Tag Archives: bus

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!


Take the Bus!

Buses sometimes seem to me to be the poor stepchild of the public transport system in Paris.  It’s not that they’re inefficient, dirty, or slow.  It’s just that they’re a lot harder to figure out than the subway, particularly for folks still trying to get their bearings.   But the bus has a lot to recommend:  better views, fewer smells, and often a quicker route from your front door to where you’re going.   All it takes is a little patience to figure out the lines which work with your daily and weekly routines.

Bus Basics

You use the same ticket for the bus as you do for the metro.  In fact, you can actually buy one from the driver for 1.80 euros but beware: you cannot use a ticket bought on board to transfer to another bus.   Tickets bought elsewhere (metro stations and tabacs) can be used to transfer from bus to bus within a one and half hour window.  Regrettably, you cannot use the same ticket to transfer from bus to subway or subway to bus.

Board the bus through the front door.  Greet the driver with a simple “Bonjour monsieur” or “Bonjour madame.”  If you have a Navigo pass, swipe it on the purple pad as you board.   If you have a ticket, insert it into the grey box mounted just behind the driver’s seat.  The machine will validate your ticket, give a cheery “ding”, show a green light, and spit the ticket back out.  Hang onto your ticket for the duration of your trip.  If  your ticket has somehow gotten demagnetized or you mistakenly try to validate a used ticket, the machine will make a loud buzz and show a red light.   If you don’t know what the problem is, you can try to appeal to the driver.  In most cases, they will just wave you to move on back.

All buses follow a prescribed route with well marked stops.  The route is usually posted at the bus stop as well as on board the bus in panels that run in the space above the windows.    The bus only makes these stops, however, if someone is waiting to board or if you signal, by pushing any of the red buttons mounted on poles throughout the bus, that you would like to get off at the next stop.  Exit through the rear door.

If you are pushing a stroller, you can enter through the rear door, although you may have to ask the driver to open it if no one is getting off.  Park your stroller in the space directly opposite the rear door and go to the front of the bus to validate your ticket or swipe your Navigo.  The rules say that only two strollers can be on a bus but this rule is not always enforced.

Tips for Bus Riders

Due to the large number of one-way streets in Paris, the bus route to your destination may be slightly different than your return.  The loops that the bus must take to respect one-way traffic are noted on the route map as well as which stops are served in each direction. 

Waiting times for the next two buses

Many bus stops (particularly those with shelters but also many just marked by a pole) have real-time information noting the length of the wait for the next bus.  If you are at a stop served by many buses, check the electronic display carefully.  It usually displays waiting times in a rolling fashion with one bus listed after another.  If the service is out of order, the sign will read “info pas disponible, ”  or “hors service.”

Priority seats for the elderly and disabled are clearly marked.  A large number of older, somewhat infirm, ladies and gentlemen take the bus; be a good sport and give them your seat if none is available.

Regular bus service is between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 8:30 p.m.  Buses run after these hours but on a limited number of routes or with long waits between buses.  Consult the RATP site for an itinerary if you are traveling outside these times.

Bus maps for specific lines can be found on the RATP site.  From the home page, click on the green circle marked “plan des lignes” and then on the following page, scroll down and click on “bus.”   You can also purchase bus guides at bookstores and news kiosks.   They are usually with the street map books.

ImagineR: A Real Deal for Kids, Teens, and Young Adults

Kids under 10 can ride buses and trains in Paris on a half price ticket.  After that, there are several special deals, one of which, the ticket jeunes weekend,  I already discussed here.  Today’s post focuses on the ImagineR pass available to students between the ages of 10 and 26.   The pass is good for 12 months of unlimited travel with the choice to the subscriber of beginning the first of September, October, November, December or January. 

For zones 1-2 (which roughly corresponds to the metro system), the annual fee is 298.70 euros.  You can pay by check for the entire year or allow the RATP to deduct nine payments of 31.95 euros from your bank account.  (For the full list of fees, go to www.ratp.fr, click on “titres et tarifs” and then scroll down to and click on “Forfait imagine R.”  Or use the calculator tool on the ImagineR site.)

No matter which zones you purchase, the Imagine R pass will give your child unlimited travel throughout all of Ile de France on weekends, national holidays,  and school vacations including Toussaint, Christmas, the February ski break, spring break, and the entire summer vacation (from the beginning of July until the end of August.)

If your kids will be taking public transportation fairly regularly, getting the ImagineR is a no-brainer.  You’ll never have to worry about whether your child has enough tickets to get around town and back home again, and if it’s lost, it can be replaced fairly easily.  And if your child takes the metro or bus 5 times a week within zones 1 and 2, you will come out at least even financially, if not ahead.

Every information and ticket office within the RATP system has application materials for the ImagineR pass.   You must get  the application signed by your child’s school before submitting it by mail.  You should receive your pass within two weeks of sending it in.

For more information, go to the Imagine R Web site at: http://www.imagine-r.com/index.html (in French only).

Public Transportation in Paris: Getting Started

Updated September 2013

If you’re not used to taking public transportation, it may all seem a little confusing at first:  so many lines, so many acronyms, so many tickets!  But if you start small and then branch out, you’ll gain confidence and in no time, you’ll be switching lines and modes of transport with ease.  Here are a few basics to get you started.

Public transport in Paris consists of four coordinated systems with integrated ticketing. 

Métro:  The  Métro (short for Métropolitain) is the subway system.  It is extensive with 16 lines on traditional underground/above ground trains plus 5 newer tram lines that run exclusively above ground.  Once you are in the Métro system, you can change lines as many times as you need (as long as you don’t exit the system) using only one ticket.  It runs from 5.20 a.m. to 1.20 a.m. daily plus one additional hour on Friday and Saturday nights as well as the eve of certain holidays.

Bus:  Paris also has an extensive bus system that links well with the subway.   Regular bus service is from 7:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.  Over night, a less extensive set of bus lines called the Noctilien is in service.

RER:  The RER was built to help suburban commuters get quickly from home to work and back again.  There are 5 lines, two of these connect to Paris’s airports.  RER tickets are priced according to distance (longer rides being more extensive) but you can use the RER within zones 1 and 2 just as if it were another line of the Métro.  That is, if you get on the RER A at Charles de Gaulle-Etoile and ride to Chatelet, you can then switch to Métro line 1 without using a new ticket.   If you have to go through a second turnstile to switch to line 1, just use the same ticket you used to get on the RER A.

SNCF/Transilien:  The SNCF is the state railway company.  Its Transilien trains serve commuters in areas where there is no RER.  For example to reach the western suburbs of St. Cloud, Garches, Vaucresson, and Bougival, you take a SNCF train from either La Defense or Gare St. Lazare.


A single Métro ticket costs 1.70 euros.  A packet of ten tickets called a carnet costs 13.30 euros.  A ticket is good for one ride on the bus, one ride on the Métro with an unlimited number of transfers from line to line, and one ride on the RER within zone 1.

Children under the age of 10 may travel on a half price ticket which can be bought individually or by the carnet. Children under the age of 4 do not need a ticket.

RER and Transilien tickets are priced depending upon the distance.  You can also buy these tickets in packets of 10.

Always keep your ticket with you!  Do not throw it out until you completely exit the system.  Although you will see people jumping over and crawling under turnstiles,  don’t try to cheat the system.   Ticket control teams monitor passengers randomly; there are stringent fines if you do not have a ticket and generally you are required to pay on the spot.

Special passes are also available that may be of interest to teens and to visitors.    The Paris Visite Pass can be purchased for a 1, 2, 3, or 5 day period with separate prices based on whether it is for zone 1-3 or zone 1-5 (which includes airports).   It is good for unlimited travel during the time period and so can be quite handy for tourists, especially in inclement weather.

Students under the age of 26 can benefit from buying a Ticket Jeunes Weekend, good for unlimited travel on one day (Saturday, Sunday or a holiday) for just 3.65 euros for zones 1-3.  (Higher tarifs apply to zones 1-5 or 3-5.)  If your teen will be using public transportation frequently, you may want to purchase an Imagine R card good for unlimited travel throughout the school year.   Imagine R cards vary in price by the zones you select but are good for free travel throughout the system on weekends and holidays.

Tickets can be purchased from a booth in subway and RER stations, from station kiosks, and tabacs.  You can also buy single use tickets from bus drivers for 1.90 euros; you may not transfer to another bus with one of these tickets.

If you use public transportation frequently, you may want to consider the convenience of a Navigo pass.  To learn more, see To Navigo or Not.


One ticket can be used for unlimited transfers within the Métro system, Métro-RER within zones 1 and 2, and bus to bus within zones 1 and 2.  You can not use the same ticket to transfer from Métro or RER to bus or bus to Métro or RER.


For fare purposes, the Paris region is divided into five zones.  Virtually every Métro station lies within zones 1 and 2 so you should never have to purchase a special ticket if you are just using the subway.   But if you take the Métro from Paris to a suburban community in zone 3 and then want to take a bus, you would then need to use a separate ticket for the bus.   For more information, consult the zone map.  One odd little quirk to keep in mind:  the Métro station at La Defense is in zone 2; the adjacent RER A station (also La Defense!) is in zone 3.  (Don’t ask why.  It just is.)


Carnet:  packet of ten tickets

Correspondance:  transfer

Sortie: exit

More information, go to the RATP Web site.  Many portions are in English.

A Dog’s Life

Oh how Parisians love their dogs.  There are nearly 150,000 dogs in the city and you see them everywhere:  on the métro, in restaurants, poking their heads out of windows, even strolling down the Champs-Elysées. Although it may seem to be a free for all, there are, of course, rules for behavior for dogs and their owners alike.  And while you will almost certainly see your neighbors flouting these rules, it’s a good idea as an expat to remember that you are a guest here and therefore have an extra responsibility to respect the word of authorities.  The basic rules are as follows:

  • Your dog must have either an electronic chip or be tattooed for identification purposes.
  • You must keep your dog on a leash when walking it.
  • Your dog, even on a leash, should be kept close to you.
  • You may not take your dog into food stores and markets.
  • Keep an eye on your pet if you leave it outside of a store.

Picking Up after Your Pet

For a city as beautiful as Paris, the amount of dog droppings on sidewalks can be both surprising and upsetting.  Technically, the city of Paris requires that your dog take care of its business in the gutter and that you pick up the droppings. You can actually receive a fine of up to 450 euros for not picking up after your pet.  Regrettably the city seems to be fighting an uphill battle on this issue.

Taking Your Dog to the Park

A large number of Parisian parks and gardens are accessible to dogs, but certain rules such as keeping the animal on a leash and picking up after it must be respected. Service dogs are allowed in all parks and gardens, sometimes even without a leash.  You can download a detailed list of the restrictions for each park and garden here: http://www.paris.fr/portail/Parcs/Portal.lut?page_id=6678&document_type_id=5&document_id=18558&portlet_id=15202

Taking Your Dog on Public Transportation

If your dog is small (weighs less than 6 kilos), it can travel free with you in the métro, RER, buses, trams and the funicular Montmartre. But you must carry your pet in a bag or basket and prevent it from dirtying or inconveniencing other passengers.  If your pet is large, you can take it on the RER provided it is kept on a leash and muzzled. You also have to buy a half fare ticket valid throughout your journey.

Service dogs can move freely on all networks (métro, RER, trams, buses).

Taxis generally do not take dogs with the exception of seeing eye dogs.  If you absolutely need to take your dog in a taxi, call the taxi company in advance to verify.   Taxi Dog and Aniwal will transport dogs with or without you but be aware that the fees are substantial compared to a regular taxi.

In Case of an Emergency

Urgences vétérinaires (Ecole nationale vétérinaire d’Alfort): paramedics and emergency response
01 43 96 23 23 (from 1 pm to 8 am during the week, 24 hours a day on weekends; closed the month of August)

SOS  vétérinaires (from 8 pm to 8 am and holidays) This call is billed at 34 centimes per minute.

Pet Poison Control (Monday through Friday from 9 am to 5 pm)

To Navigo or Not

If you take the métro or bus frequently,  a Navigo pass can be a great alternative to tickets.    With the Navigo, you never have to worry about buying tickets or dealing with those that get demagnetized.   Because the pass has a chip in it rather than a magnetic trip, it can not be demagnetized.  Better yet, if you lose it, getting a replacement is a snap.

So what’s the calculus?

There are two types of Navigo passes:  one you load either monthly or weekly, depending on your needs, or the Intégrale, which is an annual subscription.   For the standard Navigo,  you load up the Navigo at a station kiosk and some ATMs at the beginning of the month or week.   (Beware:  On the first Monday of the month, particularly after vacations, there is usually a long line at the machine.  You can avoid the lines by loading up your card as early as the 20th of the prior month or on Friday for a weekly pass.)  With the Intégrale, you give your bank account information to the RATP and they take an amount out of your account for 11 months out of the year, and the 12th month is free.

Whether the Navigo makes sense for you obviously depends upon your transit use.   For zones 1 and 2 (Paris plus pretty much anywhere the metro goes), the weekly fee is 18.35 euros.  With a carnet (10 pack) of tickets costing 12 euros, you will beat the carnet price if you take 15 rides a week.   The monthly fee of 60.40 euros beats the carnet price if you take 49 rides a month.*

The fees for the Intégrale are slightly lower.  You will beat the carnet price if you take 41 rides per month.

There is a special Navigo pass for students called the Imagine R which we’ll discuss in an upcoming post.

Want to know more?  Go to www.ratp.fr and click on “plus d’infos voyageurs”  on the left side of the page and then on the purple bar “titres et tarifs” on the top of the subsequent page.

*The price of Métro tickets and Navigo passes may be increased! If legislation passes on June 1st, zones 5 and 6 will be merged and there will be price increases for both a book of subway tickets and Navigo passes. The new prices would begin July 1st.