Growing up in the Midwest, my exposure to the underground subway system was somewhat limited. Although St. Louis has a metro, it’s really more of an above ground rail line, and I remember feeling incredibly apprehensive my first time in Paris, having to navigate the Metro. Today, I’m sharing a few tips I’ve learned along the way to make sure your experience with the Paris metro system is as painless as possible!
First off, let’s just state the obvious. Paris is a HUGE city. And in order to get from Point A to Point B, the metro is going to be your best friend. It’s fairly clean (in the city center at least), affordable, and reliable.
Now, the basics. The Paris Metro system consists of 14 metro lines that will take you around the city, within the vicinity of Île de France- aka- the city center of Paris. Depending on the duration of your vacation, or your travel plans, you have a variety of options to select from, when purchasing metro tickets.
Single 1-way tickets (also known as t+ tickets) are a great option, and these begin at €1,90/ticket. However, you will find a better savings by buying in bulk. You can easily purchase a “book” (un carnet) of 10 t+ tickets for €14,90. Each ticket will allow you 90 minutes of metro access within the system with unlimited transfers between stations. However, once you exit the metro system, you will have to re-enter with a new ticket. You can read more about this option here.
Or, perhaps you only have 2 days in Paris, and will want to jam pack your schedule so you can see all the sites. In this case, I recommend getting the Mobilis pass which allows for unlimited access across all Paris transportation- not just the Metro. This is available as a 1-day pass, and you can learn more about this option here.
A final option is the Paris Visite pass. In the spirit of transparency, I have never personally used this resource, but you can find more information about this option here.
In order to access the Metro, you will need to have one of the aforementioned tickets. These can be purchased in a variety of ways. The easiest way, in my opinion, is to access the ticket machine within the station. Typically, you will go underground to access the Metro, but some stations like Bir Hakim near the Eiffel Tower are located above ground.
Thankfully, due to Paris being such a tourist hotspot, the ticket machines offer several different language options. Simply touch the screen to begin your transaction, select “English”, and the instructions will continue in the language you’ve selected.
Once the machine dispenses your tickets, take them to the turnstiles, where you will insert one ticket to open the gates. If for some reason you’ve entered the ticket incorrectly, a red light will appear on the turnstile, the gates won’t open, and you will have to re-insert the ticket correctly to proceed.
I hope this brief explanation has helped to demystify the Paris metro system and how to purchase tickets. Once you get used to it, it’s really quite easy and makes travel within the city a breeze. Not literally though, because it does get quite hot inside the metro! 😉