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Help with Paris Metro

I need to overcome my fear of using the Metro. I will be traveling alone for the first time. I live in SW USA and haven't had much opportunity to ride subways. I have used the Metro on a previous trip to Paris but that was about 25 years ago and I was with a group. The fears range from getting lost, missing stops, getting pick pocketed, rush hour travel ..... I would like some help in alleviating my fear. It would be nice if someone could discuss how they handled a fear of something travel related. I am a sixty years old semi-retired nurse, in good physical condition and otherwise fearless. I will leave on the 28th of April and stay till 4th of May (Metrophobia or not). If anyone is traveling these dates, it would be nice to meet up for a lesson on Metro riding, coffee/lunch - my treat. Thanks

Posted by
9436 posts

Also, on the train, by the doors, is a map of that particular line. You can look there to see what stop comes just before yours for added assurance. In rush hour, when waiting for the train to come, we always walk as far away from where you enter the platform, which usually puts you in a better position to get on where there will be the least amount of people getting on or already on. I like the bus better, but I do think the Metro is easier and faster. Bus stops can be hard to find and not as many as Metro stops.

Posted by
5685 posts

Angela, I think if you do a bit of preparation in advance, you will be fine. I think the best way to deal with uncertainty is to study up before you go. I think metros are much easier to use than buses. They go on a fixed route with fixed stops. As a nurse, I am sure you have dealt with far greater challenges in your professional life. By the time you leave Paris, you will be a pro at using the metro. 1) Getting lost - carry a copy of a Paris map and metro map with you. It is very hard to get lost on the metro. Everything is labeled by line number and direction. Every stop is labeled with the name of the stop ... just look out the window of the train. You can plan many of your trips before you go. For example, if you know you will travel from your hotel to the Louvre, write down the metro line, direction, stops, transfer points etc. in advance. 2) Missing a stop - This is not big deal. Get off the metro at the next stop, walk to the platform going in the opposite direction and head back. I've missed stops more than once just because I was not paying attention. The stops are close together so all you lose is a little time. 3) Pickpockets - Keep your bags in front of you and your hand over the opening. Keep your valuables in a moneybelt under your clothes. 4) Rush hour - It is the same as travel any other time .... just with more people packed into the car. Get used to having no personal space. Move towards the door the stop before you plan to get out so that you can easily exit. 5) For the Paris metro, make sure to keep your ticket until you exit the station. Have a wonderful time.

Posted by
1317 posts

Hi Angela, I was pretty nervous about the metro too but it really is as easy as they say. The critical pieces of information you need are: the stop you're getting off at, the direction you want to go, and any changes you need to make. Check out this webpage - I studied it before our trip and found that determining metro routes is kind of a fun puzzle game. I felt much better after I figured out the secret of reading the metro map. http://www.tomsguidetoparis.com/HowToUseMetro.php Will you have an iPod Touch or iPhone? There is a useful app called MetrO that lets you put in your start and destination points and determines the best route. I believe you can sort it by time, number of changes, and maybe distance? As for the fears you've mentioned: getting lost is part of the fun of travel and there are maps all over the metro station, plus a number of them have information desks. If you miss a stop, just hop on the metro heading back the other way or walk back if the stops are fairly close together. To foil pickpockets, use a money belt, keep a close eye on your belongings and don't let people invade your personal space. Hope that helps some!

Posted by
8293 posts

Angela, the Paris buses are excellent and with a good bus map, available at any metro station, you can find your way around Paris above ground when you don't feel like using the metro. The buses have electronic signs inside proclaiming the name of the next stop and voice announcements, too.

Posted by
1014 posts

I too would take the bus. That way, you get to see Paris and not rock walls. You could take the bus outward, when it is daylight, and the Metro back in the evening. The carnet of10 tickets you will buy at the Metro station works on either.

Posted by
173 posts

Angela, I had the same fears prior to my first trip to Paris in September. I'd say getting lost on the Metro was my biggest fear and you know what? After I landed in Paris (without my luggage which somehow didn't make it onto my plane in London while my boyfriend's did...) I promptly got lost on the Metro :) My best advice would be to know a few words/phrases in French and carry a map so you can point out where you are going. Once you do it a few times you'll get the hang of it! After getting lost that first night and finding the right way without anything terrible happening, I became a pretty confident traveler. In my experience, everything was labeled really well. Know that things will never go absolutely according to plan, but that's part of traveling! I'm jealous of your trip, I hope you get comfortable fast and enjoy yourself!

Posted by
89 posts

One more note about rush hour-don't be afraid to let a train go by if it feels too full for you. Another one will be along in minutes and might not be as crowded. I feel like I'm pretty savvy with subway travel (having been to Europe a few times and NYC many many times) and I even let a few go by last year in London & Paris. And never hesitate to ask for help, despite the stereotype that all Parisians are rude, I find many people are more than happy to help if you ask politely. Have a wonderful trip!

Posted by
19 posts

I think you should ride it - I bet once you do you'll be glad you did. My family of four was in Paris for the first time last summer. With two small kids, I had some of the same worries as you, plus the fear of being separated. Looking back now, we all laugh about the time we got lost for an hour near Notre Dame (didn't realize we were trying to connect to an RER line) but it was stressful at the time. Two pieces of advice: 1) Know which direction you are going, lines are identified by color and start/end point. 2) We were fortunuate to stay near a smaller station - employee came out from behind the window to show us how to purchase tokens from the machines and get us pointed in the right direction. Hopefully you can have the same good fortune. We were Metro pros after a couple of days of riding.

Posted by
253 posts

Angela - Get the ten ticket carnet at the ticket window at any Metro stop before you board your first train. Keep the used ticket until you get out of the Metro station. Familiarize yourself with the different Metro lines by getting a Metro map ahead of time. Know where you are going and if you will need to transfer to another line or lines, and at which stops. The last stop of any Metro train is how you determine which direction you need to go, so automatically refer to the end stop when planning every trip. This becomes habit quickly. Many guide books tell you which Metro stop is the closest to the tourist sites listed. The Paris Metro is the least intimidating and easiest to use that we have encountered. They often have information booths in the larger stations. Use them. Listen to the concertos as you pass by. They can be quite good. Do not carry a purse. Use some other means to carry whatever you will need for the day. A good backpack, with locks on it, works well for us. Always wear comfortable clothes with buttons or zippers on pockets in which you want to keep something safe. Pickpockets are there - just make yourself less of a target then others. Observe others, both for how to blend in - and how NOT to blend in.

Posted by
1986 posts

For a new visitor the Metro in paris (and tube in London) are a lot easier to handle than the busses. they have a fixed route, the stations are well marked and signed (above and below ground) and as pointed out above- if you miss your stop you just head back. Because of the frequency of the trains, if you feel confused or nervous, let a train go by and catch the next one. And ALWAYS have your Paris and Metro map with you. they are your "little blue blanket". the most diffficult thing is changing from one line to a different line underground. Just take it slow and follow the signs. Dont try and keep up with the crowd whio are rushing along- no harm if you miss one train. And if necesary go up and out and go back in again to the next line (wastes a ticket- but not a big sin). And I would expect (hope) that if they see a "60 year old semi retired nurse" looking puzzled by her map, someone will step up to offer help- probably a 70 year old retired nurse. Just kniow the name of the station you are aiming at

Posted by
4411 posts

You should have a guidebook with a metro map in it; if not, they're all over the internet. Then, get one ASAP at a metro station (usually at the ticket counter; sometimes just laying around). AT HOME, start planning out where you'd like to go and 'practice' mapping out routes. The main things I can think of are to pay attention to the Direction of travel on the metro line, watch the map over the car doors and count down the stops (IF you see a stop with a red 'x' through it or something similarly bad-looking, your train won't stopping at THAT stop...), and pay attention to where to exit the station - most lines exit at several places at a street intersection, for instance. You can 'cross the street' underground, or above ground. All of this is in the "ParisLogue" video (in the following post). The video below is a bit annoying, but there's some good info to be gleaned from it. The photos don't match up well with the audio...just pause the video as you match it up with the audio: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q6ACxAAzizY Don't get caught in the car doors when they're closing...Seriously. Ouch. (cont.)

Posted by
4411 posts

(cont.) Take your time on the staircases; hug the handrails - the locals are racing around, trying to make connections like another train car isn't coming in 4 minutes LOL...just get there on your own time and take the next train! The 'ParisByTrain.com' website is extremely helpful in MANY ways; below is the link to their Paris metro 'how-to' page: http://parisbytrain.com/tag/paris-metro/ THIS is a very helpful video (at very bottom of page) and webpage; just concentrate hard on what she's saying and maybe you'll be able to ignore the 'music' LOL! She presents a lot of little details that will make your life easier; watch it more than once. And one biggie - it's all '2nd class'; the 1st class trains went bye-bye 20 years ago this year ;-) Do you know what your first few planned (sight-seeing) stops will be? We can help you map those out, if you'd like. Sounds like a GREAT adventure; you'll be fine 8^)

Posted by
199 posts

Angela, the Metro is not very difficult to navigate once you understand how it works. When you look at a handheld or Metro Wall Map the "direction" you want is in "bold" type. The other stations are in smaller type. The stations in "bold" type are also where those lines end. The bus system is also very easy too. Check out www.ratp.fr or http://parisbytrain.com/category/maps/ Good Luck.

Posted by
19 posts

WOW! You folks are awesome. It's like friends coming to help you when you need them. Seems like the general consensus is to 'just do it". Today I will start studying the maps and practicing my basic French. All the suggestions were immensely encouraging and appreciated. I was seriouly thinking about postponing my trip again in order to wait on a friend who has cancelled twice. I'll post again to let you know about the success of my trip. Thanks

Posted by
4411 posts

You've already waited twice, send them an email from Paris ;-) "Bonjour, Madame/Monsieur" at the beginning of every interaction will get you more than halfway... Come back and let us know how things went! Perhaps you'll discover something we've forgotten that would've made things much easier for you...

Posted by
768 posts

Angela:
My wife and I arrive in Paris April 27th. We are staying in a hotel in the 14 arr. and will be traveling in the city exclusivley by Metro. We'll be heading for Sacre Coeur the morning of the 28th. Send me a PM if you want to meet somewhere the 28th. Not that I think you'll need any help, but always glad to meet a fellow RS traveler.

Posted by
1340 posts

I'm a living example of a métro goer. When I first visited Paris I wanted nothing to do with the métro. It looked so complicated with all of the stops and I hated feeling lost or looking like a tourist. However, I was a poor student and taking a cab everywhere was a huge fortune. I eventually got brave and went on with some friends. From that day on I was hooked. It was so simple and so quick. It wasn't complicated at all. I understand your fears, but fear not. Taking the metro really opens you up and you get to experience real Paris, and get there REALLY quickly. My least favorite part of the Paris métro would be that of Montmartre. There are many strange entrances, but once you get used to it and remember landmarks it becomes quite simple. DO NOT WORRY about rush hour. If you miss your stop get off at the next connecting stop, or ride back to the one that you missed. You'll learn to love it and feel like a true Parisienne!

Posted by
14580 posts

Hi, Don't worry about getting lost or missing your stop, it's not worth a panic. As suggested it's best to have reserve tickets (bought as a "carnet) on you, in case that ticket in your hand fails to work. Pay attention to the signs above with "Direction" and especially to the list of stations/stops for that particular direction on the side walls, just as you would in London for the Tube. If you can (timewise), try to avoid rush hour, especially the evening rush hour on a Friday. It may not be as bad since you'll be there at the end of April, not during high season in the summer, which is always when I've been in Paris. Bottom line...don't worry, stay alert.

Posted by
96 posts

One last piece of advice. If you have a purse with one of those magnetic clasps, don't keep your ticket in the purse, because the magnet can demagnetize (is that a word?) the ticket. But, also be assured, that if this does happen to you (as it did to me) the employee behind the ticket counter will be extremely helpful, and will give you replacement tickets.

Posted by
385 posts

Angela, Here is yet another video to watch that is very useful. It's nice to see someone actually going through the procedure of buying tickets, opening the door, etc. PS Check out the other great videos on the website!!

Posted by
199 posts

Also, if you're on an escalator or moving walkway stand to the right so people who are in a hurry can pass. This is especially true during rush hour.

Posted by
34 posts

Love the Metro, but I lived in San Francisco for decades and had experience with transit systems. The Metro stations also had plenty of booths that were actually staffed by real people who could help you out. Lots of the Metro Maps on the counters. Plus large ones on the walls outside the entrance to the station. There is a whole lot of walking within the stations, esp the ones were you're making a transfer. lots of walking. Moneybelt, moneybelt, moneybelt... And keep your tickets. they're cheap, already paid for, souvenirs. Joan

Posted by
22 posts

My husband and I are from a small town so we had no experience with a subway system. On our first trip to Paris, he studied the metro map every morning before we left. He had a very small pocket notebook that he jotted down all of the metro connections to get us from one place to another. He would just glance at his notebook and we were off. When we would veer off of our planned itinerary, we would sit at a cafe and he would "recalculate" and post it in his notebook. The system is truly very easy and well signed. But even with multiple trips to Paris, he still uses his trusty notebook system....overkill maybe, peace of mind priceless!

Posted by
101 posts

Hi Angela, I'm in your age group, a nurse, though not retired, and highly recommend the Paris Metro. Also from the SW US originally & had virtually no experience on public transit, let alone in a foreign country. It really is incredibly easy, and all the advice given above is right on, so I have nothing to add except: Some of the Metro stations are works of art in themselves (Arts et Metiers is just one example). Enjoy them, & for the ones that aren't particularly noteworthy, enjoy the ads- it's interesting to see what rates ad spaces & prices in other cultures. And to reiterate: "Bonjour madame/monsieur" is quite likely the only French you will need, but it's essential. My friend Joan & I (posted above) never asked for any help & were so successful on our first trip we d ourselves "Masters of the Paris Metro".
But seriously- how to overcome this fear- look at this part of your trip as the travel experience it is. The first time you venture out, have only a loose goal in mind, "I'm going to go to the Eiffel Tower" for example, but focus only on getting there, and let it take as long as it takes for you to get comfortable accomplishing that. If achieving that goal takes all your energy/fortitude- well, the tower isn't going anywhere & is an experience night or day whether or not you go up it. Recognize that you will get there during your trip, even if all else fails & you take a taxi. The best souvenir I have of my first foreign trip (Paris) is my sense of accomplishment in getting around on the Metro. No kidding.

Posted by
1874 posts

Angela, have a great trip and report to us on your experiences, including the Metro, when you return.