Paris is one of the most visited countries in the world. It is a huge city with lots to see and do, so you will be using the public transportation system when you’re in Paris. The Paris transportation system is extremely easy to use even if you’re not used to using public transportation.
The most common form of Paris transportation is their underground subway system. It is an extensive system that can get you anywhere in Paris you want to go and even has lines that take you outside of Paris.
The Paris transportation system is incredibly well built and efficient. Did you know that the Paris metro system is the fourth largest metro system in the world?!
With such a large metro system, you’ll need some help to get around the city! These 10 tips will help you use the Paris transportation system like a local.
1. Consider Purchasing a Carnet
A Carnet is a book of 10 single ride transportation tickets. You save you a little bit of money buying a carnet, but they save you a lot of time because you don’t have to purchase a ticket every time you ride public transportation.
A book of 10 tickets costs €14.90. You are able to purchase a carnet at the vending machines or from the ticket windows. A carnet is a great option for people that plan on using the Paris transportation system quite a bit while in Paris or for people that will be in Paris for more than a couple of days.
2. Inside versus Outside of Paris
If you choose to purchase a carnet, you need to understand how the ticketing works. There is a difference between inside and outside of Paris. The carnet tickets are single use tickets that you are only able to use in areas that are designated to be inside Paris.
This means that you will not be able to use a ticket from your carnet booklet if you are using the public transportation system to go to Disneyland Paris or Versailles. You will also not be able to use a ticket from the carnet book if you are going to and from CDG airport.
A basic rule of thumb is that if you are using the RER and going outside the central part of Paris, you will need to buy an individual ticket rather than using a ticket from the carnet booklet.
You can use a ticket from the carnet booklet if you are only using the metro and not transferring to the RER. All metro stations are considered to be inside Paris.
You are able to transfer from one subway line to another with a single-use ticket as long as the stop you get off from is inside the Paris zone.
If you need more information about whether your stop is considered inside or outside Paris, you can ask a Paris transportation employee at the station you are departing from.
My Experience Using the Wrong Paris Transportation Ticket
I have had an instance where I used a ticket from the carnet and got off at a stop that was considered outside Paris because I was unfamiliar with the rules. The gate did not open for me when I put my ticket in to leave the station, and I had to wait for an employee to come over.
The employee was incredibly kind and explained to me why my ticket didn’t work then took me over to the ticket counter to purchase the proper ticket for my return journey. You shouldn’t get in too much trouble if you explain to the Paris transportation employee that it was a mistake. You may be required to purchase a proper ticket, but you shouldn’t get fined as long as it was a genuine mistake.
3. Consider Getting the Paris Visite Pass
The Paris Visite Pass is a card that allows you to use the public transportation system as much as you want for 1-5 consecutive days. The prices vary depending on how many days you want and your age. A list of prices can be found here.
The Paris Visite Pass includes transportation to and from CDG and Versailles, so it can be a good deal. It can also be a waste of money if you don’t use it enough. You have to use public transportation quite a bit in order for this pass to be worth it. A single-day ticket for an adult costs €13.20.
You should figure out how much you’re planning on using public transportation in Paris and calculate how much it would cost you to purchase individual tickets, a carnet, and the Paris Visite Pass. You should purchase whatever ticket is the most cost effective for you.
I have never used public transportation enough in Paris to make the Paris Visite Pass worth it. It may be beneficial to you if you have a short amount of time in Paris and will be rushing from sight to sight and using Paris transportation a lot. I like to take my time and walk a lot, so the pass isn’t worth it for me.
4. Buy Tickets in Advance
This tip is for people that have decided that purchasing individual tickets is the most cost effective thing for them. You are able to purchase tickets in advance and use them later in the day or the next day.
This means that if you know you’re going to be using the subway to get from central Paris back to where you are staying, you can purchase your return ticket at the same time you purchase your ticket when you take the subway in the morning.
You will have to know what stop you will be departing from in order to purchase tickets in advance. This is a great tip for people who are taking a day trip to Versailles or Disneyland Paris and know exactly what stop they will be departing from.
You will save a lot of time if you purchase your return ticket in advance- especially if you are leaving a busy station during a busy time of day. You won’t have to wait in a long queue just to purchase a ticket. Pre-purchasing your return ticket means you can just get onto the train and get home earlier and with fewer crowds.
This is one of my favourite hacks when I use the Paris transportation system.
5. Keep Your Ticket Until You Leave the Station
You should hold onto your ticket until you are out of the station. Paris transportation employees often ask to see your valid ticket even once you’re outside the turnstile.
It is safest to always have your ticket ready to show an employee. This is especially true if you’re departing at a station where you don’t need to insert your ticket to open a gate when you leave. These are the stations where you are most likely to be asked for your ticket.
6. Avoid Transferring at Large Stations
It is best to avoid transferring lines at large stations if at all possible. You will have to walk a long ways to get from one line to another, and it can be quite time consuming.
You should try to transfer lines at smaller stations if at all possible. It will save you a lot of time if you don’t have to spend 5 or more minutes walking from one line to another. You are also more likely to get a seat if you don’t get on at the most popular stations.
7. Avoid Paris Transportation Rush Hour if Possible
The subway in Paris gets incredibly busy during rush hour. You should try to avoid using Paris transportation during rush hour in order to have a better experience.
Rush hour on Paris transportation is from 8-10am and 5-8pm.
The trains will be extremely crowded during this time, and you may even have to wait for a train or two for there to be enough room for you to get on. You will be crammed onto a train with basically no room to move during rush hour. It is an overall unpleasant situation that can easily be avoided.
8. Be Aware of Pickpockets
There are a lot of pickpockets all around Paris at the popular tourist attractions. There are also a lot pickpockets in the subway stations and on the trains.
You should be sure to keep your valuables in your eyesight and hang onto your bags and purses. You won’t get pickpocketed if you are being cautious of your personal belongings.
9. You Have to Ask for a Map
You have to ask for a map of the Paris transportation system at a ticket window. They are not freely displayed for you to grab a map as you’re walking through a station.
You can download a map to your phone or look at the maps on the station walls, but it is always nice to have a paper copy for when you’re planning your journey without access to wifi.
10. Stand on the Right
You should stand on the right-hand side of the escalators. The left-hand side is used by people who want to walk up or down the escalator rather than standings.
You will frustrate people if you are standing on the left-hand side. People are often in a rush to get to their next train to make it to work on time, so they don’t have time to stand on escalators. You should watch the people around you and do as they do.
You should have no problem using the Paris transportation system. It is extremely user-friendly and easy for tourists to understand.
There are signs and announcements in English, so you don’t have to worry about a language barrier, which makes it even easier to use.
The most difficult part of using the Paris transportation system is figuring out what type of ticket is best for you. I prefer to purchase a carnet because it is more convenient than buying individual tickets. I never use the Paris transportation system enough to purchase the Paris Visite Pass, but it is a good option for people who plan on using the train a lot.
Once you decide what ticket option is best for you, the rest of the Paris transportation journey is a breeze and super easy!