All the Apps and Tricks You Need to Know to Successfully Navigate Paris
Paris can be expensive. Entrance to museums and monuments will easily cost adults from 10€ to 20€ per ticket, some even closer to 30€. On on top of that you’ll pay for accommodation, food (it can be a challenge to find a meal for less than 15€ a person unless you want to eat at McDonalds your entire stay), and of course, transportation.
The best way to get around the city will ultimately depend on how many people you’re traveling with, where you want to go, and how long you’re in the city.
Paris has SO MANY OPTIONS for getting around that it can sometimes feel overwhelming as you’re trying to research the best options.
IF YOU MUST DRIVE....
Parking in Paris is going to be a nightmare—just don’t do it.
If you want to enjoy your time in Paris, then this is the surest way to kibosh your journey.
If you insist on driving, however, parking is possible on the street and in parking garages within the city, but you will likely pay 20€ or more per day and spend 30 minutes to 1.5 hours trying to find a Parking spot depending on what part of the city you’re in.
When it comes to parking, however, there is some good news.
Parking on the street is free in the evening and on Sundays. You must pay for street parking Monday through Saturday 9am to 8pm. Sometimes you can park for free on holidays on the street during weekdays, and if this is the case the street will have a yellow sticker on the parking meter.
To pay for parking on the street some machines will take coins, but most of the time you need to have a Paris Carte (you can buy this at any tobacconist’s shop) or pay on the PayByPhone App with your credit card. Find the parking meter, pay, and put the ticket it spits out on your dash so that it’s clearly visible. Street parking is also limited to 2 hours at a time. So, once you spend all that time finding your parking spot, you can only stay for 2 hours until you’ll need to move your car and, again, waste a bunch of time finding another spot when you could be sightseeing!
For cheap and sometimes free parking options there are Park & Rides next to the RER train stations on the outskirts of Paris. Some of these Park and Rides are right next to the end of the line for some metro stops, which makes it SUPER easy to hop on the metro and take it into the heart of the city in a short 20-30 minute ride.
We chose to stay at a campground in Versailles that allowed us to park our car at our campsite included in the cost of our stay at 30€ per night. We could take the train into the city each day and found this to be the cheapest option for our traveling.
(If you factor in what we would pay just for parking in the city at 20€ a day then that means we basically paid 10€ per day for our accommodation for 2 adults.)
On the one day we needed to park our car because we had to check out of our campsite, we drove over to one of the Park and Rides and parked for free. We parked at La Courneuve 8 May 1945 which is just at the end of Metro line 7 (the pink one) and takes you directly to the Louvre in about 23 minutes.
COMBINE YOUR DRIVE WITH PUBLIC TRANSPORT
We chose to drive to Paris from Germany, because it was ultimately the cheapest option for us once we started comparing train prices and getting to some places outside Paris that we wanted to see. One thing to be aware of when driving to Paris is that they require a Crit’Air anti-pollution vehicle sticker. This is a sticker that will assign your vehicle a category based on how polluting it is, and there are certain areas of Paris and times that higher polluting vehicles are not allowed to drive. The sticker will cost you about 5€ and take 5 business days to come in the mail if you live in Europe. Order a Crit’Air Sticker here.
Use this simulation to find out your vehicle classification (you will need your vehicle registration handy to use this tool)
If you get caught driving in Paris or parked and your car does not display the sticker it is a 68€ fine. Paris has been listed as the worst western European capital for small particle air pollution, and so they’re really trying to crack down on cleaning up their air.
The Crit’Air sticker is only needed, however, if you are driving in Paris. If you stay on the outskirts in the suburbs, then you do not need to buy the sticker. You also do not need to buy it to drive to Paris. Again, only needed if you plan on driving within the capital city itself. Other French cities that require the Crit’Air sticker are: Grenoble, Lille, Bordeaux, Rennes, Strasbourg, Toulouse, and Marseille.
A few other helpful pieces of information about driving in Paris:
Any vehicle older than 1997 is prohibited within Paris due to being too polluting.
As of July 1, 2019 diesel cars older than 2006 are banned from Paris.
Any vehicles that are a class 4 or 5 are not allowed to drive in Paris on the weekends.
Motorbikes registered before July 1, 2004 are banned from Paris, too.
The French authorities are also currently working to ban all diesel vehicles from Paris by 2024.
Parking Garages in Paris and on the Outskirts (Prices and useful info)
Budget €30 for toll roads each way.
OR JUST USE PUBLIC TRANSPORT
Like I said earlier, Paris has SO MANY OPTIONS for getting around. It can seem really confusing at first when you start seeing all the options for riding the metro and trying to navigate which pass to buy.
Ultimately, knowing which pass to buy will require a little bit of calculating and informed decision-making on your end. You’ll need to consider how many people are in your group, where you want to go, how long your’e staying, etc.
It may also be worth it to take a train to Paris instead of driving.
Let’s start with the Metro.
The Metro in Paris is fantastic. It will get you anywhere you need to go pretty quick and easy. The easiest way to know where to go will be with the citymapper app.
(Helpful travel tip - download all the apps you want to use before going to Paris, as sometimes trying to find WiFi to download apps can be a challenge)
With CityMapper you just put in where you want to go (monument, metro line, street address, museum, etc.) and CityMapper will show you options on how to get there.
CityMapper will show you the fastest options with the least amount of metro switches first. It will also tell you which stop to get off on, where to switch lines if needed, the time the next metro/train/tram comes, and how long your journey will take. You can also indicate if you would like to get around by bus, metro, tram, train, bike, electric scooter, scooter, cab, carshare, uber, or see all the options at once. CityMapper will show you the cost, show you on a map how to get to where you want to go, and if you turn on location services it will alert you when you need to get off so that you don’t miss your stop. This app was truly such a lifesaver, so easy to use, and made getting around Paris a breeze!
Metro Tickets allow you to ride:
Paris Metro (subway)
RER Trains (within zone 1 only)
RATP (Paris city bus)
Noctilien buses (night buses)
Optile buses (Paris Suburb bus)
Montmartre Cable Car (the funicular at Montmarte that will take you up to Sacre Coeur if you don’t want to walk up tons and tons of stairs)
What do I mean by Zones?
Paris is divided into 5 zones. Zones 1-3 are where most of the tourist attractions are located. If you want to park on the outskirts of the city to ride into the city, or get to Versailles, the airport, or Disneyland, then you'll want access to Zones 4 and 5, too.
How to use a metro ticket machine
Metro Ticket Options:
Single Ticket: €1.90 per ride. This is a paper ticket good for one ride on the metro. Great option if you’re going to use the metro 9 times or less during your stay.
Carnet: €14.90 Carnet is a booklet of 10 metro tickets so each ticket is reduced to €1.50 per ticket. Buying in bulk saves you 20%. Great option if you’ll ride the metro 10 times during your stay.
Ticket Mobilis Day Pass: €7.50 Day pass to ride the metro. Unlimited rides for zones 1 & 2. You can buy Mobilis passes with access to other zones see prices here. Be sure to write your first and last name on the ticket, as well as the date you use it.
Paris Visite Pass: €12 to €65 The Paris Visite Pass is a multi-day ticket pass with unlimited rides aimed at tourists available for 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 days. Price changes depending on how many days you want and what zone you want to visit. See price delineation. This pass also comes with discounts to some attractions.
Navigo Easy Pass: €2 for the card + price of however many tickets you load onto it. You can load any of the previous ticket options (except for Paris Visite) onto a Navigo Easy card. You can get the card at any ticket window. You can load up to 30 tickets at a time onto your card, and you still get the Carnet 20% discount if you buy 10 tickets at a time. For a list of all the ticket loading options as well as how to check your balance and see zone restrictions click here. Another perk of the Navigo Easy is that it can be shared between travelers, but not for the same trip at the same time, (i.e., you can’t do a pass-back of the card through a turnstile for another person to use)
Navigo Découverte Pass: €10 for card and photo + €22.80 as of August 1, 2019. This will likely be the best traveling option if you’ll be in Paris 3 or more days, are arriving Monday through Thursday, and want to visit zones 3, 4, & 5. (If you’re just coming in for the weekend you won’t be able to buy this pass) This pass is good Monday through Sunday. It is an unlimited, multi-use transit card that covers all of the Paris Metro area. This pass requires a tiny photo of yourself which is really easy to get (there are photo booths often in train stations and the larger metro hubs). This pass cannot be shared. The advantage of this pass is definitely the access to Zones 3, 4 & 5. For all of the other passes, you will have to pay for an RER ticket which can cost you 8€ per roundtrip ride. So, if you’re planning on going to Versailles, St. Denis, or Disneyland Paris get this one. This pass is also reloadable for 10 years. So, if you’re going to come back to Paris in the next 10 years, you won’t have to pay again the €10 for the card and the photo, just to reload it with the €22.90 week pass.
Paris is phasing out the paper ticket system for the Metro by summer 2020, so you may want to invest in a Navigo Easy or a Navigo Decouverte pass if you plan on visiting Paris in the next 10 years.
If you’re still confused about metro options, or feeling uneasy about how to navigate the Metro system, here’s a great website with photos, instructions on how to use the machines, different ticket options for students and children, and a ton of information.
I’m not even going to get into Uber or ride-shares, but those may be options you want to explore if you’re traveling with a family.
There are a few apps you’ll probably want to download before heading to Paris.
CityMapper already mentioned this one, great for navigating public transport in the city.
Lime or Bird These are two of the scooter apps so that you can hop on the electric scooters all over Paris. They’re SO MUCH FUN!!Put in your info & add a credit card. We took scooters from Notre Dame up to Sacre Coeur and boy did it save us from trekking up that hill! Scooters charge €1 to start your ride, then it’s €0.15 a minute for the lime scooters and €0.20 a minute for the bird ones. The bird scooters also stop running at midnight whereas lime does not. We rode the scooters for 33 minutes and paid €17 in total for both my husband and I. The Lime scooters also allow you to use one app to pick up multiple scooters, so it’s better than bird if you are traveling as a couple (or a group if you want to foot the bill of your group) Vélib For electric bikes!
Ulmon Download your itinerary and map of Paris for offline use. Includes metro maps. Save your data!
EatWith If you want a neat dining experience, schedule a dinner with locals! You can also find cooking classes
Airbnb Not only for accommodations, use it to find walking tours, photography shoots, culinary tastings, explore farmers markets with a local, etc. There’s lots of fun experiences to check out in Paris.
Paris Bouge shows concerts, exhibitions, shows, fun activities in Paris.
Here's some helpful info on trains. to Paris. The gas and toll prices are way overestimated, but the info is good