UPDATED JUNE 2019
It just wouldn’t be Paris without the Métropolitan (or Métro), one of the most efficient and user-friendly subway systems in the world. Its 14 lines (plus two smaller bis lines) crisscross the city and the immediate suburbs daily from 5:45am-1am (2am on Saturdays), with connections to the RER and international train stations. Each line is designated by a number and its terminus points (ie Line 1: Château de Vincennes – La Défense). Most stations can be reached with one or two changes at the most. Maps are posted in Métro cars, on platforms (quais), and next to ticket windows. You can also ask for a free Métro map (un plan) from any ticket agent.
Individual tickets cost €1.90 each, or €14.90 for a carnet of ten tickets. An unlimited 24-hour ticket is €7.50 within Paris, up to €17.80 if you want to use it to access the airports (the paper version is called Mobilis, and the one you charge onto your Navigo card is Navigo Jour; they are the same). Tickets are valid throughout the RATP (Paris Transit Authority) network of Métro, bus, tram and RER lines within the city and immediate suburbs (zones 1-2). Beyond zone 2, RER fares are higher and require different tickets (ie airports, Versailles). Within the Métro, a single ticket is good for one journey with unlimited transfers (correspondences).
You can buy these as paper tickets, or get the Navigo Easy card and charge the tickets onto the card so you can just swipe and go. The card is €2 (good for 10 years) that can then be charged with as many tickets as you like (up to 20 individual tickets, or two “carnets”, as well as airport tickets, and one-day passes). Unlike the regular Navigo cards that need your photo and name displayed, the Easy Navigo cards are not nomitive (you can give it to someone else), but can’t be used more than once for the same trip (ie you can’t have three people go through the turnstile with you). You’ll need to find a window agent to buy the original pass, then you can charge them at the computer terminals in each station as needed. More info on the RATP website.
Note: Have your paper ticket or card on you at all times when traveling; you’ll need it to prove you’ve paid if the RATP officials do a random check. You’ll also need it to exit from RER stations.
All RATP tickets, carnets and passes are 50% off for kids 4-9. Kids under 4 ride for free (if you’re a Paris resident, kids under 11 years will be free starting September 2019). Parents with bulky strollers (which are not recommended) can avoid the turnstiles by asking agents at the ticket window to open the side gate, if there is one. Be prepared for long tunnels and numerous stairs throughout the Métro and RER.
The city is moving away from individual tickets (no later than 2021), and therefore has several “Navigo” pass card options for residents and visitors.
The regular Navigo Pass is available for residents (the card will be mailed to you). You can subscribe for weekly, monthly, or annual passes (digressive pricing), or just get a Navigo Easy card that your fill up with as many individual tickets and recharge as needed. If you want to get the weekly or monthly unlimited pass and you’re not a resident, you can ask for a Navigo “Découverte” card that costs €5 and requires your passport-sized photo, which can then be charged with the daily, weekly or monthly pass (note: they always start on the first day of the month or the week no matter when purchased, not from the time you start using it). The official Navigo website is only in French, but is the most up-to-date. Otherwise you can also find info on the RATP website in French and English.
There is also a Carte Paris Visite, which specifically targets tourists and has to be used on consecutive days. It’s hardly a good deal if you’re just using it for transportation, and the discounts for things like 10% off Galeries Lafayette don’t make up for the higher price. I’d pass on this one and just get the easyPass and charge it with single tickets.
- General Rules & Etiquette
Smoking, eating and drinking on the Métro and RER is not allowed (although it’s mildly tolerated on the platform). Don’t put your feet or luggage on the seats. The fold-down seats shouldn’t be used when the car is crowded. Do not try and jump on at the last second, even if you see daredevil Parisians doing it.
It’s also not recommended to talk so loudly that everyone can hear your conversation. It’s considered rude in France, and even if you think they can’t understand you, most of them can (and so can all of the other native English speakers who are cringing in horror).
The safest place for anyone traveling alone at night is in the first car directly behind the driver. If you have any problems, use the yellow emergency call boxes found on every platform.
Beware of pickpockets in crowded cars, especially during the jostle of getting on or off. Some people will squeeze in right behind you at the ticket turnstiles to get in without paying; make sure they’re not going through your pockets at the same time!
- Access for those with Impaired Mobility
Only Line 14 is completely accessible. The rest of the Métro/RER system is not at all accessible for people with reduced mobility. There are turnstiles, long halls with many stairs, and escalators and elevators that are frequently out of order. That means anyone carrying heavy luggage, pushing a stroller, in a wheelchair, or having a bad knee day should take the bus or taxi.