Category Archives: Getting Around Town

Autolib: Tips on Using Paris’ Car Sharing Service

autolib

On the heels of the wildly successful bike sharing venture, Velib‘, the city of Paris launched an automobile sharing program, Autolib’, in 2011.  Although we here at Posted in Paris have not yet had the occasion (or the guts) to test out one of Autolib’s blue cars, Heather Stimmler-Hall, the knowledgeable author of the terrific Secrets of Paris site, has all the details in this article from March 2013.

For up to date info on rates, locations, etc. (all in English), try the Autolib’ English language site.

Filling Up Your Tank 24/24

by Arcadia Letkemann

Whether you rise very early or have stayed out until the wee hours of the morning, needing to find an open gas station can be a real chore! That is until now. The list below is a handy guide to 24-hour gas stations in Paris by arrondissement.

Station Service Oil France
Halles Garage
10, rue Bailleul 75001

Station Service Total
Garage Jussieu Automobiles
34, rue des Fossés-Saint-Bernard 75005

Station Service Avia
6, boulevard Raspail, 75007

Station Service Shell
1, boulevard de la Chapelle 75010

Station Service Total
56, avenue du Maine, 75015

Station Service Total
2, avenue de la Porte de Saint-Cloud 75016

Station Service Total
Relais des Batignolles
37, avenue de la Porte de Clichy 75017

Station Service Total
Parking Paris Clignancourt
30, avenue de la Porte de Clignancourt 75018

Station Service Total
place de la Porte de Montreuil 75020

As always, if we’ve left something off the list or there are any inaccuracies, leave a comment.

Paris for the Disabled

A 2005 French law requires that public accommodations be accesssible to the disabled within 10 years.  Line 14 of the metro is fully accessible and all buses in Paris are now equipped with ramps and special mechanisms to allow those in wheelchair residents to ride safely and comfortably.   Many crosswalks have sound signals at the crosswalk to indicate to the blind that the light has changed.  And public toilet facilities are also designed for wheelchair accessibility.  But other signs of progress are less obvious.

Since full access still seems to be a long way away, here are a few sites to help negotiate the streets and institutions of Paris.  In addition, we’re told that if you’re planning to have visitors who are disabled, it’s a good idea to do a dry run in advance of major tourist sites.  If you need to rent a wheelchair, check in at your neighborhood pharmacie.

Access in Paris: a guidebook mostly geared for tourists, you can download chapters one at a time.  Includes information on hotels, tourist sites, public transportation, and signage.

Disabled Access in Paris from Sage Traveling:  a helpful online guide with sections on transport, hotels and tourist attractions.  While the site is designed to get you to use the company’s services,  there is quite a bit of information posted here for all comers.

Tourisme et Handicap:  a downloadable brochure on 200 sites (lodging, tourist sites) in Ile de France noting their level of accessibility.

Infomobi:  Information on public transport for the disabled (those in wheelchairs, the blind, deaf, and with mental disabilities) throughout Ile de France (in French).

Les Compagnons du Voyage:  organization providing personalized assistance to elderly and disabled persons travelling on the SNCF and RATP.  There is a fee for this service (in French.)

Medias Sous Titres:  a site focused on closed captioning of television, film, and cultural events for the hearing impaired (in French).

And here’s an article from the Boston Globe (2013) commenting on the experience of a disabled American tourist in Paris.

Free Rides for St. Sylvestre (aka New Year’s Eve)

If you’re planning on heading out on the town on New Year’s Eve, the RATP has a little gift for you:  free rides on the subway, buses, trams, and RER trains throughout Ile de France from 5:00 pm on December 31st through noon on New Year’s Day.   But be advised that the Metro itself only functions in its entirety until 2:15 am.  After that, a limited number of lines (and stations on those lines)will stay open.    Noctilien bus service will be in effect with certain closures.  To get all the details, download the special guide.  Have fun!

Parking in Delivery Zones: A Guide for the Confused

In response to continuing concerns about the paucity of parking spaces in Paris, the city announced December 1st a new scheme to allow parking in spots normally reserved for deliveries.  This will create 7,000 new parking spaces during the evening hours (8:00 pm to 7:00 am).  The scheme was tested in the 3rd and 17th arrondissements, allowing the city to work out the kinks before going citywide.

Under the new plan, delivery zones are divided into those that are shared and those that rest exclusively for delivery vehicles.

How can you tell the difference?

If there is one yellow line painted on the roadway, the zone is available for parking outside of delivery hours (8 pm to 7 am) as well as  all day on Sundays and holidays.

 

Photo courtesy of www.paris.fr

If there are two yellow lines, the zone is reserved for deliveries at all times. Zones sanctuarisées pour la livraison des professionnels

Photo courtesy of www.paris.fr

Reaching the American School of Paris by Public Transportation

The American School of Paris is located in the western suburb of St. Cloud.  There are two options for reaching the school by public transportation from the city of Paris:  the SNCF train which stops in Garches-Marnes La Coquette and the bus which stops in front of the school.

By train:   If you live in the upper 16th or western part of the 17th, take the métro to La Defense, the last stop on line 1 to the west.  At La Defense, exit the métro system and look for signs for SNCF, suburban trains.  Using the same ticket you just used for the métro (see below), enter through the SNCF turnstile and take the train in the direction of St. Nom La Breteche. 

If you live in the eastern part of the 17th, the 8th or the 9th, you will take the train from Gare St. Lazare.  Exit the métro system, come up to the street, and go into the main train station.  Hanging onto the same ticket you just used for the métro, board the train marked St. Nom La Breteche. 

Get off at Garches Marne La Coquette.  Exit the station to the street.  Turn right and walk down the road until you reach ASP, about a 7 minute walk.

You can buy a ticket in any Paris métro station that you can use for both the subway ride and the SNCF train.  If you are using a kiosk:

  • select a ticket for “billets Ile de France, RATP, SNCF” 
  •  at the next prompt, select, “Billets region Ile de France au depart de cette gare”
  • at the next prompt, select the letter “G” and scroll down to “Garches Marne La Coquette”
  • the final prompts ask whether you want a full fare ticket and how many.  

The SNCF train to St. Nom la Breteche runs relatively infrequently (about every 30 minutes during the middle of the day, more during rush hours).  Trains run more frequently to St. Cloud since you can take either the train to St. Nom la Breteche or the one to Versailles Rive Droite.  If you get off at St. Cloud, you can catch the 460 or 467 bus (see below) to the school.  It is definitely too far to walk.  If you get off at St. Cloud, you need a new ticket for the bus (a regular metro ticket will do.)

By bus:  If you live in the lower 16th, 15th, or 7th arrondissements, take the métro or bus to the end of line 10, Boulogne-Pont de St. Cloud.  If you take the métro, take the exit marked “Musee Albert Kahn.”  The bus stop for the 460 (Traverciel: La Celle St. Cloud) and 467 (Rueil Malmaison RER) is on the north side of the street.  If you take a bus (for example, the 52), get off at the stop, Quai du 4 Septembre, and wait for the 460 or 467.  You will need an additional ticket for the second bus since it goes into zone 3.  Get off at Porte Jaune which is directly across the street from the school.  When you make your return trip to school, make sure you get on the bus at the stop nearest to the lower school because both the 460 and 467 service  stop there.  The stop nearest the front entrance is served by only one bus.

The 460 and 467 run frequently at rush hours but only half hour during the middle of the day. 

You can calculate your own itinerary with exact times by going to www. ratp.fr.

Toujours en Grève (Always on Strike)

Strikes are a way of life in France.   Complain about them if you will but they will persist.  Here are just a few tips to keep in mind when strikes are in the news.

For the most part, strikes are scheduled well in advance.  If you watch the headlines in the newspapers, watch or listen to news over the airwaves, or even just pick up those freebie newspapers they give away on the metro, you will see coverage.   

Most of the time, strikes are called for one day only.  There are circumstances, however, when the unions involved will invoke their right to renew the strike each day as they see fit.  What typically happens is that the effect of the strike is worst the first day and then things get progressively better as the days wear on.  But they can wear on.  A transport strike in 2007 lasted three weeks; a SNCF strike in the south of France in spring 2010 lasted several weeks as well.

Transport strikes typically begin at 8 p.m.  the evening before the called strike and continue through 8 p.m. the following day.  In general, the subway tends to be more affected than buses, and the RER A and B more than other lines of the subway and suburban trains.  Expect longer waits between trains, crowds on platforms, and crowded cars.   The RATP posts information on the number of trains and buses expected to run on its Web site.  For the RER C, D, and E,  and suburban trains operated by the SNCF, consult the Web site www.abcdtrains.com.  (Note:  This site is only operational when disruptions in service occur, whether due to strikes, technical problems. or weather.)  For information on intercity travel, you have to check the main SNCF Web site.  For airlines, check with your carrier.

When a national strike is called, you can expect disruptions in the mail, street cleaning, trash pick-up, and government offices.  Schools and hospitals may also be affected as well as state run television and radio stations.

Laws passed in 2008 affirm the right of workers to strike but also require that sufficient workers be available to provide a minimum level of service, particularly for public transport and schools.  For transport, this means that a certain number of trains and buses must continue to operate.  For schools, it means that personnel must be on hand to supervise children although not necessarily to teach.  The definition of minimum service is not well specified in law, however.  The bottom line is that workers retain the right to strike and while life can get quite inconvenient (for commuters, for parents, for businesses, and for people trying to do business with public agencies), nothing ever comes to a complete and utter standstill.

Taxi!!

If you’ve ever taken a taxi, you probably think you know the drill in Paris.  Well, sort of.  Like everything else, the folkways and legalities of traveling by taxi in Paris may be just a bit different than those in your home town.  Fortunately, Heather Stimmler Hall, longtime Paris resident and author of both the blog, Secrets of Paris, and the Naughty Paris, has all the details in her informative post: What You Don’t Know about Paris Taxis.

One thing that Heather mentions but bears repeating is that, if you call a taxi to pick you up, the driver is allowed to begin the meter from his point of departure, not from where he picks you up.  Heather mentions that this may be as much as 5 euros; I’ve seen it as high as 16 euros.    Moral of the story:  if you have the ability to get to a taxi stand and you are confident that taxis will be there, do so.

Resources

Listing of all taxi stands in Paris

The Route to a French Drivers’ License

You may be terrified at the thought of driving in Paris.   Some people manage quite well without ever getting behind the wheel.  But eventually you may find that your kids’ activities, your work assignments, or even vacation plans require some driving.  You don’t have to drive around the Etoile but you do need to know the requirements for driving legally.

If you’re a tourist, your home country license and an international driving permit are valid during your vacation.   And if you’ve moved to France, you can continue to drive legally for one year on your home country documents.   (The year begins from the date on your carte de séjour.)  Some authorities suggest that you get an official translation of your foreign driver’s license but frankly, I’ve never heard of anyone having this done.

After one year, you can only drive legally and continue coverage with your auto insurance company if you have a French driver’s license.    If you are a resident of one of the 14 states in the U.S. listed below, you are in luck because you can actually exchange your existing license for a French license.  (These states have an agreement with the French government to issue U.S. permits to French citizens living in those states.)  The states are:  Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Virginia.  If you don’t live in these states and you don’t want to go through the hassle of getting a French license otherwise, you might think about getting a license in one of these states before you become a resident of France. The residence requirements for getting a driver’s license in some states is very loose and in the long run, this can save you a lot of time and money.

Residents of the Canadian provinces of Quebec, New Brunswick, Ontario, and Newfoundland can also exchange their licenses.  If you have a valid driver’s license from another EU country, this is also recognized as legally valid.

The exchange process is handled by the préfecture of police and like many other administrative processes, can take awhile. The sooner you start, the better. According to the U.S. embassy Web site, you will need to have the following documents:

  • a form to request the driver’s license (available at the préfecture).
  • your U.S. or Canadian driver’s license with sworn translation in French. (For married women, if maiden name or married name does not appear on the driver’s license, a statement or official document showing both names is required.) Some préfectures may also require a “notarized translation” done in the form of a sworn affidavit.  American citizens may obtain this at the consular section of the U.S. Embassy by appointment only for a $30 fee, or the euro equivalent; each additional seal provided at the same time in connection with the same transaction will cost $20, or the euro equivalent. For information on notarial and authentication services at the U.S. Consulate in Paris please refer to: http://france.usembassy.gov/usc_notarial.html.
  • proof of current address such as statement of domicile, electricity bill or rent receipt.
  • your carte de séjour with photocopy of both sides.
  • two French passport size photographs.

Students generally are permitted to use their home country driver’s license for the duration of their studies. 

If you are not a resident of one of these states or provinces nor a student or if you decide to act after the one year window, then you will need to pass both written and behind the wheel driving tests.

For the written test, you sit in front of a slide show which is basically a picture of a scene outside of a windshield of a car.  There are typically 40 multiple choice questions, often very tricky,  in French.   If you don’t speak French very well, you can ask for the help of a translator.  (Check on the details about translators before you sit for the test:  one source suggests that a friend or a relative can actually serve as your translator; others indicate that you have to use a translator from your prefecture’s list.) 

Once you pass the written exam, you can take a driving exam with a French examiner.  You drive around for about 30 minutes, perform two maneuvers (for example, parallel parking), and answer two basic questions about the inside and outside of the car (for example, showing where the hazard lights are).   The driving exam must be completed with a dual command car.   As a result,  you will have to go through a driving school (auto ecole).    Fair warning:  the price of driving school can be quite steep.

Once you’ve passed,you will have a probationary license valid for three years with six points, half the number of a regular license.  If all goes well, and no points are deducted during the three year period, you will receive a full-fledged license with 12 points and no expiration date.

 Resources

The fine print for U.S. citizens driving in Paris  (from U.S. embassy Paris Web site)

A personal story with lots of details from Jennie en France:  http://www.ielanguages.com/license.html

Study materials for the exams (in English) courtesy of the Webs site, Americans in France

The one Paris area driving school everyone always mentions because they cater to English speakers

Look Both Ways Before You Cross the Street

Your mother did teach you to look both ways before you cross the street, right? She was right, particularly so in Paris where the drivers, while perhaps not as aggressive as in some other places in the world, all seem to be very determined to get where they’re going and fast. Waiting for the green light and the “walk” signal and looking both ways (even if you have the right of way) are probably the two smartest things any pedestrian can do.   If you think this seems absurdly simple, you are right.  Only given the number of near misses I have seen in Paris, I figured it was worthy of a post.

Be aware of a couple of the vagaries of Parisian traffic before stepping off the curb. First of all, just because the light is red in one direction doesn’t mean that the traffic coming from the other direction has a red light too.  When the sign says feux décalés, that means, for the purposes of keeping traffic flowing, the lights are staggered.  On an east-west street, for example, the traffic coming from the east may get a red light a full minute before the traffic coming from the west.   A pedestrian assuming that both directions will stop at the same time risks getting mowed down by a driver who has a green light.   The safest thing to do: wait for the walk sign.  It will not illuminate until both directions have red lights.

Some intersections are marked by a sign reading traversez en deux temps.  In such cases, there is usually an island in the middle of the road and two sets of traffic lights and walk signs.  Cross over to the island on the “walk” sign and then wait on the island until the second “walk” sign illuminates.

You should also pay careful attention to cars entering and exiting traffic circles.   Often the lights are placed so that traffic exiting a traffic circle must come to an abrupt stop just after exiting.  Visibility can be poor in these situations (for both driver and pedestrians) so it’s best to be double sure that the traffic coming off the circle has a red light before stepping off the curb.

Pedestrians should also look out for bicycles and motorcycles on the sidewalk.  Although technically these vehicles are prohibited from driving anywhere but the street, better safe than sorry.