How To Use The Paris Metro: A Comprehensive Guide

Paris, the City of Light is high on the to-visit list for many people. With its iconic landmarks, charming neighborhoods, and rich cultural history it attracts millions of people every year. However, getting around this busy city can be intimidating, especially for first-time visitors. One of the most efficient ways to get around Paris is its extensive metro system. In this guide, we will show you how to use the Paris metro like a pro so that you can easily experience the best of Paris.

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THE BASICS OF USING THE PARIS METRO

Metro Lines and Stations

Paris metro station

The Paris metro contains 16 lines which are easily identified by both a number and color. These lines cover nearly every part of Paris so that no matter where you are or where you want to go, you can use the metro to get there. The major lines are:

Line 1 (Yellow) La Defense-Chateau de Vincennes: Goes east-west through the center of Paris and passes landmarks such as the Louvre and the Champs-Elysees

Line 4 (Purple) Porte de Clignancourt-Bagneux-Lucie Aubrac: Connects the north and south and passes through Chatelet and Gare Montparnasse

Line 14 (Magenta) Olympiades-Saint Lazare: This is fully automated and one of the fastest lines to use. It connects Gare de Lyon with Saint-Lazare

Line 7 (Pink) La Courneuve-8 Mai1945-Villejuif-Louis Aragon/Mairie d’Ivry: Serves residential and tourist sites and goes through central Paris.

Line 13 (Light Blue) Saint Denis-Universite/Les Courtilles-Chatillon-Montrouge: Primarily serves densely populated residential areas and connects with tourist destinations.

Metro Tickets

Paris metro sign

The Paris metro system works on tickets. The basic ticket “Ticket t+” gives unlimited transfers between the metro, RER (within Paris), buses, trams, and the Montmartre funicular for up to 90 minutes from when it’s first validated.

You can buy tickets at machines in the metro station or from ticket counters. It may make sense to buy a pack for 10 tickets (a carnet) if you plan you use the metro extensively.

Once you have purchased your tickets, store them away from credit cards, cell phones, or anything magnetic as these can destroy your tickets and they won’t work.

This happened to us a few times on our trip and once we figured it out we went to the ticket office and they were kind enough to exchange them for us.

Navigating The Metro

Saint-Denis metro station in Paris

Before you even enter the station find out your destination station because that will determine which path you take through the station. There are plenty of maps and signage throughout to make it easy to find your way.

As a tip especially remember your end-of-line station as that is they best way to identify the direction of the train. Using Google Maps helps a lot as well and will give you all the information that you need.

As a first-time user, it was very easy to make our way around using the metro and we didn’t get lost or get on the wrong train once. 

STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE TO USING THE PARIS METRO

Step 1: Enter the Metro Station

To find the nearest Metro station simply look for a large “M” sign or a green Art Noveau sign that says “Metropolitan”. Also, keep an eye out for line numbers as they may be displayed at the entrance of the station

Step 2: Buy and Validate Your Ticket

Paris metro station turnstiles

Once inside the station, you can find a machine where you can purchase your tickets if you don’t have one. You can usually use cards or coins to make the purchase.

Once you have your ticket insert it into the turnstile slot and watch for the light to turn white and go through. If it turns red, you’ll need to try again or your ticket may be damaged.

If your ticket is accepted be sure to wait for the ticket to be validated and returned to you. Take your ticket with you.

Step 3: Find Your Line

Republique metro station in Paris

It’s best to know ahead of time which line and the direction you need to take. Once you’re in the station simply follow the signs for the line that you need.

The signage is clear throughout the station and will lead you to the correct location to board your train.

The direction of travel is based on the last stop of the line. So even if you have the correct line number verify it’s going in the direction that you want.

Step 4: Board The Train

Trains come often and the area can be quite busy. Keep a close eye on children and wait behind the safety line until the train comes to a complete stop.

Let the passengers exit before attempting to board. If for some reason you’re unable to board, don’t worry, many of the trains arrive every 2 to 3 minutes. 

Step 5: Transfer Between Lines (If Necessary)

If you’re transferring during your trip, follow the “Correspondance” signs until you reach your connecting line. Finding the line that you want is then similar to your initial entry. Remember to search for the line/color and then verify that it’s going in the direction that you want.

Step 6: Exit The Metro

Once you reach your destination, look for the “Sortie” (exit) signs. Keep your ticket handy because you’ll need to once again insert your ticket into the turnstile to exit.

Some of the larger stations have multiple exits so again check for your exit to make sure you’re taking the right exit as they’ll lead to different streets. You’ll save yourself some steps by using the proper exit.

EXTRA TIPS FOR USING THE METRO

Paris metro train

Avoid rush hours: The Paris Metro can become extremely busy, especially among the lines that service residential areas between the times of 8 to 10 am and 5 to 7 pm. Try to plan your itinerary around those times if at all possible.

Watch your belongings: Paris is similar to most major cities in that petty theft like pickpocketing can be a concern in crowded areas. Be especially careful to take your time and plan in advance where you’re going. This will help you to remain aware of your surroundings.

Accessibility: Most of the metro stations have escalators and elevators, but not all do. Check out the RATP website for info regarding accessible stations.

USE APPS TO NAVIGATE THE METRO

The official RATP app gives real-time updates, and maps and helps with route planning. We used Google Maps exclusively during our visit and it was the perfect tool for helping us to plan our transport.

BE CONFIDENT IN USING THE PARIS METRO

The Paris Metro is an excellent way to get around the city, providing quick, safe, and easy-to-use transportation across Paris. By getting familiar with the system ahead of time and following these tips, you’ll be able to navigate Paris like a local. While you’re planning your trip to Paris, be sure to check out our essential family itinerary, our guide for the best areas to stay in Paris as well as things to know for your first trip to Paris. Bon voyage!

Author

  • Jeremiah Pittmon

    Jeremiah Pittmon is a published travel writer and photographer from Cleveland, Ohio. Passionate about exploring the world with his family, he finds inspiration in all types of travel. Through his blog, smilesonarrival.com, and social media channels, he shares captivating experiences and valuable tips for families who love to travel.

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How To Use The Paris Metro: A Comprehensive Guide
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