How to Take the Underground in Paris

For those of us who come from countries not blessed with an underground, being faced with this system for the first time can be a confusing and sometimes downright embarrassing experience. But, before you convert to exploring a sizable city like London per foot, keep in mind that millions of others overcome this hurdle every day, and you’re more likely to come off an idiot returning blistered, beat down and burnt from your fabulous holiday in Paris.


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    Find a map of the applicable underground system that you want to use. These can usually be found at tourist information- or post offices, the underground station information offices and sometimes hotel reception desks. Maps are also often displayed on the walls inside the underground stations.
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    Locate your closest underground station, and locate the name of this station (A) on your map.
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    Locate the name of the station where you want to go (B) to on your map.
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    Decide on the route you want to take from A to B by following the network of coloured lines drawn on the map.
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    Buy your ticket. Asking the attendant at the station information office for the best ticket to buy is a good idea for first time users. Even if you don’t speak the language indicating what you want would probably be easily done considering where you are finding yourself. If an attendant is not available you will have to face the daunting looking electronic ticket machine. For your first time its probably best to simply follow the instructions and select a single journey ticket. If you don’t understand the language, ask a bystander for help by gesticulating at the place on your map where you want to be.
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    Enter the station by inserting your ticket into the slot in the electronic gate barring your way. On each service line, there are trains going in both directions and it is important for you to know in which direction you have to go to reach your destination. The name of the last station on the line is shown on the front of the train as an indication of the way in which the train is going.
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    Wait on the platform at a safe distance from the tracks. When the train arrives, wait for the door to open and the passengers to get off first before you get on.
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    Hold on to something. Preferably not other people.
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    Keep an eye out for the passing station names, either on the electronic screen inside the truck or on the outside platforms as they go by. Get out at your stop or, if A and B are on different coloured lines, the station where you need change to a different line. If this is the case repeat steps 7 to 9.


  • If you know you are going to be in town for a while look into getting a "carnet" or ten tickets in a bundle. They go fast. You can also buy a "Navigo Decouverte" card. It allows you to travel an unlimited number of times within zones.
  • A tube map is not an in-scale representation of the city you are in. Often a short bit on the map equals a long time on the tube.
  • If you discover that you are going the wrong way, get out at the first stop, locate the train going on the opposite direction, get in and start again. You will get there eventually.
  • Some of the older trains require you to manually open the door yourself. When the train has come to a complete stop and you hear the clicking of the doors unlocking, lift the handle and the doors will open. This does not apply to lines 1 & 14.
  • Some underground systems allow you to use the same ticket to enter twice, as long as you re-enter within a certain amount of time (within four hours on the same day, for example). These rules are in place to benefit the residents and scam the tourists. Keep an eye out for the fine print!
  • Prepare your travel. The Paris Transport websites exist in several languages: look at or for example.
  • Don't be afraid to ask the locals. Not all Parisians speak perfect English, but neither are they all unfriendly. No one knows the Paris Underground like a Parisian.
  • If you are travelling with a backpack, take it off. A face full of backpack is never nice.
  • Don’t lose your ticket. You might need it to get out of the last station.


  • Keep your belongings close to you or in sight. Underground stations and trains are rumoured to be frequented by pickpocket artists and bag snatchers.
  • If you are traveling with a backpack swing it in front of you
  • Keep your wallet in your front pocket and keep a hand in that pocket if possible. This will make it much more difficult for pick-pockets to take your wallet.
  • It is advisable to wear money belt that holds enough cash, credit cards and/or other personal belongings for that day's journey only.
  • Pick Pockets look for tourists, keep this in mind while you are in stations.

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Categories: Public Transport