When visiting Paris you are going to want to hit all the major tourist sites like the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, and of course Disneyland. There are several ways to get yourself where you need to go, using the public transportation system, hiring a car or taxi, walk or even riding a bike.
Public transport can get you almost anywhere you need to go within the Paris city limits. Paris public transport is run by the RATP and covers the Métro, RER suburban express train, tram, bus, and Noctilien night bus. There are a few ways to save some money: buy a "carnet" - a book of ten tickets which will save you 75% and is valid for metro and bus.
A Paris Visite Pass will get you unlimited use of all the RATP services and discounts for entry to a lot of places of interest. Or what most locals use, Passe Navigo Decouverte which is a week or monthly pass, good from Monday to Sunday. For this one, you will need a small picture and your own pen when you go to buy it.
Passes are for either 1 + 3 or 1 + 6 zones, the latter will also get you to Disneyland Resort, Chateau de Versailles, and both of Paris airports, Charles de Gaulle and Orly. And they give you unlimited travel.
But don't forget that you can always drop your bags at one of our Paris luggage storage spots! That way, you won't have to worry about your belongings when trying to find your way around the city.
How to get around Paris by train
Over 30 million tourists visit Paris each year and you can bet a lot of them will be confused as to how to get around. Driving in Paris can be a little crazy at the best of times, with aggressive drivers who sometimes think rules of the road don't really apply to them. Luckily most tourists can avoid driving due to Paris' excellent public transportation system.
Gare du Nord is the main train station in Paris and it is one of the six large trains stations located within the city. RATP passes and tickets can be used on the Metro, tram, buses, and RER (Réseau Express Régional) trains. RER Trains are five regional trains that can get you to places faster if it is going to the spot you need to go, as it has fewer stops than the Metro but goes further outside the city limits.
The Paris metro system, made up of sixteen metro lines, can be a little confusing for visitors so make sure you get yourself a metro map to get around the city easily. Single metro tickets can be purchased at the ticket machines near any metro station. The best way to enjoy Paris is to get a Paris Visite Pass or RATP.
With the RATP you can use all of the public transport networks: the metro, tramway, bus, RER, and SNCF Transilien networks. It is valid for 1, 2, 3, or 5 consecutive days and includes all zones, airport connections, Disneyland Paris, and the Versailles.
There are seven tramway lines in Paris that run every five to seven minutes and tram tickets can be purchased at the tram stations. Although they run quite frequently they make more stops and are limited as to where they go. All the metro and RER stations in the metro network (including trams) are wheelchair accessible.
How to get around Paris by bus
Using the Paris bus system is not as fast or easy as the Metro but it does have its advantages. There are over a dozen "Get-acquainted" bus routes that provide maps in three languages and the bus driver gives a commentary of all the great sights. Buy a ticket at any Metro station, tobacco store, or newsstand.
Avoid buying them on the bus if you can, as these tickets are a single ride and not transferable between bus lines. Bus service is limited, especially in the evenings, Sundays, and public holidays, so you may have to wait a little longer at the bus stop. Almost all the buses are wheelchair accessible but there may not be securing straps available.
At the bus stops, electronic display signs will indicate when the next bus should arrive. Paris now has dedicated bus lanes to help improve and encourage getting around by bus.
Buses depart at 15-30 minutes intervals and run from 7 am to 8.30 pm Monday to Saturday, with the exception of the major bus routes that run until 12.30 am. Be aware that some buses don't run on Sundays and public holidays.
Noctilien Night Buses
Checking out Paris after dark? When the metro and train transport is not running, you can hop on the Noctilien Night Buses that cover Paris and the Ile de France region. The operating hours are from 12.30 am to 5.30 am every night. There are 40 bus routes and some include the main train stations like Gare Montparnasse and Gare de Lyon.
Within Paris, the Noctilien bus will get you to Champs Elysees, Bastille, or Parc de la Villette after you are done partying for the night.
How to get around Paris by car
If you are not a fan of public transportation, you can always rent a car to get yourself around. It is actually pretty easy but there are some things you should be aware of. Visitors from America may find the street signs a little confusing, stop signs are the same throughout the world but other direction signs are not.
And not obeying the street sign can lead to hefty fines. In France, they do drive on the same side of the road but how they drive is a little different. French drivers can be a little aggressive when it comes to driving.
And the last place you want to get stuck is on one of the large roundabouts like the one near the Arc de Triomphe. Is it worth the cost? Car size, tolls, gas (which is more expensive in Europe), and insurance will all add up fast.
You need to be aware of the difference in the rules of the road, like who has the right-of-way and never turn right at a red light. Also, parking can be a nightmare, and you should get an International Driver's Permit which translates your driver's license information.
So while it is nice to have the freedom of a car, you have to ask yourself if it is worth it, or should you just get yourself a metro ticket and let some else do the driving?
Getting around Paris by taxi
Using a taxi to get around is OK to do once in a while but like hiring a car it can get expensive very fast. Sure you will normally get where you need to faster than the metro or bus, but if you hit traffic it will take much longer. Rush hour within the city limits of Paris is not like in American cities, it can happen anytime after 1 pm.
And hailing a taxi is not as easy too – the best way to get one is to call and order one or walk to an official taxi stand (taxi ranks). You may notice that the prices are not always the same, they have different charges for daytime and evening (evening being the more expensive). Uber is another option and it is very similar in pricing, most times it is maybe a Euro or so more. But it is easy to order, you normally get a decent car and driver and you don't have to go looking for it.
A third choice is to hire a car and a driver. It will cost more, however, you know you are getting a nice car to ride in which you can also get for private tours of the city. Even though these are more expensive choices over the Paris public transport network, it is more private and convenient. And even if you get stuck in traffic at least you are sitting in a nice comfy seat while someone else drives.
Can I get around Paris by foot?
Looking to get some exercise while visiting Paris? Then going for a walk to see the sights is a great way to do it. In fact, sometimes it is faster to walk to your destination than any other form of transport.
Paris is not the biggest city in the world, and with the amount of time you spend waiting at bus stops or at metro stops you could have easily reached your final destination. Now, we are not saying you are going to walk from the airport to central Paris, but let's say that walking from the Louvre to the Eiffel Tower will take you only forty minutes to walk. And it is a beautiful walk along the Left Bank of the River Seine, one that you will certainly not regret.
On Sundays, in the old part of Paris, there are some streets that are closed to pedestrian traffic only. And you will never have to worry about rush hour. So in a word, yes, Paris is a very walkable city that will invite you to visit every café, museum, historic site, art gallery, and to slow down, the Parisian way.
Getting around Paris by bike
Where do you plan to stay in Paris? Did you know that next to walking, riding a bike through the streets of Paris is the best way to really see the city? The government has been dedicating more and more bike lanes to reduce the number of cars on the road. There are even bike-sharing programs that include electric bikes, so you don't even need your own bike. You just need a credit or debit card, swipe it, get a pin, and you are off to the races.
You do have to be a little careful though, there are cobblestone streets and traffic to worry about, and the rules for helmets are quite strict. But just picture yourself riding through the old village atmosphere of Montmartre or whizzing down the Champ-Elysee like you are in the Tour de France.
And if you don't feel like pedaling, grab an electric bike, as they have become extremely popular. You could see the entire city in a day on an electric bike and never break a sweat. The prices are more than reasonable too. Some companies are charging less than €9 ($10.30) per month. There are a few that are a little more but still overall it is a cheap way to get around and really explore Paris.
From the RER train to busy metro stations
So as you can see, there are so many ways to see the city. And while the Paris metro will help you travel long distances, it can't get you everywhere a bike can. And you don't want to take a bike to a romantic French dinner or brunch. But then again there is nothing quite like a leisurely walk in the city center, exploring Paris on foot and saving money on transport.
With a little research and planning, you can find your way around Paris the best you can by following this guide. The best option is to do them all in combination, it will definitely make your stay in Paris enjoyable and unforgettable!