All Articles A first-timer’s guide to the Paris Metro

A first-timer’s guide to the Paris Metro

A group of travelers checking out the metro map at Pigalle Metro Station in Paris
Image: romain passelande / Unsplash
Nur Sofia
By Nur Sofia12 May 2022 4 minutes read

Paris is an excellent city to unravel on foot—but when you have a packed itinerary (or easily worn-out toddlers), it’s wiser to hop on the Metro. The Paris Metro has extensive coverage and is easy to use once you’ve untangled the cobweb of lines and zones.

Bookmark this nifty Paris Metro guide for your next Parisian vacay. Discover suitable tickets and passes, Metro zones, plus tips to ease your journey. Read on and learn how to use the Metro like a pro.

What is the Paris Metro?

A metro train along the tracks in Paris
Image: Louis Paulin / Unsplash

The Paris Metro is one of the oldest metro systems in the world. Fun fact: It’s also Europe’s third-largest train system behind the London Underground and Metro Madrid.

It first opened its carriage doors to the public in July 1900, connecting Porte de Vincennes to Porte Maillot. Today, with more than 300 stations and spanning around 136 miles, the Metro is the fastest way to zip around the city.

Not sure what a Paris Metro station looks like? Keep your eyes peeled for a huge letter M (just not the McDonald’s one) or the word “Metro” in red. Some of the entrances feature Art Nouveau designs, with medieval-inspired lettering and green cast ironwork.

Paris Metro vs RER

Made up of five different train lines, the Réseau Express Régional (RER) is Paris’ Regional Express Network. Often confused with the Paris Metro, the RER is a high-speed train that caters more to suburban dwellers.

The RER is frequently used for day trips to Disneyland Paris, Palace of Versailles, or Bois de Vincennes.

Metro zones in Paris

Explore exciting things to do in Paris by Metro-hopping across the five main train zones. Many popular tourist spots are in zone 1, while zones 2 and 3 include suburbs adjacent to Paris.

In zones 4 and 5, you’ll find Disneyland Paris, the Palace of Versailles, and the Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports.

Where to buy Paris Metro tickets?

There are two ways to buy Paris Metro tickets: at station ticket windows or vending machines. If you’re using the vending machine, pay with euro coins, or a European debit or credit card that has a smart chip. If you’re carrying euro bills or a non-European credit card, head to the staffed ticket windows for payment.

Try not to purchase tickets from street vendors or third-party websites though. You never know when you might be getting duped!

Which Paris Metro pass or ticket should I get?

Gantries at Montparnasse-Bienvenüe station of Paris Métro
Image: Clément Dellandrea / Unsplash

The type of ticket to buy depends on the length of your stay and how much you'll be using public transport.

Standard "t+" Metro tickets: for 24-hour layovers

These tickets are good for one ride within zone 1 only. A single ticket costs 1.90 euros ($2.10), while a bundle of 10 may be purchased for 16.90 euros or 8.45 euros for children below 10. Once validated, the t+ ticket is good for two hours on Metro lines and RER trains. This is recommended for travelers who will be around for one to two days, and not planning any day trips.

Paris Metro weekly and monthly passes

Navigo Easy pass: for recurring trips

The Navigo Easy pass is great if you visit Paris multiple times a year. Similar to London’s Oyster Card, the card is easily reloadable with the Bonjour RATP app and can hold up to 30 single-use tickets. A carnet of 10 tickets costs 14.90 euros (adults) or 7.45 euros (children below 10).

Navigo Découverte pass: for longer trips

The Navigo Découverte pass costs 5 euros and can contain Navigo day, weekly, or monthly passes. A weekly pass costs 22.80 euros while a monthly pass is about 75.20 euros. With this, you can enjoy unlimited rides on any Metro, RER, and public bus. It’s ideal for those who will be spending a few weeks in Paris.

Paris Metro tourist pass

The Paris pass: for unlimited rides and discounts on attractions

If you have a packed itinerary with many places to visit, grab the Paris Pass. It offers full access to public transport within zones 1 to 3. Also, enjoy unlimited Metro rides and reduced admission fees to popular tourist spots.

Mobilis day pass: for short 24-hour trips

The Mobilis day pass allows unlimited Metro use in zones you’ve selected. A pass for zone 1 and 2 is optimal for a one-day affair. Starting from 7.50 euros, the price of the pass depends on how many zones you travel through.

Paris Visite pass: for families with kids

The Paris Visite multi-day pass may not be ideal for adults but is a bargain for kids. Starting at 6 euros per day for children, the pass allows for travel within zones 1 to 3. Take advantage of discounts at various attractions too by presenting your ticket. Coming from neighboring cities like London? Consider a Paris Rail day trip and tour the city with your Paris Visite pass.

Paris Metro operating hours

The entrance of Anvers Paris Métro station
Image: SinN0mbre / Tripadvisor

From Sunday to Thursday, the Metro usually runs from 5:30 a.m. till 1:15 a.m. On Friday and Saturday evenings as well as the night before bank holidays, trains have extended hours till 2:15 a.m.

If you missed the last train, salvage a seat on the Noctilien night bus. It runs from 12:30 a.m. to 5:30 a.m., but with limited coverage.

Tips for riding the Paris Metro

1. Always validate your Metro tickets

When using the Paris Metro, validate your t+ ticket by placing it through the ticket gantry slots. Forget this and you risk getting a nasty 60 euro fine on the spot.

2. Make use of free Metro apps

Download the free Paris Metro app, Citymapper—it’s the only GPS you’ll need. This app will help to plan your route and show the closest Metro stations within your vicinity. Another good-to-have is the Bonjour RATP app for live timetable updates.

You can also utilize the free maps available at most station ticket windows.

3. Be extra careful during rush hour

Be extra careful when you're traveling from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., and 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., when the Metro becomes a hotspot for pickpockets. You should wear your backpack in front or carry bags with zips. Try not to doze off as well, or you’ll become an easy target.

4. Talk to the station agents if you have limited mobility

If you’re traveling with strollers or luggage, the lack of elevators and escalators in some stations might prove to be a challenge. Speak to the station agents if you need assistance, especially for those with limited mobility.

5. Observe Metro etiquette

People sitting on the Paris metro train
Image: Davyn Ben / Unsplash
  • Keep to the right when using escalators as people overtake on the left side.
  • Prep your ticket before getting to the fare gate so you don’t hold up the line.
  • At the platform, be considerate and allow passengers to alight first before boarding.
  • Avoid using fold-down seats during rush hour so there’s more room for commuters.

More like this:

Nur Sofia
Nur Sofia majored in International Trade, but found her calling in storytelling. She is passionate about travel and lifestyle, and still dreams of visiting Bora Bora someday. When she's not planning her next trip, you'll likely find her predicting the next blindside on Survivor.