Check out our tips on how to use the Paris metro (subway) so you can get the most out of your holiday in the City of Light: ticket, schedule, time, directions. The Paris Metro is a great way to discover Paris.
When you visit Paris is a good idea to learn how to use the metro (subway). With its 301 stations, the Paris Metro is one of the most extensive underground transportation systems in the world. The trains start about 5:30am and run until 1:15am (and around 2:00am on Friday/Saturday). Trains come every few minutes so you will rarely have to wait more than 5 minutes for the next train. The metro moves about 6.75 million riders each day but it is usually only crowded during rush hour. If you can, avoid Metro lines 1, 4, and 13 during these times.
Tip: The RER, while it looks similar to the Metro, is actually a different train system that mainly serves the areas outside the city. So when you're traveling throughout the city make sure you're using the Metro and not the RER. Metro stations will be labeled with a large "M". Always note the zone to which you want to travel to be sure that you buy the appropriately priced ticket. If you are caught on the metro either without a ticket or with a ticket that does not cover you for your trip, you risk being fined if there is a control. Example: While your metro ticket can take you out to La Defense on line 1, should you use the RER A to get there, you need to have a ticket priced for zone 3. You need to re-introduce this ticket into the turnstyle in order to be allowed to exit. Hang on to your tickets for the whole ride.
Each Metro line is labeled by a number (and they are color-coded but people refer to the line by its number) and the direction of each line corresponds to its terminal station. Don't worry if you get accidentally get on a train going the wrong direction as you can get off at the next stop and get on the correct train without having to purchase another ticket.
A ticket is required to ride the metro. Most people purchase tickets in the stations and you'll generally find ticket windows at every station - although
sometimes the employees seem to vanish for 5-10 minutes or the lines can get quite long at busy stations. To save some time, each station will also have a ticket machine. These automatic machines take coins (some take cash) and credit cards (you must have a chip in your card - which most American cards don't have) so use these machines if you don't wait to wait in line. The machines are in a number of languages so no worries there.You can also purchase tickets at tabacs (places that sell cigarettes) and some news stands.
There are multiple types of tickets you can purchase but we generally recommend purchasing a zone 1-2 carnet (a book of 10 single use tickets). The book of 10 tickets currently costs 12.70€ and is valid on the metro, bus, tram, the Montmartre funicular, and RER (within zone 1). This ticket is called the T+ ticket. This will allow you to use the metro within Paris. Find more information about the T+ ticket on the RATP website.
You can also buy an unlimited 1, 2, 3, and 5 day travel pass. This pass makes sense if you plan on using the public transportation often but generally it makes more sense financially to purchase the carnet (Paris is a very walkable city so visitors often find themselves using the metro only a few times a day). Find more information about the unlimited pass on the RATP website.
Most stations will have a large metro map at the entrance and at the platform. Some also have a neighborhood map that shows where each exit (sortie) is located. If you ever get lost or confused look around for the signs pointing where to go. As long as you know which train you need to take you should be able to find the signs showing you the way.
While the metro is great for getting around the city, it also has lots of stairs, long hallways and some stations can get very congested. If you have lots of luggage or a stroller you might want to consider another form of transportation.
More than likely you'll have to transfer trains when getting from point A to point B (you can transfer trains as many times as you want on the same ticket). We usually recommend trying to take the route that has the least amount of transfers - even if it makes the journey a little longer because the walk from one line to another can be pretty far in some stations and then you have to wait a few minutes for another train.
The Metro is generally safe but it does attract quite a few pickpockets (just like in any city). The pickpockets generally get on trains that are already overcrowded so they can take stuff out of bags/purses more easily. As long as you keep your bags closed and under your arm you should be fine. If you have a backpack make sure you can lock your zippers or wear it on your front. Most pickpockets go after easy targets so a little deterrent is generally enough to keep them away.
Do be extra careful if you choose to use your smartphone while in the metro (in the station or in the train). Smartphones are a valuable and easy target. The theft of these phone is often accompanied with physical violence so we recommend using them sparingly.
The metro is the best transportation tool to visit the center of Paris, especially for the places like: Notre-Dame, le Louvres, les Champs Elysées, le Cartier Latin, la Tour Eiffeil, Montmartre ou le Marais. Download the Paris Metro Map
The RER is a suburban train that goes through Paris and beyond. With the RER you can reach important places such as: Château de Versailles, Stade de France, Disneyland Paris, Charles de Gaulle Airport or Orly Airport. Download the Paris RER map
The Paris metro closes around 1 am on the weekdays and around 2 am on the weekend. The metro starts again in the morning a bit before 6 am. For meore precise information regarding schedule, opening time and first / last metro, have a look on the Ratp website.
There are free maps at the ticket windows.
Stand to the right when using the escalators because people walk on the left side.
Keep your ticket until you leave the station. RATP staff members often check tickets and you might be fined if you can't prove you have a valid ticket.
A tone will sound when the doors to the train are about to close. You only have a 2-3 seconds and the doors will close on you (whether you're fully in the train or not).