Paris Transportation Tips for New Visitors
As a modern, well-developed and giant European city, choosing transportation in Paris can be overwhelming. The city infrastructure is incredible with over 200 kilometers of subway lines and even more bus routes. Here, I’ve broken down the two most common options for tourists of the City of Light.
Key Information for Paris Transportation:
To put it in perspective, Paris is over 30 square kilometers and is divided into 20 districts that the French call “arrondissements”. Within that area, there are over 300 subway stations that connect them all.
Every year, Paris sees over 17.95 million tourists and more than 12 million people live or work in the area. That is a LOT of people going in and out of major areas at any given time.
Cheap Option: Paris Subway
A pack of 10 one-way tickets will cost you about $19 USD. Single one-way tickets cost just over $2 USD. You can buy tickets at any metro station with cash at a ticket booth or a chip-reader card at a kiosk.
This is the “simple” map of the subway lines. If you take a closer look, all of the directions on maps and inside the stations are in French. This just means you need to pay close attention and read the stops you pass through. You can also use Google Maps on your phone to help a lot!
Best Option: Take a Tour Bus!
That’s right, you heard me, those huge bulky tour buses you laugh at as they drive by. Now, pause the scoffing and think about this…
A tour bus will cost you $27 for an entire day of unlimited rides all day between 19 tourist attraction stops within the city.
The Paris subway will cost you ~$19 for a pack of 10 one-way tickets. And you’re underground. And the directional signage is exclusively in French…
With these facts in mind, you might want to take a look at City Sightseeing Tours. Stopping at all of the major historical sites like The Louve, Eiffel Tower, Champs Ellysees, and 17 more, you’ll be easily transported to and from your destinations while drooling over sweeping views of the city from the top deck.
After trying and failing navigating the subway system on our first day, we decided to give the tour bus a try instead.
It. Was. Fantastic! The perfect addition to our Paris itinerary.
Disclaimer: We were originally set on being “self-sufficient” tourists and doing things the way locals did. It clearly didn’t work out and we were flexible enough to cut our losses and adjust. And that’s totally okay!
How to Find and Enjoy the Tour Bus
We bought our tickets online and walked a few blocks to the nearest tour bus stop and hopped on about 10 minutes after we arrived. The drop-off / pick-up zones were very clearly marked on the roads and most stops even had a staff member stationed there to keep you company until the next bus arrived.
The bus also included built-in audio tracks to accompany the tour in several different languages. They provide a cheap pair of headphones for free if you didn’t bring any on board.
Being the history nerd that I am, I looooved this part! The audio walked me through battle sites of the French Revolution, World War 2, and even explained the beginnings of cultural icons like Moulin Rouge as you pass them on the road.
We saw everything we wanted to see and more by having the option to get on and off the bus at the locations we wanted to see more closely.
I highly recommend bringing a sweater on board even if it looks like a warm day because the wind from the top deck makes for a frigid ride.
It was such an enjoyable experience that we did it again in Berlin!
If you’re looking for a way to simplify your Paris transportation – give a tour bus service a try! There are plenty of other popular lines to choose from, but we had a fabulous experience with City Sightseeing and highly recommended it.
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