Paris Public Transportation: How to Navigate the RATP Like a Pro

Paris Public Transportation
Copyright Richair | Dreamstime.com

Paris is a very walk-able city. However, if you are feeling tired, don’t like to walk, have a lot to carry, etc. You may want to consider Paris Public Transportation. While it’s always easy to grab a taxi, that can get expensive quick. The cheapest and easiest way to get around Paris is by using Paris Public Transportation, RATP (Public Transport Authority of Paris.) The RATP includes both the Metro and the RER.

The Metro

The Metro is Paris’s Subway. The Metro includes 16 different lines. The lines are numbered 1-14.  Lines 3 and 7 both have a “secondary line” known as 3b and 7b.

*This next part is optional. If you are already familiar with using typical public transportation you can skip this.*

To use the Metro, you would first find the station nearest to your preferred destination. Then, you will want to check which lines operate in and out of your destination station. Find the closest station to your current location which operates on that same line. On the map, you will need to look at the very last stop in the direction you are traveling. This is how you know which direction you are going when getting on the metro. Below I have provided a map and an example scenario for using the metro.

rer-1

If I want to travel to the Louvre, I first need to determine which metro station is closest to the Louvre.  As you can see above, the nearest stations to the Louvre are the “Palais Musee Du Louvre” and “Louvre Rivoli.” You can see that the Palais Royal Musee du Louvre can be reached by both Line 1, and Line 7. The Louvre Rivoli station can only be reached by Line 1.

Next, you need to determine which station you will leave from, based on the lines that operate from those stations. When I visited Paris the second time, I stayed at Hotel Flor Rivoli. For the sake of this example, I will use that as my starting point. The closest metro station to Hotel Flor Rivoli is “Chatelet”  The Chatelet Station is serviced by both Line 1 and Line 7, and is only a few stops away from the Palais Royal Musee du Louvre station (for easy reference when looking at this map.)

If you are traveling from the Chatelet station, on line 1, to the Louvre, you will want to look at the very last stop on  line 1 – in the direction you are traveling. The very last stop on Line 1 – in the direction of the Louvre (from chatelet) is “La Defense.”  This information is very important. Once you enter the metro station and find the area for Line 1, the direction you are traveling by will determine where you wait for your train. In this scenario, you would look for “Line 1 La Defense” sign to wait for your train. Then you would get off the metro at your desired stop, which is “Palais Royal Musee du Louvre.”

The trickiest part is knowing which metro station is closest to your destination. Once you know which station you are traveling to, you can look at the Metro map and determine which line and which direction you should take. The easiest way that I have found to figure out which station is near your destination is to simply google “Closest metro station to X”

*Pro Tip* – When I visited Paris, I had a pretty good idea of all the things I wanted to see before I got there. I made a note in my phone of each attraction, and listed the two closest metro stations to that attraction. PLUS the closest metro stations to my hotel, This saved me a lot of data usage and googling!

RER:

The RER is a series of 5 express trains which allow you to travel from the city to the surrounding suburbs. Commuters who live in the suburbs typically use the RER, as well people traveling to and from the airport, Disney Land Paris, and the Palace of Versailles.

The 5 express trains are

  • RER A
  • RER B
  • RER C
  • RER D
  • RER E

You use the RER trains in the exact same way as the Metro. By finding the station at the end of your line, in the direction you are traveling. For an easy example, if I wanted to travel from my hotel “Hotel Flor Rivoli” to The Palace of Versaille. I would take RER C. Even though Chatelet is the closest metro station to my hotel, the RER C does not operate there. The closest metro station which runs RER C is St. Michele Notre Dame, which is a pretty short walk. Luckily, The Palace of Versaille is the last stop on RER C. Therefore, the direction and your destination are the same. You would take the RER C at ST Michel Notre Dame Towards “Versailles – Chateau”. On your way home, you would take RER C towards, St Martin d’etampes.

Buying Tickets:

Inside each metro station are electronic ticket machines. When riding the Metro, you need a ticket to enter or exit the metro station. You are allowed to switch lines and trains as long as you do not exit the station. You will need to insert your ticket for the “gate” to open so you can enter and exit. One metro ticket costs 1.80 euro. *Important* If you are using a credit card for these machines, you must have a chip card, and you must assign it a pin number – or it will not work!* Some stations have a teller window in these cases, but its better to take care of this before you arrive in Paris.

RER ticket prices vary depending on which station you are leaving from and which station you are traveling to. I don’t believe I paid more than 10 Euro to travel to the Palace of Versailles.

You also have the option to purchase a 1,2,3, or 5 day tourist ticket. With this ticket you choose which zones you would like your ticket to include and pay accordingly. More information regarding the tourist ticket can be found here: http://en.parisinfo.com/what-to-see-in-paris/paris-pass/transport-travel-card-paris-visite.

Though it may seem daunting at first, especially since pronouncing the station names is half the battle – the RATP system in Paris is actually very easy to use!

*Pro Tip* If you are comfortable using your phone carriers data, you can type your destination into Google Maps, and choose to receive directions by public transit. Google will then tell you exactly which station and which line to use.

You can expect to catch a metro time every 2-4 minute during the day and every 6-12 minutes at night, depending on the line. You can expect to catch an RER train  every 3-10 minutes during the day and 5-12 minutes at night. For travel time, you should allow approximately every 90 seconds per station, between you and your destination. *An important thing to note about the Metro is that during the week it only runs from 5:30am-12:30am. If you are in Paris during the week and plan to stay out later than 12:30 you will need to walk or take a cab. Plan accordingly!* On the weekend however the metro runs from 5:30am-2:15am.

For more information on the RATP system. Visit: http://www.ratp.fr/en/ratp/c_21879/visiting-paris/ 

Image Copyright Richair | Dreamstime.com

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