We are traveling with 4 adults (2 grandmothers, one who can not walk very far) and 2 young teens. Would you recommend the metro or hop on/hop off bus tours to get around? I hate the thought of being stuck in traffic on the bus but navigating the metro with our group sounds just as stressful.
City busses ?? All at street level. Or taxi ??
I was looking at the yellow L'OpenTour buses, so no, not city buses. Also one grandmother has been pick-pocketed before and is a bit nervous about it this time. The other grandmother couldn't care less and most likely will be pick-pocketed but luckily she won't be carrying much besides candy and tissues.
The hop-on-hop-off bus is a good idea for seeing the main sights. When you want to go straight home, feel free to get a taxi. With 4 people its likely to be almost the same as 4 Metro tickets.
The metro is great! It is also convenient when you buy your Metro cards and goes everywhere you want to go. I am not so fond of the buses. You get caught up in horrible traffic and you may not even get a seat and have to stand. The metro is not as stressful as you think. Read Rick's info on this site about the Metro and when you get to Paris, don't be shy about asking the authorities at the Metro station for help. In fact, many Parisians , Americans, and others will kindly help you if you ask politely. Really, even a young teen can maneuver with a bit of instruction.
L'Open Tour is a good way to see the sights, and there are four intersecting lines, so it covers most of Paris; however, it is not a good transportation option. For example, if you want to go from Notre Dame to the Eiffel Tour, you would be better off taking a city bus, which takes a more direct route. Either way you might get stuck in traffic, but I think the city buses are probably better at getting through the traffic. City buses are really very easy to navigate, they are easy to board as the step is fairly level with the curb, and if the grandma who doesn't walk well takes a cane, she is practically assured of a seat. You can buy a Paris Bus L'Indispensable, which is a booklet of all 109 bus lines with street maps and bus stops at most news kiosks for about 6 euros, and it is indispensible. Riding the Metro involves a lot of stairs and sometimes long walks underground. Many Metro stations do not have elevators or escalators, so the Metro is not a good option for the grandma that can't walk far.
The grandma who is afraid of being pickpocketed just needs to take normal precautions, use a purse (cross-body bag) that zips and keep it close. Pickpockets look for careless and distracted people, so be aware of your surroundings and don't leave valuables on a table, stand around texting, or hook your purse over the back of a chair.
The metro is great but all the walking to get in and out and up and down stairs could be an issue for the grandmothers? There really are a lot of stairs and long hallways to navigate. I think the hop on/off buses are a great way to get around. It helps you get a lay of the land and how much you walk is up to you! Don't be too concerned about traffic...you'll still get to everything you want to see in a reasonable amount of time.
First on pickpockets. You can't be pickpocketed if you are not carrying valuables that are easily accessible. Make sure grandmas are not carrying much cash or cards and if they are that they are well stowed. Maybe consider those stupid neck wallets worn under clothing. They are generally too visible for me and uncomfortable, but they may be re-assuring to an elderly person who has been picked before.
The metro means lots and lots of stairs; someone who doesn't walk well is going to be miserable. The HOHO buses are great for sightseeing but lousy transportation -- they take forever to arrive and to get anywhere. The regular buses are specifically designed for people with mobility issues. The grandma with those issues might use a cane and claim a seat for the disabled (you are not elderly for purposes of claiming a seat until age 75 and even then you won't easily dislodge the young men sitting in those seats -- a cane makes it easier to do. I had to insist on a seat for my 80 year old mother with cane and obvious mobility issues though -- often people don't spring up when they see the obvious need.
City buses have seats for the elderly/disabled and also kneel for boarding. Cabs if you can find one that takes four people (many of those on the streets do not) are also efficient if you can find them. Taxi stands don't always have taxis waiting and hailing cabs on the street is not as normative as it is in New York or Chicago.
If a bigger taxi is not available at a taxi stand, then choose a smaller one, which is still required to take up to 4 people. There is an extra charge of €3 for the 4th adult. I think you'll find taxis to be pretty convenient and affordable, versus paying for 4 people on other transport.
Agree with Carolyn and Janettravels44. Would not recommend metro. Besides the stairs and sometimes long walks through the tunnels, there's also the fact that you're travelling in a tunnel and can't see anything. Also would not recommend the HOHO. One problem with the hop-on-hop-off we noted was that they sometimes run every 30 minutes and people who ran to make the bus but missed it were stuck waiting, often with no place to sit.
We used the metro the first time we went to Paris and the second time we used mainly the bus. The bus was handier and it was great to see the sights as we rode. As was previously noted there are seats for the elderly and disabled and people will usually give up their seats if those are taken, and the pickpocket advice was also great. Buses generally run every 10-20 minutes. We found the bus maps a bit confusing when trying to get to an out of the way place but our hotel helped us with the buses to take and where to transfer if needed. If you are there for 5-7 days and/or arrive on a Sunday or Monday, a 7 day bus pass might be worth it. Using the pass you can get on and off as many times as you like in any direction. If the number of days don't work you can buy a carnet - 10 bus passes which can be shared among people.
Agree with Carolyn about the L'Open tour busses, good for sightseeing but not so great for regular transportation. Forget the metro, crowded and too many steps. Some of the local busses may be helpful, check the RS Paris book for route suggestions. With 2 grandmas I think you're in for a lot of taxi rides.
Buses No. 42 and 69 are great for sightseeing, and as noted before, access is easy because the bus "kneels" to let passengers board. To be sure to get a seat, take a cab to Champs de Mars, where there is a dedicated stop for each of these two buses and where the 69 begins its route, or to the Gare du Nord where the 42 begins it route. The grandmothers might enjoy the experience of being on actual city buses.
Hi everyone, this was my first time posting on Rick Steves and I did not expect such great replies. Thanks so much. I had not even thought of city buses and they seem like our best option. If we take city buses we will not have so much money tied up in the HOHO buses and if someone wanted to take a taxi back to our hotel instead of a bus they could.
Another mode of transportation that your group may really enjoy is the Seine river cruise. It's especially pretty at night with all of the historical buildings, monuments & bridges lit up. And, there's perfect views of the Eiffel Tower from the water.
Great advice so far & I agree about the Metro if someone cannot walk very easily it will be difficult. We used it exclusively while we were there but no real mobility issues for us (ages 62 and 66). I just wanted to say enjoy your time in Paris!