It’s a city that is like any other big city – there’s good and there’s bad. It’s a city that is also unlike any other city in the world, it’s Paris…
One of the big misconceptions many people have is the size of Paris, and I mean inner Paris, the arrondissements (districts) not the sprawling suburb (known as la Banlieue). Lots of visitors think that they can walk from one end of the city to the other in a day and take in the sites in a weekend. It simply isn’t so, Paris is far too big.
Walking in Paris
There are several ways to see the city but a good way to familiarise yourself is on an open top bus tour. Walking, buses and metro, by boat, cycling, taxi, bike taxi, tram, electric car hire, train, segway and tuk-tuk – there are so many ways to get around, though walking means you can take your time and see more. You will find that many maps and guide books refer to the Right Bank (“rive droite”) and the Left Bank (“rive gauche”). This is a reference to the “arrondissements”, the districts of Paris. All those to the south of the Seine river are referred to as Left Bank, and on the north of the river they are Right Bank.
Get a good city map because it’s easy to get lost and also get a metro map.
Tip: Pick up a free, detailed map of the city from Tourist Offices, ticket offices at Metro stations and main department stores.
Paris by boat
There are ten arrondissements out of the 20 in Paris that border the River Seine. You can take a public transport river boat and find that they will stop at key tourist points through the heart of Paris, just hop on and off, it’s a great way to get around and see the sights.
Paris by Metro
14 lines criss cross the city and there are more than 300 stations, so you’re rarely that far from being able to hop on an underground train. If you arrive in Paris and intend to go to your hotel by metro, ask the hotel administrator to send you directions on what metro lines to take and the station to alight, it can be very confusing to find your way at first. Pick up maps at tourist offices or at train stations.
Tip: Trains and metros in France are signposted on boards by their final destination and don’t always show all the stops they make en route, a metro map is invaluable in helping to work out what lines and changes to make.
You can buy tickets to use the metro, you insert them into a machine at the entrance which voids them being used again, you don’t need to use them to exit.
Tip: Buy a carnet of 10 metro tickets, a packet of tickets which saves you money as they’re cheaper in bulk, save you queuing up and they don’t have a shelf life. You can buy a carnet of tickets at the stations or tabacs. You can also buy a weekly or monthly pass called a Navigo. Check whether it is worth your while to purchase one of the passes versus buying a carnet of tickets or two, you have to buy a plastic card, get a photo done and queue up to buy one. You can then use your card on the trains and buses in designated zones.
Paris by Taxi
If you want to use a taxi in Paris, look for a car with a taxi lamp on top. If the light is green the taxi is NOT available. If the light is red or white (older taxis) then flag the taxi down, stick your hand out prominently to get the driver’s attention. The minute you get in the car, there’s a standing fee (2014 €2.50).
Taking a Paris taxi ride can be an experience in itself. The drivers know the roads really well, use shortcuts and little alleyways and zoom around the city trying to avoid congestion. Weaving in out and of traffic, deftly taking corners, narrowly missing pedestrians and cyclists, squeezing past buses, they nip around like they own the place.
Useful websites: Visit Paris by Metro, the official RATP site (Metro managers)
Up to date information on how to get around in Paris on the official Paris Tourist Information website
5 Ways to travel in Paris
Romantic Paris visits
Things to do in Paris in the spring
Paris for Free