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Is it hard to use the metro?

I find it intimidating in NYC to use the subway, and that’s in English! Do you find it hard getting around in Paris! I don’t read nor speak the language. We are staying in Montmartre and will need to us it. Any tips?

Posted by
912 posts

The lines are numbered and colour coded so it's no harder than London.

Download a map and work out your routes before you get to the station.

Posted by
2565 posts

There really is not that much French in the métro other than the proper nouns, and they would not change even if everything were in English. Sortir means exit, but you probably already knew that.

Download and use the Citymapper app. It will answer all your questions, and give you specific instruction to any destination.

Using the métro is not anywhere near as confusing as is purchasing the correct tickets/passes.

Posted by
1963 posts

We didn't speak French and got around the Metro. The confusing part is navigating the big transfer stations and following the signs. One thing to remember is that unlike in America where all doors open automatically, on European subway cars, you have to push a button by the door to open it. I missed several stops because I keep forgetting that.

Posted by
2441 posts

I find the French metro a bit easier to use than the one in NYC, though both work just fine.

Posted by
10254 posts

No comparison. I find the NY subway difficult and confusing, too. Bad or no signage, steep stairs. The Paris metro is easy and understandable.

Posted by
15896 posts

We don't speak any French either, outside of the 'manner words/phrases', and found the Metro easy to use. In fact, I found it easier than NYC's.

You just have to make sure your pass or ticket covers the zone you'll be traveling to and to get on the train going the right direction. Your correct platform will be identified by the station at the end (terminus) of the line going that direction. For instance, to get to Père Lachaise we needed to travel east of Opéra (nearest station to us at the time) on line 3. The eastern terminus of that line is Gallieni so that's the platform we wanted. Going back Opera, we reversed it and went to the Pont de Levallois/Bécon platform, which is the terminus of the line on the west end. Sometimes you'll need to switch lines within a station, and you just do the same thing; find the platform for the train number going the direction you need; follow the signs.

The Metro lines are numbered; the RER train lines (which I've not needed to use yet) are lettered, and run further outside of Paris' central zones than the metro. I believe that passes and T+ tickets cover travel to/from any metro station within the system. RER trains have a different price structure based on zones (correct me if wrong, Bets!)

A metro/RER map:
https://www.ratp.fr/en/plans

Posted by
33003 posts

a lot of pictograms are used so pretty easy. Stairs look like stairs and a pictogram of an escalator looks like ... an escalator.

Three words you should know before trying the Métro - entree is entrance, sortie is exit, correspondance is transfer (usually on an orange coloured sign on a platform (follow this word to transfer to a different line).

And then the absolutely very most important word to know. Bonjour. Start all conversations with bonjour (good day, hello) and people will be glad to help you. It really is important in interactions in France.

Posted by
2565 posts

You just have to make sure your pass or ticket covers the zone you'll be traveling to

Tickets do not have zones. Passes have zones, but the métro is always zone 1, no matter where it goes.

Posted by
9730 posts

on European subway cars, you have to push a button by the door to open it

Not on all lines, only some. Many lines have doors that open automatically.

Posted by
15896 posts

Tickets do not have zones. Passes have zones, but the métro is always
zone 1, no matter where it goes.

Right, Tocard, That's what I meant but obviously didn't explain very well! :O)

Posted by
357 posts

Hi Lulu, another Indiana person here. It's not difficult as long as you have studied your route in advance, as other posters noted. Using an Indiana example, if you want to travel from Indianapolis to Lafayette, you will be using Interstate 65. However the highway signs from Indy for I65 don't say "I65 Lafayette." They say "I65 Chicago" or "I65 to Louisville." So you have to know that the exit for Lafayette is somewhere on I65 (like your train number) and the direction is north to Chicago (like the name of the last station on that line). It's the same with the Metro. I also find it helpful to note the stop just before the one I want so that I can be prepared to exit.

Easy! Just be prepared for a lot of walking at some stations. And the bottom line is that you might get lost at some point. Just go with the flow, ask someone, and look around while you're there...you might discover something unexpectedly wonderful!

Posted by
8118 posts

your t+ ticket or zone 1/2 pass will take you anywhere the metro goes. When you use the RER (and it is very obvious, it is an entirely different sort of station/experience, then you must have a ticket that includes the zone of your destination. You use the RER ticket to exit since the trips are metered. With the metro it is one size fits all and you don't need the ticket you exit (you do however need to keep it as being asked to present it to inspectors is a common experience)

The system is very well signed and it is very easy to use. As you enter the final hall to your platform there will be a list of stops on the wall; it is wise to double check that your destination is on the list in case you are about to get on the train going the wrong way. If you do, it is not a crisis. Just get off and staying within the system cross over to the other side to get the train going the right way.

Also helpful to know 'the rule' when traveling with companions. If you get separated and one is going and one is left on te platform, the traveler gets off at the next station and waits for the companion who will take the next train. We only had to use this once, but it was nice to know we both knew what to do.

Posted by
2565 posts

you must have a ticket that includes the zone of your destination.

Tickets do not have zones. Only passes use zones. RER tickets are sold point to point, with all of Paris (all métro connections) being considered as one of the points.

Posted by
1338 posts

Using the Paris metro is easy - it's the easiest metro system I have ever encountered (well, maybe Rouen is easier because it's so small).

Follow the colors, pay attention to the stops, google your exists et hop! You're there. Don't let this be a stress.

And follow the rabbit's advice on the stickers on the door.

Posted by
1625 posts

I have never taken a subway in my life before I went to Europe and the first was in London. We found the Metro in Paris to be easy you just have to pay attention and give yourself enough time. I figured even if I got on the wrong train, oh well just get off and find the right one, what is the worse that could happen...hence giving ourselves a lot of time. My Plan B if I get it really wrong is just to come up to the street and find a taxi stand, but that has never happened.

Posted by
11 posts

Grew up using BART in the San Francisco bay area. Been to NYC and London. I get lost/confused on them all. Don't speak much French, but I can navigate the Metro very well. I look at the map and find out which line will take me to where I want to go. Follow the color for that line and I alway check the last stop to make sure I'm headed in the right direction.

Posted by
4179 posts

I've only spent 2 half days in Paris and my only negative impression was that some of the stations are tied to train stations as well and are massive. I found it easy to get lost compared to London.

Posted by
8118 posts

Tocard -yes I misspoke. The RER tickets are point to point and that means station i.e. you cannot get off at a further station in the same zone or as I found out to my regret, if you take a walk between villages in the countryside you cannot return from that further out station even if it is in the same zone if you have bought tickets to the original station.

You can get off at an earlier station.

Posted by
2565 posts

janettravels44 - I was relatively sure you knew that. My post was for others who may not have as firm an understanding.

Posted by
104 posts

Lulu, if it's any consolation, I was born and grew up in NYC, and when I go back for visits I do not understand how tourists find their way around the massive, sprawling subway system. :) That said, the Paris Metro is the easiest system I have encountered. I think you will do fine!

Posted by
4478 posts

there are lots of how-to videos on Youtube, and Rick covers it as well. I've taken subways all over the world and don't find the metro especially hard or easy, pretty much the same.

However, there's one place you get get tripped up. Remember that subway maps are not always geographically accurate, they are designed to look good and be easy to read. But there are some stations that are indicated as being connected to other stations when in fact, you'll end up going blocks underground either by foot or on moving walkways (I believe Les Halles is like this). Just keep following the signs and you'll get where you need to be.

One other possible point of confusion is that there is a train system that interfaces with the subway system, it's called the RER. And sometimes you'll want to use it instead of the subway. Just look at the map as long as you need to and you'll see what you need to do.

Posted by
978 posts

I feel so MUCH better with your stories! Thank you all! And Linda, that example of Indy to Lafayette helped.

Posted by
357 posts

Glad you got the info you needed, Lulu348! Have a great trip!

Posted by
6586 posts

I think the Metro is easier than NYC subways, as well as quieter and pleasanter. Entree, sortie, and correspondance are the key words, as Nigel said. It's true, though, that some transfers between lines involve long walks through tunnels, sometimes with multiple steps up and down. NY is like that too. These systems long predate the Americans with Disabilities Act, which doesn't apply anyway in France. ;-)

Posted by
319 posts

It's quite easy. I live in a rural area of Texas, no public transportation at all, and I find the Metro very manageable. The ticket machines have English language options and the attendants are generally helpful. Once you get your ticket or Navigo card you can easily hang back and watch a few people go through to see how it's done. You can also look it up on YouTube to be better prepared before you go. I was very anxious the first time I used the Metro but, after a few trips, you will feel like a pro.
Good luck.

Posted by
4478 posts

However, one note of caution - there tend to be people hanging around ticket machines who offer to "help" you with your tickets. I'm not sure what the scam is, I guess if you buy a carnet they pocket a ticket or two.

Good rule of thumb is to approach a given situation and, hang back a bit and scope it out. You'll quickly get a sense of what's going on and who is who.

Posted by
1625 posts

Someone mentioned watching you tube videos, and that is an excellent suggestions just to familiarize yourself with the logic of the system. I plan on doing the Eurostar between London and Paris and I must have watched 10 videos of to/from and now feel 100% confidant that I can navigate it just fine. You can pretty much search any journey and someone (or two or three) will have made a video on exactly how to navigate.