Dos and Don’ts of the Paris Metro

Mistakes to Avoid on the Paris Metro
Inside Paris metro station Inside Paris metro station
November 24, 2020
The Paris subway transports more than 4 million passengers each day, including lots of locals and many tourists too. Here are a few tips to make you seem like a pro even if it’s your first time on the metro.
Portrait of Urbansider Paris author Ulrike
by Ulrike

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Riding the metro in Paris is easy and fast, and it’s a great way to get from point A to B if you’re in a hurry. But there are a few things that are good to know to ensure that your subway ride goes smoothly. Here are some simple dos and don’ts to make riding the metro a good experience for you and to help you avoid annoying any local Parisian passengers.

Do: download the free RATP app. The app gives you offline maps of the metro, RER, and bus lines, and if you’re online, you’ll be able to search by station or use your location to find the best way to get to where you want to go.

Do: buy a carnet of tickets rather than buying tickets one at a time. A ‘carnet’ is simply a bunch of 10 tickets, but purchasing them like this saves you money. Instead of paying €1.90 for a single fare, you’ll pay just €16.90 for 10.

Do: keep your metro ticket until after you’ve exited the station. There are often ticket checks within the station hallways.

Paris metro tickets
Hold on to your metro ticket until leaving the station at your destination or risk a 50€ fine!

Do: know how to enter and exit the train. There are three different types of doors on metro trains. Older trains have a small, curved metal handle on the doors—pull up on the handle to open the doors and be quite determined with it. On more modern train cars, simply push the button to open the doors. The most modern ones open and close by themselves.

Do: allow people to get off the train before you get on.

Do: sit down or hold on. You’ll see some Parisians standing freely but that takes years of practice. Don’t try it! If you’re sitting on the fold-down seats next to the doors, please stand up if the train gets crowded.

Do: hold onto your phone and keep an eye on your bags. As everywhere, you find pickpockets in crowded places. Learn more about how to avoid scams in Paris.

Do: take some of the best metro lines in Paris. If you’re going between Passy and Bir Hakeim, take Line 6 for great views of the Eiffel Tower. For the fastest ride to Gare de Lyon and the 13th Arrondissement, take Line 14. Use Line 1 for access to most of the popular sights (Place des Vosges, Louvre, Arc de Triomphe).

Inside Paris metro station, ticket turnstiles
What to expect when you take the Paris metro for the first time: the turnstiles inside a metro station.

Don’t: stand with your back against the poles, as other people won’t be able to hold on if it gets busy. You might not want to stand with your back against the doors either, as the exits sometimes change sides depending on the line and the station.

Don’t: leave your backpack on when on the metro. Take it off and hold it in your hand, otherwise you’re likely to hit people with it when turning around.

Don’t: forget to get off at your stop! While the next station is announced on some metro lines, it’s not the case for all lines. A map of the line is displayed just above the doors so that you can follow along and watch for your station.

Don’t: breathe too deeply. Unfortunately, the metro is still commonly used as a pissoir and really stinks in places. But do look around you, some stations are true gems (like Arts et Métiers on the platforms of Line 11 or Louvre-Rivoli on Line 1), and that certainly is a huge silver lining.

Inside Paris metro train car
The inside of a typical Paris metro train car.

And last but not least, Don’t worry! The Paris metro really is quite easy to use and even if you end up going the wrong way or if you need help finding the right platform, other passengers are happy to point you in the right direction. Just be sure to start with a simple ‘Bonjour, excusez-moi’!

Ready to ride the rails now? Check out our guide to knowing which Paris metro line goes where.

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