Paris public transport 101

Paris public transport 101

The safest and most efficient transport system in the world can be found in Paris. The trains always arrive on time, the buses are clean and well-appointed and the commuter express (RER) trains reach the most important stops in record time. With all this good things, what’s not to love?

Well, if you have ever had a ride on a top bike in this romantic city, you have to know that there is a lot of things that can unnerve and infuriate their travelers. One of things you need to know if it is your first time in this city, is that, Parisians don’t like to use their own personal cars so the trains and buses end up crowded most of the time. Besides, the fact that Paris is one of the major tourist destinations in the world only worsens the situation. If you are new in Paris, the following are some of the things about the public transport in Paris that you need to know.

The metro

If you want the easiest, fastest and cheapest way to move around in Paris, then metro is what you should consider. There are 300 metro stations and 16 metro lines. The entrance to the metro is indicated with a large yellow letter ‘M’.

Metros run every single day of the week, be it during the weekend or even during a public holiday, they still run. From Sunday to Thursday, their operations begin from 6 am and stop at 12,45am. On Friday and Saturday, their operations start at 6am and end at 1.45am.

The frequency of their operation depends on the day and the time. For instance, during peak hours, metros run every 2 minutes. Metro tickets go for 1.90 Euros and can be bought at the automatic ticket machines at the metro stations.

The bus

There are many bus lines in Paris that pass through the center of the city, through historic districts and the banks of the Seine. If you planning on using the bus, always give yourself at least 5 minutes extra and sometimes even more if the traffic is busy. This will help you avoid being stressed because you arrived late at your destination.

The buses operate from Monday to Saturday, from 7am to 8.30pm. There are lines that operate from 8.30pm, when the others have stopped operating, up to 12.30am. Most of the buses that operate from 8.30 to 12.30am are those that depart from station that serve major metro or RER interchanges. Almost half of the bus lines operate during public holidays and Sundays.

You can find the line number as wellas the direction indicated on the front of the bus, on the sides of the bus and above the driver’s compartment. If you want to alight, put your hand on the bus stop to let the driver know that you want to alight. The bus stops have electronic displays which indicate how long it’s going to take before the next bus arrive. In case you want to charge your phone as you wait for the bus, some bus stops have USB ports for recharging of smartphones.

The Tramway

This consists of a network of tram lines that mainly operate in the suburban regions of Paris. The lines which operate entirely within Paris city limits are T3a and T3b. Line T2 partly operates within the city. Even though the lines are generally unconnected and operate independently of each other, there are some existing connections between the lines. There are connections between line T1 and T5, T2 and T3a, T3a and T3b and T1 and T8. The connection between T3a and T3b was opened in 2013 while the one between T1 and T8 was opened in 2014.

Tram tickets are similar to those used on the RER and the metro in Paris. The lines serving the perimeter of the city are T1, T2, T3 and T4.

Transilien (regional train)

Transliens are regional buses that depart from the major train stations in Paris (Est, Nord, Lyon, Montparnasse, Saint-Lazare and Austerlitz). Tickets for the transliens can be bought at the automatic ticket machines found in RER/metro stations and train stations. Free leaflets with the timetables are available at the ticket desks in train stations. Transliens complement the RER with which they share many connections.


The Suburban Express Railway, commonly known as RER, is made up of five lines that serve Paris and the surrounding areas. Each of the lines have a distinctive color that is shown on the SNCF and RATP signs and maps. The RER trains start operating at around 6am and stop operating at approximately 12.45am every single day, including public holidays.

Within Paris, RER operate like the metro. The only difference is that you need to put your ticket through the automatic barriers for the second time as you move out. If your RER station has a connection with the metro, then you can use the same ticket for the entire journey.

Tips on riding the Tramway, metro and bus system with ease

  • Get a metro map, either a physical map or install one of the free apps in your smartphone.
  • Avoid riding the RER or the metro during rush hour (8.00 to 10.00am and 5.00 to 8.00pm).
  • The most overcrowded metro lines are 1, 2, 4, 11, 12 and 13, more so during rush hour.
  • RER lines A, B, C, D, and E can get you to your destination much faster.
  • Consider buying a Paris Visite Pass as it will allow you to ride freely on metro, buses and RER as well as allowing you to get into several popular Paris attractions.
  • Save time by booking the Paris Visite Pass directly via Rail Europe.
  • Children below the age of 4 years travel freely on trams and buses, while in metro, children aged between 4-10 years pay the full adult fare for single tickets. However, a children’s carnet of ten tickets is half the price, so remember to plan ahead.


From the above information, it is clear that prior planning is important when you are planning to use the Paris public transport. By planning in advance, you not only get to save a few coins, but you also avoid additional costs that may arise. For example, when you don’t have a map and you end up in the wrong destination.