The metro in Paris is the most efficient way to move around the city during your visit. It is similar to the underground in the UK or the subway in the US. Many first time visitors prefer using taxis, which are a lot more expensive. If you have never used it before, you might find it challenging to figure out which ticket to buy and how to find the right metro lines and directions to your destination, since not much information is translated in English. It is actually fairly simple, and the guide below will give you all the resources to prepare your visit in Paris using public transports. You’ll find out which ones are the right metro ticket prices, pass and card options, printable PDF metro maps, online interactive maps and even great free metro travel apps for your mobile devices.
1. The New Paris Metro Map
The map is new in terms of its layout concept, but it preserves the original colors and graphic symbols, which are currently used in metro.
Icons of sightseeings will help tourists to navigate in the unfamiliar city, and will become landmarks for local citizens. The map includes the city of Versailles and all routes to airports in order to better serve the needs of visitors.
Planned lines and lines under construction are marked on the map with a dotted line. This helps people understand how the Paris transport system will develop in the future.
2. High resolution PDF map
This first map is a Complete Paris PDF metro map in English, with Landmarks and street names. This is a High resolution file, which is best to upload on mobile devices or on your computer. It is not suitable for paper print. It is ideal to prepare your metro trips for the day. This PDF puts together Paris metro and RER lines, station names, connections, Paris street names, landmarks, monuments and major buildings. It is heavy on information but the best map to prepare your Paris visit. There is a second page inside that document, with handy tips on how to go to the airports by metro, a smaller RER map and a table where metro stations are referenced, so you can find them easily on the map.
3. Small size Printable PDF metro plan
Small printable basic metro and RER map that can be printed on paper to carry in a wallet. The default printing size will fit onto half a A4 page. This is the right size to carry around and have a plan still readable. It is useful to quickly check the progression of your metro trip during your visit around Paris.
4. RER train network PDF plan
Basic RER plan showing the different fare area zones from 1 to 5. RER lines are part of Paris metro network. They are used by the Parisians to commute in and out of the center of the city. RER trains have only 5 lines crossing the city, with a lot fewer stations. This means they are a lot faster than metro lines to cross Paris from side to side. This plan is useful if you are looking to travel outside of central Paris to the airports, Euro-Disney or Versailles castle.
5. Paris metro map apps for your mobile devices
There are two very useful apps to help you easily navigate Paris metro. They are free apps published by the company that runs Paris metro lines, RATP. Both apps are available on Iphones, Ipads and Android devices. The nice advantage over a PDF or paper map is that they will indicate your current position on the metro plan. It works offline with the build in GPS of your device, so you don’t have to pay for a mobile Internet connection. Both apps are fully translated in English. They both have the basic route, maps and tracking functions but the preferred one for visitors is “Visit Paris by Metro” app which is specifically targeted at tourist with information about Paris tours landmarks and point of interest.
Download Visit Paris by metro app on Itunes
Download Visit Paris by metro app on Google Play
Download RATP metro app on Itunes
Download RATP metro app on Google Play
6. Online interactive metro tools to plan your trip
Online metro route planner is a useful tool that will help you find the shortest and quickest metro trip to reach your destination. It is run by the Paris metro management company RATP. This is the English version. It is fairly simple to use just specify the starting and end station and choose how you want to get there, only by rail or you can also include buses and even walking. the result shows you the lines and connections you need to use and estimates your travel time to destination. You will have to tweak the options to get the results that match best what you want.
The interactive Paris metro map is a very comprehensive tool to plan your next public transport trip in Paris. There are tabs at the top of the map that allow you to select your options. this interactive map is a Flash app so won’t play on your Apple mobile devices, it will also use significant amount of resources when opened on a PC. Click here to launch it on your computer.
7. Montmartrobus PDF plan
Montmartrobus detailed PDF map is showing all the bus stops of this service in Montmartre. Montmartrobus is the only public transport with the funiculaire (cable tramway) allowed in Montmartre. This is a useful plan if you are planning to visit Montmartre by bus. A Montmartrobus ride cost the price of a metro ticket €1.70.
8. Open double-decker bus tour PDF map
The Open Tour double-decker buses offers 5 central Paris tours to see all major Paris landmarks in a double-decker bus. Ideal if you are limited in time to visit the city and still want to see it all, or want to have a general overview of what to visit before actually starting your visit. This PDF map offers very detailed tourism map of the center of the city with all major monuments referenced. Tickets are available online here.
How does the metro work?
Paris is dotted with 300 metro stations, this is why it is such an efficient way to move from point A to point B. That’s a metro station every 300 meters (about 900 feet). The city is plagued by traffic jams like most big cities in the world. Transportation by metro gives you a big advantage over taxis. Each station is identified by its own name and they are interlinked by 16 metro lines (color coded on your maps). You can move from one metro line to the next easily without having to go back to the surface, since they have points of connection between them. Even better, they are also interconnected with another transport network, the RER ( pronounce air-uh-air) which is the commuting train network that connects the suburbs to the inner city. It will be useful to you if you are planning to visit places outside of Paris ring road, like Versailles castle or Euro-Disney amusement park.
RER is also handy to travel to and from all 3 airports, Charles de Gaulle, Orly and Beauvais. Metro fares are paid with tickets sold in every metro station, either at a vending machine or a ticket desk, if one is available in the station you are in. It is also sold in many shops like book stores, coffee shops, cigarette and magazine stores that show the RATP sign (RATP is the name of the public company that runs the metro lines). You can also buy your tickets in advance online. The full price of a single metro ticket is €1.70. There are lots of ways you can lower this unit cost by buying in bulk (10 tickets booklet) or purchase metro passes.It all depends on how long you are planning to stay in Paris and how often you will be moving around the city. Read more about ticket prices and their usage below.
How to use Paris metro?
It all starts with a metro map. The map will allow you to figure out which station is closer from your starting point, and which one will be to your destination. Then, write down the line number that links the 2 stations. Most of the time you will have to ride several lines to complete the trip, in which case note down which stations to hop off and on metro trains, to connect between lines.
Sometimes, you will have to resurface and walk several minutes to connect from one station to the next, when no underground connections exist. Don’t worry, if you need to walk outside of the metro network to reach a connecting station, you won’t have to use a new metro ticket to re-enter. You have up to 1 hour and 30 minutes to re-enter the metro before your ticket becomes invalid. Your average waiting time between two metro trains will be between 2 and 5 minutes during the day and 5 to 7 minutes in the evening. Crossing Paris from one side to the other with connections will be on average around 35 minutes.
Maps are available in all metro stations. Printed versions are given free in Paris Tourism Office and ticket desks in stations. The maps given free have a small format though, so it is recommended to print a larger one on a A4 format before your trip, or have a PDF version readable from your mobile devices. You can find PDF versions above which you can be downloaded. Not all PDF metro maps are suitable to be printed. Only the smallest versions shown above will fit onto a pocket format you can carry around easily during your visit. Other PDF sizes which are more precise can be uploaded into a mobile device like an android phone or a Ipad tablet. The RATP (company that runs Paris metro) has created a very handy interactive online metro map in English that you can use. Enter your point of departure and destination and it will draw the shortest trip, with connections and time of travel.
The best map tools are the free smartphone and tablet map apps created by RATP. They exist in both Android and Iphone versions. The big advantage they offer over other map formats, is that they are georeferenced and will work with you phone GPS, and locate you on the map in real time. This feature will allow you to know exactly your position on your way to the metro station you want to reach. The other advantage is that they will work offline without an internet connection. There are two versions of it. The preferred one for visitors, is called Visit Paris by Metro and the second one simply named RATP. Both apps have the same basic features of route finder and Google street map as well as simplified metro maps. Visit Paris by metro app has a lot more features useful to visitors like point of interests, word book and useful numbers.They both are fully translated in English, which is nice knowing that tourist information in English in Paris public transports is scarce at best.
Visit Paris by metro app on Itunes
Visit Paris by metro app on Google Play
RATP metro app on Itunes
RATP metro app on Google Play
Your Paris metro ride in details
Preparing for your trip
If you are not familiar with moving around Paris by metro it is advised that you do some trip preparation before you go to the starting station. Nothing fancy, it is just about knowing which stations and lines are going to take you to where you want to go. You can do it on the fly at any station since each one have at least a metro plan postered at the entrance or ask an agent if one is available at the time you are there, but if it is your first metro trip in Paris it is less stressful to have these informations figured out before you start your visit.
Gathering your trip details from a metro plan or map
You will find two types of metro maps whether it is an electronic or paper version. The first type is the basic PDF map type. It has no street names on it, just the 16 different color coded metro lines, the 5 RER lines, and the 300 metro stations of Paris. The only geographical landmark you will see is the Seine River in blue and the ring road around the city materialized on the map with a change of background color from white to a light salmon pinkish color. The second type is a proper street referenced PDF map with the capital landmarks, official buildings, parks…referenced like any proper map. It also shows the metro and RER networks. That is a lot of information on one document. Both maps are complementary, the complete one to located your position and destination and check the nearest stations, and the second one to figure out the metro lines easily. The lighter version is also best for prints in small format to put in a wallet and quickly check your progress towards destination during your trip. Lets say I want to go from Le Louvre Museum to the Luxembourg Garden. I have easily spotted the closest stations on the complete map as you can see on the right, once done I have highlighted the Metro lines that join the two stations in black.
Basic metro map
Complete map with stations, street names and landmarks
Here is my metro trip sequence in this example:
Lets say I want to go from Le Louvre Museum to the Luxembourg Garden. I have easily spotted the closest stations on the complete map as you can see on the left, once done I have highlighted the Metro lines that join the two station in black.I first look at the closest station from my starting point at Le Louvre museum which is “Palais Royal Musée du Louvre”. This station is on Line 1 in yellow on the map. You will notice that station names on the map are in blue on the full detail map and in black on the more basic metro plan. Station locations are indicated on lines by a full color circle or a white oval shape. When a station is marked by a white oval shape it means that there is an underground connection with the nearby station on a different line. In our example “Palais Royal Musée du Louvre” is a full yellow circle on line 1, it means that it does not connect with other stations. I now look at the closest station to my destination which is “Luxembourg” right next to Luxembourg garden. It is on the RER B line in blue. If you can’t see the line number on the map next to your station, follow the line on the map all the way to its end to see its number or letter if it is a RER line.
I know that my starting station is on line 1 and destination station on RER B line. I need to find a connecting station (marked with a blank white oval shape on the map) between the two lines. In this case there is a connection at “Chatelet” station, two stops down line 1, where there is a white oval shape connecting line 1 in yellow and RER B line in blue.
Enter the metro station
Now that I have this information figured out, I am ready to start my trip. I first go to the location of the starting station and look for the entrance. Metro station entrance are indicated by a metro signage. They might be hard to notice unless you really look for it. Be aware that not all metro signs look the same in Paris, it depends of when the station have been built. Older station (about 86 of them) have a Art-Deco style metro signs (designed by Hector Guimard in 1900 at the occasion of Paris world’s fair). It says “Metro” or “Metropolitain” on it. More recent stations may just have a “M” sign only, indicating the downstairs to enter the station. Bigger stations have entrance and exit stairs and most of them are underground.
Down the stairs you are into the entrance area. You will not be into the actual metro network until you have crossed the ticket validation turnstiles. Once you have reach the station entrance area, there are two things you can do there. First you can buy a ticket, either at a vending machine or at a ticket desk if one is available. Not all desks sell tickets. They do only if you see the words “Ventes” or “Tickets” on a sign above it. If you only see “Informations” that is all you will get from the agent, you will have to buy your ticket at the vending machines. Second, you can look for information about your trip if you haven’t beforehand. All stations have a large map somewhere on a wall in the entrance area, or you can directly ask a RATP agent, standing at the information desk if one is available, or in the entrance area. You will recognize the agents by their dark blue or gray uniforms with RATP sign printed on it. They should be able to speak and answer to you in English.
Get a metro ticket out of a vending machine
Buying a ticket out of a vending machine is fairly simple. Two models are available, the scrolling rollbar model and the touch screen model. The rollbar models have a screen with options, a scrolling rollbar below, to choose the right options for your trip, and a green button on the right to validate(“validez”) your choices. The red button on the left is used to cancel and return to previous options and screens (“annulez”). Some models have a touch screen where you will select your ticket buying options. Both models follow the same buying process.
The first thing you see is a welcome screen in French. Strangely, the language selection is only on the second screen.
On the welcome page you have two options you can choose from, the top one, with ticket logos on the left, is to buy metro tickets (“Acheter des tickets, coupons”). A second one at the bottom of the screen to reload a Navigo pass (“Recharger un pass Navigo) which is an electronic metro pass that you need to purchase before reloading at one the metro ticket machines. The text in the middle of the screen is the instruction that tells you what to do next to get started. It says to scroll with the rollbar to select your option on the screen. select the top option on the menu by scrolling up to highlight the upper text window and press the right button “Validez”.
On the second page select the language option in the menu
(the one with flags at the bottom of the screen) and validate to choose the English language. Once the language is selected you will get back into the buying ticket process in English. The second screen in the process, allows you to select the type of tickets you would like to purchase. The first line on the left hand side of this screen has a single ticket logo and says “Tickets à l’unité Métro, Bus, Tramway, Paris, 2e classe, plein tarif” which would translate by “ Single unit tickets valid for Metro, Bus and Tramway, in Paris, 2nd class full fare” In short this is the option you would select to purchase a basic metro ticket with no discount at €1.70. It will give you access to range zone 1 and 2 of public transports in Paris by Metro, bus and tramway for a single trip. Zone 1 and 2 are the areas within Paris ring road which covers all central Paris attractions monuments and museums. You would only look for higher zone coverage (3 to 5) if you need to go to Versaille castle, Eurodisney or one of Paris airports, they are available in the third option of this screen as discussed below.
The second option available on this screen allows you to choose to purchase metro tickets in bulk of 10 at a time, it is called “Carnet de tickets” in French which translates by “book of tickets”. If you buy tickets in book of 10 you will get a 20% discount off the single ticket price. This will bring the price per ticket to €1.37. A “Carnet” costs €13.70. The third option on the screen says “Billet Ile-de-France, RATP, SNCF, Aeroport” which translates by “Paris suburb tickets, RATP, SNCF (which are the two companies running the metro and rail networks) other discount vouchers, airports”. This is the option you would select if you wanted to travel outside central Paris where the airports are located. This would also allow you to buy metro passes and discount tickets for kids. The fourth option is the language option already discussed.
The right-hand side of the screen has several informations. At the top, it gives you the station you are currently in, todays date, payment methods available (in this case bank cards and coins up to €40). Be aware that ticket machines won’t accept credit cards with magnetic stripes (the type in the US) only cards with microchip will work. Other ticket vending machines will accept bills. The last line on the right side of the screen, “Cet appareil rend la monnaie” means that this machine will give back change.
Lets say you have selected the single ticket buying option, and validated with the right button, the next screen asks you the number of single ticket you would like to purchase.
The maximum number is nine, which makes sense because past this amount you are better off buying a “carnet” of 10 at a discount, available from the previous screen.
Once the number of tickets is selected and validated with the right button, the next screen is asking you if you would like a receipt. the default selection is no, so if you would like one you need to select the yes option by scrolling down with the rollbar and validate. The right side of the screen sums up your order with total amount due.
The final step is the payment screen. The message in French is “Pour payer introduisez vos pièces ou votre carte bancaire” which translates “to finalize your purchase introduce your change or credit cards.
On the right side of the screen you will see the coin slot, the card reader and eventually the bill collection slot if the machine offers this mean of payment. Once the payment is finalized (be patient with credit cards it takes a while to check account authorization) the tickets will appear with receipt (if you asked for one) and change in the collection area below the right validation button.
Going through the turnstiles
Now that you have your ticket, you are ready to go through the access turnstiles that will validate your ticket and let you in. Once in front of the turnstiles look at the foreside, they have small led screens that indicates if they are operating (green arrows on) or not (red forbidden signs). Not all turnstiles will take your paper metro ticket, some are dedicated to RFID electronic passes like the Navigo pass. They are signed with a purple logo. If you carry around bulky luggages be aware that it might be a bit of a challenge to go through the turnstiles with it since they are not very wide. the solutions are either to lift them above your chest as you move through, or use the enlarged (handicapped, strollers and wide luggages) gates when available in your station.
Slide your ticket into the front slot of the turnstile with the magnetic stripe facing down (logos on top). It will come out on top, get it back before moving through. You metro ticket should not be bent or it might damage the magnetic stripe. If that’s the case you will have to ask the information desk for a replacement.
Boarding the right metro train
The next step in your metro trip is to find the right subway platform to board the train, that will take you in the right direction. Trains on any line will travel to the end station on one side and then back. Metro stations have a minimum of two possible directions, and more if it is a big station with connections to several lines. To find your platform, you need to Look at signs around you. You are searching for a sign with the metro line number you want to ride and with the final station name on that line in the direction you want to go.
Let me give you an example: Let say I am at “Palais Royal – Musée du Louvre” station, on line 1 and I need to get off at “Chatelet” station which is two stops down the line. You will notice on the line 1 plan above that the 2 terminal stations on each end of that line, are “La Defense” on one side and “Chateau de vincennes” on the other side. Going from “Palais Royal – Musée du Louvre” to “Chatelet” station requires to go in the direction of “Chateau de Vincennes” terminal station. You need to locate the “M1 Chateau de Vincennes” sign, follow the direction indicated on it by the arrow. This will take you to the right metro platform.
The next metro should be there within the next 5 minutes. Small stations have boarding platform with trains going to both directions. In this case it is important you look at electronic signage that indicates which direction is the next train going. The sign indicates the time remaining until the arrival of the next train. Once the metro train is at complete stop you should let people out before getting in. If the doors do not open you need to lift the handle or press the button in the middle of the door to have it open. Doors will close automatically right after a closing sound signal. When you hear the sound signal don’t try to get in, it is too late.
Exiting at the right station
Once on board of the train you need to monitor which station is up next, so you know when to get out. There are two ways you can do that. Inside the metro train there are maps on the upper part of the sidewall, with a light indicating your current position along the line. The other way to follow your progress, is to look through the windows for signs with the name of the station on walls, as the train enters it. To get out of the train you will have to lift up the handle or push the button of the door once the train reached a complete stop. From there you can either look for your next connection within the station, and repeat the process above, or exit by following the blue “Sortie” sign. In big stations you will have an exit plan to get out of the station as close to your destination as possible.
Paris metro tickets and passes
You can buy a single ticket named the T+ at €1.70 every time you ride the metro, but it is the most expensive and inconvenient way to pay for it. You can get a “carnet” (book) of 10 instead for €13.70 which already gives you a significant 20% discount. Single tickets and books of 10 are both available from every metro stations either from vending machines or ticket desks. RATP (company running the metro network) has implemented a large choice and sometimes confusing, of discount price plans. Most of these plans have been designed for the local Parisian commuters and involve longer subscription period than your average tourist stay in Paris. However, a few of these commuting passes will be suitable to visitors:
Metro passes allow for unlimited metro trips. They have time limit that you choose at the moment of their purchase. You also choose their geographic coverage among the 5 concentric circular zones of Paris. their price will vary with the number of days of validity and the spread of zone coverage.
Paris Visit Pass
This is a pass designed for occasional visitors it allows unlimited travel from 1 to 5 days on any type of Parisian public transports. Probably not the cheapest but the easiest to use with less restrictions on what you can do with it. On purchase, you choose the number of days of validity depending on the length of your stay and the zone coverage. Your choices are between zone 1 to 3, which is fine if you stay within Paris ring road, or zone 1 to 5 if you are planning to go outside of Paris for a Disney park visit, Versailles castle tour, or a trip to the airport. Once you’ve got this pass you can use all Paris public transports: Metro, RER, buses, tramway, and cable tramway in Montmartre. The starting price for adults is €12 and €6 for kids between 4 and 11 years old.
The Mobilis metro pass gives you unlimited travel possibilities using the metro, bus, RER, and tramway for a day. You will have to choose the fare zones you want it valid for. It starts at €6.80 for an unlimited travel day pass up to zone 2, which covers all central Paris areas, all the way to the ring road surrounding the city. If you are going to spend the day visiting the city, trying to cover as much ground as possible in one day, it is definitely cheaper to do it with the Mobilis ticket than with the T+ single ticket. €6.80 will buy you four T+ single tickets valid for four rides only. Mobilis pass is available in all metro stations from ticket vending machines or ticket desks. If you want to buy it from machines you have to go on the second screen, on the third line right above the language selection, select the option that says “ Billets Ile-de-France, RATP, SNCF, Autres coupons, Aeroports”.
Navigo Decouverte pass
The Navigo Decouverte pass is a weekly public transport pass that will allow you to use Paris transport network with no restrictions on the number of trips per day. However, you will have to choose a range zone. The larger the travel zone chosen the more expensive the pass will be. The options you purchase will be recorded on an electronic memory card inside the pass. It works with a RFID communication technology which means that you will only have to wave the card in front of a Navigo receiver on a turnstile to validate your entry in the metro station. It is very convenient and a time saver. The cost of a weekly Navigo pass starts at €20.40 but on a first purchase you will have to add €5 on top to acquire the Navigo electronic card and probably another €5 for an ID picture. So on your first purchase of the pass you will have to pay €30.40 for the first week of travel. The Navigo card stays valid with no time limit, you will just have to pay for weekly reloads afterwards at €20.40. There is however, an inconvenience for visitors arriving in Paris in the middle of the week, the Navigo pass will only be valid Monday to Sunday instead of a week from the day of purchase. Be aware that the pass is non transferable. The weekly Navigo Decouverte is available at ticket desks in metro stations for €5 and an ID photo. Reloads of the cards can be purchase from automatic vending machines and ticket desk in most metro stations.