Wednesday, January 26, 2011

How to use the Paris Metro and Look Like a Local

Riding the Paris Metro is fun, safe and easy, as long as you now how.

Each day I watch and sometimes help people, looking bewildered and lost, pouring over maps, arguing or getting frustrated. It is not that bewildering, here is how you do it.

Le Metro
The first train leaves its terminus at 5.30am and the last train arrives at its destination around 1am.

The metro tickets can also be used on the buses, tramways and the funicular (lift) up to Montmartre.

There are 14 colour coded lines.  When you are searching for your platform, you follow the signs by the colour of the line,  the line number and the line destination.

Buying Tickets:
The tickets are obtained at a green coloured machine, in the underground. You can use notes, cash or card, depending on the machine.  This will become obvious, when you look at it, if it has money symbols, this is the one to use. Having change is a good idea.  Some are for re-charging Navigo cards only. You will notice the difference.

Most machines have several languages but not all.

Some machines have touch screen but most have a large silver sausage shaped, scroll device, below the screen.  Glide your fingers on this and you will notice it scroll up and down the screen.  

Either side of this is a yes (green) and no (red), buttons.

I normally buy a 'carnet' which is 10 single tickets (billets). That way you don’t have to mess around buying tickets all the time and wasting valuable time. Travel Cards are available also.

This is How it Works:
You will see on the screen:

Acheter des tickets, coupons
Tournez le rouleau, puis appuyez sur valider
Recharger un passe Navigo

Scroll up to  : Acheter des tickets, coupons
Select: by pressing the green button

Next a series of ticket selections will come up
Scroll to: Carnet 10 tickets Metro, Bus, Tramway 2e class, Plein Tariff
Select: by pressing the green button

The next screen will ask you how many 'carnets' you want.  1 or 2. 1 will buy you 10 and 2 will buy you 20.

Scroll: and select what you require
Select: by pressing the green button

The next screen : Voulez-vous un recu? This is asking if you want a receipt.
Scroll: Non or Oui - yes or no
Select: by pressing the green button

Next it will tell you how much you need to put in the machine and you will see money and card symbols come up.

Put your card or money into the slots provided

Your tickets will then come out at the tray below.  If you have a problem, there is a red button with a speaker, where you can ask for help.

Entering the Metro System
The ticket can be used as many times for 1½ hours, within the system and on busses.  Don’t fall into the mistake, a lot of people do, of using another ticket, when changing trains, within the system.

Once you have your ticket, proceed to the turnstile.

Slip the ticket in the card slot, move towards the turnstile, wait for it to pop out at the top, retrieve it, move through the turnstile and hang on to your ticket.  Sometimes when making several changes you may need to put it in again, or if an inspector wants to view it.

If a red light pops up, the card is past its use by time, or you have put an old card in or something is wrong.  If you know it is a new card, go to the counter.

Find Your Platform
Next, look for and follow the signs for your line colour,  line number and line destination.  

It is always good to remember the colour of the line and it's number and most importantly, the end destination of your line.  The destination of the line, is the direction which will bring you to the correct platform.  This is important to remember, otherwise you might get on the right line but in the wrong direction.

Tip: remember your colour and/or line number and the destination of your train, not just your stop.

Once you reach your platform, there will be a sign indicating how long the next train will be, noting the destination of the train line. (it will normally be minutes, trains run every couple of minutes)

Door Handles:
There are three types of trains.  Therefore, three types of door opening mechanisms. 

When the train comes to a halt you will hear an air release, this is a signal that the driver has released the doors.

The newer trains have automatic opening and closing doors.

The second type has a green button, once the driver has released the doors you press it, and the door will fly open.

The third has a handle, which you pull up, after the driver has released the doors, the doors will open.

When a buzzer goes off the doors are about to close, so jump in quick.

When you disembark,  to connect with another line, or to leave the station; look on the wall, ahead of you, on the platform.

Signs will indicate in which way you must move on the platform in order to reach your next line or exit the station.

To exit:  
follow the white on blue SORTIE signs to exit, different exits that bring you to different streets may not all lead in the same direction off the platform.  Take a minute to read the signs.

OR if changing trains:

Follow your destination: 
colour, line number, destination point of line.

When you are nearing your platform there will be a sign with the stops so you can double check, you are on track.

The images below are an example:
The left arrow: pink line, line 7, in the direction of Ivry*Villejuif.

The right arrow: purple line, line 4 in the direction of Porte de Clignancourt & Porte de Orléans (this is either direction, so the signs are telling you head this way, and eventually you will find either direction.  It also displays, this is the way to orange line, 5 in the direction of Place d'Italie.

The image below:
Displays, what you will see, when you are about to enter the platform.

It shows the direction, in this case, La Courneuve, the line Colour Pink and the Line 7.  

Underneath, the stations it will stop at.  And the circles, where there are interchanges.

This is always a good point to stop and note, if your stop is listed here, otherwise you are on the incorrect direction.

There are also maps above each door in the train, if you want to double check you are heading in the right direction.

A white on blue sign, saying Sortie, is the exit to get out of the station. 

When you reach turnstiles and doors you exit through the door, you don't need your ticket, just push the door open, or as you stand on the pad, the doors will open automatically.

Also note below, the exit numbers. The numbers indicate in which street you will surface, when exiting the metro station.  If it is a big square (roundabout), where you are to surface, this is very useful. 

The exit numbers, as above,  will tell you where you will land when you surface from underground. This can be really helpful if you know what street you want to be on and is worth taking the time to work out where you want to be.  Otherwise you will spend unnecessary time crossing busy streets. 

Maps on Exit:
Street maps near the exits, show where each exit surfaces on the street. Some stations have many exits.

These maps will show you,  in which direction the stairs enter the street.  This is very useful.  When you surface to the street, you will need to know whether to turn right or left.  You will see little arrows on the stairs, on the maps.

Train Etiquette;
Upon entering the train, near the doors, are pull down seats.  Anyone can sit on these, however if the train fills up, you are obliged to stand up and make room near the doorway.  You may find yourself, up and down to allow people with shopping or suitcases, who need to get off, before the doors close, so stand up and make way for them.  

It also goes without saying, if someone is pregnant or elderly, offer them these seats by the door.

Parisians avoid eye contact on trains and Parisians don’t talk loudly on trains, in fact,  anywhere, for that matter.  

Unless, perhaps, you are on the last metro, late at night, when maybe, they have had a few glasses of French wine, it can change.

Metro Map On-Line
Planning your trip is a good idea.  If you have data for your smart phone, there are some great applications you can download. One in particular is Paris Metro Subway by Presselite. It will tell you where the nearest Metro stop is and which route you take.

However, if you are like me and have a French pre-paid sim card, this can be expensive and chew up your credit.

If you have internet access, the official interactive Metro Map is a fantastic tool.  I have found it invaluable. Especially if you know where you want to go, before heading out for the day.

Interactive Metro Map Instructions

Click on the drop box marked Find On Map 
Type in the Metro you will be starting at
Click on the appropriate metro stop
This will highlight on the screen (with a flashing circle)
Click on the station, that is your start point.

Icons will pop up with red and green flags
Click on the green flag, this will pinpoint your start point. 

Again, click on the drop box,  Find On Map 

Type in your destination, 
The stop will be highlighted with a flashing circle
Press on the flashing circle, and click the red flag icon

The bottom left of the page, is a tab called Route, it will shimmer

Click on that 
It will tell you the path you need to take, where to change and what line to take.

When I know where I am going, before I leave the apartment, I often do this, and take a photo on my iphone, of the computer screen, no need for maps.  Just check the photo.

In Conclusion:

Although there are maps all around the metro, I think it is useful to carry a small pocket sized metro map in your pocket.  These can be obtained, for free, from the ticket counter.  Ask for a plan de metro.  Two sizes are available, large and small.

Some metro stops are worth visiting, just to admire the decoration, like Arts & Metiers, with copper lined walls and little portals and the Louvre, feels like a museum, before you enter the museum!

You may encounter buskers, some good and some not so good. They often will tell you their story, of how life has led them to this.  Some sing, some play guitar, accordion, some both, it is up to you if you want to contribute to their cause.

You may also encounter some fabulous 15 piece bands, in the connecting tunnels of the metro, where they pull big crowds and sell their own CD's.

Many homeless people sleep in the metro stations, late at night, they are not a danger to you, they just don't have anywhere to bed down for the night.

Whatever you discover during your metro journeys, whether you get lost, discover old or new, decorated or not, it is a journey to be discovered.

Hope this is useful and happy travelling!


At July 14, 2011 at 9:49 PM , OpenID Wilson O'Doyle said...

Great pictures of the subway in Paris. I throughly enjoyed the city and the metropolitain helped me explore it along with my Paris Viste Pass. It was one of my favorite cities.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home