One of the key things we’ve been learning in our time in Paris is how to get around. The main modes of transportation for us have been the Metro, Paris’ fabulous subway system, and the regional trains, called RER. There are a myriad of passes a traveler can get for transportation in and around Paris, but I will let you in on a secret...just get the Navigo Decouverte pass. They sell them in weekly and monthly versions. The cost is 20 Euros for a week and 75 for a month. That gives you unlimited travel on all the Metro lines, busses and trains in all 5 zones, which covers Paris and the surrounding areas. You pay 5 Euros for the physical card, which is good for 10 years, so when we come back to Paris we can just reload our cards with a new weekly or monthly amount. As you will notice in the image below, you have to give them a photo of yourself when you purchase the pass. There are photo booths conveniently located near the ticket offices that will give you photos that meet the size requirement for the Navigo pass. The signs posted in the photo booth give explicit instructions about how to pose for your photo, hence the charming “forced not to smile” look I’m sporting in my Navigo photo. The Navigo also covers travel to Charles de Gaulle Airport, which would normally cost 21 Euros round trip. We’ve already made two round trips to Charles de Gaulle. It will also cover our travel to outlying communities that we plan to visit. So, the Navigo Decouverte pass will definitely pay for itself, plus, it’s mighty nice to just walk up to the turnstile, scan your pass and be on your way.
When it comes to getting around on the Metro, once you’ve got it figured out, it’s a snap. First there are the apps you will want to use, the free RATP app which is put out by the organization that runs the transportation system around here, and then there is Apple Maps, which includes decent public transport directions in Paris. Frankly, I wouldn’t bother with the fold out maps we all used to carry around. The RATP app is great because it includes up-to-the-minute information on line closures and maintenance. I have my sister Karen to thank for the great tip about the RATP app.
Whichever application you use, it will tell you which line to take and which direction to take it and which station to get off at. It will also tell you which exit number to take when leaving the station. The last stop in each direction is listed along with the line. In the photo above, you’ll see that the number 1 Metro line has terminuses in La Defense (to the west) and Chateau de Vincennes (to the east). So when you get into the Metro station you’re looking for your line and direction. You have to be careful to watch for the signs all the way. The stations that transfers within them are a warren of tunnels. A wrong turn isn’t catastrophic, but you will have to double back, which we’ve had to do a few times. We’re getting much better about paying attention to signage when tunnels split off.
Once you’ve selected the direction you want to go, a final check is to ensure that the station you desire, in our case Saint-Paul, is listed in the upcoming stops. When you arrive at your destination, you’ll want to pay attention to the exit (sortie) number recommended by the app you’re using. Some of the stations are quite large, and coming out the wrong exit will throw you off the trail for wherever you are trying to get.
While we’ve been making extensive use of the Metro system, we’ve still been racking up the miles walking, averaging around 6-1/2 miles a day. The way we look at it, using the Metro allows us to cover an awful lot more ground in a shorter period of time, and certainly for a lot less money. Priscilla has an equation in her mind that only she knows, which equates miles walked with pain chocolats eaten. The math fails me.
While I can imagine that this might seem confusing, it truly is easy to navigate once you’ve got it down. Each line runs every three minutes, so if you miss one, it’s no big deal, another will be along shortly. As far as cleanliness, there are no issues on the Metro. The stations are clean and the trains are clean, plain and simple. They do warn you to be aware of your belongings and to be careful about pickpockets. This is a big city after all.