Transportation within Paris
Getting from the Airport to the City
Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport is the largest of the three Paris airports, and you’ll probably arrive at Terminal 1. The airport is linked to Paris by line B of the RER. There are "Paris par train" signs in obvious places. You can buy a ticket at the machines located on the large area just before you access the escalators to the platforms. The ride to Paris is a bit over half an hour and costs €8.40.
The Paris Métro system is efficient, quick, and convenient. There is no air conditioning so it can be fairly hot and crowded during the summer rush hours. If you feel too cramped, you can always get off a station or two before your stop and walk. The stations are not far apart from each other.
We suggest that you carry a small map of the Métro (petit plan) until you know your way around, but the system is logical and easy to understand. You need to remember the zones covered by the network:
- Zones 1 and 2 are Paris and vicinity
- Zones 3, 4, and 5 are the suburbs
- Zones 6 to 8 are the outer areas
The most important thing to know is the direction of the train, which is highlighted on the map and clearly signaled on the platforms. If you change lines, look for the sign “correspondence,” which indicates the transfer line.
Neither the Métro nor the RER runs all night. The stations close at midnight or 12:30 a.m. and open again at 4:30 a.m., although the exact times vary according to each line. If you miss the Métro, you can take the night bus (the Noctilien). The Noctilien essentially replaces the Métro between midnight and 5 a.m. You can find the Noctilien map at www.ratp.fr. The service runs from 12:30 to 5:30 a.m., 7 days a week, covering 1,950 stops in Paris and 175 towns throughout Ile-de-France, including routes to Orly and Charles de Gaulle airports.
Métro tickets are only good for one ride and they are transferable to RER as long as you remain in the same zone. Until you know what your movements will be, it’s convenient to buy a “Carnet” or set of ten tickets, which costs €11.50.
The next step is to buy a weekly pass or Hebdomadaire ("Hebdo"), valid from the beginning to the end of each week (Monday to Sunday). The Hebdo costs €16.30.
The monthly pass, called Carte Orange, gives you unlimited rides for a month within the zones for which you purchase it and is valid from the first to the last day of the month. You can avoid long lines by buying the pass on the 20th of the month. The lowest price is €53.50 for Zones 1 and 2.
For more information about the RER, the Métro, and the Noctilien, Tramway, and Bus, visit the Paris transit system website.
In July 2007, in an effort to reduce traffic and pollution, the Mayor of Paris made available thousands of low-cost rental bikes at bicycle stations scattered throughout the city. The idea is to have a total of 20,000 bicycles and 1,400 stations—or about one station every 250 yards across the entire city. Check out the Velibs website.
Riders insert credit cards into a machine to sign up. The system is designed for short journeys: the bike is free for the first half hour and the cost rises according to the time the bike is out. You can rent a bike any number of times and return it promptly to another station. If the bike is not returned, your credit card is charged $250.
This is how it works: Register at any Vélib station following the instructions (available in English) on the registration machine. The machine will give you a receipt with your subscription number, which you will use each time you take out a bike. You must have a smart-chip Visa card or an American Express card to sign up.
To get your bike at any Vélib machine, type in your subscription number, your secret code (chosen when signing up) and the number of the bike you wish to take. Liberate your Vélib by pressing the button on the stand and sliding it out of its holder.
Get a helmet! There are no helmet laws in Paris for cyclists, and the Vélib system does not include headgear.
Transportation outside Paris
France has a comprehensive, fast, and comfortable rail system, run by the SNCF out of six stations. There are regional trains or REG, the high-speed trains or TGV connecting with other countries, and the Grandes Lignes that also cover long distances but are not high-speed trains. They leave from the following stations:
- Gare d’Austerlitz: Trains going to France, Spain, and Portugal
- Gare de l’Est: Trains going East (Eastern Europe, Austria, south of Germany, east of France)
- Gare de Lyon: Trains to central France, Italy, Switzerland
- Gare Montparnasse: Trains going West and to southwestern France
- Gare du Nord: Trains going to England, northern France, the Netherlands, Belgium, and northern Germany
- Gare Saint-Lazare: Trains mainly to northwestern France
You can get timetables and purchase your tickets at www.voyages-sncf.com.
If you intend to travel outside France after your internship, it will be cheaper to get a Eurail Pass before you leave the U.S. than to buy one in Europe. The Eurail Pass covers unlimited travel, and the cost depends on the number of countries and the number of days you want to travel. For more information go to www.eurail.com.
Some airlines have especially low prices for European flights. Keep in mind that these air tickets are usually non-refundable.
- www.ryanair.com: Flights from Beauvais airport to Ireland. Beauvais airport is north of Paris and over an hour away on the bus.
- www.easyjet.com: Flights to the UK
- www.wizzair.com: Flights to Central and Eastern Europe
- www.ba.com (British Airways): Flights from Paris to London, sometimes offering special rates
- www.airfrance.com: Ask for youth fares