Getting Around Paris
The best way to get around Paris is on foot and by metro. The elegant arrondissements are practically made for pedestrians. Still, Paris is very big, so you should take the efficient metro to travel long distances. The Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens or RATP system, which runs the metro, also offers several bus routes around the city. Those traveling to Paris by plane can arrive at Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG), about 22 miles northeast of the city center, or Paris Orly Airport (ORY), about 11 miles south of the city.
To get to Paris from CDG, you can take a bus (No. 350 or No. 351), hop an RER train (an airport shuttle from CDG takes passengers to the Terminal 2 RER station and the nearby Roissypole RER) or hop on the RoissyBus. Travelers with a late arrival time can also take advantage of the Noctilien night bus, which runs to Paris from midnight to 4:30 a.m. For those coming into ORY, travelers can take an airport shuttle to the nearest RER station (Pont de Rungis) or hop on the Orlyval shuttle train that goes to the Antony RER station. Both RER stations go straight to Paris. Taxis are another option, but can be quite costly averaging anywhere from 30 to 55 euros (around $33 to $61); driving is not recommended.
If you're traveling from other French or European cities, you can also take the train to Paris. SNCF rail and TGV high-speed trains run throughout France (the former also travels to other European countries). The city has six main train stations, all of which also act as bus stops and metro 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. Even if you aren't right on the Champs-Élysées, Paris' chic and compact neighborhoods (often with plenty of amenities of their own) are perfect for walkers. Walking is also the best way to take in Paris' famous architecture as well as the city's oftentimes magical atmosphere. However, if your home base is a little farther out, or walking to top attractions are a few miles journey, you might want to rely on the metro for fairly cheap, but quick and efficient travel.
The metro, part of the city's RATP public transportation system, is easily accessible, cost-effective and runs 16 extensive routes (identified by numbers 1 to 14, then the 3 bis and 7 bis) throughout metropolitan Paris. You can purchase single tickets (1.90 euros or $2.12 for a single, one-way journey), but it's easier to purchase a book of 10 t+ tickets or a Mobilis day pass. The book of 10 t+ tickets is 10 individual metro tickets offered at a reduced rate. If you have a good idea of how often you are going to ride public transportation in a day (the book of tickets covers the metro, RER trains within Zone 1, buses and more), this option is your best bet. A book of 10 t+ tickets costs 16 euros ($17.83) for adults and 8 euros (about $9) for children.
If you aren't so sure of how much ground you're going to cover, a Mobilis pass is the better option. One-day Mobilis passes are available for 7.30 euros (about $8.14) for travel within Zones 1 and 2 (most of Paris' top attractions are located in Zone 1). You can buy tickets in metro stations and Paris tourist information centers located around the city. The metro runs from around 6 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. daily. Be sure to check the metro'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. Tickets can be purchased at any RER or metro station. RER ticket prices are calculated station to station for any travel outside of Zone 1 and vary widely in price. Hours are the same as the metro but wait times to destinations are longer.
RATP operates 59 bus lines that run throughout Paris and its suburbs. You can use t+ tickets and metro passes to pay for bus trips – a ride costs the same as a metro 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 metro, it offers more scenic routes and maintains a longer schedule. Bus hours depend on the line, but generally buses run from Monday to Saturday from 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Some lines from 8:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. The Noctilien night bus system picks up the slack past 12:30. There are four night bus lines, each of them running till about 4 a.m.
Paris is full of taxis. There are about 17,000 taxis and cars for hire in the city. Official Paris taxis are designated with a Taxi Parisien sign on the roof of the taxi. When the taxi is available, the Taxi Parisien sign is green, then red when it's not. The meter starts at 2.60 euros (about $3) and then charges by every kilometer traveled. (One kilometer is equal to about ¾ of a mile.) After the base fare is applied, the charge for from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday to Saturday is 1.06 euros ($1.18) for each kilometer. From 5 p.m. to 10 a.m., the fare increases to 1.30 euro ($1.45) Monday to Saturday as well as 7 p.m. to midnight on Sundays. You can hail a taxi on the street but it's easier to wait in line at one of the taxi ranks spread throughout the city. Getting a taxi in Paris both at night and during rush hour, especially if you're trying to hail, is not an easy feat. Not only that, but traffic is known to occur even outside of rush hours so don't be surprised if you're bumper to bumper at 2 p.m. The main taxi companies in Paris are Taxis G7, Alpha Taxis and Taxis Bleus. The ride-hailing app Uber also operates in Paris.
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.
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