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Paris RER B during rush hour? How difficult is the commute (especially with luggages)?

We will be traveling to Paris by rail and arriving at Gare du Nord around 5pm on a Friday. We would have to take the RER B to get to our hotel. I've read that Paris rush hour is around 5pm-8pm and that the Metro and buses are packed between those times. Is it the same for the RER? Slightly better? Worse? Would it be difficult for us to travel to our hotel at that time (especially since we will be having our luggages with us)?

Thanks! :)

Posted by
5241 posts

The RER will be crowded, probably as much so as any Metro train, but you won't have steps to cope with getting on or off the train. You probably will have steps at the destination station. If your hotel is close to an RER station and not close to Gare du Nord, and if you're otherwise mobile and not hauling too much luggage, go for it. But watch out for pickpockets, especially at the Gare. Packing light is always a good idea, and using the fast, convenient public transit is one of the reasons why.

Posted by
16723 posts

I would say you have to tough it out, but tell us where your hotel is. One thing to remember, it is easy to get your luggage down to the RER platform at Gare du Nord, they have both elevators and escalators, but your arrival station may not have these facilities, making you do a bit of lugging up stairways.

Posted by
18 posts

Thanks, Dick and Sam.
I will be staying at Hotel Pierre Nicole near the Luxembourg gardens. I believe the closest station is Port Royal.
Is it fairly easy to figure out where to catch the RER B to Port Royal? Also, how often do the trains come by?

Posted by
11450 posts

When you say "luggages" do you mean multiple bags each. One small to medium at most suitcase each and one purse or shoulder bag.. anything more then that will be difficult. I travel for weeks at a time with a 22 inch case and I have cursed it more then a few times having to lug it up and down stairs.. over ledges,, etc. The single most important thing you can do is take as little luggage as possible to be comfortable.

Frankly I would consider a taxi, theres an offical taxi stand right outside Gare Du Nord( ignore drivers who approach you and get in the offical line up) .. its may set you back 15-20 euros but its will be stress free. But if travelling light then you could consider the RER.. it obviously will be alot cheaper.

Posted by
18 posts

Thanks, everyone, for the great advice!

Pat,
Will likely take a small to medium sized suitcase each, purse, and possibly a carry-on duffel bag. Do you think it would be better to take a taxi? I don't know how bad traffic gets in Paris. How much do you think it would cost to get to Port Royal around that time?

Sam,
Thanks for sending the link to the map and google street view of Port Royal. Glad to know that there is an elevator at Port Royal. Would certainly make taking the RER easier. I just hope it's working when we get there. :))

Posted by
8385 posts

I lived on Blvd. de Port Royal for two years, so I am familiar with the area. The RER B is the most crowded of all the RER lines. I would avoid it with luggage at rush hour. On the other hand, the 38 bus route begins at the Gare du Nord and will drop you right where the Port Royal RER station is. This route runs parallel to the RER B from Gare du Nord as far south as Denfort-Rochereau, so you may end up using it a lot during your visit to Paris. At "Observatoire-Port Royal", which the stop is called on the bus, you only have to head east across the street and go two very short blocks to your hotel. The bus is better because it has an area in the middle for large items. This is where you would stand with your luggage, or perhaps sit on the pull-down seat if it's not too crowded. This area is for wheelchairs, strollers, shopping carts, luggage.

Finding a bus stop in a new city can be a bit trickier, but from what I could see on line, the bus starts off from the street to the east of the station and turns onto the same street running in front of the station. Coming out the main entrance, you'll be walking south, so you'll turn to your left to find the stop. It could be one or two blocks. (The 38 used to end at the Gare de l'Est, not Nord, so I've haven't caught it there.) On the front of the bus you want the one that says "Porte d'Orleans." From time to time the buses may say "Luxembourg" or "Chatelet". Those 38 buses will stop before getting to Port Royal, and you'd have to change to the next bus, a bit of a pain in the neck. In this case, just wait at Gare du Nord for the next 38 bus because chances are it will probably say "Porte d'Orleans" and be running the whole route.

If you google 38 bus paris, you'll get more info. Here's some trivia: the route the bus takes is the main road the Romans created to bisect the town.

Posted by
18 posts

Thanks, Bets. That's great advice! I have heard that there is a bus stop close to the hotel but had not realized that there was a bus that goes there directly from Gare du Nord. Will definitely consider taking bus 38.

Also, if I understand correctly, the bus system uses the same tickets as the metro? Is that correct?

I looked up the route using this website (http://www.ratp.fr/itineraires/en/ratp/recherche-avancee) and found that the commute should take around 38 mins by bus and about 15 mins by RER, which is quite a big difference in time between the two. Do you think it will be worth the extra time to take the bus over the RER?

Thanks! :)

Posted by
8385 posts

Correct, you use the same tickets.
If it were my choice, I'd definitely take the bus because this is a case of the journey being part of the destination. The bus route goes over rue St. Martin passing the back of the Pompidou Center on the right, coming close to the Tour St. Jacques on the right, over the Isle de la Cite in front of the Concergerie and Justice Building with La Ste. Chapelle behind it on the right, past Notre Dame on the left, through the Latin Quarter, past Luxembourg Gardens on the right, and finally at Port Royal. Too bad the place to stand with your luggage is on the left side, but you might be able to sit down or bend down for a good look out the right, or if your bags are small enough to go on your laps, you could get a seat on the right since you'd be getting on at the first stop. If you ask people on the bus to help you with the correct stop, everyone will jump in to help.

Posted by
18 posts

Thanks, Bets. That sounds great! Can get a bit of sightseeing done on the way to the hotel. I think we will take bus 38 then. Are we only allowed to be on the left side of the bus if we are carrying luggages?

Posted by
8385 posts

You can leave it as long as it can stay upright and not get in the way. But, hey it's Paris, there is plenty to see even out the left side.

Posted by
6604 posts

Be aware that new arrivals with luggage are pickpocket targets. We are old hands and usually take a taxi these days but took the RER last spring. Three men surrounded my husband carrying two bags (gentleman that he is) on the stairs at Denfert Rochereau and frisked him -- had their hands in his inner jacket pocket and all over him. We didn't lose anything because we know how to travel pickpocket proof -- but a less experienced traveler might well have lost their passport, money and credit cards before they knew what hit them. So if you do take public transport have all valuables well stowed (not in backpacks, not in pockets) and watch each other's backs. (I failed here having gotten somewhat ahead of him)

It is not hard to be pickpocket proof, but it is necessary.

Posted by
12875 posts

Hi,

Arriving at 5 pm, ie, rush hour on a Friday, at Gare du Nord, add one more factor to the mix...in the summer, then it's a sardine can on the Metro from Nord to the hotel, and very crowded on RER B. Waiting for a taxi in front of Nord will take anywhere from 30-50 mins. I've done both, this was when I stayed elsewhere than at Nord, ...just prepared to be squeeshed. If you can take a bus from Nord to the hotel, if you're not encumbered with too much luggage, I would suggest that too, as pointed out above.

Numerous buses stop at Nord, in front of the station, and on rue de Saint Quentin in front of the Chinese restaurant.

Posted by
18 posts

Awesome! Thank you all for the great advice!

About the bus, do they announce what stop is coming up? Does the bus stop at every bus stop or do you need to signal when you are getting off?

About the tickets, during this time, would it be better to buy tickets at a ticket counter or using the ticket machines? I am planning to buy the carnet of 10 tickets.

Thanks!

Posted by
8293 posts

The buses have electronic panels which display the names of the approaching stops and yes, you do have to push the button for the stop you want. Unless, of course, the driver is clairvoyant.

Posted by
149 posts

Well, we've bitten the proverbial bullet and have made and paid for the (essentially) non-refundable air fare and the wholly non-refundable advance, with an attractive discount, full prepayment for our hotel lodging. We're in our pretty healthy 70s but these postings have convinced us to use a taxi for at least the inbound Charles de Gaulle--hotel trek. With our first and only previous Paris trip in 2001 we prepaid on line for a van for the CDG--Marais hotel transport, but the van never showed up. It took us about two hours to, with the help of a couple of French folks, figure out how to use the public telephone in the airport and finally connect with a wiiling-to-speak-English representative of the van company and get a later iteration of one of the company vans. I think Rick must be correct when he recommenfs using one of the van companies for the hote to CDG trip but not vice versa, so we may try the outgoing hotel/CDG trip by van if the company has the hotel's endorsement.

I'm fairly confident that we have no French prejudice, have enjoyed our previous week in Paris those many years ago, and have obviously chosen Paris for a revisit, so we're game for yet another adventure, but I can't help adding that we've used the Heathrow-London trip on the Underground three times and that has gone very smoothly (children of one mother, separated by a common language), and that there's just a bit more than a wee bit of Anti-American feeling widespread among the French.

Posted by
8385 posts

"that there's just a bit more than a wee bit of Anti-American feeling widespread among the French."

That's strange. After forty years living in both the US and France, I haven't noticed this as being widespread in either country. On the contrary, I've run into a lot of emulation on both sides.

Taxis are a great option in from the airport. I agree that there are situations in which the extra money is worth it. It's fairly commonly known on this helpline--oops now forum--that the vans can be unreliable, though I've never had a problem with them personally. I just think they are a drag having to go to everyone else's stop before getting to your own.