How to use the Paris Metro subway
Paris Metro maps, schedules, tickets, passes, helpful travel tips.
The Paris Metro consists of 300 stations on 16 lines covering the 10x10km area of central Paris.  Metro lines are numbered from 1 to 14 with two “bis” or secondary lines 3b and 7b.
Paris Metro Maps
The public transit authority of Paris (RATP) offers three Metro system maps that can be downloaded together at ParisByTrain.com :
a basic Paris Metro map of lines with stations and interchanges
a condensed small format Paris Metro map
Other Metro maps such as individual line maps can be downloaded directly from RATP.fr (in french).
Paris Metro Schedules
The Paris Metro runs from roughly 05:30 till 00:40 (5:30am – 12:40am) Sunday thru Thursday and 05:30 – 01:40 on Fridays, Saturdays and on days before a holiday. Frequency between most trains range from 2 minutes during rush hour up to 8-10 minutes during off hours, holidays, and sundays.
Download a schedule/timetable of first and last Paris Metro trains. Updated January 2013. Times are approximate! This includes schedule of first/last Paris RER A (Disneyland) and RER B (airport) trains.
The RATP offers a route planner via their website which can use street addresses, station names or well known locations to create a travel itinerary for you, including necessary connections and total travel time. Route options under “Criteria” can be chosen for fewest connections, least amount of walking and quickest route (the default).
Tickets & Passes
There are a wide variety of tickets available including single ride tickets, books of 10 or 20, single day passes, multi-day passes, Monday to Sunday week passes, monthly passes and year passes.
Single Use Tickets
Single tickets for the Metro are known as “Ticket t+”. These tickets are valid for a single continuous journey of any length, throughout the Metro system, including changes to other Metro lines and RER interurban trains within Zone 1. These tickets are sold as single units or in books of 10.
Tickets can be purchased from ticket windows inside stations or through automated ticket vending machines accepting Euro coins and smart chip credit cards.The single ticket price as of January 1, 2013 is 1,70€.
Books of ten, called a “carnet” [kar-nay], are sold at a discount for 13,30€ (1,33€ each, a little over 20% off the regular fare). Children from ages 4 to 9 years old can use reduced fare tickets, which are available only in books of 10, for 6,65€ per book of ten. Children 3 and under ride for free. Keep in mind that non-smart chip credit cards will not work at either the automated ticket machines nor at ticket windows, thus Euro cash or coin would be required.
A day ticket is called the Ticket Mobilis which is good for unlimited rides on the Metro system during operating hours for the day it is used. Physically it’s a coupon of about the same size as the Paris Metro Ticket t+.
Ticket Mobilis is available in various fare zone coverage from 1-2 zones to 1-5 zones. If you’ll be traveling strictly within central Paris, zones 1 & 2 cover the entire Metro system, and a 1-2 zone Ticket Mobilis is the recommended ticket. Price as of March 1, 2013 is 6,60€.
The complete price schedule for this Paris day ticket is as follows:
As the Ticket Mobilis can be purchased on one day and used someday in the future you must print the date of use on the ticket before use. To prevent people sharing tickets, first and last names are also required.
Multi-Day Paris Metro Tickets
Multi-day tickets aimed at tourists and visitors are known as the
The Carte Paris Visite consists of a plasticized ticket coupon (similar to a Ticket Mobilis) and a black paper folding card. The card requires the printed name of the bearer and the ticket coupon requires the card number and date of use to be written on in pen, as to avoid ticket sharing between passengers.
Discounts to attractions in and around Paris are included with the Paris Visite card, which are obtained by showing the black card along with a valid coupon ticket (like the orange ticket shown above).
Paris Metro Week Tickets/Passes
Week long tickets are sold in the form of plastic contactless smartcards known as the Pass Navigo Découverte.
This pass is valid for travel strictly from Monday till Sunday, rather than any continuous 7 day period, which makes it less attractive for visitors arriving mid-week. It is purchaseable for use in the current week from ticket windows at most Metro, RER and large train stations up until Wednesday end of service. No week passes are sold on Thursday. Starting from Friday, week passes for the following week are on sale. The Pass Navigo Découverte week pass is not available from automated ticket vending machines. 4 different fare zones are available with prices as follows (Tarifs Semaine = Weekly Price, Tarifs Mois = Monthly Price, updated March 1, 2013):
Zones 1-5 will cover travel to & from Airports Charles de Gaulle (CDG) and Orly (ORY) , which are in zones 5 and 4 respectively and Paris-Versailles trains (zone 4).
The prices above do not include the 5€ fee for the plastic card itself, non-refundable, unlike the London Oyster card.
To purchase the pass Navigo Découverte you will be required to present and attach a face photo measuring 2.5cm tall x 2cm wide to the paper nominative card that comes in addition to the plastic smartcard.
Home printing of this photo, black & white or colour, is acceptable. You will be required to print your name on this card as well. After the paper card is completed a self-adhesive clear plastic cover is folded over the face of the card, protecting the picture and name of the holder. The contactless smart card and the paper card must be carried together to be valid for travel.
There is some confusion between the Carte Orange and Pass Navigo in terms of week passes. Carte Orange was previously a physical coupon like ticket (much like the Ticket Mobilis) and paper nominative photo card that is now no longer in use. This coupon and paper card has been replaced by the new contactless smart cards known as the Pass Navigo and Pass Navigo Découverte (for non-residents of France). The regional transit authority decided to keep the name “Carte Orange” as the name of the weekly or monthly “subscriptions” that you must purchase and “add” to your Pass Navigo or Pass Navigo Découverte.
Riding the Paris Metro
Paris airports are accessible via the RER train system, rather than the Paris Metro. See instructions on the RER B from CDG to Paris, Orly to Paris and Paris Beauvais Airport Train for more information.
Paris Stations & Metro Tickets
Most of Paris’ 300 Metro stations are located underground with a handful above ground. Stations are marked with various styles of signs as shown below.
Some Metro stations are joined with large train stations (“gare”) serving other types rail transport such as intercity surface trains and RER regional express trains which travel both above and below ground. Some notable large stations within Paris serving all three types of train transport include: Gare St. Lazare, Gare du Nord , Gare de l’Est, Gare de Lyon, Gare d’Austerlitz and Gare Montparnasse. Most stations and Paris Metro lines are not handicap accessible save for a few exceptions . Stations have multiple entrances/exits, up to ten for the largest underground station, Chatelet Les Halles.
Street maps are posted throughout central Paris providing information on the local district (“arrondissement”). These maps can be useful in locating nearby Metro stations.
Within a Metro station, tickets can be purchased from manned ticket windows and from automated ticket vending machines. Most passes are only sold from ticket windows although the Ticket Mobilis day ticket is available via the machines.
Ticket windows may not be open nor manned at all times thus requiring use of the vending machines. Certain entrances to stations may give direct access to train platforms, which require that you already have your ticket or pass. Ticket vending machines such as the one shown in the photo accept Euro coins (for purchases up to 30€) and smartchip credit cards. Cash notes or bills are not accepted at these machines. See the guide on using Paris Metro ticket vending machines for more information.
Access to Metro train platforms is controlled via turnstiles or gate type barriers which are operated by either magnetic stripe coupon tickets (Ticket t+, Mobilis, etc.) or contactless smart cards such as the Pass Navigo Decouverte. To operate the barrier with a ticket, insert the ticket magnetic stripe side down, into a turnstile that is not marked with a red X or red circle which indicates an exit only turnstile. The ticket slot should be on your right while inserting the ticket (see the photo below). The ticket will be ejected on the top of the turnstile which you must retrieve to unlock the barrier.
If the ticket is accepted a short high pitched buzzing sound will be emitted, sometimes along with a message displayed on the turnstile requesting you take your ticket back (“Reprenez votre ticket”). Remove the ticket and walk through the turnstile or approach closely the gate barrier and wait for it to open. Some gates are slow to open, especially side swinging double door gates. If your ticket appears to have been accepted, yet the gate has not swung open, be sure you are sufficiently close to the gates in order to trip the sensor. Be patient and don’t panic. The gate should swing open within 5 seconds maximum. A ticket that is not accepted will cause the turnstile to emit a longer, lower pitched (unpleasant) buzzing noise, sometimes with a message in red indicating your ticket was not valid. See an employee at a ticket window or information booth for help in this case. They will usually open a wheelchair accessible gate for you to pass through.
Operating barriers with contactless smart cards works by passing the card over the purple reader zone on the tops of the turnstiles or barriers. The smart cards may take a second or two to be recognized by the transponders, so keep the pass over the reader area until a “ding” sound is emitted for an accepted pass. Keep in mind that passes near expiration will cause the barrier to emit a buzzing noise instead of a ding, along with a message noting the date of expiry. Pass through the turnstile or gate as per normal.
Many Metro stations serve multiple lines through several different train platforms within a single station. To find your way to the correct platform in the correct direction requires that you to keep a mindful eye on signs posted throughout the pedestrian tunnels.
At each subterranean intersection you will see Metro line numbers and possibly station names which are used to denote direction of travel. Direction of travel is always denoted by the terminus station, the last station or stop on the line, rather than magnetic pole directions such as north, south, east, west. To understand whether the line is going in the direction you wish to travel, you should refer a Paris Metro map, which are posted near station entrances and on all train platforms.
Nearly all train platforms have overhead signs showing the time remaining till the next two trains arrive at the station, denoted in minutes. These signs are also a way to verify that you’re on the correct line, heading in the correct direction. The photo below shows Metro Line 4 in direction of Porte d’Orleans with 4 minutes remaining till the next train arrives. On the opposite side of this platform will be another sign of exact same color and number, but the direction will be marked as Porte de Clignancourt, the opposite direction. Keep in mind that the train arrival times posted on these signs are only estimates and are not always accurate. Due to traffic congestion and rider issues minutes may be added or subtracted at any moment.
On rare occasion, but worth mentioning, some Metro line platforms are accessed by traversing another platform for a different line. This means you’ll arrive at a platform and think the current platform is the correct one, but in reality, your desired line is further along. Pay special attention to the overhead signs and the system maps posted on the platform walls to ensure you’re on the correct platform.
Paris Metro Trains
Metro train cars come in a variety of different shapes, colours and sizes.
Nearly all Metro cars require manual operation to open their doors. This is done through either a lever or a button on the door itself near the centre opening. Metro Line 14 is a notable exception being completely automated and driver-less.
Fold-down seats are available just inside Metro train car doors, but these seats should only be used when there is sufficient space for travelers to easily enter and exit the train car. Rush hours will generally be too busy to use these seats.Rush hour travel on the Metro in Paris is a chance to exercise your “personal space” limits. Don’t be surprised if you end up completely pressed up against other passengers. It’s normal, it’s accepted… it’s simply a slice of commuter life in Paris.Don’t worry about not being able to descend the train when your stop arrives. Simply say “Excusez-moi” and people will immediately begin making room for you to alight, even if it requires that they descend the train also, just to let you off. Parisiens are very well versed in Metro manners and if you’ve read up to this point… you are now as well.
After having arrived at your desired station you can make your way out of the station by following the blue “Sortie” signs.These signs will often be mixed with directional signs for various Metro lines shared by a station. This photo shows the multitude of exits and lines available for both the Metro and the RER at the world’s largest underground station: Chatelet Les Halles.
Each exit is usually referred to by the street or landmark upon which it exits.
To determine which exit is best for you refer to an exit map located within the Metro station, usually just after exiting the fare paid zone (see next paragraph).
To exit the fare paid zone within stations you’ll either pass through exit turnstiles (look for green lights on the face of the turnstiles or for open gates) or through doors opened by pressure plates or infrared sensors.(Pressure activated doors are visible on the left hand side of the photo below.)
Frequently Asked Questions
Paris Metro vs. RER – What’s the difference?
The Metro is a classic subway system: mostly underground, many stops, frequent service, short line distances, serving the urban city centre, non-scheduled train timings. The RER (Réseau Express Régional) is a commuter train system that covers much of the greater metropolitan area of Paris (Ile-de-France ), much further out than that covered by the Metro, including specifically both Paris Airports: Paris Roissy-Charles de Gaulle (CDG) and Paris-Orly (ORY) , Disneyland® Paris, and Chateau Versailles. The confusing part is that the RER traverses central Paris with a handful of stations, acting like an express Metro system with fewer stops, larger trains and faster movement. Paris fare zones apply to the RER train system, unlike the Metro and there are six of them. Using a Metro ticket, the Ticket t+, is permitted on the RER, but only to the limits of Zone 1, the true center of Paris, bordered by the ring road surrounding it, the Boulevard Periphérique.
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Photos of the Paris Metro system (wikipedia commons)
- STIF: Les Chiffes, 2005. “Le Reseau du Transports en Commun”. http://www.stif-idf.fr
- Extension of M14 & M13 lines in 2007 & 2008 has added 3 new stations, now totalling 300. http://extension-reseau.ratp.fr