Getting around Paris
Public transport in Paris is plentiful, relatively easy to understand and (when compared to other capital cities) pretty good value for money. The Paris Metro serves most tourists’ needs. Stops for the main sights and attractions are clearly signposted. Free transport maps are available at Paris metro stations, bus terminals and tourist offices and are usually available as leaflets at most hotels.
To link it all together, there’s the Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens (RATP) (tel: 3424, in France only; www.ratp.fr) an integrated, five-zone system of bus, metro and trains that is both cheap and efficient (except during strikes, which are something of a national hobby). ‘Paris Visites’ offer one-, two-, three- and five-day visitor passes for Paris and its immediate suburbs (zones 1-3), which can include transport to the airports, Versailles and Disneyland Paris (zones 1-5).
For the Paris Metro, one ticket covers one journey, whether you travel for one stop, 20 stops, change trains or fall asleep and wake up at the end of the line. The one great failing, however, is the relative lack of lifts or escalators and the narrow ticket barriers. Trying to get around with prams, suitcases, crutches or wheelchairs is a challenge that you might decide you’d rather skip.
If you know that you’ll be making several journeys on the Metro, you can save money by buying a carnet (a batch of 10 tickets) instead of paying for each ticket one by one.
Taxis in Paris can be hailed in the street or caught at taxi ranks. Tipping is not compulsory but drivers expect around 10%. Taxi firms include Taxis Bleus (tel: 3609, in France only) and Taxis G7 (tel: 3607, in France only; +33 1 4127 6699).
As with most major cities, driving in central Paris is usually more trouble than it’s worth. Most hotels do not have garages, parking is difficult (illegally parked cars are towed away) and traffic jams are frequent. Parking prices vary throughout the city but high and time limited. Besides, with the combination of taxis and public transport, there’s really little need for you to battle the roads yourself.
Paris has an environmental zone within the urban motorway ring road (Boulevard périphérique). It is obligatory for all motorists (also from abroad) to have an emission sticker (Vignette Crit'Air) on the vehicle when driving within the environmental zone.
To hire a car in Paris you’ll need to have a credit card, be over 21 (sometimes over 25) and have held your licence for at least a year.
Vélib’ (tel: +33 1 3079 7930; www.velib.paris.fr) is Paris's city-wide bike hire service. The first half hour is free, with low charges thereafter. The 1,800 stands mean you are never more than 300m (1,000ft) away from picking up one of the 23,600 bikes. And besides, is there anything more romantic than seeing Paris by bike?