Public transportation in Paris alongside London holds a world reputation for its efficiency. It’s metro and trains (RER) take you anywhere around the city and cover many key locations outside of the city. They are fast, on schedule and make transporting millions of tourists per year possible in the city of lights.
If you’re a first-time traveller, then there’s a thing or two you need to know about public transportation in Paris before you arrive. While the whole system works smoothly, its vastness can be a bit confusing for the first time. The signage system of all public transportation in Paris is pretty amazing and as long as you know a few key facts about ticket rates and best options for airports, then you’re good to go.
How to get to Paris from the Airport?
Let’s assume you’ve made it to Paris! If you’re flying in, then you’d either land in Charles de Gaulle airport or Orly. and you’ve got a few options to find your way to Paris.
Transportation from Charles de Gaulle airport to Paris
Taxi: A taxi ride will cost you 50€ to anywhere in the right bank and 55€ to the left bank.
Train: Trains that are not the metro and cover Paris and its suburbs are known as RER. The RER from Charles de Gaulle airport runs every 10 minutes from 5 a.m. to 11:50 p.m. Tickets cost 10 € and can be purchased at the ticket machines. Keep in mind that you must have the exact amount as they don’t accept big notes. The train takes you to Gare du Nord station where it connects to the metro. The same train ticket will get you on the metro to reach your desired destination.
Another thing to have in mind is that your landing terminal might not be the one with the RER station. Here’s where you need to take the free shuttle buses to the main terminal to catch your train.
Bus: Buses connectin Charles de Gaulle to Paris are called the Roissy Bus and take you to the Opera station. They run every 15-20 min from 5:15 to 12:30 and takes 45 min to 1.5 hours. Tickets cost 11:50€ and can be bought at the same ticket machines.
If you’re accommodation is not close to the Opera, I wouldn’t suggest taking the metro.
Transportation from Orly airport to Paris
Orly airport a lot smaller than Charles de Gaulle but relatively closer to the city. The airport has two terminals called Orly Ouest and Orly Sud which connect to each other via the Orlyval train which also goes to the train station.
RER-B Train: To catch the RER-B you need to get yourself to Antony station with the Orlyval train. Get on the train and find the most suitable connecting station to the metro that would work best for you. Your same ticket would work for the metro, so there’s no need to buy a new ticket. The RER-B runs every 5 min from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. and will set you back by 12€. You can buy your ticket from the machines either before getting on the Orlyval or at Antony station.
RER-C Train: Go C Paris shuttle buses take you from both Orly Sud and Orly Ouest terminals to Pont de Rungis – Aéroport d’Orly terminal where you can catch the RER-C to any metro connection that works best.
Both the shuttle bus and train to Pont de Rungis will cost 6.25€ and will take around 40 min to 1 hour.
Orly Bus: Orly bus trains can take you from both airport terminals to the Denfert-Rochereau metro and RER station where you can catch either for the rest of your journey. The bus ticket costs 8€ and will take around half an hour to get to Denfert-Rochereau.
Taxi: Getting a taxi from Orly airport will cost you 35€ for going to the right bank and 30€ to the left bank! There’s always the option of getting the widely used Uber in Paris to save up on cash.
Tips on using the Paris Metro:
- Get yourself a map of Paris metro system. You can also download the PDF here.
- If you don’t want to be bothered with carrying a map, then just download the app on your phone. It also has a search system which gives you the best route if you insert your departure and arrival destination.
- Paris metro does not have any cooling system. So expect hot and sweaty cars during summer.
- You’ve probably heard that Paris metro smells of urine! Well, guess what? While it’s not true in all of the lines, it’s certainly a fact in some of the lines running through southern Paris.
- The metro rush hour is from 8-10 in the morning and 5-8 in the afternoon. You might want to consider walking or taking the bus during this time especially in high season.
- The Paris metro functions from 5:30 a.m. to 1:15 a.m. Sun to Thursday and from 5:30 a.m. to 2:15 a.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and the night before all national holidays.
- The metro lines are names based on the ending destinations. For example, the line La Defence/ Chateau de Vincennes runs between the two ending stations of La Defence and Chateau de Vincennes.
- The ticket for a single ride on the Paris metro costs 1.90€ but if you buy a pack of 10 which is called a Carnet, it will end up 14.90€. You can also use the tickets but intercity buses.
Tips on using the RER trains in Paris:
- The RER trains run both in the city and the suburbs. If you’re planning on using the RER within the 1-3 zones of Paris then it works just like the metro. The same ticket works for both of them and there’s no extra fee.
- If you’re using the RER to get to the suburbs of Paris (like Disney land, Versaille or the airports) then the cost will be different per station and you need to buy the exact ticket. For example, if you’ve bought a ticket for a certain station and suddenly decide to get off at a further station, there’s a big chance you’ll be subjected to paying a fine.
- The RER train lines have the exact system as the metro.
- If you ever decide to get off the RER and continue your journey on the metro, there’s no need to buy an extra ticket. The same ticket would work. But it doesn’t work the other way around unless you’re only using the RER inside Paris.
- The RER runs from 5:15 a.m. to 12:30 a.m.
Tips on using public buses in Paris:
- Paris buses have 59 lines in total and while they are not as speedy as the metro, they cover a bigger part of the city and reward you with a tour of Paris.
- There are plenty of bus stations all around Paris and each one of them has a big map of all the routes. But I’d still suggest downloading the Paris public transportation app on your phone or using google maps to figure out your route.
- If you require to change buses along the way and as long as you’ve taken the first bus in less than 90 min, you’re entitled to use the same ticket for your second bus ride.
- To change from metro to buses, you need to buy a new ticket. The old one used on the metro won’t work.
- If you haven’t bought single tickets from the metro stations which could be used on the bus, then you can just buy your ticket for 2€ from the driver.
- Buses in Paris run from 5:30 a.m. to midnight. There are also nocturnal buses running all night long which you can find about here.
How to get your bus, RER and metro tickets?
All tickets can be bought at the ticket machines in metro and train stations. The machines work in four languages (French, English, Spanish & German) so you won’t have any issues figuring out how it works. Make sure you have smaller notes to pay for your ticket as most machines don’t accept big notes.
What’s Paris Visite Pass? And is it worth it?
Paris Visite Pass gives you unconditional access to all public transportation in Paris in a limited time. If you think you’d be using the transportation quite a few times, then it might actually be worth it. But here’s a few things to consider:
Paris is divided between 5 zones. Zones 1-3 are central Paris where most of the attractions are located. Zones 4 and 5 are kind of the suburbs, where there are the airports, Versaille and Disney Land. The Paris Visite Pass can be bought for zones 1-3 or zones 1-5 for 1 to 5 days. If you’ll be only getting around Paris then perhaps the pass for zones 1-3 would work best. But if you’ve got a few attractions outside of Paris on your itinerary, then zones 1-5 might be worth it. Here’s where you can find the info for the most suitable Pass for your trip.