When we visited in September 2018 the process of getting a weekly metro pass and getting from Charles de Gaulle Airport to the main city on Paris public transport was disorganized, time consuming and a total pain in the butt.
It’s pretty surprising that it would be this way in a world-famous travel destination that gets more than 15 million visitors per year. Charles de Gaulle is a big, ugly, sprawling airport and it’s pretty confusing. But, once you get the hang of using Paris public transport it will be the most efficient way for you to get out of the airport and start exploring the city.
Here’s some info you can keep handy, so you can get yourself out of the airport as quickly as possible and into Paris. Plus, I’ve also included info for getting around Paris on the metro system – as well as information about daily and weekly passes to save you money.
Table of Contents
- 1 How to Get Into Paris from Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG)
- 2 How to Use the Metro In Paris
- 3 Paris Metro Passes
- 4 Frequently Asked Questions About Paris Public Transport
- 5 Safety Tips for Paris Public Transport
How to Get Into Paris from Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG)
Getting into Paris from CDG via train is a cheap and relatively fast option. There is an RER train that runs from the airport into the city every 10-20 minutes. It will take around 50 minutes to get you to the city center and you can get off at three different stations: the Gare du Nord, Châtelet-Les-Halles and Denfert-Rochereau.
I would recommend this option, as I think it is the easiest, most straightforward and cost effective choice.
The tickets will cost €11, or you can use your Paris metro pass. Always buy your ticket before you get on the train, to avoid heavy fines.
The train schedules are different throughout the year, so make sure that you check the timetables before you arrive.
If you are arriving at Terminal 3, simply follow the signposts from the arrivals gate and go down one level – then you will be at the train platform. The train can be crowded, so be prepared to stand up or put your luggage on your lap if necessary. Keep an eye on your belongings – pickpockets are known to frequent the Paris metro.
The trains only run until midnight, so if you arrive on a late night flight you’ll have to find a different transport option.
Taking a bus from CDG to the centre of Paris is the cheapest option, but also the longest and most inconvenient. The tickets will cost €12.50 for the Roissybus, which is the direct line. (Here’s the schedule from the airport website.)
Or, you can take the other lines, 351 and 350, which cost €6 but will make several stops along the way. The total travel time will be around 80 minutes.
Tickets for the Roissybus must be purchased in advance from a ticket kiosk and tickets for the other public buses can be purchased from the driver as soon as you step on the bus.
I would not recommend taking a bus. The buses do run late until 4am, so if the trains have stopped running then they are the second best option. However, other than that, the journey time is quite long and they are not much cheaper than the train (and in the case of the Roissybus, the same price).
Taking a taxi will be the quickest and most convenient way to get into the city from CDG, but it will also be the most expensive. There are taxis waiting and ready outside of all three terminals and it will only take you 45 minutes to reach the city center. The taxis are not any particular colour, you can identify them from the Taxi Parisian sign on top.
If you are in a hurry to reach your destination, you have a lot of luggage and you have the money to spare – the taxi might be the best option for you.
An airport taxi is charged at a flat rate. It will cost €55 to travel to the Right Bank of the Seine and €60 if your destination is on the Left Bank. If you are traveling with more than 4 people, they will charge an extra €4 per person after that.
Make sure you carry cash with you. Most drivers will not accept cards. Also, some drivers might not speak English too well, so make sure that you have your address written down.
Le Bus (Shuttle)
There is also a large white coach that offers transfers from CDG to the city centre. You can buy your ticket online in advance for €18 one way, or €31 for a round trip. It will take around 60 minutes to get into the city.
These coaches are more expensive than the city bus, but they do offer added comfort such as unlimited luggage, on-board wifi and a USB charging port in every seat.
How to Use the Metro In Paris
Honestly, using the Metro is a lot easier these days compared to when I visited Paris 10 years ago. Why? Because now I have a mobile phone with Google Maps.
It’s super easy, I just type in where I want to go and Google Maps will plan out a Metro route for me. Then, all you have to do is follow along.
TIP: You won’t get mobile phone reception when you are down inside the metro system, so make sure that you load the directions onto your phone FIRST before you head below ground.
You can also get yourself a metro map, which are available free of charge from any metro information booth.
You’ll need to figure out the direction you are going relative to the endpoints of the line. There are handy little maps on the walls throughout the metro system, so take a look and see if your destination is listed.
If you can, try to avoid riding the metro or the RER between 8-10am and 5-8pm, unless you want to be crammed in with crowds of Parisians on their way to and from work.
Buying a Ticket
If you are just buying a ticket for a single ride on the metro, you can do it from one of the machines in the station – or from the ticket sales desk.
Some machines will only accept coins and credit cards, so if you don’t have any small changes you might have to go up to the sales desk.
A standard T+ Metro Ticket is good for one metro, bus, RER or tramway ride in Paris – including transfers. You can transfer from the Metro to the RER, but if you are transferring between the Metro or RER and the buses or tramways you’ll need a second ticket.
Keep your ticket handy throughout your journey – someone might come around and inspect it and you might also need it to leave the station.
Paris Metro Passes
A Paris metro pass can be a good idea if you intend on taking the metro around the city a lot, as it will often save you money. An individual metro ticket costs €1.90, so you can calculate how many times you’ll need to take the metro and whether a pass will save you money.
If you are considering buying a Paris metro pass for your time in Paris, you should buy it before you go from CDG airport into the city – as it will work for the airport trains.
The Navigo Week package allows you unlimited travel for one week on all of the public transportation in Paris, including the buses, metros, RER and tram. The package is valid from Monday to Sunday and is on sale from Friday the following week.
This is what Lee and I bought when we visited Paris for a week. It cost €22.80 plus €5 for the card itself. This will quickly pay for itself, especially since getting from CDG to the city center on the train will cost €10 and a day pass costs €8.
Although, it wasn’t easy to get.
Here are the steps we took:
- Once you arrive at the airport and pick up your baggage, follow the signs to the RER train station.
- At the train station, we found out that we couldn’t purchase the weekly pass from the handy machines – we had to line up at the ticket office.
- We bought our passes from the ticket office, but then we learned we also had to get photos of ourselves for the pass to be valid.
- So, we lined up again at photo kiosks in the train station to get our photos printed.
- Then, we stuck the photos into the holder of the Paris Navigo weekly pass and we were finally good to go.
I mean, really? When I signed up for the gym in Tbilisi, Georgia and I needed my photo on my gym pass – they pointed a tiny camera at me, snapped it and printed me out a card with my face on it in seconds.
But for some reason, in one of the busiest airports in the world you still actually have to sit in one of those cheesy mall photo booths and get photos printed out yourself so that you can insert them into the pass manually.
And you MUST have a photo of yourself on your pass – if you are caught without it you can be subject to a €35 fine.
My tip for you: Bring along a passport sized photo of yourself, so that you don’t have to wait in the queue for the photo kiosk. You can simply buy your pass, add your photo and get going.
Important: The weekly pass is NOT valid for the 7 days after you buy it. Instead, it works on a weekly basis so it’s valid from Monday to Sunday. So, it works really well if you are arriving in Paris on a Monday or Tuesday, but it might not be the best deal for you if you are arriving in the middle of the week.
The Mobilis Day Pass
Maybe you are only staying in Paris for a day or two, so it doesn’t make sense to buy a weekly pass? In that case, day passes are the answer. A day pass will offer you unlimited travel within a 24 hour period.
The Mobilis Pass is a 1 day travel pass that will allow you unlimited travel in the zones you have chosen – within any of the public transport networks in the Ile-de-France region. The Mobilis pass is a magnetic ticket, upon which you will need to write your full name and the date.
Be aware: It starts at 12am, then ends at 11:59pm on that day. So, the best way to use one of these passes is to buy them in the morning and use them all day, afternoon and evening.
The pass includes the tramway, bus, RER, metro and train. It does not include the Roissybus and other airport connections, but it does include lines 350 and 351 to CDG airport (depending on the zones selected).
The Mobilis pass is sold on all tramway, RER and metro stations. Here are the prices:
- Between 1 zone (1-2, 2-3, 3-4, 4-5): €7.50
- Between 2 zones (1-3, 2-4, 3-5): €10.00
- Between 3 zones (1-4,2-5): €12.40
- Between all zones (1-5): €17.80
Paris Visite Travel Pass
The Paris Visite Travel Pass is designed for tourists who will be using public transport to get around Paris. You can buy it at the ticket desks and automatic vending machines in all of the public transport stations.
It includes unlimited travel in the selected zones, as well as discounts on popular attractions. (For example, you can use the pass to get 24% off the entrance fee to the Arc de Triomphe and 25% off the entrance fee to the Tour Montparnasse observation platform.)
The pass covers all of the public transport networks, including metro, tramway, bus, RER and SNCF Transilien. Make sure that you write your first and last name on it!
You can choose whether you’d like your Paris Visite pass to be valid for 1, 2, 3 or 5 consecutive days. The prices are as follows:
Zones 1-3 (Within Paris)
- One day: €12.00
- Two days: €19.50
- Three days: €26.65
- 5 days: €38.35
Zones 1-5 (Greater Paris Area)
- One day: €25.25
- Two days: €38.35
- Three days: €53.75
- Five days: €65.80
Which zones will you need? Well, if you’re only staying within the city of Paris, you’ll only need a ticket that covers you for zones 1-3. Most of the main attractions, including Notre Dame, the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower are within zones 1 and 2.
However, if you plan on going to Disneyland Paris or the Château de Versailles, you’ll need to venture out into zones 4 and 5. (Here’s a map of the zones.)
Carnet of 10 Tickets
Another option if you aren’t going to be in Paris for a full week is to purchase a carnet of 10 tickets. They can be bought from the vending machines for €14.90, which is €1.49 per ticket rather than €1.90. So, if you think that 10 tickets will be enough – this option will be cheaper than buying a weekly pass and also cheaper than buying the tickets individually.
Frequently Asked Questions About Paris Public Transport
- I can’t speak French at all. Will I struggle to ride the metro?
Nope. You’ll be absolutely fine. The ticket machines in the metro stations have an English language option, and then you’ll just need to follow the signs and allows to find the right platform. You’ll manage, even if you don’t speak a word of French!
- Can I use the Paris metro if I am disabled?
Unfortunately, the Paris public transport system is notoriously terrible when it comes to accessibility. There are often many stairs and you won’t find escalators or elevators in every station. At the moment, only Metro line 14 has ramps and elevators – but other than that only bout ⅔ of the metro stations are accessible.
You might find it easier to get around Paris on the bus. The city has purchased 400 new accessible buses every year since 1998, so all Paris bus lines have ramps and nearly all of them have wheelchair lowering devices and special seats for disabled passengers.
- How do I get through the turnstile?
If you have a ticket (which is a little rectangular piece of card paper), insert it into the slot at the front of the machine. Don’t worry, it doesn’t matter which side goes in first. The ticket will go through the machine and pop out the top. Grab it BACK and take it with you as you push through the turnstile. Don’t hesitate too long or your ticket will time out, and don’t forget to take it out of the top of the machine and bring it with you – as you may be asked to show it during your journey.
If you have a Navigo pass, you’ll see that some turnstiles have a purple plastic surface that says “Navigo.” Just press your card against it, the machine will BEEP and you can walk through the turnstile. If you get asked to show your ticket during the journey, just touch your Navigo to their handheld scanner.
- How late does the Metro run?
During the week, the trains run from 6am to 12:30am. On Fridays and Saturdays, the trains will run until 2:15 am (giving you a chance to check out some of the Paris nightlife.)
However, you should aim to arrive at the station around 30 minutes before it closes just to make sure you catch the last train – as final trains will be coming through at different times depending on the station.
If you want to stay out later, you can also catch the Noctilien night buses – which run from 12:30 am to 5:30 am on 47 different routes throughout the city.
- How often does the train come?
The metro is quite frequent – you rarely ever have to wait more than 5 minutes for the next train.
- How do I find a Metro station?
All of the Metro stations in Paris are marked on Google Maps, so you can simply search for your nearest one. You’ll see a large yellow “M” on a sign above some stairs leading to below the street. Or, you’ll see the green sign saying Metropolitain – either one will lead you to the metro.
- Can you buy individual return tickets?
No, you must always buy two singles. If you are planning a return journey, you could save time by buying two singles when you first set out. Remember to keep hold of your ticket for your entire journey, just in case there is an inspection.
- Can I bring my luggage on the metro?
Yes, as long as you can navigate the escalators and stairs yourself. I recommend packing as lightly as possible so that you can move through the metro system more easily. (I learned this the hard way.) Also, keep your bags close to you and keep an eye on them when you are in the train.
- My daily/weekly pass doesn’t work. What should I do?
Go to the metro ticket desk in the station, or one of the points of sales, and let the ticket agent know. They will test out your ticket. If it isn’t working properly but it is still valid, they will replace it for free.
- Oops, I got on the train going the wrong direction!
Don’t freak out. It happens! You can simply get off at the next station, go around to the other side of the platform and get on the right train. There’s no need to purchase another ticket.
Safety Tips for Paris Public Transport
Whether you are traveling via RER, bus or metro – it’s important to be aware of your surroundings. Paris public transport is notorious for pickpockets and they tend to target tourists who are not paying attention to what’s going on around them.
The busier the metro is, the easier it is for pickpockets to squeeze in close to you and distract you while they steal your wallet – so be extra vigilant on crowded lines.
Here are some important things to know when you are on Paris public transport:
- Be wary when anything out of the ordinary happens, such as two people having a loud argument or the escalator stopping and causing a jam. Thieves often stage these distractions so that they will have a chance to catch you off guard and steal your wallet.
- It is also common for pickpockets to be gangs of teenagers and even younger kids, so keep an eye out for unaccompanied minors.
- Be suspicious of strangers who come up to talk to you. Often one pickpocket will engage you in conversation while the other one goes for your pockets or bag.
- Avoid sitting close to the doors, as sometimes thieves will grab valuables right as the train door is closing.
- Beware the “crush and grab.” When the doors to the metro open you’ll be swarmed by a group of people getting on or off. In the confusion, they will also be picking your pockets.
- Keep your phone in your bag while on the metro. Sometimes thieves will grab your smartphone right out of your hands and run – especially if you are sitting near the doors.
- Line 9, which stretches from Boulogne in the west to Montreuil in the east, is a popular line that passes through Champs Elysees and Trocadero. It’s particularly known for pickpockets, so be extra careful here. Also, Line 2 around the Montmartre area is also a problem area.
- Watch out for people who attempt to sell you metro tickets at the gate. The trick is that they will sell you a child’s ticket that only costs 50 cents. It will work on the gate and seem valid, but if you get checked you can get a hefty fine. There’s no reason to buy a metro ticket from anyone – just get them from the machines.