Paris RER

By | January 21, 2014 | in RER

The Paris RER is 5 express train lines connecting Paris city centre to surrounding suburbs. Within Paris the RER acts as an express underground or subway train. Beyond the centre, the Paris RER is a ground level commuter train connecting outlying suburbs and popular destinations such as CDG Airport and Euro Disney to the heart of Paris.

The Paris RER is 5 train lines:

  • RER A
  • RER B
  • RER C
  • RER D
  • RER E

Paris RER Maps

The public transit authority of Paris (RATP) offers multiple RER maps that can be downloaded here:

  • basic RER map showing its 5 lines with branching endpoint stations and the 5 fare zones for Paris and surrounding suburban area (Ile-de-France)
  • combined Paris RER & Metro map showing lines, stations & interchanges between the Metro & RER
  • Basic Metro Map screenshot

Paris RER Schedules & Timetables

Paris RER trains operate as a scheduled service, unlike the Paris Metro.

Here are some examples of first and last RER trains to popular destinations:

CDG Airport Terminal 2 to Paris, Gare du Nord station

  • First RER B train leaves at 4:56 and arrives at 5:26
  • Last RER B train leaves at 23:56 and arrives at 0:26

Paris, Gare du Nord to CDG Airport Terminal 2

  • First RER B train leaves at 4:56 and arrives at 5:30
  • Last RER B train leaves at 0:15 and arrives at 0:50

Paris, Chatelet les Halles station to Euro Disneyland (Marne La Vallée station)

  • First RER A train leaves at 5:19 and arrives at 6:01
  • Last RER A train leaves at 0:36 and arrives at 1:16

Euro Disneyland to Paris, Chatelet Les Halles

  • First RER A train leaves at 5:13 and arrives at 5:47
  • Last RER A train leaves at 0:20 and arrives at 1:01

Full RER Timetables for download and print can be found here:

Paris RER schedules can be confusing to read. Here are some instructions on reading RER timetables.

Paris RER Tickets

Paris RER trains use two different types of tickets depending on which part of the RER network you will be traveling. When taking an RER train strictly within central Paris Zone 1 (visible in the first RER Map), you can use a basic Paris Metro ticket for travel on the RER. Travel beyond Paris Zone 1 on the RER requires a special ticket: a Billet Ile-de-France.

Billet Ile-de-France Paris RER tickets are similar to the one shown here:

Paris RER ticket prices are determined station to station for travel beyond Zone 1 and range from 1.70€ to upwards of 11€. Some example trip RER fares (prices valid as of January 2014):

Tickets for the Paris RER can be purchased at any RER or Metro station ticket window or ticket vending machine. Metro station ticket machines will appear like the following:

Photo courtesy of squarejer (photo courtesy of squarejer)

(Metro ticket vending machines may also be white or purple in colour).

RER and large train station (gare, like Gare du Nord) ticket vending machines may appear like the following:

These machines are known as Billetterie Ile-de-France and can also be blue in colour.

Do not attempt to purchase Paris RER tickets from yellow ticket machines which only sell/exchange TGV train tickets:

Metro RER Ticket Machine Hall Gare du Nord Niveau -1

Passes

Paris RER passes include the following:

  • Ticket Mobilis (Day tickets)
  • Carte Paris Visite (1, 2, 3, 5 day pass)
  • Passe Navigo Découverte (Week pass)

Paris RER travel passes are subject to fare zones, 1 through 5, which determine the price of the multi-use pass or ticket. The above transit fares are valid for travel not only on the RER, but also on the Metro and Buses within the fare zone you have purchased.

Day Tickets

The Ticket Mobilis day ticket looks like this:

This particular day ticket is valid for zones 1 & 2 (the minimum possible), which as of January 2014 costs 6,80€. Note the writing on the top left hand corner? To be valid for travel those fields should be filled in with: date of use in format dd/mm/yy (Valable le), lastname (NOM), and firstname (Prénom).

Multi-day Passes

The Carte Paris Visite consists of a black folding card and a coupon like ticket which looks like this:

Paris Visite ticket

Paris Visite card

The Carte Paris Visite card is available in only two zone choices: 1-3 or 1-5. (If you want coverage for either CDG or Orly Airports, you’ll need the 1-5 zone card). Carte Paris Visite can be purchased with either 1, 2, 3 or 5 day validity. Prices are as follows (current as of January 2014):

Remember to fill in the requested information on both the ticket coupon and the black paper card before using the Carte Paris Visite. These two pieces must be kept together to be valid for travel.

Week Passes

Paris RER week passes are known as Passe Navigo Découverte (a physical card) that must be purchased along with a week long “subscription”, known as Carte Orange Navigo Semaine, which provides unlimited travel within certain zones (1-2 up to 1-5 zones of validity). The physical Passe Navigo card itself costs 5€. Navigo Semaine subscriptions are priced as follows:

For example, a Passe Navigo Découverte loaded with 1-5 zones of travel would cost 39.40€ in total: 5€ for the plastic Navigo Découverte card and 34.40€ for the 1-5 zone subscription, which covers popular destinations like CDG Airport and Paris Disneyland, both in Zone 5.  (Prices current as of January 2014.)

This week pass system works strictly from Monday start of service, till Sunday end of service, not an arbitrary seven day period. If you arrive in Paris on Thursday, you have until midnight to purchase a Carte Orange week subscription. Starting on Friday, passes for the following week (valid starting Monday morning) will be on sale.

The Passe Navigo Découverte radio frequency (RF) card is roughly the size of a credit card and has no identifying information on it:

Passe Navigo Decouverte

Each plastic RF card also comes with a paper identification card which is meant to hold your hand written name and a face photo of the traveler (measuring 3cm tall by 2.5cm wide). (Do use your full first and last name for this card. The example below has the last name edited to protect the privacy of the traveler).

Navigo Name Photo card

The paper identification card has a sticky plastic fold-over sheet which holds your photo in place. You must already have a photo with you when purchasing the Passe Navigo Découverte at Metro or RER ticket windows. The photo can be black & white or colour, professionally done or home printed or even photo copied and reduced from a driver’s license and trimmed to the required 3cm x 2.5cm size. Automated, coin operated photo booths can often be found in larger Metro, RER and train stations within Paris, charging roughly 5€ for 4 photos. Paris transit authority workers often have scissors handy for trimming your photo for use on the Passe Navigo.

Restrictions on Passes

Some restrictions apply to the use of the above passes:

  • Ticket Mobilis is not valid for travel to CDG Airport via the RER B train, nor the Roissybus
  • Ticket Mobilis is not valid for travel on the Orlyval train nor the Orlybus to Paris-Orly Airport
  • Passe Navigo Découverte is not valid for travel on the Orlyval train to Paris-Orly Airport

Paris RER Stations

Paris RER stations are marked with signs like the following:

RER Sign

(Photo courtesy of Gregory Deryckère).

Here’s an example of an RER station entrance at Auber station on the RER A line near Galeries Lafayette in Paris’ 8th district:

(Photo courtesy of Google Maps which is a great way to visualize your route. Google Maps with Street View, allows you to virtually tour the streets of Paris).

Paris RER stations are often shared with Metro lines such as at Paris’ largest underground station, Chatelet Les Halles. In the following photo at the top left corner is a sign showing RER A and RER D joining five Paris Metro lines within one Paris station – Chatelet Les Halles:

RER stations in Paris can also be found within large train stations (gare) such as Gare du Nord. Here is an example of a combined RER & Metro station sign at Gare du Nord:

Inside of an RER station, access to the train platforms is restricted by the use of turnstiles and double door gates such as this entrance into the fare paid zone within Chatelet Les Halles:

Things to note in the above RER station turnstile/barrier photo:

  • Turnstiles or gates are marked with green arrows or red circular lights. Only green arrow marked turnstiles can be used for entry. The red marked gates (such as the one at the extreme left) are for passengers exiting the fare paid area.
  • Certain turnstiles are reserved for Navigo pass card holders. Notice the traveler on the far left? He is using a reserved turnstile, marked on the front with a ticket crossed out. There is also no ticket slot on these reserved turnstiles and access will only be given to Navigo pass card holders.
  • Using Tickets: Normal turnstiles and barriers have a small ticket slot which will be on your right side when entering a turnstile. Insert your ticket into the slot, magnetic stripe down. The ticket will be read for validity and ejected for you to retrieve near the top of the turnstile. You must retrieve the ticket before the gate or turnstile will open or operate. If you’re using a double door barrier gate, retrieve your ticket, approach the gates and wait patiently for them to open, then pass through. These gate style barriers can often be slow in opening. But, do not back out and try your ticket again as tickets can only be successfully used for entry once, which prevents ticket “pass-back”. Simply stand close enough to trigger an electronic eye which senses the presence of a traveler.
  • Using Passe Navigo cards: As you enter a turnstile, the top right hand portion of the barrier will have a purple area meant for reading Navigo pass cards. Simply place your Navigo card on top of this area and wait for a “ding” or high pitched short buzzing to signify your card has been successfully read. If the barrier is a double door gate, approach the doors and wait for them to slowly open. Turnstiles are often faster to pass through since you provide the force to open the barrier, rather than these tired machines. The following is a photo of the Navigo pass card reader area found on turnstiles.
  • Navigo Turnstile Card Reader (photo courtesy of RATP).

Finding your RER Train

Once past the turnstiles you need to make your way to the correct Paris RER platform where you’ll be able to board the train. Within RER stations, signs will note lines along with direction of travel, which is denoted by the final or terminus station for the line. Here is an example Paris RER A sign:

Things to note in the above photo:

  • The top left corner designates which Paris RER line, in this case, RER A.
  • The names to the right of the line indicate the direction for this platform. There are two: Boissy-St-Léger and Marne-la-Vallée (Paris Disneyland).
  • In this particular example there are two end points or directions for RER A trains using this one train platform, thus we need to refer to an overhead station panel on the train platform itself to determine the final destination of the next train.

On the train platform you will find overhead station panels such as this:

Things to note about the above RER station panel:

  • Station names are either lit with a yellow square or dark. Lit RER stations will be stopped at by the next RER train passing through.
  • In the above photo, the RER A train pulling into the station is serving the Marne La Vallée direction, as opposed to the Boissy-St-Léger terminus since the station name Marne La Vallée–Chessy is list. The next train to arrive at the station will likely serve Boissy-St-Léger.
  • RER stations within central Paris Zone 1 (visible on the RER Map with zones) will always be serviced by RER trains. It is only RER stations outside the centre of Paris that may or may not be serviced since some RER trains are considered “Express” and make only a few stops before arriving at their final destination.
  • The Train Court square at the bottom right hand corner, when lit, signifies that the next train will be “short” meaning it will have fewer train cars than the length of the platform. It would be wise to stay away from the ends of platform when the next train is court.

Riding RER Trains

Paris RER train doors do not open automatically. Whether you’re getting on or getting off, you’ll need to activate the train car doors through a button located on the handle near the middle of the double doors (unless someone pushes the button first).

On board the RER train itself, there will often be folding seats near the doors themselves, which should be used only when there is room to do so. Obviously at rush hour, these seats should remain up to allow as many passengers board the train as possible.

Above the doors of each RER train car are RER line maps showing all stops along the current RER line. At times these maps can be active, showing a flashing light beside a station name designating it as the next stop, with lit station names showing the path of travel, dark station names showing stations already passed. At other times, the maps will be simple stickers showing all stations and connecting Metro lines and large train stations along the route.

Exiting RER Stations

Upon arriving at your desired RER station, you need to alight the train car (remembering to open the door using the button) and make your way past the turnstiles and barriers. RER stations often require the use of tickets and passes while exiting RER stations, using the same turnstile barriers as when entering, but in reverse. This is a measure against travelers paying less than the appropriate fare for their travel. There is little preventing passengers from buying a lower cost fare, boarding a RER train and riding it beyond the fare’s validity. Forcing riders to use their tickets or passes to exit RER stations and random checks by ticket controllers, doling out penalty fares of around 35€ per infraction, are the few measures against improper use of the RER.

Many Paris RER stations have multiple exits (sorties) which can be up to ten minutes walk apart (such as at Chatelet Les Halles). Exit maps can be found near station exits which help you get your bearings before leaving the station. Exits will be marked in blue and often have a number and exit number associated with them:

Popular Paris RER Routes

Questions? Suggestions?

If you have questions about the Paris RER informaton presented here, don’t hesitate to ask for help on the Paris By Train forums where I or some other knowledgeable traveler will get back to you with an answer.

If there is a subject which I haven’t discussed in this article that you think is appropriate, please let me know via the forums.


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