I lived in Paris for 5 months and RATP was my savior. Not only is the website super easy to use, it will also help you plan your own sight-seeing tour. If you are already in Paris, what you need to do is go to your nearest metro station (they are all marked with a fluorescent M sign) and get one of those tiny folding maps. They are free and I suggest you keep two – they tend to tear at the folds over time.
Paris is divided into 5 zones that begin at the heart of the city and move outwards like a ripple effect. For most of your sight-seeing, you will be in Zone 1 and 2 which can be covered by Metro and Bus. For farther distances, or to cover the same locations in shorter time, you can use the RER trains and the trams. There are 14 Metro lines (1,2,3,..14), 8 Tram lines (T1, T2,…T8) and 5 RERs (A, B,…E). The RATP map might take a while to understand but it is quite fun once you get the hang of it. If you are uncomfortable or still new, you can use the RATP website to figure out how to reach your destination.
Transport tickets can be purchased from counters or vending machines at all metro and tram stations. If you are commuting by bus, you can buy them from the driver. You can also purchase tickets for the RER, Disneyland Paris and the airports at the metro stations. I highly recommend Paris Visite day tickets if you plan to do a DIY tour.
If you are living in Paris for an extended period of time, what you need to get is a NAVIGO pass. Sadly, there’s no English translation available for this page. Here’s the gist though. Navigo passes are for frequent travelers on a regular route. Check your office/school zone and if it falls within the first two, get a Zone 1 and 2 pass. The cool part is that this pass (not valid for a weekly pass) will give you access to all 5 zones on weekends. This means that you can go as far as Fontainebleau, Versailles and Chantilly with this pass!
Just to give you an idea, I am going to show you how to read this complicated colorful map 🙂 Say you are at the far left of this map – at La Défense and are headed to Paris Nord. You have to take the M1 (yellow line) to Chatelet, change over to M4 (direction Porte de Clignancourt) to reach Gare du Nord. Of course, you can also take RER A and then RER B/D to get there.
Say you are at La Défense and headed to St. Lazare to catch a train. Now, with the Metro you will have to go like this: La Défense (M1) – Charles de Gaulle Etoile – (change to M2) – Villiers – (change to M3) – Lazare OR La Défense – Franklin D Roosevelt – (change to M9) – St. Augustin. But, instead you can directly board RER A and get off at Auber. The fantastic thing about Lazare is that it is connected to multiple Metro and RER stations underground. It’s a long walk in the tunnels but you can get there without many train changes!
If you have questions or need advice getting somewhere, feel free to leave a comment, or send me an email!
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