Le Metropolitan de Paris Old Paris Métro sign. (Photo by David Lefranc. © Paris Tourist Office)

The Paris Metro (subway) system and RER (city light rail)

The entire Paris public transport network (bus, Métro, RER, trams, etc.) is operated by RAPT (www.ratp.fr), and all uses the same system of tickets and passes (see the sidebar to the right for prices and details).

There are two overlapping systems of underground trains: the Métro (city subway; lines are designated by numbers) and the RER (regional light rail; lines are desginated by letters).

Within central Paris, for all intents and purposes, they operate the same. The RER extends much farther into the Greater Paris region, and is useful for getting to outlying sights.

The Paris Métro

The Paris Métro (subway) is one of the best in Europe, a clean, efficient, and well interconnected system.

Finding the right Métro line

Using a Métro map, find which numbered line you want to take and the name of the last station in the direction you want to take it.

In the Métro tunnels, follow signs for that line and that last station to get on the train going the right way.


You might have to transfer to another line to get to your destination (though usually not more than once per trip).

When transferring, follow the signs labeled correspondance toward the next line. Do not follow a sortie sign, unless you want to exit.

You can make unlimited transfers on one ticket so long as you don't exit the system (sadly, you cannot transfer Métro-bus or Métro-tram, though Métro-RER is fine)—although you will often find yourself walking what seems to be halfway to your destination in the long tunnels that connect some transfer stations.

Métro tip

In most cities, subway car doors all open automatically when the train comes to a stop, but not in Paris.

Here, whether you're boarding or getting off, on most trains you must either push a big button or, in older cars, turn a crank knob to open the door. (See the pictures in the sidebar on the right.)

This is surprisingly easy to forget. I can't count how many times I've stood on the train at my stop, staring stupidly at a closed door for a few seconds before sheepishly remembering to turn the knob.


You'll notice that most lines are numbered while others appear to be assigned letters. These lettered lines (A, B, C, and D) are technically not the Métro, but are part of the overlapping RER network.

This high-speed commuter light-rail system services only major stops within the city, and it extends farther out into the suburbs. It uses the same tickets as the Métro, and you can transfer freely between the two systems. (Note however, that if you're leaving central Paris on the RER—say to Versailles, the airport, or even La Defense—you cannot use the standard "t+ tickets" and will have to buy a billet Origine-Destination.)

Some RER lines are particularly useful; the C line, for instance, follows the left bank of the Seine closely (no Métro line does this) and also heads out to Versailles.

RER tip

The ends of all RER lines split off like the frayed ends of a rope as they leave the city, so make sure the train you board is heading out to the numbered fork you want (for example, the C line has seven different end destinations, C1 through C7).

Maps on the platforms show you the routes of each fork, and TV displays tell you when the next half dozen trains will be arriving and which number each one is.




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