One of my favorite tips for families visiting Paris is to embrace the public transportation system. It’s in general the fastest, cheapest and safest (meaning for your physical bodies.. not necessarily for your belongings thanks to pickpockets... more on that later though :)) way to get from point A to point B in the city.
Here is all the info you need to hopefully feel at ease tackling the Paris subway system.
For starters, download the Citymapper app - I promise this is one app that’s actually worth getting, since it consolidates all forms of transport in one platform, and very clearly spells out the metro steps.
When you’re ready for your outing, check City Mapper and head to the metro station to buy your tickets. Paris has not made the process simple - big surprise! You currently have two options - either buy the paper tickets (you want the T+ kind, 2.20 euros each; FYI - Paris is trying to phase out the paper tickets, so who knows how much longer they will be an option) or buy a plastic Navigo Easy card (2 euros each; available in most machines, or at the counter). Each paying person needs their own card : Kids 3 and under are free, kids 4-9 are 1/2 price and 10+ pays full fare. Upload a ‘carnet’ or 10-pack of tickets on to each card. This will give a slight reduction to the full fare, and half off for kids 4-9. These tickets work on the trams and buses, as well as the metro.
If you are only staying a couple days, it might be simpler to just use the paper tickets. If you'll be in Paris more than a couple days and plan on mostly using public transportation, definitely get the Navigo Easy card to benefit from the reduced price.
OK, now that you have your tickets, you're ready to take the metro!
Here are some pointers:
Pay attention to which line you need - it will be a colored circle with a number in it, and the lines are referred to by their number. You’ll also want to pay attention to the direction, which is designated by the last stops.
Insert your ticket or scan your card and head on into the metro system! Keep your ticket on you - this is proof that you have paid, and there can be checks.
When the metro pulls up, wait on the side of the doors until everyone has exited. Then enter the metro. If it’s crowded, avoid sitting in the folding seats.
Once in the metro, be aware of your surroundings, keeping an eye on your purse, bag and pockets. I do use my phone on the metro, but am very aware anytime the doors are open, or if I am standing right next to the door. Pickpockets take advantage of crowded peak hours to be extra sneaky and dig around in pockets and bags!
Also, just a note on getting to Versailles or Disney with public transportation - the normal tickets are only for inside Paris, or zone 1. You'll need to go to a machine and get specific tickets for destinations outside the city limit - just type in the destination, and pay the higher price for the longer distance. Count about 1 hour for both Versailles and Disney.
Some tips when taking the metro with kids
If you have two adults, send an adult through first, then children, then the second adult. If you are alone with kids, I send them through first and follow.
Never rush to catch the metro - another will come along soon!
Have a game plan in case you get separated. For instance my kids know that if they get on without me, they exit at the next station and wait for me on the platform.
Turn following the colored signs into a game and let the kids lead the way!
Lines 1, 4 and 14 are automatic line, and if you get in the first or last car, kids can 'drive' the metro thanks to a pretend dashboard:)
Voila! Did I forget anything? Did you use the public transportation in Paris? Or would you?
If you want more tips like this, consider booking one of my travel planning consultation calls!