Getting Around Paris
The best way to get around Paris is on foot — the elegant arrondissements are practically made for pedestrians. Still, Paris is very big, so you should take the efficient metro system (Métropolitain) to travel long distances. The Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens or RATP system, which runs the métro, also offers several bus routes around the city. Those traveling to Paris via air can arrive at Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG), about 15 miles northeast of the city center, or Paris Orly Airport (ORY), about 12 miles south of the city. Buses, RER trains and the RoissyBus service CDG airport, while the ORLYVAL shuttle train links Orly airport to a RER suburban train stop that travelers can take into the city or to transfer to the métro. Taxis are another option, but can be quite costly averaging anywhere from €30 to €50 EUR ($40 to $70 USD); driving is not recommended.
If you're traveling from other French or European cities, you might find that the train is the cheapest way to get to Paris. TGV high-speed trains run throughout France and you can travel between other European countries on SCNF rail. The city has six main train stations, all of which also act as bus stops and métro stations, so you'll be able to get from the station to your hotel quite easily. You can also take the Channel Tunnel (aka the "chunnel") underwater rail service via Eurostar from London.
Because most travelers tend to book hotels in the attraction-heavy city center, walking is the best mode of transportation. However, if your home base is a little farther out, you might want to rely on the métro for fairly cheap, but quick and efficient travel.
The métro, part of the city's RATP public transportation system, is easily accessible, cost-effective and runs 14 extensive routes (identified by numbers 1 to 14) throughout metropolitan Paris. You can purchase single tickets, but a Paris Visite travel card is likely your best option. Available in one-, two-, three- or five-day increments, the card allows you transportation via métro and the Réseau Express Régional (RER) suburban trains, as well as on a number of other means of transportation. Cards cost anywhere from €6 to €65 EUR (around $8 to $90 USD) depending on your age, the number of days you need and the number of covered zones you'd like to travel within; the majority of the city's top attractions fall in Zone 1. Meanwhile, single one-way t+ tickets for travel on the métro cost €1.70 EUR (about $2.30 USD) while a book of 10 tickets costs €13.70 EUR (around $18.50 USD). One-day Mobilis passes are also available for €6.80 EUR (about $9.25 USD) for travel within Zones 1 and 2; weekly passes cost €20.40 EUR (about $28 USD) plus a €5 fee for the rechargeable card. You can buy tickets in métro stations and Paris tourist information centers located around the city. The metro runs from around 5:30 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, with extended hours until about 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Be sure to check the métro's specific timetables before traveling. The RATP also has a handy route planner available on its website to help travelers navigate the city.
The Réseau Express Régional (RER) trains operate five express routes (identified by letters A through E) from the Paris city center to surrounding suburbs. RER trains service both Paris airports and take travelers into the heart of the city. The best way to get to Versailles Palace is via the RER C train, unless you want to take a pricey taxi or drive. You may also use the RER trains to explore smaller towns and sites outside the city, including Disneyland Paris. Paris Visite cards cover travel on RER trains; metro day or week passes also can be used on RER train travel within Zone 1. Tickets can be purchased at any RER or métro station. vary widely in price.
RATP operates more than 325 bus lines that run throughout Paris and its suburbs. You can use a Paris Visite card, t+ ticket, day pass or week pass to pay for bus trips — a ride costs the same as a métro ride unless you buy your ticket on the bus, which then costs €1.90 EUR (about $2.50 USD). While the bus system is slower than the métro, it offers more scenic routes and maintains a longer schedule. The Noctilien night bus system is particularly helpful once the métro closes.
Metered taxis are available but can be scarce in peak times. The Parisian fleet is limited by a lobby at 15,000. If you are lucky enough to find one that reads "libre" (or free) on top, take note of a few details: The meter starts at €2.30 EUR (around $3 USD) and charges by kilometer traveled. (One kilometer is equal to about ¾ of a mile.) You should also know that from 5 p.m. to 10 a.m., you'll pay about €1.30 EUR more per kilometer than from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Driving in Paris is to be avoided, unless you plan to explore a good amount outside of the city's bounds. The usual culprits apply — heavy traffic, potentially confusing road signs, scarce parking — making driving a nightmare. That said, rental cars, or "car hires" as they're called, are available at the airports and several of the main train stations.
Entry & Exit Requirements
A United States passport is required for U.S. residents traveling to Paris; children of all ages must have them, too. U.S. citizens do not need a visa unless they plan on staying longer than 90 days. Visit the U.S. State Department's website for the latest information on exit and entry requirements.