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Getting around Paris

Public transport

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

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).

Driving

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.

Car hire

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.

Major companies include Budget (tel: +33 821 230 637; www.budget.com), Europcar (tel: +33 825 358 358; www.europcar.fr) and Hertz (tel: +33 1 4191 9525; www.hertz.fr).

Bicycle hire

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?

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Featured Hotels

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Hôtel Darcet

Hotel Darcet offers 32 modern and comfortable rooms right in the heart of Paris. Perfect for travellers and business people alike, the prices are also very reasonable. The hotel is also conveniently located just a 10-minute walk to Saint-Lazare station.

 

Hôtel Banke

A new addition to the Derby Hotel chain, Hôtel Banke is a refurbished bank found in the desirable Opera district in Paris. The lobby’s grandiose circular interior, capped with a crystal-domed ceiling, gives way to thickly carpeted hallways and designer sofas. Both single and double rooms are modern and pleasingly functional. The trendiness factor borders on gauche, but with this location who cares.

Sofitel Paris Le Faubourg

The wonderful Sofitel Paris Le Faubourg is a renovated 18th century mansion that feels effortlessly like a Parisian town house. Styled by the illustrious Didier Gomez, the rooms in this 5-star hotel are tastefully finished with Louis XV armchairs, vintage mirrors and beds you can imagine libertine lovers losing whole weekends in. Lunch and cocktails in the hidden courtyard terrace are a must too.

Hôtel Des Academies Et Des Arts

Just around the corner from Montparnasse cemetery, this neat boutique hotel offers stunning rooms and a sumptuous breakfast without the wallet melting price tag. Best of all, it feels far more like neighbourhood Paris than similarly sized spots in touristy Montmartre. The lounge area, replete with library, is a great place to kick back before heading out to one of the array of nearby brasseries for dinner.

Le Bristol

There’s luxury accommodation and then there’s Hotel Le Bristol Paris. From marble-panelled powder rooms to its regal 1,210-sq-m (13,000-sq-ft) garden, Le Bristol has been Paris’s most prestigious hotel since its inception in 1925. All services are naturally state of the art and foodies will be happy to hear its three-Michelin starred restaurant continues to stockpile accolades under the guidance of chef Eric Frechon.

Saint James Paris

The Saint James is steeped in weird and wonderful history. A one time hot-air balloon field (some still take off today) and school for France's most talented students, nowadays it is one of Paris's hottest addresses. Situated in a 19th century chateau on the edge of the city centre, rooms are a blend of belle époque decadence and modern luxury. Beyond the bedrooms, the library bar, with a terrace affording views across town, is what makes this hotel really special.