Much like New York and London, Paris is dense city that is best explored and conquered by Public Transportation. In fact, with an incredibly well linked subway system (called the Metro), bus lines and commuter trains, it is easy to get to just about anywhere in the city without having to walk very far or ever get in a car. While Paris locals may own cars for those weekend trips or what have you, if you are visiting Paris for a shorter amount of time, I would highly recommend avoiding renting a car or driving in Paris (it’s a traffic and congestion nightmare most of the time, not to mention the parking problems you’ll have once you get there), and opting instead to take the many other kinds of public transportation available in the city.
>>Read up on Transportation in Paris for more information on train stations and how to get from Paris to many other destinations in France and Europe
The Paris Metro is a super easy and inexpensive way to get around the City of Lights during your travels. While you should definitely keep your personal belongings close, it is also a safe way to travel around the city—even in the early morning hours or late at night. I frequently took the Metro home alone as a female and never had any bad experiences.
However, you should keep in mind that you’ll need to be able to walk and go up and down stairs in order to use this mode of transportation (read: if you are on crutches or can’t go up and down stairs well, you are going to have a hard time). There are a ton of stairs in almost every station and not all have escalators. In fact, I kept my pastry-a-day habit from making my jeans no longer fit by vowing to always take the stairs in the Metro everywhere I went (it worked).
If you are staying in Paris for more than a day or so, you’ll probably want to opt for buying a carnet, or packet of 10 tickets, rather than buying single tickets. If you plan on being in Paris for a few weeks (or more), you’ll probably want to look into getting a Paris Visite or Carte Orange. Check out complete listings of Metro ticket options on the RATP web site.
More articles about taking the Metro in Paris:
- How to Use the Paris Metro
- Metro Ticket Tip
- Don’t Miss the Last Metro
- How to Buy Paris Metro Tickets
- Most Beautiful Metro Stations in Paris
Pronounced (air-uh-air), the RER are the faster commuter style trains, whose lines tend to be UNDER the metro lines. Although you may spend you entire vacation hoping on and off the RER and not noticing much of a difference between the metro, the RER is essentially more like a commuter bus and/or train rather than the localized Metro. It makes fewer stops and travels longer distances in between them.
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While the RER will take you to many of the same places as the Metro, it also will take you outside of Paris to destinations like Charles de Gaule Airport, Disneyland Paris, Versailles and more. Just make sure when you get on RER that it is not an express train (these mostly run during commuter times) that shoot right past several stops and may take you further away than you intended to go.
When riding any of the RER lines you can use the same ticket as the Metro, though you will need a special ticket if you leave the city.
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While most tourists are perfectly happy mastering the easy-to-figure-out Metro during their time in Paris, the City of Lights also has a well connected bus system. Depending on where you are staying, it may be more convenient to take the bus than the Metro. There are also some night buses that run after the Metro shuts down at midnight. However, keep in mind the buses can be slightly more confusing for travelers, especially those who don’t speak the language, as colored lines and maps everywhere don’t make it as obvious where the bus is headed.
The buses use the same tickets as the Metro and RER.
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Just don’t drive in Paris. Really. It’s just not worth it. But, if you do feel absolutely dead-set on renting a car in Paris, make sure you read up on some France driving tips, take a few deep breaths and be prepared for hectic city driving and plenty of traffic jams. You also want to keep in mind that not only can driving in Paris be a harrowing experience, it is also extremely difficult to find a parking place anywhere you go.
If want to rent a car after you’ve finished exploring Paris and want to take off for other parts of the country, I recommend renting a car at Versailles. That way you can simply take the train to the suburb of Paris, hop in your rental car and avoid driving inside the city.
More articles about driving in Paris:
Probably because the Metro is so quick and easy to use, Taxis in Paris tend to be on the expensive side. A ride that is only a few kilometers long can end up costing you a small fortune. This is especially true late at night, when taxi fares go up even more. This means if you are stuck after the Metro shuts down (at 1 am), you may find yourself having to part with a fat stack of cash just to get home. Stick to the metro or be prepared to pay heft taxi fees if you decide to travel above ground.