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? Which one is right for you?
This episode spells out all the differences between the Paris Metro and the Paris Bus, down to the small details that will matter a lot when you’re in Paris yourself! This is all based on my recent personal experience getting around Paris without using my personal car (which was parked at the hotel garage) or taxis or any of those “convenient” modes of transportation that we all rely on every day. I wanted to do as much as possible without touching the car, and I wasn’t any worse for wear as a result.
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. So you need to consider learning about it, especially if you’re on a budget. No shame in that, you still get to do everything everybody else gets to do in Paris, but you show up with a metro ticket in your pocket instead of car keys. That’s cool.
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:
- RATP App
- Citymapper App
- 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.
There aren’t too many gotchas to public transportation in Paris, but if you listen to this episode you’ll be able to handle them all without any trouble. And remember that an ounce of preparation makes for better vacations! Yes, we’re not afraid of clichés here. We’re French, we’re used to beeing seen as breathing / walking clichés.
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