10 Tips for Paris Getting Around Paris, Episode 67

Woman in the Paris undergroundImportant update: starting Sept 1, 2015 the Paris Navigo card will let you travel to any zone with the Métro, RER and buses (except for Orlyval). This is valid for the weekly Navigo card too. Pay once go anywhere in Paris on public transportation!

In this episode I share 10 tips for getting around Paris easily and what you need to know so you don’t spend all your time feeling lost. Getting around any big city can be daunting, and since you the language in Paris is French and not English, it can feel even worse. But you can relax, in this show you’ll hear tricks that will make a world of difference in Paris, and once you know them, you’ll fare much better. Enjoy the show and if you like it, share it!

To Prepare for Your Trip: Plan de Paris par Arrondissement

Correction: Only monthly or yearly Navigo Passes give free access to all zones in Paris on the week-end. Thanks René for pointing that out!

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Metropolitain Sign in Paris

  1. If you ask locals for directions, they’ll direct you by landmark, not by cardinal points. Get a simple map that they can point to and ask them to point in the general directions you need to go to. And if you’re used to navigating by cardinal points, install a compass App on your smartphone before you get to France.
  2. Get a booklet with maps and street names. I listed one above, but it’ll be easier for you to get one once you get to Paris. News-stands (such as the one in the photo below) usually stock several versions of the same type of book. I paid 6€ for mine and it never left my pocket. This booklet will include street names, but also metro, bus, RER, Vélib’ (bike rentals), monuments, landmarks. If you’re going to be looking for specific addresses you’ll NEED this.
  3. If you’re wandering the streets of Ile de la Cité or Ile Saint-Louis there’s only one metro stop called Cité near Notre Dame. On the “islands”, unlike the rest of Paris, you won’t run into a metro stop just by walking around some more.
  4. If you need to cross Paris, take the RER, not the metro. It’ll be much faster and the RER is also a little more comfortable than the metro, at least if you go at a time when you find a place to sit.
  5. What metro ticket do you need to get? You’ll have to choose between Paris Visite (for tourists) and Navigo card. Navigo will cost you 5€ to establish but it’s quick to do and there’s no paperwork to fill out (how bizarre for France!) and you’ll need a small photo of your face, but it’ll let you travel to any Paris zone (including Versailles) on week-ends and holidays. For Paris Visit you don’t need any of that but it won’t give you any freebies.
  6. How do you know what metro or RER is sitting there at the station when you run onto the platform? You look at the map over the metro/RER door!
  7. Are you on the left bank or on the right bank? It’s all explained in the show, but let me summarize: if you’re facing Notre Dame Cathedral the left bank is to your left and the right bank is to your right.
  8. Take the bus! Lines 69, 68, 28, and 96 are particularly useful. Look at where they go in your book!
  9. HOHO buses. Not the fastest or the cheapest way to get around, but they get the job done. If you only have a couple of days in Paris, that’s the way to go.
  10. TUK-TUK bikes. They are all over Paris these days and they are not cheap, but they’ll get the job done. And some of those guys know Paris inside and out, so they might be a good person to talk to if you’re looking for local tips.

News-stand in ParisTuk-Tuk taxi in Paris


7 thoughts on “10 Tips for Paris Getting Around Paris, Episode 67”

  1. Buenos Dias Annie, another great pod cast that I wish I had heard 10 years ago.

    I have a couple of tips I’d like to add.

    For walking in Paris, I am addicted to the “Paris Pratique par Arrondisement“. Available through Amazon (please purchase through Join Us in France) or from a kiosk in Paris for 5 Euros or so. It fits easily in your pocket or purse and as Parisians use them, you may look less like a tourist.

    Until I got the hang of the metro, a copy of the “Plan de Metro” available for free at the staffed Metro kiosks, was essential for me. Also, the lines have plans of the station stops at the head/base of the stairs leading to the boarding platforms which are helpful to find the train in the direction one wishes to travel. They are easy to walk by and not notice.

    On the topic of buses. While it is true that the bus will provide a better look at the city, be advised you will need a seat to see. I am 6ft+ tall and if “strap” hanging I can see little more than the sidewalk.

    Looking forward to the next episode.

    Thank you,
    Ron Witzke

    1. Thanks Ron! If you click on the link in Ron’s message you will be purchasing through Join Us in France. Tip much appreciated!

  2. I’ve been listening for a couple months now. Great tips – wish my husband and I had listened to this episode before our trip this past month. We just got back and had two major stresses while in Paris – 1. Getting metro tickets from automatic kiosks late at night in Paris when many only seem to take either French credit cards or coins. No bills! We used the metro and the RER quite a lot since we were staying with my husband’s auntie and uncle in Le Vesinet. 2 – getting a sim card. Woo! That was tough and not necessarily something you need, but my husband is a tech addict. We went to multiple stores looking for a tourist sim card. We were turned away at least 5 times. We got lucky at the Orange store near Saint-Paul station – we arrived early and one of the staff members was kind enough to assist us in English.

    Your podcasts were so helpful in navigating French culture and food as well as all the major Paris attractions. My husband listened to the driving episode to help us survive getting out of Paris in our rental car (though we still got lost!) Thanks so much!

  3. I wonder why you didn’t mention getting a carnet of tickets that can be used on the metro and bus? We find these pretty cheap and easy to use.

    We figured out the bus system on our last visit. Loved it. But finding a map of stops can be difficult.

    1. Good point! I didn’t mention it because I didn’t think of it. But you can do that indeed. Thanks for pointing it out! There is a map of bus stops at every bus stop. And they have a map dedicated to buses somewhere at each metro stop also. Sometimes you do have to hunt around for that one a little bit. It’s easiest to look at the map at the bus stop.

  4. Are you sure about #7? If I’m facing the entrance of Notre-Dame, isn’t the rive gauche on my right?

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