Getting Around Paris

Bienvenue à Paris! Welcome to Paris!

Image of souvenir shop in Paris

Whether this is your first time to this magnificent city, or you’re a bonafide Francophile conversant in all things French, this site is designed to help you more easily navigate the City of Light (which, BTW, refers to “enlightenment”), and to give you some insider tips from an American who’s been enjoying, experiencing and living the Parisian life up close and personal.

First Things First:  Getting from CDG airport to downtown Paris

If you’re coming from the States, chances are you will be arriving at Charles de Gaulle airport (CDG). The other major airport in Paris, Orly (ORY), serves mostly intra-European flights. Like most metropolitan airports, both CDG and ORY are not in the city center. So making your way into town can be both costly and time intensive, depending on mode of transport.

At CDG there are two main terminals. Terminal 1 isu constructed in a giant circle and is a bit like traveling through a cartoon episode of the Jetsons with large moving sidewalks through plexiglass tubes that lead you to baggage claim and ultimately the exits. Terminal 2 is constructed in more of a elongated U-shape with the different buildings (airlines) designated with the letters A-G.

Image of map of CDG airport in France

  • Taxi  While this is the most expensive option, sometimes it’s the best alternative depending on luggage, personal mobility or number of people in your party. Costs range from €50-70 depending on location in the city, and extra fees may apply for excess luggage.  There are several taxi stands throughout the airport just outside of baggage claim, as well as some you can reserve ahead of time. Check out we-cab for a private or shared taxi.
  • RER B regional train to downtown Paris connects with the city center and the metro system. The train runs approximately every 15 minutes and takes about 50 mins to downtown.
    • Chatelet / Les HallesSt. Michel (main downtown stations)
    • Approximate cost €10.00 one way
    • Ticket can be used to transfer to metro once in Paris to complete one single journey.
      • From Terminal 1:  After collecting all your bags, proceed through customs and head to the elevators and go down a level to the CDGVAL, the light-rail that will take you to Terminal 3/Roissypôle. Once you are at Terminal 3 you can buy a ticket to go on the train to downtown Paris, as well as pick up the complimentary hotel shuttles for the nearby airport hotels.  (Navette is the French word for shuttle).
      • From Terminal 2 : This terminal is split into 7 different buildings (2a, 2b, etc.). If you follow the signs to TCV /Gare SNCF this will take you to the train (RER) station as well as the complimentary hotel shuttles stop for the handful of hotels that are near the airport.
  • Roissy Bus bus service to center of Paris takes about 50 minutes depending on traffic.
    • Roissy Bus goes to center of Paris, Opera Garnier
    • Approximate cost €11.00
    • Separate ticket required to then continue on the metro
    • Roissy Bus stop is located right outside of International Arrivals in Terminal 1
  • Air France Bus service to main train stations in Paris.
    • Take the Air France Bus (the largest most comfortable bus service with luggage bays down below) into downtown Paris
    • AF Bus Line 4 goes to Gare de Lyon and Montparnasse train stations that connect with the metro
    • AF Bus Line 2 goes to Place de l’Étoile and Porte Maillot
    • Approximate cost €17.50 (online ticket purchase)

* Important to note that the french word for luxury bus is car.

Subways, Buses, Bikes, and Feet

metro sign at Chatelet

Getting around in Paris — once you get to the city center — is remarkably easy thanks to her public transport system consisting of bus routes, a (mostly underground) metro, and a suburban railway (RER) that connects the outer suburbs with the interior of Paris. The tickets you purchase are interchangeable on all three as long as you stay within the city limits (zone 1 or 2). You can purchase one metro ticket at a time, or you can buy a “carnet” or book of ten.  Tickets are valid for a one-way journey on the metro, bus or RER with no expiration date and therefore usable at any time. You can purchase the tickets at any metro, RER or tramway station,and when boarding buses.

  • one ticket = € 1.90
  • “carnet” =  € 14.50

There are also Paris Visite travel cards available for tourists for 1,2,3,or 5 consecutive days of unlimited travel throughout Paris. These travel passes must be purchased at one of the main metro or RER stations.

The metro is easy to navigate, the trains run swiftly and frequently and most of Paris lies within zones 1 and 2 included on the ticket. Having said that, the buses are a wonderful way to view the sites, and get a general orientation of how the city is laid out. However, buses are also subject to surface traffic and not exactly the speediest way to get around town.  Once you get into the city center, the metro is the easiest way to get around (unless you prefer walking which is always fun in Paris).

Paris Visite Card  (unlimited travel for one day) = €12.30

  • 2-day unlimited travel = €18,95
  • 3-day unlimited travel = € 25,85
  • 5-day unlimited travel = € 37,25

{These prices do not include the fare to and from the airport. There is also a series of “trams” that run (above ground) around the southern border of the city and require a separate ticket purchased from a machine located at the stop where you board.}

**Word of caution: Please be aware that pick pockets perfect their craft on tourists riding around on the metro and buses. Please be careful with your stuff (especially your smart phones) and situationally aware!

For more information on the various tourist passes available go to

Paris Zone Map (from Google search)

Velib Bike Rental

Image of velib stand

Image taken from

Started in 2007, Velib is the largest bike share/rental system in the world. With over 20,000 bikes in operation conveniently located near metros throughout the city, Velib makes it easy and fun to navigate the city on bikes. The short-term subscription rates are quite reasonable and now the information is available in several languages, including English. Once you purchase a subscription, you are able to rent a bike at one of the many stations available and the first 30 minutes are free.

  • 1-day ticket = €1.70
  • 7-day ticket = €8.00

For more information go on the Velib website

Tour Buses

image of Open Tour Bus

Image taken from L’Open Tour website

If this is your first trip to Paris, I highly recommend taking advantage of the Hop-On Hop-Off buses to help you get oriented around this incredible city. There are several bus companies that cater to Paris tourists, two of which I’ve patronized. They both have double-decker buses that offer audio tours in several languages, visiting most of the major landmarks and points of interest around the city.  Open Tour has bright green and yellow buses and offer passes good for 1, 2 or 3 consecutive days with options for river cruises.


image taken from Big Bus tour website

The Big Bus company has bright red buses and offers passes that can include night tours as well as river cruises. Whichever company you choose, do the entire circuit first, and then plan your day according to the places you say that you know you want to revisit. It’s a good way to take in all the sights and save your feet.

Guided Tours

There are several specialized tours that offer everything from cooking classes, historical walks, bike tours or wine-tasting tours, you can even take a tour of Paris in vintage Citroën. Here are a few that I can recommend:

*  Paris Walks offers a number of informative guided tours including the Garnier Opera, Pere-Lachaisse cemetery, Saint Denis, and famous neighborhoods like the Marais, the Latin Quarter, and the Mouff’tard (including the Pantheon). Check their website for specific dates since not all tours are given every day.

Taxis and Private Cars

Taxis are plentiful and generally safe and reliable. Most have a €7.00 minimum with additional charges for luggage and excess people (more than four). The easiest way to get one, aside from standing out in the street and hailing one down, is to get your hotel to call for you.

There are three taxi services that you can call by telephone should the need arise:

  • G7 taxis
  • Taxis bleus
  • Alpha taxis

Parisian Car Service can offer you a privately chauffeured driven car for either airport pick up, or to drive you around Paris.

Paris private car service is another option for luxury transportation, but I must confess to not having tried either of these private car services.

Uber car is alive and well in Paris and an inexpensive way to get around. This is especially true if you’re coming from Roissy (CDG airport) area and going into Paris. If you already have the app downloaded on your phone all the better, otherwise use the link to check out this safe and affordable private car with driver option.


3 thoughts on “Getting Around Paris

  1. Wonderful information – thank you! A couple of questions: what zone is Versailles in? CDG? As we will likely go into the city every day from the conference hotel, the unlimited Visite pass is probably the best deal, but I think the extended one (zones 1-5) would be needed. Is this correct? Also – how long/aggravating/time-consuming are the queues at major sites such as the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomph, the Louvre, and Versailles? What might be the best time(s) to arrive to avoid the worst of the crowds?


    1. Versailles lies outside of the six zones of Paris included in the Visite pass. You need to take the regional train (RER) to Versailles from the Javel RER station in Paris. The Fat Tire bike tour, which leaves from their Paris shop early in the morning, allows you to cut to the front of the line for the château tour.The airport, however, is in zone 5 so you would need all 5 zones included on your pass to get back each day to the conference hotel. Paris in May means there will be plenty of tourists so count on long lines at all the monuments and therefore go early or book online wherever possible.


  2. Thanks for the information. Another question that I do not see any answers for: are banks open or closed on Saturday? We arrive Friday afternoon after 3PM, and I have found in most places in the world the airport is not the best place to exchange dollars for local currency. I do not know if this is true in France however; but it may be moot if banks will be closed until Monday and the airport cambios are the only option by late Friday afternoon. What would you recommend to load up with some Euros (since I think many taxis, bistros and other things will not accept American credit cards)?


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