Advices and Explanations for “How to use the Parisian Metro” ?

This article is for the visitors who discover Paris for the first time (or not) and who need to use the local public transports:  the Parisian Metro. In this underground subway network world, where the lines cross in all directions, we may be get completely and quickly lost when we land in Paris. I am writing this little Guide of the Parisian Metro to answer the frequent questions of tourists passing through Paris: How does the metro in Paris work? What’s the ideal ticket for a day, a weekend, a week or more? What are the “codes” of the Paris’ Metro, the little tips to know? Here we go for a lot of advices… and if you have any questions, post a comment, I will try to answer you!

The Parisian Metro: How does it work?

The Parisian Metro is built up of 16 Metro Lines that crossing the capital in every directions. They serve both Paris itself and the cities in the suburbs (such as Vincennes, Boulogne-Billancourt, Neuilly-sur-Seine, etc.). The subway is mostly underground and some of the stations are outdoors.

Map of Paris and Touristic Lines

Among the most touristic lines, there is line 1 (which serves in particular the Marais district, Châtelet-les-Halles, the Louvre, the Champs-Elysées, the Arc-de-Triomphe), line 6 (which the Eiffel Tower, you can also see it between the stations Passy and Bir Hakeim, it also serves the Montparnasse Tower and its observatory), the line 4 (which passes by Châtelet-les-Halles, the Ile de la Cite with Notre-Dame-de-Paris and the Sainte-Chapelle or the district of Saint-Germain-des-Prés), line 12 (which goes through Montmartre and the Orsay Museum)… The Ile-de-France region is divided into zones : If you stay in the city of Paris, you are in the zone 1… and the further you get away from Paris, and more the number of the zone increases. For example, Disneyland Paris is in zone 5. Here is the map of the Parisian Metro Lines:

How to get a Subway?

The process to take the metro is quite simple:

Buy a ticket and choose your destination by looking at the subway terminus in order to take it in the right direction.

For example, on the line 1, if you leave the Gare de Lyon to go to the Champs-Elysées, the terminus of the line in this direction is “La Défense”, so you have to take the metro on the platform which indicates the direction “La Défense”. Validate your ticket by passing your ticket in a terminal (or your pass against the machine). Go to the platform of your choice and get on the subway. It stops at all stations (unless there is a station closed for work, in which case it will be indicated on the plans and by a voice announcement at the previous station).  As long as you don’t leave the subway, you keep the same ticket. The only exception: For a metro ticket, if your trip exceeds 2 consecutive hours (honestly, it is unlikely to happen), you will have to validate a new ticket. So, if you go wrong, dont panic, just go down and take the subway in the right direction.

Travel Tickets in the Parisian Metro

When you come to stay in Paris, several options are available to you.

Individually Sold Ticket:

The metro ticket individually sold is interesting if you take it during a short period. For example, you come to Paris just for a day and plan to take less than 4 trips by metro. This ticket costs around € 2, and is valid for around 2 hours on the metro / RER network in Paris or 1h30 on the bus / tram network. You can also buy a package of 10 tickets, a carnet [“car-nay”]… and enjoy a reduced rate in some cases.

The Mobilis Ticket: Unlimited use of the transports during one day

The Mobilis ticket is interesting if you come to Paris for a day… making more than 4 trips in the same day and don’t visit a museum. It entitles you to unlimited travel in the areas of your choice. If you limit yourself to Paris and its very near suburbs, this ticket will cost you around € 8, so it is very interesting. Registering your name / last name as well as the date of the travel day will be necessary to fill.

Forfait Paris Visite (Paris Visit Package): Discounts in Museums

The Paris Visit Package is a ticket created especially for tourists. It entitles you to unlimited journeys, either in Paris (zones 1 to 3) or throughout the Ile-de-France (perfect if you arrive from airports by public transport, that you visit Disneyland or the Palace of Versailles). You can buy it for a period ranging from 1 to 5 consecutive days.

In addition to the ticket, it allows you to take advantage of certain discounts: 20% on your entry to the Arc de Triomphe, 25% on access to the Montparnasse Tower Observatory and small reductions of 2- 3 € on the entries in a lot of partner museums. The children also have a benefit of a half-price. As the Paris Visit Package combines a ticket and discounts on museums, it costs a little more than the ticket Mobilis to the day: For a day in Paris, it will cost you about 5 € more expensive. But if you visit museums, this difference in price will be quickly reimbursed as soon as you start to enjoy discounts. If you come to Paris for a weekend, you have the choice between taking 2 Mobilis tickets for the day (one for Saturday, one for Sunday) for 15 € in total or buy Paris Visit Package of 2 days for 19.5 € (and receive discounts in museums). It allows you to make a choice based on your program.

Paris Train Metro Week Pass: Navigo Découverte

If you stay a week or two in Paris, another option is offered to you: the Navigo Pass Week. It is a smart card which allows you to travel without restrictions on the entire transport network of Ile-de-France for about 23 € per week.

You will also have to pay the smart card (5 €) and provide a photo for card ID. All you have to do is to find a ticket counter to have the ticket issued. The Navigo Découverte Pass is not just accessible to Parisians but also to everyone.

Free and Reduced Rates

Children less than 4 years old benefit from free travel. There are then reduced rates or even access to free admissions: Children, people in precarious situation, large families, disabled people, seniors can surely benefit from a discount. Do not hesitate to ask a selling desk and provide any proof of your situation.

How to Find Your Route in the Subway ?

To find your way, I advise you to download the application Via Navigo to make your trip simulations, I find it much more reliable and ergonomic to use than the application of the RATP. On the other hand, the application of the RATP is very good to know the next passages of a subway / Bus / RER / tramway to a precise station.

Otherwise, in each station, there are maps of the metro network but also neighborhood plans, which are convenient to know which is the “best exit” to take. Indeed, in many stations, you have the choice between several exits that each one leads you to a different street.

But don’t worry about it, if you don’t know which exit is “the best” compared to your destination, take one at random and once to the surface, ask your way or use the GPS of your Smartphone.

Advises For the Beginners

Stay at the right side of the escalator, the left half is “reserved” for people who want to walk quickly.

Be very careful with your phone, especially if you are sitting on the folding seats next to the doors. Most pickpockets have a simple technique; they stand near the door and wait for the signal that indicates the imminent closing of the door. That’s the moment where they attack, sting your phone and get out of the subway. The doors close on them and you cannot run after them.

Don’t carry your backpack during your travel by the metro to avoid again the pickpockets that can happen. There is no stop button in the metro because it will stop on each station.

Yes, Parisians run to catch the metro even if there is one arriving in 2 minutes. In the subway, you might hear the Cucaracha, The Lovers of St. John, Kalinka, Vivaldi massacred and more, that’s all the people who plays music. Some of them with some other without permission. You can see them in the corridors.

If you have a suitcase, a stroller, a shopping cart, all that at once… in short, if you are loaded, there are doors or porticos to avoid having to go through the turnstiles at the entrance of stations galley. In many large cities, this type of turnstile has been abandoned in favor of gates that are much easier to access. Paris is late but there is still a wider gate in most resorts.

 If you want a seat because you are pregnant / disabled / elderly, ASK. People often do not get up spontaneously because they have not seen you (fatigue, nose on the Smartphone or in a book) … or because they pretend not to see you.

3 Extra Questions About the Parisian Subway:

What is the difference between Métro and RER ?

The subway serves Paris, the RER (Réseau Express Régional => Regional Express Network) goes much further from Paris. The RER has a larger capacity (is often on two floors). As long as you stay in Paris, the pricing is the same in the metro and the RER but if you go to the suburbs, you will have to buy a specific ticket covering areas further from Paris. The RER does not necessarily stop at all stations.

In Paris, it stops everywhere but if you plan to leave Paris, look at the signs on the docks. They display a bright spot next to all the stations where the RER will stop. Same as in the metro, no need to press a button, the RER will stop at scheduled stations

Remember to keep your ticket handy in the RER because unlike the metro, you will have to pass your ticket in a terminal to exit.

Should I be afraid the evenings in the metro?

I often take the subway in the late evening and I have never had a problem, except for some heavy dredgers (or people drunk on weekends). There are still lines where, as a woman, I feel less safe at the end of the evening (line 13 in particular, Stalingrad stations, Barbès, etc.)…

In general, the usual cautionary instructions apply: Prefer to get in where there are people because it often discourages heavy people (not always, but often). If the subway is really empty and you are not reassured, move closer to the driver’s cabin.

Why Parisians head in the subway?

It must be known that Parisian transport is exhausting. It’s often crowded at rush hour so many people have huge commute times with lots of connections. When I lived in the province, we found that 30 minutes of travel was huge. In Paris, if you only have 30 minutes or less to go to work, you are one of the lucky ones. I have often heard “as long as it does not go over an hour, it’s okay”.

The problems are regular on the network (on the RER even more than on the metro) to the point that the Parisian ends up knowing the ads by heart: “Due to an incident of exploitation / a serious accident of ParisCityTours / of a ParisCityTours malaise / a signaling failure / passenger on the tracks / an animal on the tracks / regulation of traffic / an alarm signal / a suspicious package in a station, traffic is currently disrupted / interrupted between stations X and Y until about XX hours. We kindly ask you to wait / we apologize for the inconvenience / take another route “.

Shortly, people are often tired and we must recognize that there is a lot of incivility in the subway and transportation in general. People who walk on your feet without apologizing, running to throw themselves into a sitting position while you are loaded and about to sit, who sit on the folding seats while the metro is crowded, those who telephone screaming, who cut their nails in the subway, who spread their legs (to ventilate, no doubt) while their neighbor siege galley with a half-buttocks in the void, watching series without headphones, which stink as if they had not seen a bathroom since the last century (and I do not speak of the homeless who, unfortunately, do not always have the choice)… Not to mention the draggers, the people who grill a cigarette in the subway and so on.

I hope this article will answer most of your questions about the metro in Paris. It remains the most accessible transport to move around the capital by avoiding traffic jams … so we support it even if we criticize it.