Advantages Great metro service, beautiful city to explore on foot,
Disadvantages Perhaps more difficult for disabled people, busy busy busy, lots of sellers and beggars, STRIKES
|Value for Money|
|Ease of getting around|
Trying to find your way around any capital city is no mean feat and forward planning is always advisable. So I hope to be able to share some of my knowledge of getting around Paris, having spent 9 months living there and having visited on numerous occasions.
* Orly is a small airport with two tiny terminals, situated just over 8 miles south of Paris, with good trains links to the capital. There are buses which will take you to Paris, as well as the Orlyval shuttle, which links to the RER (regional train) station Antony and a shuttle connecting the airport to the RER train station Pont de Rungis - Aéroport d'Orly.
Flying is also a popular way of getting to Paris. Paris has three airports - Roissy Charles de Gaulle, Orly and Beauvais Tillé.
* Beauvais Tillé, from what I've heard, is rather a pathetic excuse for an airport and is actually situated some 53 miles north of Paris! If you're flying with Ryanair you'll almost certainly end up here, so it's worth making you sure you know how to get into Paris/to your hotel for when you arrive. There are several means of transport which will take you to the centre of Paris (a 75 minute journey), to the town of Beauvais where you can get a train into Paris or Disneyland.
* Charles de Gaulle (also known as Roissy) is a beast of an airport with three huge terminals. I believe they're in the process of expanding too. It's a little further out - 16 miles east of the centre. Terminal 2 has its own train station with RER links to the centre of Paris and TGV (high speed) trains to take you elsewhere. The RER will have you in the centre of Paris in around 30 minutes. There are, of course, other means of transport which will take you to the centre, including buses and taxis.~~ If you arrive by Eurostar, you'll find yourself smack bang in the centre of Paris - at Gare du Nord. You're then in the best position to use a multitude of different types of transport to take you to where you're staying - the station is linked to the RER (regional trains), metro and there are buses and taxis just outside.
Once you're in Paris and all settled in, how do you go about seeing everything? There are lots of ways to get around and it's important to think about your constraints - time, money, physical limitations etc. in choosing the best ways for you.
Walking along the Seine is particularly worthwhile - you'll manage to do a lot of sight-seeing this way - Notre Dame, the Musée d'Orsay, the Obelisk on Place de la Concorde, Les Invalides, part of the Louvre, Le Grand Palais, the Tour Eiffel... - so much of the city can be seen from the banks of the Seine, or the roads running along the river. Plus, what is more romantic than a leisurely stroll along the banks of the river Seine?It's actually very doable to see nearly all of the sights on foot, however it can get very tiring. On my first day of hardcore touristy stuff with my ex-boyfriend (also a Frenchie), we didn't take the metro once! Unfortunately I wasn't wearing good shoes for walking in, and no socks, so by the end of the day my feet were bleeding and I was virtually in tears, my feet hurt so much. So take heed, comfy shoes are a must. Apparently, it would only take about 2 hours to walk from one side of Paris to the other - I've never tried this, but it does show that you can see a lot of Paris on foot, and use the metro sparingly.
Having said that, there are areas of Paris which are less pleasant to walk through, in particular the area surrounding the Sacré Cœur. It doesn't help that part of this area is the famous sex district - Pigalle. You'll also find an abundance of people trying to sell you things, they hang around outside the metro stations and around the Sacré Cœur. A firm but polite 'Non, merci' should see you right if you just keep walking.Think carefully about what views over Paris you want to see, and save your energy accordingly. The steps taking you up to the Sacré Cœur, or to the top of the Arc de Triomphe, or to the second floor of the Eiffel Tower all require varying degrees of stamina. There is a funicular at the Sacré Cœur which costs one metro ticket (€1.60), and you can of course take the lifts to the top of the Eiffel Tower. However, unless you have a pushchair or a wheelchair, you have no choice but to brave nearly 300 steps if you want to go to the top of the Arc de Triomphe.
~ I just want to add a general note about safety. Like with any capital city, it's important to always be aware of your surroundings. Keep your belongings close to you and always keep an eye on them, especially in crowded areas, and on the metro. I tended to wear a cross-shoulder strapped bag when I was out and about, that way I could pull it close to my front if I were ever wary of pickpockets. I have heard that it's a Parisian 'thing' to slit open bags, although I've never seen or heard of this happening to anyone I know.As for walking around Paris at night, I really think that it's a case of how comfortable you feel. Firstly, I would say never walk alone at night in Paris. It's an easy city to get lost in and you can find yourself in a nice, calm, fairly posh area one minute where you'll feel perfectly at ease, only to cross a couple of roads and turn a corner and find yourself in a much less safe area. I know this from experience, having lived in an area smack bang in between a nice area and a not so nice area. Again, like many cities, there are plenty of unsavoury characters around, who will try and strike up conversation. For the most part they're harmless, but it can be slightly unnerving if you're not used to it. Also, girls, it's worth noting that the French aren't used to seeing girls in short skirts and low cut tops on nights out, so if you dress provocatively you may attract more attention that usual. The metro usually runs until at least midnight, and there are night buses running throughout the city into the wee small hours. You can also use taxis - there are lots around in the areas where there are lots of bars - ie. Bastille, Oberkampf, Grands Boulevards.
BY VÉLIB':- For those of you who haven't heard of the Vélib's, they're bikes that you can hire for a set amount of time. They can be found at stations dotted all over the city - 1450 stations at the last count - which equates roughly to one station every 300 metres. You simply subscribe at the service point (which costs 1€ for a day) and then off you go. You simply need to drop the Vélib' off at any station when you're done. It's a great system and it merits a review all to itself. Check out the Vélib' website for more information - http://www.en.velib.paris.fr/
Although it's not necessarily the best way to see Paris, it is the best way to experience Parisian driving. Don't worry, it might seem scary at first, but you're in pretty safe hands with a Parisian taxi driver - they're used to it! Just hold on tight, particularly if you end up going round L'Étoile (the roundabout around the Arc de Triomphe) and enjoy the ride!
* Line B - Blue - this line serves both Orly and Charles de Gaulle airports, as well as the Stade de France (also served by RER D). Line B also serves the Gare du Nord.
BY RER:- The RER is, as previously mentioned, the name of the regional network of trains which link into the city centre. There are also suburbain trains, but they don't cross the city centre, only lead out of it. There are 5 RER lines, distinguished by a letter and a colour, and you can see them on some metro maps. The two most useful lines for tourists are, without a doubt, lines A and B (red and blue respectively).
* Line A - Red - this is line that will take you to Disneyland - you need that station called Marne-la-Vallée - Chessy. There's a massive shopping centre at the stop just before this station called Val d'Europe. In the opposite direction, you can also use the RER A to take you to La Défense, the business district, where you can see La Grande Arche and there's another big shopping centre - Les Quatres Temps. However, La Défense can be reached on line 1 of the metro, and though this will take longer, it's slightly cheaper (although we're talking a matter of centimes).
An important thing to remember when using the RER is that you must keep your ticket safe. You're supposed to keep your ticket anyway, as you can be asked to show it at any point within the metro system, but it is especially important with the RER as you need your ticket to get out (much like in the London Underground).
Although the 2007 strike was very very inconvenient for a lot of people, I was unable to get to work on more than one occasion - the platforms were crammed with people and if you were lucky enough to get onto a train, there was literally no room to breathe - I certainly know what it must be like to be a sardine now! However, it's unlucky to ever reach such proportions again - a minimum service law has now come into effect, so even when train drivers are striking, there will always be 40% of the trains running.
~~ STRIKES ~~ Unfortunately, the French have gone and got themselves a bit of a reputation for being a nation of complainers, forever on strike. Having lived there for 9 months, during the 2007 transport strikes (which even made their way onto UK news, they were that bad), it's hard to deny this reputation. The 2007 transport strikes are the worst the country has seen since 1995. The thing is, the French strike a lot and more often than not it has little effect on the day-to-day running of the country. The 2007 strike was unfortunate because everyone jumped on the bandwagon - train drivers, metro drivers, taxi drivers, bus drivers, teachers, even opera singers! Everything pretty much came to a standstill. For this reason, it is worth keeping an ear out for such things and bearing in mind the effect it may have on your stay - during the Rugby World Cup final I know it posed problems for many British tourists who had come over. However, you may also be able to take advantage of the situation - we braved the 40 minute walk from my flat to the Eiffel Tower and were able to walk straight into one of the lifts. This was on the worst day of the strike, and one of the members of staff told us it had been very quiet for most of the day.
Even if you feel happy to take on the Parisians and their crazy driving, I would still discourage you from bringing a car to Paris, simply because of the difficulty involved in finding somewhere to park. It's also very expensive, although it's worth noting that parking is free throughout August.
BY CAR:- I wouldn't recommend bringing a car to Paris if you can avoid it, particularly if you're unfamiliar with the Parisian style of driving. I don't drive but I have friends who have driven in Paris (both English and French) and they confirm that it's not easy, especially if you don't know where you're going. My ex-boyfriend, who lives in the Parisian suburbs is more than used to driving in Paris but still managed to find himself getting lost, missing turnings, he even managed to end up on a one-way bus lane...going the wrong way! We also spent a great deal of time in traffic jams, particularly on the motorway coming into Paris near to the Périphérique - the huge ring road surrounding Paris.
As well as boat tours, there are several companies offering boat cruises where you eat a sit-down meal, these are particularly popular for Valentine's, Christmas and New Year and cost a pretty penny but look well worth it. Me and my boyfriend walked along the Seine on New Year's Eve and saw a few going past, needless to say we were very jealous!
BY BOAT:- I've already mentioned the Seine, it's great to travel along it, so why not travel on it? There are several companies offering boat rides down the Seine, and it's well worth checking one of them out. I've done it twice and loved it both times. You can get audio guides, explaining the sites as you see them, and giving you some of the history of the beautiful bridges which you pass along the way. My personal favourite is the Pont des Arts, a favourite with couples on romantic dates.
There are also a couple of restaurant boats which are anchored at all times, and there's even a nightclub on a boat!
BY ROLLERSKATE:- Yes, I know, it's a weird mode of transport to include, particularly for Paris, which is actually quite a hilly city with lots of cobbled streets. The reason I include it is that every Friday night, there's an event called the Pari Roller - a group skating event around the city, which takes a different route every week and stretches 30km! If you don't quite feel you're up to that, every Sunday afternoon there is a skate more adapted to beginners. For more information, check out the website - http://www.pari-roller.com/en
~ For families, the same sort of problems occur with pushchairs. It's also a busy city with some big, busy roads, so with small children it's important to keep them close.~ Street sellers and beggars are out in force in a lot of the touristy spots, and they tend to target tourists and English-speakers. The equivalent of Big Issue sellers don't distinguish themselves as Big Issue sellers do in the UK, so it's easy to think they're handing out a free newspaper, as happened to one of my friends. When we told my friend what it was, she tried to hand it back to the seller, who initially refused to take it. A lot of men selling bracelets around the Sacré Cœur can tend to have a very hands-on approach, sometimes just putting the bracelet on your wrist and then demanding an extortionate amount of money for it. Just try and keep yourself to yourself and walk past them quickly.
~ I've already mentioned the strikes, 9/10 times they won't cause you any problem, but if you hear anything in the news about them, beware!
Attention, this is the first review from this author
Instead of giving a negative rating, consider:
Help this member by giving your advice
Report fraud (for example plagiarism) or other issue with the review to the Ciao support team
Add your comment