people off the train before attempting to board

When you get on, move to the center of the car so others can board

When you get off the train, keep walking so others behind you can get off the train

On the kinds of trains with flip-up, movie-theater-style seats: If the train is getting crowded and you’re sitting near the door in a flip-up seat, stand up to make more room.

Poudou99, CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Keep your voice down, and if you’re traveling with children who become unruly, exit the train if it’s not possible to pacify them.

HINT: Carry non-messy snacks - like puree pouches or fruit leather - for your kids and feed them if they are getting restless on trains and buses. And don’t forget the wipes!

Suitcases and strollers. Use the wider gates when you have suitcases, strollers, or other bulky items. Push suitcases through the fare gates before you walk through so they don’t get caught in the doors. We’ve learned this the hard way.

Speaking of luggage, if you’d like to ditch your luggage and explore the city as soon as you arrive, you can book a storage location through Eelway or Nannybag, contracted by RATP to provide storage booking.

If you’d rather leave your bags at a train station, Gare du Nord, Gare de l’Est, Gare de Lyon, Gare Montparnasse and Gare de Marne-la-Vallée Chessy have left-luggage areas for up to 72 hours.

Eelway also provides luggage transfers, say, from your hotel to the airport so you can enjoy the city up till the last moment without having to schlep your bags around town or go back to your hotel before heading out.

Eating, drinking, and buskers. It should not surprise you that France’s ritualized food culture means that eating on public transportation is frowned on, while not explicitly banned.

Of course smoking, vaping, or drinking alcohol is forbidden.

Also, while buskers may perform on station platforms, it is illegal for them to play inside the trains, and therefore illegal for you to give them money on the trains.

Save your cash for streetside or station buskers.


SAFETY AND COMFORT

While public transit may not be as comfortable as a private car, it’s an affordable, efficient, and totally Parisian way to see the city. Here are some tips on staying safe and comfortable on your journey.

  • Closing times: Unlike other major cities like New York, Paris metro runs from 5:30 a.m. till about 1:15 a.m. On Friday and Saturday evenings and the night before bank holidays, trains run until about 2:15 a.m. Keep in mind that those are the times the last train arrives at its terminus. Check the app, and there should be signs at the station for the last (dernier) train that leaves that particular station going in the direction you’re headed. If youmiss the last train, you can take a night bus (Noctiliens), which run from 12:30 to 5:30, but be aware that they have much more limited coverage than the Metro.
  • Stay safe. The Paris Metro is overwhelmingly safe, but pickpockets are known to target Metro riders. Crowded trains are great for pickpockets, so stow your phone, wallet, and any valuables where you can reach them. See these tips for more on avoiding pickpockets in Paris. Also, don’t ride by yourself at night, don’t fall asleep on trains or buses, and be alert to any unusual situations or potential dangers. In an emergency, call 112 for the police; go here for more safety information.
  • While some Metro stations have elevators, most don’t, so prepare to carry your bags up stairs if needed. RER stations in the heart of Paris have elevators, but people in wheelchairs need to ask station agents to place a ramp on the platform, and they’ll call ahead and have the station agents place a ramp at your final destination. You can find information on accessibility here.
  • Avoid rush hour. If possible, travel in groups or with big bags outside the morning or evening typical rush hour, when impatient Parisian commuters may push past you with a curt pardon if they think you’re a tourist impeding their commute. 
Minato ku, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.


Empty cars.
 A train pulls into the station, and all the cars are crowded except for one. Do you hop aboard the sparsely-populated car, or do you squeeze onto a crowded one? Nine times out of ten, that car is empty because there is there is something wrong with it. Perhaps a rider relieved him or herself on the train, or the heating or air conditioning isn’t working, or there’s something else that makes riding in that car uncomfortable. When in doubt, choose a more crowded car if you’re going more than one stop.


Day Trips from Paris:


Day Trip to the Palace of Versailles (Zone 4)

Louis XIV’s palace is 1 hour from the city center using the yellow, RER C (for example from Sant Michel station, see the RATP map for the best RER C station from your Paris base).

There are several Versailles stations. The best one for the Palace is Versailles Château Rive Gauche. You can buy an integrated ticket to Versailles Château Rive Gauche from any central Paris station for 7.10€* (at the time of writing)

*NB you will get two tickets - one for the outbound and one for the return journey.

When arriving at Versailles Château Rive Gauche exit the station and turn right towards the Palace. There will be others heading in the same direction.

The palace is open 9am – 5.30pm year-round.

The incredible gardens are open 8 am – 6.30 pm year-round, but be aware the fountains are only active on certain days when there is an additional charge, and in winter many of the fountains and sculptures will be covered to avoid weather damage.


Day Trip to Disneyland (Zone 5)

The RER A (the thick Red line on the map) terminates at Marne La Valee station by the entrance to Disney Village and the theme parks.

The main RER A stations are Châtelet or Etoile (but check the nearest station to your accommodation).

Return tickets cost 7.20€ (at the time of writing).

Trains run from 5.30am – midnight every 15 mins.


About The Author

Christina

Christina studied art history and French literature at the Sorbonne for a year in Paris as an undergrad. Now based in Washington, DC, she visits Paris as often as possible and loves introducing family and friends to her favorite places there. She has worked as a travel writer, museum professional, English tutor, and editor, and her favorite French cheese is Pont l'Eveque.
Updated: July 13th, 2022
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