Pros:Number of routes & trains, high speed...
Cons:High density of travelers, some of the trains & stations are a bit run down...
The Bottom Line: A great, speedy way to get around Paris...
If youve never used the Metro before, then most likely this subway system will just appear to be an unmanageable jumble of interconnected stone passageways, a bunch of identical platforms and a lot for broken ticket machines. It takes a couple of days to understand which platforms to wait on and get to grips with the whole process of Metro travel. Hopefully, this review will help you adapt on your very first journey, so that there will be no chance youll hop on the wrong train, buy the wrong tickets or have to appeal to some poor French commuter for prolonged help and assistance.
Most tourists parade around Paris with their overpriced Paris Visite passes or bunches (a carnet) of ten individual tickets that again, cost more than you need to pay. I would recommend you find a ticket desk at the first station you arrive at, and ask for a Carte Orange with a Coupon Hebdomadaire for the present week [and Zones 1 & 2 see below]. The Carte Orange is an identity card, originally designed for Paris residents but is increasingly being used by visitors. It is free and you will need to bring one photo to put on it get this before you leave home. This permanent identity card (it will last you for this and all your future trips) will then accompany your coupon hebdomadaire which costs E 18.50 and will allow you unlimited travel on all the Metro lines (numbered 1 through 14) and a portion of each of the RER suburban lines (lettered A through E). There is a restriction, though it only starts on a Monday and runs through to Sunday, so if you are staying Thursday to Wednesday, this isnt much good you would be better getting the (expensive) Paris Visite passes (no Carte Orange needed for these) for 1, 2, 3 or 5 days these work from your first validation, not from Monday. Note that the tickets are validated by placing them in the appropriate machines magnetic strip side down
If you have previously read anything about the Metro, you will know that it is divided into eight Zones thus, you must buy a ticket to travel over a specific number of zones. This was a major headache for me, as before I left, I could not find any information stating what or where these were. If you look at a Metro map, you will see a white almost-octagonal area in the center this is Zone 1. Together, the Parisians refer to Zones 1 & 2 as Paris. There is no need to buy tickets for more than these two zones unless you want to incorporate Orly and Charles De Gaulle airports (zones 1 to 5 will have to do you in this case). Many tourists want to travel to Versailles which is also in zone 5. It would possibly be less expensive to buy individual tickets for these journeys, however.
A map of the metro will appear as a crisscrossing grid of different colored lines / routes the stations are marked intermittently by round circles. Some of the lines are interconnected at specific stations at these stations, you can switch routes, from one line to the other. The lines are open 5.30am to 12.45am.
The station entrances are usually marked clearly on maps of Paris. In real life, they appear quite literally as holes in the ground, a descending staircase with a Metropolitan sign nearby. Each of the dozens of stations has its individual stylistic attitude, character and color scheme. Cité has sky- and sea- blue tiles with blue seating and city-style tri-pronged lantern lights. République has hot red seating with red and orange tiles, while Concorde had submarine like brass curved walls with porthole windows protecting displayed ancient mathematical instruments. Their interiors were fascinating and it kept your busy examining each while waiting the short time for the next train. Some are less well kept, however they have dirty white tiles, and the passageways smell of substances that perhaps should be kept in the sewers these stations really are in the minority, however, and Im sure they will be renovated soon. Graffiti is present in all stations but after a while, you pay little attention to it.
The trains are single deckers on the Metro lines and double deckers on the RER lines. They have ample room for standing but really do get very crowded during rush hours the air becomes stale, suffocating and the temperature shoots up not a very pleasant experience, but Paris is a city after all and the crowding is not for want of enough trains. The seating varied in style, but the reasonably new trains had blue, wide and comfortable chairs. The newest trains were on yellow line 1 between La Défense and Chateau de Vincennes they had no divisions between carriages and so, even in rush hour, the breeze sweeping down the train during transit completely cleared the air and refreshed the passengers. I presume all routes will have these trains in time. The trains on brown line 11 were, in my view, the most run down and had the most questionable customers on it although I may be misguided, I wouldnt ever book a hotel on this metro line in the future and Im glad I didnt on this occasion.
So, now you know what tickets to get, how to read the metro maps and what the trains & stations look like which platform do you wait on? Easy you go to the platform that is marked with the destination at the very end of the line in question. So, say you are on yellow line 1 from La Défense to Chateau de Vincennes (CDV) and you are presently situated in the center of the line
You want to travel to Bérault, which is the station just before CDV. So, you get a train from the platform marked Chateau de Vincennes simple
To make a connection to a different colored line within a station, you also follow the signs for your desired destination.
Words you will need to know to get around the stations
Passage Interdite passage is not permitted
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