How to Visit Paris

Getting Around Paris: Low-Cost Transportation

December 14, 2015

So, you want to visit Paris and you want to take public transportation while you’re here? Great! Paris has a first-rate system that includes the local trains, subway lines and buses! At first glance a day pass or 5-day pass might seem like a good idea, and in this article I’ll walk you through the best low-cost options for your stay in Paris.

As a visitor, I think walking is the best way to see the city, because it’s slow and at street-level. Paris, as you know, is BEAUTIFUL. The architecture is stunning, and keeping your eyes on this throughout your stay makes for a very pleasant trip.


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Paris le Marais

A scene at the Place des Vosges in le Marais that you could miss if you only take the métro… Walking can take you to such lovely places in Paris!

The bus is my second favorite option for visitors, because you stay above ground. The buses here are reliable, fast and clean. I highly recommend giving them a chance!

Lastly, the RER and the métro are FAST, but 90% underground. They are perfect for crossing the city at the last minute after your romantic trip up the Eiffel Tower in order to make it on time to your dinner reservation in the Marais.

Paris rickshaw Louvre

Bicycle-powered rickshaws are also available at the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower. As a street-level travel option, I like the idea, however at 5€, they’re no bargain!

Of course there are other options like rickshaws, taxis, Ubers and tour buses, but this article is purely focused on low-cost options of le RER, le métro and les bus!

How do you say that?

  • Local Train: le RER (“luh r – euh – r” – say the “r” in the back of your throat)
  • Subway: le métro (“luh may-troh” – again, that “r” should be in your throat)
  • Bus: le bus (“luh boos” – pronounced like the English word moose)
  • Ticket: un ticket (“uhn tee-kay” don’t pronounce the second “t”)
  • Public Transportation Agency: le RATP (“luh r-ah-tay-pay”)

Airport Connections

The two main airports are connected to the system in different ways. Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) is at the far end of the RER line B, which means all the trains head back to Paris! Tickets from CDG include transfers within Paris center to the metro.

Orly is connected to the Paris metro system by OrlyBus, which has stops at Denfert-Rochereau (RER line B) and at Antony (also RER line B). There’s a separate fee to use OrlyBus: in other words, transfers to metro or RER lines are not included, and require a separate ticket.

Zones: How many €?

First, as a tourist you need to think about ALL of the places you’ll want to visit, because depending on how far away it is from the center of Paris, you could end up in a different ZONE. This has the possibility of changing the price (€) of your ticket!

Paris subway ticket

Save your ticket when you enter the métro – you’ll need it in order to get out! Sometimes the RATP also comes by to verify that you’ve paid. Keep track of that ticket to avoid high fines.

Paris center and most of the well-known touristy places are in Zone 1. There are other fantastic places outside of the city that you might like to visit, and you should know that it costs a little extra to get there: Parc de Sceaux is in Zone 3 (30 minutes from Paris), Versailles is in Zone 4 (45 minutes from Paris), and Charles de Gaulle Airport and Disneyland Paris are in Zone 5 (an hour from Paris), etc. Click here to see a map of the zones.

Zone 1 (Paris Center): If you just want to travel within Zone 1, the Metro/RER/Bus ticket is 1€80 per ride. *There’s a discount if you buy a book of 10. (10 tickets = 14€10 ). Click here to check the current prices.

Zone 3: To visit the elegant Parc de Sceaux, a one way ticket from Paris (Zone 1) is 2€75.

Zone 4: A ticket to Versailles from Paris (Zone 1) costs 3€55 one-way. (Note, there are multiple RER stops for Versailles. The one you want for the chateau is called Versailles Rive Gauche Chateau.)

Disneyland Paris is also in Zone 4, and a ticket from Paris (Zone 1) is 7€60

Zone 5: A ticket to Charles de Gaulle Airport from Paris (Zone 1) is 10€.

Click here to calculate the cost to ride between two stops in the Parisian public transportation network.

Day-Passes: are they really worth it?

So, you think you want to spend your time in Paris in les transports, do you? Day-passes, or 2-day or 3-day passes could be just right for you! However, if you want to get out and enjoy the city, I highly doubt you will need something like this.

Paris subway metro car

Single Tickets: On a typical visiting day, you might take les transports to your first destination, walk around after that to find lunch, take le métro to your afternoon destination, eat nearby, and then take le bus back to the hotel. That’s only 3 trips (or 4€20 for the three single tickets). Note: If you buy a booklet of 10 métro tickets, so you get a 4€ discount.

RATP 1-day pass: The price of the RATP’s Zone 1-day pass, called Mobilis, is 7 euros. Since a one-way ticket can be as low as 1€40, then you must take le métro at least 5 times per day to make this worth your while! That’s a lot of les transports… If you use le métro less than 5 times that day, you’re loosing money on your Mobilis day-pass.

Tourist 1-day pass: the Paris Visite Pass is specifically for tourists, and includes a book of coupons. You have access to 3 zones – which includes the gorgeous Parc de Sceaux. The costs is 12€30. To get the most out of this, you’d need to visit the Parc (5€50 round trip), and take le bus or le métro at least 5 (additional) times to make this worth your while.

For one day in Paris, it’s definitely a better deal to buy individual tickets!

3-days in Paris: How ambitious are you?

During a typical 3-day visit to Paris, you’re likely to see some of the highlights of the city center, visit a couple of museums and possibly take a day-trip to Versailles or Disneyland if you’re feeling particularly ambitious.

Such a trip could include fare to and from the airport (20€), to and from Versailles (7€10), and a booklet of 10 métro tickets around town to get to dinner or a museum (14€10). Your total public transportation cost would be 41€20 per person. (If you go to Disney instead of Versailles, the cost for 3 days of transportation would be approximately 49€30.)

Tourist 3-day transportation pass: the 5 zones Paris Visite Pass costs 55€10.

Tourist 3-day transportation AND museum pass: the 3 zone Paris City Pass is interesting because it offers free admission to a long list of museums and attractions in and around Paris. Also included for free are a one-day ticket to ride on the Big Bus and a 1-hour Bateau (boat) ride.  It looks so exciting, because you get access to ALL of those museums! But how much can you REALLY do in one day?

The price for the 3-day Paris City Pass is 113€, however because it only includes 3 zones, you will need to add the price of round trip tickets to the airport and Versailles, bringing the total comparative cost to 154€20.

Let’s compare this price to the cost if you purchased all of those tickets individually. Here are the prices to consider: Versailles entrance 25€ (for both chateaux), Louvre 12€, Musée Rodin 10€, Big Bus 32€, Bateau (boat ride) 14€, and 41€20 for your transportation costs (see above). The grand total, when purchased separately, is 134€20 per person.

Versailles

The Chateau of Versailles is in Zone 4 of the Paris métro system.

If you’re the kind of person that wants to do all of those activities above – AND visit at least two more museums, then the Paris City Pass might actually be a good deal for you. It depends on how exhausted you get, how much time you want to spend in museums, and how in-depth you would like your museum visits to be.

In my opinion, for a three-day trip to Paris, it’s a better deal if you buy your tickets individually unless you are extremely ambitious about museum visits.

If you buy your tickets individually, don’t forget to buy the booklet of 10 métro tickets, so you get the 4€ discount!

5-days in Paris: Do you love museums?

For 5-day trips, the Paris City Pass suddenly becomes a great deal. Sure, it’s only for Zones 1-3, but with a 3-day museum pass you can visit four different museums plus Versailles. The pass becomes cost-effective the more places you visit on their long list.

Louvre in France - moving to be an expat

The Louvre is in the heart of Paris (Zone 1).

It costs 145€ and includes transportation inside Zones 1-3, a 1-hour Bateau (boat) ride, a 1-day Big Bus ride, and a 3-day museum pass. You still need to add the costs of round trip tickets to the airport and to Versailles (or Disneyland), but the cost is still better if you love museums.

For a 5-day trip that includes at least 4 museums and Versailles, I highly suggest the Paris City Pass!

However, if you are not very interested in the attractions on the list, or you do not anticipate using the Big Bus ride pass, or the Bateau pass, then you should consider buying your tickets individually to save money. (Always buy métro tickets in bulk! 10-ticket booklets cost less than buying 1 ticket at a time.)

A Week in Paris? Best deal of them all!

Single Tickets: If you spend 7 days in Paris taking approximately 3 métro rides a day, your transportation costs will be approximately 55€30 (including round trip fare to CDG airport and to Versailles). This price reflects the purchase of discounted booklets of 10 tickets.

RATP 7-day pass costs 21€25, and allows you go to to ALL 5 zones (CDG airport, Versailles, etc.). This is called the “Forfait Navigo Semaine” and has one significant disadvantage: it always starts on Monday morning and ends on Sunday night. You have NO choice about this.

Paris subway metro car

Tourist Pass: There are no tourist-specific passes or combo packages that last 1 week. The most is 5 days, which I explained above.

* If you arrive on  Saturday, you’d pay for your one-way ticket to Paris from the airport (10€), then through the weekend you’d buy about 6 single tickets (1€80 per métro ride), and starting Monday morning you’d have your Forfait Navigo Semaine, which would cost a total of 42€05 for 7 days of transportation.

The benefit of this option also allows you to spread apart your museum visits. It can be exhausting to visit museums, and with the Paris City Pass, you have to do all of your museum visits in a three-day window. Buying your tickets separately allows you to go to each attraction at your leisure, which can make for a more relaxing trip to Paris!

The week-long Forfait Navigo Semaine is a clear savings on transportation, since the 3-day tourist pass is just over 55€ and only includes Zones 1-3!

Bon courage with your budgeting and travel-planning my friends!

I hope this article has helped you keep your transportation costs in Paris at reasonable levels, and has given you some context for those tempting day-passes and combo packages.

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