Category Archives: Transportation in France

Paris Metro or Paris Bus? Episode 142

Paris metro or Paris bus? Bus #86

Paris Metro or Paris Bus?

When in Paris, should you take the metro or should you take the bus? Is one better than the other?

This episode spells out all the differences between the Paris Metro and the Paris Bus, down to the small details that happen to matter a lot! This is all based on my recent personal experience getting around Paris without using my personal car or taxis.

When it comes to public transportation, Paris is cheaper than other capitals with similar transportation systems. A single ticket in Paris is 68% cheaper the same ticket in London, 79% cheaper than Berlin, and 36% cheaper than New York.

Would you like to tour France with Annie and Elyse? Visit Addicted to France to choose an upcoming tour.

How RER, Metro and Bus Work Together

Another train that you’ll see in Paris is the RER, I left it out of the equation because it is a commuter train used mostly to go longer distances. The RER doesn’t run as often as the metro and the distance between stops is greater, but sometimes hopping on to the RER is handy.

When you stay within zones 1 and 2, the price is the same no matter if you use the metro, the bus or the RER, so you might as well. But once you’ve used your ticket for the RER you can’t use it in the bus later.

Other Modes of Transportation in Paris

There are, of course, several other modes of transportation in Paris. Taxis, Uber, tourist buses  are also good options, but today let me concentrate comparing the Paris metro system with the Paris bus system, in other words, let’s concentrate on what the RATP (Régie Autonome des transports parisiens) a massive company that French people love to hate.

Annie’s Favorite Transportation Apps

At the end of the episode I will also recommend my favorite Apps to help you navigate Paris also:

  1. RATP App
  2. Citymapper App
  3. Par ici la sortie App
If you like this episode, you will also enjoy 10 Tips for Getting Around in Paris.

Episode Highlights with Timestamps

  • [10’15”] In Paris most people rely on public transportation because using private cars is not practical. Yes, even really posh and rich people use public transportation in Paris!
  • There are lots of public transportation options and all are safe and inexpensive. 
  • Public transportation gets a bad rap in North America, but put that out of your mind please. If you’ve taken the underground in New York you’ve seen it all. In Montreal the metro is so gentile, it’s a much smaller metro system too, but it’s great.
  • Both the metro system and the Paris bus system are great, but they are best at different things:
  • The Paris metro is better if you’re in a hurry and if you can take the stairs
  • The bus is better if you are looking for simplicity and/or going cheap
  • If you’re listening to this podcast, you’re into planning your vacation, so you will probably plan enough to avoir zooming around Paris too much. If you’re going to visit both the Eiffel Tower and the Quai Branly, do it in the same day, they are close to each other!
  • If you plan your days out well, you can save yourself some money by not getting a transportation pass but by getting a pack of 10 tickets instead. I never use more than 4 tickets in a day in Paris, that’s 6.4€ in transportation for the day. Any of the passes I could get cost more than that.
  • Buy a pack of 10 tickets (16€ currently), kids under 4 ride for free and there are discount tickets  for kids under 10. 
  • You can buy packs of 10 tickets at any metro station. Hotels often sell them too, and so do tobacco shops.
  • You can always buy single tickets from the bus driver, it costs 1.9€ and they like people to have exact change or as close to it as possible. 
  • [14’22”] Tickets for the bus and the metro are the same, you pay the same whether you take the metro or the bus.
  • The metro is usually a little faster than the bus, and it works well for people who don’t mind stairs. There are elevators and escalators in the Paris metro, but you can’t count on them always working.
  • Buses can get stuck in traffic, especially at intersections. But buses also have their own lanes and they trigger green lights when they approach. Sometimes the time difference between the metro and the bus is very small.
  • Your bus ticket is good no matter how far you ride, no zones to worry about. If you need to change bus, you don’t have to worry about what zone you’re in when you switch, transfers always work between buses.
  • The metro is a little more complicated: you can ride till the end of any line on one metro ticket, but you can’t always transfer anywhere. As soon as you enter zone 3 things get complicated with the metro and single tickets.
  • [17’57”] If you’re planning on mostly using the metro or in transferring between metro and bus, it’s probably best to get a pass, just to save yourself some hassles. You have to choose one of 3 passes:
    • Paris visite which has different prices depending on number of days, number of zones, and the age of the rider.
    • Mobilis Pass, it’s good for 1 day and you have to choose how many zones you’re going to use.
  • Navigo weekly, you can ride in any zone for a week for 22, 15€, but you need to pay 7,60 to get your account setup initially and you need to give them an ID photo
  • There are a few Paris City buses that cost more: Noctilien (runs between 00h31 and 5h30 AM), Orlybus, Roissybus, 221, 297, 299, 350 and 351. More on those later.
  • You can transfer between buses for 90 minutes from first validation. You can also transfer between bus and tram using the same ticket, also for 90 minutes. 
  • You cannot transfer between bus and metro with the same ticket, to go extra cheap, look for all-bus options when deciding on your route (I’ll talk about Apps later).
  • [22’28’] You cannot use the same ticket to ride on the same line more than once. If you get off to buy a sandwich you can’t get back on with the same ticket. If you ride to the end of the line and want to go back in the opposite direction, you’ll need a new ticket. 
  • [23’15”] Keep your ticket until you exit the bus or the metro, especially for the metro, you often need your ticket to open an exit gate.
  • To recap, why do I usually choose the bus rather than the metro? A. I can see the city B. I like the atmosphere better. C. No stairs. D. In the bus you don’t have to worry about zones. 
  • I can’t comment on hop-on/hop-off buses because I’ve never used any of them in Paris. They have their value for people who are only in Paris for a couple of days and don’t want to figure out the public transportation system.
  • [26’51”] Apps I recommend to get around Paris: the RATP App and Citymapper.
  • These Apps always puts the fastest route on top. It’s often faster to do metro+bus rather than stay on the same bus, but sometimes it’s only faster by a minute or two, so pay attention to the details!
  • Why I like Citymapper better than the RATP App: it’s not as prickly about needing the exact address, you can enter the name of a hotel or a venue for instance and it will find it. With the RATP App you need to enter the name of the bus stop or metro station.
  • Also consider an App called “Par ici la sortie” App that helps you find the best metro exit for where you are going.
  • [29’30”] One of the reasons why Paris cafés are always full and lively.
  • [30’35”] Make your life simpler and decide where you want to go in Paris, then group visits into geographical areas in order to save on transportation time.

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Visiting Paris Using a Wheelchair, Episode 109

Sandra Brown
Sandra Brown

Visiting Paris using a wheelchair

You might think that life is so complicated for wheelchair users that  that they would rather stay home and not look for complications in France. But it is not so! Wheelchair travel is getting more and more common, even in France. Sandra Brown is a quadriplegic who loves a challenge and decided to move to Paris. Today, she comes on the show to share  her secrets about visiting Paris using a wheelchair. She found out that Paris isn’t as difficult as she feared, so long as you know a few tricks! She also loves food and gives wonderful recommendations of French dishes and Paris restaurants nobody should not miss.

To Prepare for Your Trip: Air Travel for Wheelchair Users

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Six Easy Day Trips from Paris, Episode 106

Kim Henry guest of episode 106, day trips from Paris
Our guest Kim Henry with the Mont-Saint-Michel in the background.

Day trips from Paris

This episode goes into 6 day trips you can easily do from Paris with a little planning and a hunger to see new things. This advice is perfect for people who are staying in Paris and would like to venture out but are unsure how to go about it. Guest Kim Henry tells us how she organized her day trips and shares her advice. It’s important to note that Kim doesn’t speak a lot of French, yet she’s able to get around without much trouble at all. She tells us about her visit to Nancy, Château Malmaison, Monet’s Gardens at Giverny, Saint-Malo, Mont-Saint-Michel, Dinan, Chambord, Chenonceau, Cheverny, and Reims.

Paris Hotel Recommendation from Kim: I stayed at the Hôtel West-End Rue Clement Marot in the 8th, it was very close to Avenue Montaigne and the Champs Elysee and importantly, close to 2 metro stations.  I actually did loads of walking from my hotel over to the 7th, 9th, and 1st districts, it wasn’t far from the Seine either. Yes, I would highly recommend this hotel, the staff were lovely and upgraded me to a room with a view of the Eiffel Tower as I was staying 8 nights.

Places Mentioned on the Show: Nancy, Château Malmaison, Monet’s Gardens at Giverny, Saint-Malo, Mont-Saint-Michel, Dinan, Chambord, Chenonceau, Cheverny, and Reims.

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Layover in Paris, Episode 96

Layover in Paris

Layover in Paris

This episode is all about helping you plan the perfect layover in Paris. Do you want to see the Eiffel Tower, the Mona Lisa and Notre Dame on a very tight schedule? Paris Tour Guide Emmanuel Rozenblum of TripAside tells you how! Emmanuel answers questions about what to do if the weather is bad, where to get a quick feel for Christmas in Paris, some of his favorite walks, and some of his favorite restaurants too!

If you love our approach to travel and want to tour France with us, visit Addicted to France to look at upcoming tours.

And even if you want to take your time in Paris, nothing forces you to visit all those sites quickly. If you have any choice in the matter at all, take your time and enjoy Emmanuel’s recommendations.

But whatever you decide once you’ve listened to the show, do not stay at the CDG airport! That would be bad for your soul, and it is also one of Annie’s most despised airports in the whole world!

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France on the Cheap, Bus Transportation, Episode 75

Regional Bus in Toulouse

How Do Buses Work in France?

Today is the first episode in a group of episodes that I am calling France on the Cheap where I explain some of the things you can do to save some money while in France.

Why is it important that you understand bus transportation if you never take the bus at home? Let me give you four reasons:

  • Strikes: For reasons that I won’t go into here, strikes are common in the transportation sector. Just last week there were Taxi strikes, SNCF strikes (train system), and air traffic control strikes are announced for this week. The ability to be versatile in your transportation choices will make you immune to those unpredictable strikes. If one way won’t work, choose another!
  • Buses are cheap: buses are the most inexpensive way to get around in France. They’re also more spontaneous. Flights for tomorrow may be full, but the bus probably has room.
  • WiFi on board: as the fleet gets renewed, the buses are also getting more comfortable. Some offer WiFi and plugs to charge your devices while on board. Not all of them do, compare prices and services.
  • Genuine French life: Buses are a wonderful way to get a feel for regular French people and interact with them. This is not going to be a bus full of tourists, as a matter of fact you’ll probably be the only tourist there.  These are regular French people living their regular French lives.

Trans European Buses

In this episode I also explain how buses to other European countries work, and list some of the companies you may consider. There is a lot of competition in this area because the bus is a vibrant mode of transportation in Europe.

Understanding the Bus System

How do you find out if a place where you want to go to is on a regional bus line? Since every department does it a little bit differently, you’ll need to search. Search for the following terms: bus régional and the name of the department you want to know about. How do you know what department you’re in? Here’s the map of French departments!

French Departments and their Number
French Departments and their Number

Why You Are Better Off Without a Car In France

Driving in major French cities is not conducive to a relaxing vacation. If you need to rent a car, definitely park it at your hotel and either walk or use public transportation. There is a big cultural difference between France and North America when it comes to cars. French people who choose not to own a car or use a car are not strange in any way. Buses are popular and not seedy at all.

 Some of the Bus Companies You May Want to Consider

Isilines, IDBus, MegaBus, Bus Europe, Eurolines

French Tip of the Week

“j’ai besoin d’aide”, I need help. At the end of the show I also play a clip from a person who has a very strong South Western accent, so strong that it’s unusual.

To Prepare for Your Trip: Daytrips France

France on the Cheap, Bus Transportation
This group of people just exited their regional bus and are going towards the train station.


Layover in Paris, Episode 73

layover in Paris Eiffel Tower

Today’s show was inspired by a listener question and revolves around this: what amazing things can you do in Paris if you only have a few hours? Maybe you have a layover in Paris on your way to another destination, maybe you have a few hours to kill before a business meeting, maybe you need to wait for a friend who is going to arrive on a different flight.

No matter how it came up, you have some time to kill in Paris. Don’t waste that time, make the most of it! How? I tell you exactly what to do in this episode. When time is short, having a good strategy is vital or all you’ll achieve is rush around and wave your flight goodbye. So let’s think it through and do this the smart way.

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Here are some of the questions Annie answers on the show:

  • What’s the minimum amount of time you’re going to need to make the layover work?
  • What do you do with your luggage?
  • Do you have to take a taxi to save time during your layover in Paris?
  • Can you use the RER train to get into Paris while on a layover in Paris?
  • How about Les Cars Air France? Is that a good way to get to the center of Paris quickly?
  • What are sites that are easy to enjoy while on a layover that will give you a good feel for Paris?
  • What is the best thing you can do to fight jet-lag?
  • What’s the minimum number of hours that will allow you to enjoy your layover in Paris inside the city?
  • What are some great walks you could take to get a feel for Paris?
  • What are some things you need to know to use luggage lockers in Paris?

List of public lockers at Paris airports and train stations.

Private lockers in Paris. The one I recommend you use is at 6 rue des Bernardins, 75005 Paris.

Places that Will Give You a Great Feel for Paris Quickly

Mentioned on this Episode: CDG airport, RER, Les Cars Air France, Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame de Paris, Tour Montparnasse, Bateaux Mouches.

To Prepare for Your Trip: Lonely Planet Pocket Paris

Layover in Paris
Look for this Paris pocket guide at any news-stand in Paris.