You’re studying abroad in Paris and want to fit in with the Parisians but are not quite sure how to do it. The easiest way is to use public transportation. Parisians love using public transportation and it’s easy to see why.The Parisian bus, metro and train are very accessible and reliable. Let’s take a closer look at getting around Paris.
Public transportation 101
RATP (Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens) is the public transportation system in Paris. Tickets can be purchased individually or in a carnet (booklet) from the metro station or a local tobacco shop (le tabac). This is ideal for occasional travel, especially since they have no expiration date. If you are doing daily- weekly travel, the Navigo monthly pass is best. Navigo pass can only be purchased from RATP. You apply for a Navigo pass online, in person at a metro station, or by mail. Tickets and Navigo work on the bus, metro and train with the exception of the Navigo pass also working for the bike rental program in Paris.
-individual ticket 1,70€
-carnet (ten tickets) 13,30€
-Navigo monthly pass 35,03€
The prices listed above are student prices (le tarif jeune). Paris is a great city for students because you can get good discounts on things like public transportation and museum admission. To get the reduced rate, just show your student ID from your French university. When buying your ticket / renewing your Navigo pass, you must go to a window in the metro station and not the ticket machine. This is because the metro station ticket machines will not accept an American credit card. All European issued credit/debit cards have a Moneo stamp. Moneo is a credit/debit organization in Europe. Some American banks like Bank of America are starting to put Moneo on credit cards for traveling abroad. Ask your bank if they do this before your departure.
Getting around town
Let’s look at some key points of Parisian public transportation options:
Metro: Easily accessible in every district; Usually has short wait time; Transfer from one metro line to another in the same station is free; Fast; Many homeless people and beggars in the stations; Pick pocketing in crammed metro cars is common in very large metro stations; Free music show in some stations/car from people in exchange for tips;
Lots of graffiti; Work traffic time means more people per car. Be prepared to experience the sardine can!; Doors can be confusing as there are 3 types- automatic, push button on the outside door, handle/lever which is pulled up and over. This third type of metro car door may take a few attempts to master- just watch someone do it first; There are 3 types of metro station signs- a yellow M in a circle, a light post with Metro on it, a gate like sign which says Metropolitain.
Bus: Able to see Paris as you travel; Safer and cleaner than metro or RER train; You often will wait longer for a bus than for the metro; Difficult to find bus stops in some districts; Closet bus stop may not be going where you need to go; You can use your metro ticket/Navigo pass.
RER Train: Has more seats than metro or bus; Difficult to find stations in some districts; Must pay attention to zones or could end up paying another fee to return to Paris centre; Wait time can be long; Used for going to the surrounding suburbs and the airport as well as Paris-Paris destinations.
RATP serves Paris and the surrounding areas which are categorized into 5 zones. The typical RATP ticket/ pass will take you interchangeably between zones 1- 3 or Paris centre at no additional cost. Anything outside of the immediate city limits is another zone and change of price. A metro map (available online or at any metro station) will show you the breakdown of the zones. For example, the airport is zone 5. It is outside of Paris centre. If you are travelling to any destination outside of the city centre, be sure to upgrade your pass or purchase a ticket to go to that zone.
Paris metros have a very big problem of people not buying tickets and jumping the gate (sauter un portillon de metro). To combat this problem, RATP has placed metro controllers at all the major stations to try to catch these people. This is a metro violation punishable by fine. I have never gate jumped but have piggy-backed a few times when I accidently went out of zone. Do not do this! Be sure to save for public transportation costs for your time abroad. You don’t want to get in trouble and have to pay a fine or be banned from the metro!
French public transportation is affordable for students as well as accessible and easy to use. It is a great way to fit in and become a true Parisian. RATP will take you to every corner of Paris so be sure to hop on and start exploring!
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