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Clueless about Paris transit

I am researching metro routes with google maps from our hotel in the Opera neighborhood to various places we will visit. We will be in Paris from Thursday afternoon until Tuesday morning. Looks like weekdays will be very easy with metro 7 & 8 taking us to many places we will go.

My question is about Saturday and Sunday. Using the schedule explorer for the latest published weekend (which is still about three weeks earlier than I need) it appears that only buses run from the Opera neighborhood on weekends. Am I reading this correctly?

Thanks from a western burb dweller with limited public transit experience.

Posted by
3752 posts

What schedule are you looking at? Can you post a link to it? You can change from one bus to another using one t+ ticket but you cannot change from Metro to bus on one ticket.

Posted by
446 posts

Thanks JHK. I did figure out I can use the same ticket and edited my original post. I was using google maps directions from one metro station to another. On the left side bar when the options come up there is a "schedule explorer" you can click on and select your date and time of day.

Posted by
16894 posts

Metro runs frequently every day and later on Friday and Saturday nights. I would not expect much other schedule variation on the weekends, except that they might choose those days to do some track repairs, outside of commuter hours.

Posted by
544 posts

I highly recommend using the ratp.fr website and the RATP smartphone app over Google Maps. The routing and schedules in Google Maps just didn't work that well in Paris.

Posted by
681 posts

This seems odd to me. You might put a Metro app on your phone and play with that a bit for now. It'll be handy when you're in Paris and it should be able to give you the information you're looking for while you're still at home.

Posted by
3752 posts

Don't use Google. Their mass transit directions for Paris are awful. Use the RATP app or website.

Posted by
2466 posts

Google Street View is a very useful tool.
Google Maps for Transit is terrible.
The ratp.fr website is in French, but should be easy enough to navigate.
You have to enter the date and time you want to travel, then click on bus or Metro options.
Blow up the provided map, and it's easier to see where the stops are located.
The Metro runs every day, but the RER system will often have interruptions due to work.

Posted by
20296 posts

I think the other point is that Metro trains are so frequent, that schedules are a waste of time. I've never spent more than 10 minutes waiting for a train. There is an electronic board on the platform telling you when the next train will arrive, its destination, and if it is a multi-line platform, what Metro line it is. Maps on the platforms and in the station gates give over all system view. Maps inside the cars show the names of all the stops for that line. Its a very user friendly system.

Posted by
1097 posts

Agree with Sam. The Paris Metro is the easiest public transportation system I have ever used. The trains provide coverage to anywhere you want to go (if you're willing to walk a couple of blocks), and they run frequently. I know a lot of people like to take buses and stay above ground but the Metro is so easy, I prefer to take it and save the time it would take to figure out the bus schedules. Maybe I'm just lazy. :D

Posted by
3752 posts

If you select the Union Jack in the upper right of the screen, the content of RATP.fr will be in English. You can also get there by going to RATP.fr/en.

Posted by
11507 posts

I am a metro over buses person and they run so frequently I have never even looked at a schedule.. they are literally every few minutes it seems..

I find the buses far more confusing to master.. the metro you can figure out in like 5 minutes ..

Posted by
8118 posts

Google maps is worthless for transit in most European cities; whole systems are not included. Paris metro runs every day including holidays; in addition there are regular buses and at night night buses.

This is the site to map out trips but frankly you are best off just picking up a paper metro map the first time you ride (from the info window) If you know your metro stops, it is easy to figure your route and the stations themselves are well signed so it is easy to find your platform even in the most convoluted stations -- just by following the signs.

http://www.ratp.fr/itineraires/en/ratp/recherche-avancee

If you are doing this from Australia or the US be sure to adjust the time to daytime in Paris since metros shut down in the early morning past midnight. There is no need to look at a schedule as a train comes along about every 5 minutes -- 10 or 12 during very slow periods. Just get to your platform and wait.

Posted by
100 posts

I agree that the metro is crazy-simple, but the bus routes are, too. But the major reason we take the bus over the metro when possible is the stairs. DH and I both do OK with stairs while doing a lot of touring, but combining that with the number of stairs of the metro and after a few days our knees were complaining. Plus all of the extra walking you sometimes do to actually get to the platform you need. Sometimes it feels as if you've walked halfway to your destination while underground.

We switched to the bus when possible and it worked out a lot better for us physically. So our first choice is a bus if it's convenient (and not rush hour).

Posted by
11507 posts

Bus IS definitely better for those with any mobility issues.

Posted by
18 posts

We were just in Paris a few days ago for the first time. We both thought the metro system very easy to use. We used the app Paris metro map and route planner. It worked great and was very user friendly. I used the map I downloaded for Paris in city maps 2 go to find the nearest metro to where I wanted to go and then input the beginning and ending stations into the metro app. Loved it!

Posted by
8118 posts

Certainly the bus is better if there are mobility issues; the metro is inappropriate for anyone for whom stairs are a challenge. You can buy a bus map booklet from any newstand for about 6 Euro or so. Buses cover a lot more territory and so are more complicated to map out. But most bus stops have electronic signs indicating when the next bus is coming; they all have detailed maps of the particular route. It helps to know your penultimate stop so that you know when to signal the bus to stop (when you clear the penultimate stop). LIke buses anywhere, they only stop when someone indicates they need to stop or there is someone waiting at the stop.

Posted by
80 posts

Something about the buses you should be aware of in France: They will kick you off the bus when they arrive at the end of their route. For example: If there are 20 stops on a route and you get on stop #15 and want to get to stop #3 on the route, you will get kicked off at the end of the route, #20.

We got kicked off 3 buses in France and was stranded in a suburb of Nice. Walked and walked until we found a small hotel/restaurant and went in for them to call us a taxi.

Buses are definitely the way to go if stairs are an issue but be aware of this problem.

Posted by
8889 posts

Klo, I don't understand what you are complaining about. Any transport system (Bus, train plane) will kick you off at the end of the route. If you are flying from New York to London do you expect to be able to stay on board after it lands in London? It could be going anywhere next (or back to the depot).
If you got on an stop No. 15 wanting to go to stop No. 3, but arrive at stop No. 20 then you got on the bus going in the wrong direction. Just get on one going the other way. You will probably have to pay again. Why didn't you do that when you got to the end of the route in NIce?
We have all got on a bus/métro going in the wrong direction at least once, part of the travel learning experience.

To address Caroline's original question, the official métro map is here: http://www.ratp.fr/informer/pdf/orienter/f_plan.php?fm=pdf&loc=reseaux&nompdf=metro
Bus map is here: http://www.ratp.fr/informer/pdf/orienter/f_plan.php?loc=reseaux&nompdf=bus_paris&fm=gif
Larger version with streets is here: http://www.ratp.fr/informer/pdf/orienter/f_plan.php?loc=reseaux&nompdf=bus_paris_geo&fm=gif

These are all you need, just print them out and take them with you, or pick up free copies at any métro station. You need to find out the métro nearest station to your hotel (this is as vital a piece of information as the street address), and the nearest station for your destination.
Forget about timetables, you no more need timetables than you do for lifts (elevators) in a building, just turn up and wait for the next one. And forget about Google maps.
Buses (and métro) run to and from all parts of Paris 7 days a week. Especially the very central Opéra area. Don't worry.

And, when you arrive at your first métro station, buy a "carnet" of tickets (10 tickets at a discount price). Same tickets are valid for bus and métro. You can change between métro lines on the same ticket, but not between métro and bus.

Posted by
4684 posts

The official Paris bus map is pretty confusing because of the tendency for buses to run along different streets in different directions, which is made hard to understand by the small scale and relative lack of arrows. If you want to use buses a lot, you can buy a booklet of all bus routes with more detailed maps in newsagents - they will be in French but it is easily understandable, the only difficult bit is learning what the French words for Saturday (samedi) and Sunday (dimanche) are as some services don't run on those days.

Posted by
2466 posts

You didn't get "kicked off the bus". You can't ride round-trip with one ticket. Everyone must get off at the "terminus" and wait for the next bus, using a new ticket.

Posted by
4132 posts

Carolyn, we spent a week in that neighborhood last month (Rue Danielle Casanova). The metro runs frequently every day. I'll share a few other things from our experience.

This was our first trip using the buses and we came to prefer bus rides if they were feasible. Buses run very frequently on many routes.

Oddly the RATP smartphone app never told us about bus options even when they were faster than the metro, but Google Maps did.

Another mass-transit thing to try, if you dare: Velib, the city's bikeshare program. You must register online and keep your account number and PIN handy; with that you can check out a bike from any Velib station.

Have a wonderful time!

Posted by
80 posts

That's probably the way it is in some countries in Europe, but in the United States, that's not the way it goes with buses. If Carolyn is from the US, she's gonna get a big surprise!

Posted by
135 posts

Thanks to previous posters for some really useful information, especially about RATP. I've been planning our trip using Google Maps so I quickly checked the directions for returning from Musee d'Orsay to our accommodation in the 10th. I used Google Maps, RATP (app and online) and the Paris Metro app (from mapways.com). Interestingly, I got 3 different suggestions. Google had me walk to the station at Invalides and take Line 8; the Paris Metro app suggested I take Metro Line C 1 stop and transfer to Line 8 and RATP suggests the bus to Madeleine and then take Metro Line 8. All of the options are of reasonably similar duration so it looks like the easiest way to manage in Paris is to have at least 1 app installed on your mobile.

I'll still do some advance planning so I've got a rough idea of timing but it's reassuring to know I've got all I need in my pocket. We have come to rely heavily on Google Maps when on foot and have had no problems with data usage. In our experience of using Google constantly for 1 month in Spain last September, both while we were walking around cities and when we were driving, we were under the 1GB included in the local SIM card we purchased on our arrival. I'll use Google for navigating, one of the apps for transit and the Velib app for biking options.

Posted by
3752 posts

The RATP App or website update for service outages. Right now the RER C is not running through certain stops in central Paris including Invalides and Musee d'Orsay, so if the directions were for travel now, the ones that call for taking RER C are not up to date. The RATP app and website default to the quickest route (even if it is by a minute) at the time in Paris when they are accessed. You can change the travel time and date to when you will be traveling and also look for options with less walking or fewer connections. If one is going to install only one app, I'd say use the one offered by the Metro because they actually operate the system and update for system outages or problems on the tracks.

Posted by
446 posts

I haven't weighed back in because this topic just keeps getting added to and it's great. Thanks for all the helpful information. I have used the RATP website and it is much more useful than Google maps. Since we have no mobility issues we are planning to use the metro rather than buses because to me it seems more straightforward and faster. I am sure we will be above ground to enjoy the city while doing plenty of walking as well. I am excited to get to Paris armed with all your pointers. Merci.

Posted by
5697 posts

For us, the advantage of using a bus over Metro shows up on travel days when Metro means hauling suitcases up and down stairs because there is no escalator -- just step on with the bus. (And we travel with 22" rollers, not steamer trunks.)