Paris is the most popular Tourist city in the world and for good reason – there is a lot to see – marvellous Architecture, great Galleries, Museums, Palaces, Parks, Theatres, Restaurants, Shops, a rich history and culture, the French language and good coffee, cheese and wine.
As a tourist, the best thing about Paris is the Metro train service that can get you to every part of the city.
The worse thing about Paris is also the Metro – it can get totally overcrowded and you can feel crushed in by the crowds of people that use it every day. If a carriage is too full for comfort, just wait for the next train to come. In most cases it will only be a few minutes wait.
On balance, the Metro arrives and departs the main city Metro stations every few minutes, and will get you to great places above ground, and if you buy a day or 3 day pass, it is a cheap way to easily move around the City and great value. The Ticket passes are sold using Ticket Machines in the Metro Stations, or you could purchase a Paris Visite Pass on-line – see www.parispass.com
The instructions at the Ticket machines on-screen are also in French and English too.
Most of the Metro stations have a Ticket window where you can ask for advice if you need it. The Tickets also cover certain Zones – 1 to 3 which are closest to the City Centre, and they also cover RER trains and the buses too, but check the ticket conditions when you buy it.
Almost the first thing you should do in Paris is get a Metro Map at a Metro station or at the airport. Each Metro line is noted by colour with a Line number and name of the last Metro Station that it is headed towards. Check to make sure you're heading in the right direction.
It is good to use a pen to circle those Metro stations you are looking for and where you need to change. There are a lot of Metro stations and different lines, and the Metro maps on the walls of each station can be small and hard to read. Pre-planning and knowing the names of the stations you want to change at or get on or off from means your stress level will stay lower. Note also that some of the stations have a large number of stairs to climb up too!
Your Pass ticket may also be used on RER trains and buses too – but if unsure ask someone. Most people are very helpful, and while some people would disagree with this, I have always found a person to help or guide you in the right direction.
The Hop on- Hop off open top double decker buses are quite separate to the other buses and you also need to buy tickets for these buses separately. See www.pariscityrama.com also www.bigbustour.com , www.opentour.com, www.foxity.com , www.pariscityvision.com There are lots of these buses, and they run on a few circuits passing by all the big name attractions. There are also tiny talking electric cars that you can hire – see www.twiztour.com , a tour in a 'Deux Chevaux (Citroen) see www.parisauthentic.com , also bikes to hire and Segway tours. Then also there are the cruises that take tours on the Seine – see www.vedettesdeparis.com and there are many others.
WELCOME TO PARIS!
The first thing you need to do is to find a good place to stay in Paris, as it is likely that you will want to stay for at least a few days and probably longer.
There are Hotels, Apartments and other accommodation options – and you can check these out and book here on this website. In choosing a place to stay, besides looking at the cost, also look at the location relative to its nearness to the centre of Paris and how close or far it is to the nearest Metro station. The closer you are to the Centre of Paris, the more you will get the 'real feel of Paris'. It is so much better to be able to walk to the big name sights, then having to commute and it will save you a lot of time and travel stress too.
No matter where you stay, you're bound to do a lot of walking!
AIRPORTS – the two main airports in Paris are Orly Airport which services more European and budget airlines and Charles de Gaulle (CDG Roissy) which has more International flights. Both airports have Metro lines, but check to see how many metro changes you need to make to get to your hotel. If you have lots of luggage, this could be a real struggle, with long steps to climb sometimes at different Metro stations. If you are travelling with luggage, a partner or other people, it is often better to take a Taxi to take you to your exact hotel address. The Taxis can first give you a rough indication of cost (if you ask), and they all work on Meters, so you know you are not being overcharged.
The third Paris airport is Beauvais is much smaller and a long way out of Paris.
TRAIN STATIONS – the biggest train station is Gare du Nord (Station of the North). This is where Eurostar trains arrive and depart to for London, as well as trains leaving from here to Belgium, Holland and Germany. Gare de L'Est (Station of the East) has trains for Strasbourg, Berlin, Vienna. Other big stations are Gare de Lyon which mainly serves the south of France and Italy, Gare Montparnasse serving Brittany and south west parts of France, Spain and Portugal, Gare St Lazare serving parts of Normandy. Always check to see the Station name on your ticket that you will arrive in or depart from. All of these train stations connect to the Metro.
You can buy train tickets on this website and there can sometimes be wide differences between prices depending on the time and day of the week, and when you book , as well as the type of train you're travelling on – eg the SNCF and TGV fast trains or a slower train with more stops. In the middle of Summer European holiday season, train seats can book out early, so once you know exactly when and where you want to travel on a train – book it early and try to get a window seat!
Note also that there are first and second class tickets and check your carriage and seat number, so that you can make sure you are waiting at the right position (location) on the platform so that you can get quickly on-board. The train times displayed are mostly very accurate and the trains don't stay at the platform for long. Eurail and Eurostar tickets can also be purchased on this website – see Trains.
If you have a car, the biggest issue in Paris will be where to park it, and if you are intending to see the Tourist sites in Central Paris, the best thing will be to find a Hotel that has free parking and then use the Metro, taxies or buses to get you to the places you want to see.