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Thursday
Mar012018

The Paris Dream Trip (Part 4): How to Get About

(This article is part 4 of 8 in The Paris Dream Trip)

How to Get About

Let’s review: at this point you’ve settled on when to travel and where to stay. That’s great. The next question is, how are you going to get from A to B (and then to C, D, and E) in the city?

The Good News: Paris has a ton of options!

The Bad News: Paris has a ton of options.

There are so many ways to move around the city that the choices can be a little dizzying, which is why most people choose the Métro for everything and leave it at that. But read on. Getting places should be part of the fun, and with a smidgen of adventurousness you will reap experiential rewards.

There’s a lot to cover, so feel free to skip around. The topics include: Transport Apps, Airport Transfers, Walking, the Métro (including Trams), RER (light rail), Busses, the Vélib’ (and other bikes), Taxis, Uber (and other ride shares).

Transport Apps

You can spend hours downloading Paris apps and fiddling with them, but once you have CityMapper and/or RATP, you’re covered for public transportation. Both of these allow you to plug in a destination and get results for the most efficient route – including real time updates about when your bus or subway or train will arrive. You can even choose options and filter for your preferred mode of transportation. CityMapper works for many cities around the world, while the RATP app (named after the Paris transport system – the Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens) is optimized just for Paris. (The interface is in English if your phone’s interface is in English.)

For cabs, use G7 or AlloCab. (G7 offers an English interface.) You can “hail” a cab electronically, or schedule a departure for later.

Do you like Uber or Lyft? Your Uber app will work just fine in Paris (though make sure your credit card doesn’t charge absurd fees for foreign transactions). As of this writing, Lyft doesn’t operate in the capital.

Airport Transfers

OK, OK, so the first order of business is to get into town from the airport—and to manage it while you’re jet-lagged, half-asleep, dehydrated, and struggling to digest that glue they served as an in-flight meal. Let’s just call a spade a spade: this is not likely to be the high point of your vacation. (Silver lining: things can only get better!) But getting into Paris from the Charles-de-Gaulle requires a little forethought, so let’s run through some options:

Rando offers of assistance: When you wheel your luggage out of baggage claim, and work through the gauntlet of drivers holding cards with VIP names on them, there’s a good chance someone will approach you and ask if you’re looking for a ride into Paris. Your answer is (repeat after me): Non, merci.

Taxis: Signs will point you toward the taxi stands. The good news is that the wait is usually not that long. Also, it’s not that expensive: to go to the Right Bank from Charles-de-Gaulle costs 50 EUR; to the Left Bank it’s 55. However, check your time and date. During weekday rush hours (especially 7:00 am to 9:30 am; 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm), or Sunday evenings, or times that correspond to departures or returns for holidays (see our When to Travel article for details), your taxi ride may last a couple of hours—twice what it should.

Uber: Yep, you can do that from the airport—but the same caveats apply about timing.

RER (light rail): You’ll also see signs for the RER (sometimes indicated “trains pour Paris”). Although it can be a little bit of a hassle to schlepp all your gear, but for about 10 EUR you can hop on any RER, and it will eventually get you to Paris. (You may be confused by the fact that there are trains on both sides of the platform, but they are both taking the same route—it’s just that some trains make fewer stops than others.) Any RER leaving from Charles-de-Gaulle 1 or 2 will stop at all the RER stations in Paris. Hold onto your ticket, because you’ll need it on the other end—either to get out, or to transfer to the métro (no additional charge!). Advice: check out the schedule on www.ratp.fr. The RER typically runs every 10 minutes or so, but there can be outages for maintenance and construction, in which case bus service may replace it..

Shuttle Bus: For 12 EUR you can hop on a shuttle bus that gets you close to the center of Paris (four different stops on the west side of the city). Check out Le Bus Direct (https://www.lebusdirect.com/en/).

Read even more information about airport and transfers (including Orly).

Transportation Within the City

Walking

All right, this sounds obvious, but you were probably born with a couple of feet, and if they’re operational, you should consider using them. A lot. Paris is one of the most walkable cities in the world, and it’s a continuous spectacle of people, buildings, shops, fashion, and more. Paris is the capital of flânerie, the practice of aimlessly attentive strolling—a feast for the senses.

You might look at the map and see that something is three or four Métro stations away, and you may translate that into distances you know from London, New York, or Chicago. However, Métro stations in the city are not far apart, so those three or four stations may translate into fifteen or twenty minutes of delicious walking.

Your feet will also get you places other modes of transportation will not: shortcuts through parks and cemeteries, pedestrian bridges across the Seine, the lower quays along the river.

Métro (including Trams)

The Métropolitain (métro for short) is one of the oldest and most famous subway systems in the world, and it offers marvelous coverage. It’s also easy to use, and the tickets can also be used for the RER, the busses, and trams! We explain all the details here: http://www.secretsofparis.com/metro-rer/

RER (light rail)

The RER intersects with the métro, and you can transfer from one to the other with the same ticket. However, the RER also goes deep into the Paris suburbs—including to the Charles-De-Gaulle airport, and if you’re going beyond Paris proper (for instance, to Versailles), you’ll need a separate ticket. Detailed information here: http://www.secretsofparis.com/metro-rer/

Busses

Busses are often slower than the métro or RER, but they have two huge advantages: 1) they go into nooks and crannies where other modes of transportation may not; 2) they ride on the surface, in the light of day. This second point is important: you actually get to see human life while you cross the city. Also, if you use the RATP app it tells you exactly where the stops are, when the bus will arrive, and how long it will take to get to your destination. More details at http://www.secretsofparis.com/bus-tram/

The Vélib’ (and other bikes)

Biking in Paris is not for the faint of heart; nor is it for the inattentive. Despite the plethora of bike lanes and bike lines, and special bike signs (for instance, allowing you to sometimes blow through red lights), drivers are not always used to bikes. Moreover, pedestrians are frequent obstacles—as are other cyclists, who may be wont to cruise along on sidewalks, the wrong way up one-ways, or right across your path. In short, if you’ve ever experienced something like the Danish method of biking (the two-wheeled version of synchronized swimming), just imagine the opposite, and you have biking in Paris.

Still, if you survive it, it’s fun.

Read our general tips on using the city’s Vélib’ bike system. And here you’ll find the current information on getting yourself a single-use or weeklong pass

You can also rent bikes for longer periods. Learn about bike rental options here.

Taxis

Yeah, Paris has taxis, too. We like them for airport transfers (see above). It’s often tricky to actually hail one in the street, but if you’d like all the ins and outs, click here for all the taxi details

Uber (and other ride shares).

Yep, Uber works. Get the app, hail your Uber, and you’re off! You’ll find a high density of cars available, and it’s an especially good way to get home late at night.

But maybe you want to go native and try the more local options. If that’s the case, try these apps: BlablaLines and Karos. (Note: there’s a better-known app called BlablaCar, by the same company; it’s for long distance travel between cities.)

Do you have favorite transport tricks? Let us know in the comments; everyone can benefit. 

Oh, and guess what? You are now mobile! Next topic: What to Do!

Remember, this is Part Three of an eight-part article that includes:

  1. Introduction
  2. When to Travel What are the best times of year to travel to Paris? What days should you avoid? What holidays get in the way?
  3. Where to Stay What are the best/safest/most interesting neighborhoods? How can you identify a good hotel? What are the apartment rental options?
  4. How to Get About Just a quick primer on the public transportation (buses, métro, RER light rail, trams, Vélib bicycles, etc.)—how to use it and how to avoid problems.
  5. What to Do This is a big one! How do you handle the “must-sees” while also personalizing your experience? The task seems Herculean, but don’t worry; we have the secret key to happiness.
  6. Where to Eat  Everyone knows how to look up ratings on Trip Advisor, but be honest: would you really trust your brother-in-law’s recommendation for where to eat? We thought not. So why blindly follow the tips of the corn-fed public? We guide you from restaurant selections to specialty diets (gluten-free, vegetarian, and more!)
  7. How to Handle Daily Needs There are all those pesky realities: getting hold of cash, finding a doctor, reporting a crime, getting a haircut, recycling your wine bottle… This is the bin o’ answers.
  8.  How to Shop The capital is a shopping Mecca—even for those not wanting to drop a year’s salary on a pair of LV socks. Get hints on deals, sales, and more.

Secrets of Paris has hundreds of articles in its archive, and as we walk you through these main topics, be ready to hop on a link to one of our specialty articles.

Next item coming up: What to Do!

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Reader Comments (2)

Regarding the mobile apps, what do you suggest for mobile data plans? Is it worth considering for a short trip?
Thanks
March 29, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterLaVieEnRose
When will Part 5 be released? I am enjoying these articles. Thank you.
July 25, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterOrion981

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