Transport in Paris: metro, bus, RER
Travelling around in Paris and getting from A to B is child’s play. Whether you take the metro, the bus or the RER suburban trains, the whole city and the Ile-de-France region are very well covered.
The quick and easy way to travel around the city, as well as the best value. The Paris metro has around 300 stations, their entrances marked by a big yellow “M”, and 16 lines, numbered from 1 to 14, 3 bis and 7 bis.
Each line has a colour, which you’ll find on signs in the stations and on all the RATP maps. Connections between lines make your journey easy to plan. For an idea of your journey time, allow an average of 2 minutes per station and add 5 minutes for each connection.
Each line has two directions, indicated by the terminus station at each end (for example: Balard/Créteil). The different directions and connections are clearly displayed on blue and white signs on the platforms and in the tunnels. To be sure you’re heading in the right direction, check that your destination is on the list of stations just before you go down onto the platform. Inside the trains, you’ll find network maps and the detail of the line you’re on along with all available connections to other parts of the network.
Maps of the public transport network, in all shapes and sizes, are available free of charge at the ticket offices, as well as at the all the information centres of the Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau. Large-scale maps are also displayed on the platforms and at the entrance to each station.
The metro operates every day including public holidays from around 6am to 0.30am. Times of the first and last trains vary depending on the point along the line that you are departing from. Trains are less frequent on Sundays and public holidays.
Illuminated signs above the platform indicate the length of time until the next train arrives. Fast and fully automated, the newest line 14, also known as Météor, offers a regular service throughout, Sundays and public holidays included. On this line, a verbal announcement indicates the name of each stop.
Your white-coloured ticket remains valid for 2 hours until you leave the metro by going though the exit barriers. If you then take a bus, you need to use another ticket. If you happen to have kept some old green or yellow tickets from an earlier trip, you can still use them.
Example of a metro journey
For example, to go from Saint-Germain-des-Prés (“Saint-Germain-des-Prés” station) to the Louvre (“Palais Royal-Musée du Louvre” station), take line 4, direction “Porte de Clignancourt” (shown as “M4 Porte de Clignancourt”), get off at “Châtelet” station, then take line 1, direction “La Défense” (“M1 La Défense”) and stop at “Palais Royal-Musée du Louvre”.
Don’t hesitate to travel by bus, it’s a great way to discover the city. There are a wide variety of routes, many of which go though the city centre, along the Seine River banks or through well-known historical areas.
The bus network with its 59 routes perfectly matches and complements that of the metro. The installation of special bus lanes along the main roads has improved journey times. For an idea of your journey time, allow around 5 minutes per stop, sometimes more if the traffic is busy.
Buses operate from Monday to Saturday from 7am to 8.30pm or thereabouts. Some bus lines also operate in the evening from 8.30pm until 0.30am, in particular those that begin at train stations or serve major metro and RER links, as well as the 3 circular PC routes. Around half of the buses also run on Sundays and public holidays.
Bus stops can be either glass-covered shelters or simply poles. They display the numbers of the buses that stop there and the itinerary of each. There are also details of the first and last departures, and the average waiting time between buses. In bus shelters, electronic displays show the number of minutes before the next bus for some routes.
The number and terminus are displayed above the driver at the front of each bus, and on the sides. You must indicate to the driver as he approaches if you wish him to stop. In general you must get on the bus at the front and get off by the middle or back doors, except for the articulated “bendy buses” where you can get on or off at any door by pressing the button beside the door. Remember to punch your ticket in the machine as you get on or show your pass to the driver.
When your stop is approaching, just press one of the red buttons dotted throughout the bus. The sign “arrêt demandé” (stop requested) will light up at the front of the bus above the driver’s cabin. Within each bus there is a network map and the detail of the route.
The free public transport maps available in metro and RER, stations, bus terminals and the Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau, also show bus lines.
You just missed the last metro or you’re too early for the first one at 6am? Night travellers, the regional bus network is just for you!
From 0.30am to 5.30am, the “Noctilien” network means 42 lines throughout Ile-de-France and increased frequency, better visibility (clearer signage), greater access and improved welcome!
Extending the former “Noctambus” and “Bus de nuit” (night bus) lines, almost doubled, the “Noctilien” will allow both residents and visitors to make the most of Paris by night and still be able to get home easily! You can use your travel pass or a metro/bus ticket if it covers the zones concerned (the same zones as for the metro/RER).
Balabus is a special sightseeing route which takes you around the majority of the capital’s main sights, from east to west, from the Gare de Lyon to the Grande Arche de la Défense: Bastille, the Marais, Ile Saint Louis, Notre-Dame, the Louvre, Orsay, Invalides, the Eiffel Tower and the Champs-Elysées…
This bus operates from April to September, only on Sunday and public holidays, from 1.30pm to 8.30pm from the Gare de Lyon, or from 12.30pm to 8pm from the Grande Arche at La Défense. The circuit takes about an hour, with departures every 15 to 30 minutes.
It uses the same stops as the normal buses. You just need to look for the indication “Balabus” or “Bb”.
The fare varies according to the length of the journey (from 1 to 3 metro/bus tickets). Travel passes valid for the zones travelled are also accepted.
The RER is a huge rail network covering most of the Ile-de-France region. It consists of 5 lines referred to by the letters A, B, C, D and E. Within Paris, the RER operates in more or less the same way as the metro, except that you need to put your ticket through the automatic barriers a second time on the way out. If your RER station has a connection with the metro, you can use the same ticket for the whole journey.
Using the RER, faster than the metro because stops are less frequent, you can cross Paris in 15 minutes. It operates every day, including public holidays, from around 6am to 0.30am. The regularity of the trains is similar to the metro, although you may have to wait longer for trains to certain suburban destinations. Screens on the platforms display the departure times of the next trains, and notice boards indicate the full timetable.
When travelling outwards to the suburbs, once on the platform, make sure to check that the stop you want is indicated on the electronic destination boards. Maps of the network and details of the line can be consulted on the platforms and inside the trains.
Example of a journey on the RER
For example, you want to travel from Place de la Madeleine (“Madeleine” station) to the Château de Versailles (RER C “Versailles-Rive Gauche”). You can purchase your ticket through to Versailles at the ticket offices or machines in “Madeleine” station, at an approximate cost of €2.50 one-way (the price is the same from any station in Paris). Take line 8, direction “Balard”, and get off at “Invalides” station where you change on to the RER, line C, direction “Versailles”, to “Versailles-Rive Gauche”.
By Transilien (Suburban trains)Haut de page
These trains depart from main-line stations in Paris (Nord, Est, Lyon, Austerlitz, Montparnasse and Saint-Lazare) and follow the same pricing zones (from 1 to 6) as the RER. Tickets and travel passes can be purchased at the “Ile-de-France” ticket offices and machines in the stations, as well as in metro/RER stations.
Free timetables are available at ticket offices in the stations. Suburban lines complement the RER network, sharing several links.
More info : Transilien
Prices shown are subject to change.
Metro, RER (Suburban express railway)
A single metro ticket costs €1.70, and can be used for one journey, including all connections.
White-coloured tickets can be purchased singly or in a book of 10 (“carnet”) for €13,30, at the ticket offices or machines in metro stations, and also in some tobacconists.
Keep hold of your ticket until you have completed your journey, as you may be asked to show it if tickets are being inspected. If you cannot produce proof of payment for the ticket inspectors, you may risk paying a fine.
This ticket, valid for zones 1 and 2, allows you to travel anywhere in Paris, and even beyond, since it will take you to the end of each metro line, even if it is located in zone 3 (as for example La Défense on line 1).
You can also choose a Monthly or weekly Navigo Package. These can be purchased from the ticket offices or machine in the stations, their prices vary depending on the travel zones covered (see Passes and reductions). You will need a passport-sized photo for these passes, obtainable from the photo booths in some metro stations (make sure you have the correct change).
More info about Navigo
In the RER, as long as you remain within the city limits, tickets and prices are identical to the metro (RER stations also have their own ticket offices and machines). If you are travelling beyond the city limits, you need to ensure that you are in possession of a ticket or a pass which covers your whole journey up to your destination in the Ile-de-France region. If not, you will not be able to go through the automatic barriers on arrival and you may be liable to a fine. The RER ticket also covers your journey and any connections within Paris (zones 1 and 2), on your outward and return journeys.
On the buses, you use the same tickets as in the metro, with no limit of distance (including suburbs), except on the Balabus, Noctilien and routes 221, 297, 299, 350 and 351. The bus driver can sell single tickets, be sure to have the correct change.
On the bus, your ticket is only valid for a single journey, with no connections. You will need another ticket if you change on to a different bus route or connect with another form of public transport. If you plan to travel around a lot, it would be better value to buy a pack of ten tickets (“carnet”) or a travel pass (see Passes and reductions).
There are a variety of different passes and reductions, if you plan to use regularly the forms of public transport mentioned here. First of all, you need to know that transport is free for children under 4 and half price for children between 4 and 11 years old.
As well as the book of 10 tickets (“carnet”), giving you 10 trips at a reduced rate, several travel cards allow you unlimited travel for 1 or more days, a week, a month or even a year, over the whole public transport network (metro, RER, bus, tram, suburban train, Montmartre funicular), corresponding to the different fare zones.
Be careful : travel pass coupons must be inserted in the automatic barriers in the metro and RER, but must not be punched in the machines on the buses. Just show your card to the driver as you get on the bus.
These travel passes can be purchased in main metro and RER stations, in SNCF train stations in Ile-de-France and in Paris airports. Certain passes are also available at the Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau.
More info : RATP
A 1-day pass covering (except airport services) zones 1 & 2, 1 to 3, 1 to 4, 1 to 5 or 1 to 6. The non-transferable ticket voucher can be purchased in advance and you should fill in the date you decide to use it. NB: this card is valid for one full day and not for 24 consecutive hours, meaning the whole day would be counted even if you only start to use the pass at 8 in the evening, so it is far better start first thing in the morning!
More info : Mobilis
This pass is valid for 1, 2, 3 or 5 consecutive days in zones 1 to 3 or 1 to 6. The coupon slides into a card specifying your name, a photo is not required. The coupon can be purchased in advance and you should fill in the date you decide to use it and the number of the card. NB: this card is valid for full days and not for 24, 48 or 72 consecutive hours, meaning that a whole day would be counted even if you only begin to use it at 8 in the evening, so it is far better to start first thing in the morning! As a rule, when you buy your coupon, the ticket seller will receive a « Paris Tourisme » map and an SNCF map. But if not, do not hesitate to ask for them.
Weekly or monthly Navigo pass
A weekly or monthly pass valid for zones 1 & 2, 1 to 3, 1 to 4, 1 to 5 or 1 to 6. This card is non-transferable and you should affix a passport-sized photo to it and place it and the travel coupon into the cover provided. Don’t forget to copy the card number on to the travel coupon.
- Weekly pass (“carte hebdomadaire”) : Valid from Monday through to Sunday only, it can be purchased until Wednesday for the current week and from Friday onwards for the following week.
Monthly pass (“carte mensuelle”) : Valid for a calendar month, it can be purchased from the 20th of the preceding month and up to 19th of the current month.
Yearly Navigo pass
Yearly card valid for zones 1 & 2, 1 to 3, 1 to 4, 1 to 5 or 1 to 6. To obtain one, you will need to draw up a personal file at one of the RATP sales offices. This is a magnetic 'smart card' so you don’t need to punch it, all you have to do is pass it over the automatic barriers at the required spot. Buses are also equipped with special terminals. Better value than the monthly “Carte Orange”, this pass can begin at any moment during the year. In addition, in the event of loss or theft, your card will be replaced free of charge in the RATP offices.
A yearly pass for schoolchildren and students under 26, valid for zones 1 & 2, 1 to 3, 1 to 4, 1 to 5 or 1 to 6. At weekends, public holidays and short school holidays, it gives access to the whole Ile-de-France region regardless of zone, barring July and August.
Emeraude and Amethyste cards
These cards enable seniors over 60 years of age, disabled persons or war veterans to travel free or at half-price throughout the Ile-de-France network. They can only be obtained at social security offices in Paris town halls (“mairies”), or in the social services of the département of residence of the person concerned.
More info : RATP
NC , Paris 75