The Métro de Paris (RATP) is one of the quickest and most efficient ways to travel across the center of Paris and Ile-de-France. The mostly underground transit system has been a feature of the city for over 100 years and is one of the densest networks in the world. According to ratp.fr, it is “a network denser than any other in the world: nowhere in Paris is more than 500m from a metro station.” The metro stations are denoted by similar architectural structures, influenced by Art Nouveau. Each station is a little different. Some historically significant stations have their stories recounted in the station and others have unique décor and architecture. The system is convenient and transports massive amounts of passenger traffic each day, but plan ahead because it closes at night!
Stats about the Paris Metro:
- 16 lines (1-14, 3bis, & 7bis)
- 303 stations
- 205 km of tracks
- Over 1.5 billion passengers per year
- First train leaves terminal station: 5:30 a.m.
- Last train reaches terminal station (Sunday to Thursday): 1:15 a.m.
- Last train reaches terminal station (Fridays, Saturdays and days before public holidays): 2:15 a.m.
To use the RATP system, you need a t+ ticket or Navigo pass. You can buy your tickets in advance online, from an automatic ticketing machine inside the metro station, or, on the bus if you are taking the bus (2€). There are several travel passes for varying lengths of time, ranging from a weekend to a year. It is best to look at the options then decide which is best for you (http://www.ratp.fr/en/ratp/c_20585/travel-passes-and-fares/). Tickets for children are at a reduced price and the Navigos are reduced for students and others. Also, buying a booklet of tickets is less expensive than individual tickets.
Automatic ticket machine in the mètro
t+ Ticket options:
- One ticket: 1,90€
- Booklet of ten tickets: 14,90€
- Reduced fare
Your ticket should look like this:
The t+ tickets or Navigo passes can be used for all transportation within the city (zone 1): RATP, SNCF, OPTILE. The following types of connections are possible, for 90 minutes between the first and last validation, with this ticket:
- RER/RER within Paris
- bus/bus (including between the RATP and OPTILE networks)
- IMPORTANT: Metro/bus, metro/tram, RER/bus and RER/tram connections are not possible using the same t+ ticket.
Reading the map
You have GoogleMaps. So, why should you learn how to read a map to navigate the metro system?
International service in a foreign country can be very unreliable, not to mention expensive and drain your battery. What if your phone dies, gets stolen or breaks? There’s no app for that.
Each station has a map near the entrance with a “you are here” point, which you can use to navigate your course. The stations also have maps of the neighborhood highlighting nearby attractions. You can find a variety of maps at each station: maps with just the metro, RER and tram lines, maps with the metro lines and roads, maps with buses routes and night bus routes, etc. If you insist on being dependent on technology, there are various navigating apps available, including the RATP app. I recommend always having a map with you, even if it is the downloaded PDF on your phone, just in case.
First, you must decide where you want to go and where you are currently. If you know where you are, take a look at the map to see which is the closest station to you.
The basic metro map:
Each metro line is numbered and colored. Stations are marked by a named dot, either the color of their line or white. Whites dots or ovals denoted stations that have connections with other lines.
Getting where you want to go:
You’ve arrived in Paris, checked in to your room and you are ready to explore! For our example, let’s say you are near Nation and you would like to go to the Louvre. The best option would be to take line 1:
This is how the individual line looks by itself:
Each line has two directions, the two terminals (starting/ending points in bold). For line 1 the directions are La Defense and Chateau de Vincennes. If you are going towards the Palais Royal-Musee du Louvre station from the Nation station, you’d be going in the direction of La Defense. If you were returning to Nation from the Louvre, you’d be going in the direction of Chateau de Vincennes.
Following our example you’d enter the metro at the station Nation. After purchasing your tickets and go through the gates. You can either feed in your t+ ticket or scan your card. You can only use gates with a green arrow in your direction.
Follow the yellow signs for line 1 La Defense. The metro has clear signage, making it easily navigated.
The Line 1 sign in Nation leading you to the platform.
Guide yourself onto the platform where you wait. Most platforms have signs above them which tell you the line, direction, and time until the next two trains.
Once aboard the train, this is how the sign for the line will look. It will be placed above each doors. It shows each stop and which connections are available at that stop.
On most trains, each stop has a small light. The next stop blinks until you have reached it, the past stops are not lite and the stops on the way are lit until they are the next, then they start blinking. If the train doesn’t have a light system, just pay attention to the station names as you go by. Each station has it’s name clearly posted, several times, on each side of the platform.
Once you arrive to the Palais Royal-Musee du Louvre station, just follow the brown signs for the Louvre. Each station near a main attraction will have brown signes leading you to the closest sortie (exit). The Palais Royal-Musee du Louvre station brings you right next to the Louvre so you should be able to exit the station and make your way easily to the Pyramids entrance of the magnificent museum.
- Keep your ticket until you leave the station. Random checks are done by RATP staff and without a ticket you may be fined.
- Keep slower traffic to the right. It is common for people in a rush to pass on the left, even on escalators.
- A tone will sound when the doors of the train are about to close, so don’t be standing in between them when it rings!
- Be aware of beggars and pick pockets, often people will ask for money on the metro.
- Don’t forget anything on the train! Unidentified baggage will be taken as a safety risk and may halt traffic for over an hour.
Other forms of transportation:
The RATP denotes specific metro lines, buses (other option is OPTILE), and tramways. Paris offers other types of public transportation including the trains to the suburbs or banlieue (SNCF), autobus, Vélib’ et Autolib'(Paris’s self bicycling services). Taxis are available at specific stops across the city and are usually around popular areas. Paris also has known car services such as Uber.
For more information about using the metro, check out the RATP Transport Guide: