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Paris Travel Guide Part I: Navigation

Updated: Jun 2

Planning a trip to Paris but unsure how to get around? Your search ends here! This comprehensive guide is just what you need.


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Introduction Paris Travel Guide Part I: Navigation

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Never been to Paris?


Picture yourself strolling along the Seine (pictured above), indulging in decadent pastries at quaint cafés, and exploring centuries-old architecture at every turn. From the iconic Eiffel Tower to the charming streets of Montmartre, Paris is a place for everyone. Embark on a journey of art, culture, and romance in the enchanting capital of France.


I’m here to help you start planning your Parisian escape today!


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To begin with, how will you be traveling?


There are many cheap round-trip flights to Paris on discount airlines such as PLAY AirlinesRyan AirAir France, and Jet Blue


Note: Keep in mind that cheap can also mean multiple layovers and less comfortable flight accommodations with no food, drink, or entertainment offered. 


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If you are taking the train, be sure to try to book a high-speed train. Such as the ICE in Germany or the Eurostar that travels from London to Paris. No transfers, one way. This way, you do not have to worry about a train arriving late, or making you miss your connection. If you have to transfer, give yourself 3+ hours between trains to account for anything that might go wrong. The main stations in Paris are Gare du Nord, and the Gare de l’Est. Other ones of note are also Gare de Lyon, Gare d’Austerlitz, Gare Montparnasse, and Gare Saint-Lazare.


Usually, my trains from Germany would take me into the Gare de l’Est.


Watch for strikes and disruptions. Have a backup plan, just in case! Europe is notorious for this. Also, book months ahead to find cheaper tickets on the local country’s train site (such as Deutsch Bahn for Germany) or places such as Omio and Trainline (suitable for buses and planes, too). 


When booking third party, it may be difficult or impossible to receive a refund (or reschedule) if anything goes awry. This is the risk you take when booking through these sites. 


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If you plan to drive, be aware that I do NOT recommend driving anywhere near Paris if you are not a seasoned city driver. There are NO TRAFFIC LAWS enforced in Paris. It is absolute mayhem. I drove too close once, and it was the worst driving experience of my LIFE. So, I recommend driving to a train station with a parking lot (all train stations have parking lots attached/nearby), such as Disney Paris, paying to park there, and taking the train into the city. 


To drive in Paris, you are required to purchase the Crit’Air emissions sticker. Most European countries have these emissions/vignettes/road taxes now. I’ve purchased them for Switzerland, Czech Republic, and France so far.


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There are many tolls on the way to and from Paris. When driving from Germany, I usually spend around 30-40 euros each way. You can pay with a credit card (or phone); just be careful when selecting which lane to drive through. There’s nothing worse than getting stuck and having everyone behind you honking and pissed off!


Parking is also costly, even in the city's outskirts. I paid 25 euros per day to park at Versailles once. So, with the crazy traffic, tolls, and cost of parking, I would usually advise leaving your car at home and taking a plane, bus, or train.


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Taking the bus is also an option; many fabulous companies offer tours or transportation. It’s the slowest option (but often the cheapest), so I usually avoid it.


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The best months to find the cheapest trains and flights will be from around January to March. Crowds will be minimal, but the weather is cold and the city a bit grey. It all depends on what kind of experience you’re looking for!


I lament visiting cities in the winter when they are drab and grey with little to no plant life, but if you always wait for good weather to travel, you won’t see much at all!


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Alright, I made it to Paris, now what!?


If you arrive via train, you’ll likely be greeted with the above scene—a bustling train station. If you need to purchase tickets or hop on the metro, I advise going outside to a nearby metro station. Don’t try to hop on from the central station itself. It can be a little more chaotic than necessary with long lines to purchase tickets.


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Paris is divided into 5 zones?


Above is a photo of the five zones in Paris (from maps-Paris.com website). Most of the main sites you’ll want to see are in Zone 1. If you’re uncertain what zone you will be traveling to, simply pop the question into a search engine, and it’ll tell you immediately. Or use this guide.


Knowing what zones you will travel to will affect what ticket(s) you purchase. 


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Suppose you’ve been to places like Berlin, London, or Amsterdam, where you can simply tap your credit card or use an app to purchase tickets for public transportation. In that case, you’ll find the antiquated Parisian system somewhat annoying. 


While they do have the Navigo Pass that you can tap, it’s just a paper card they give you that you have to buy with the option to load it onto an app on your phone (you can just use the card itself to tap to enter). I have purchased one before through the service window at a metro station. They required me to buy a minimum of 10 trips (one way), or you can purchase a day ticket, which can be as cheap as around 9 euros (depending on the zones you will travel through). 


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Day tickets are useful when you plan to heavily use the public transportation system. When purchasing them at the kiosk, they are called Mobilis Passes (shown in photo above). However, often buying two singular passes will suffice (if you just need to go there and back). In the video below I will show you how to do just that!



If you’re uncertain or having any trouble, head to the service desk (often located near ticket kiosks)! I’ve always found them very helpful. Just tell them the destination you are trying to get to, or the ticket type you want to purchase. Be sure to have a translation of what you need on your phone in case they do not speak your language. It can help make your interactions with the locals in Paris easier.


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You can also rent scooters or bikes upon arrival, but I would caution against this unless you are familiar with the city. Roads and sidewalks are uneven, and traffic will be challenging to navigate. I’ve even talked to someone who got into a crash almost immediately using one of the rental scooters. Therefore, I don’t think this is the best choice for tourists visiting the city.


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How do I know which metro/bus/train to use?


There are two apps that I’ve used. Personally, I prefer Google Maps, but you also have the option of using City Mapper (more likely to have local closures on it). Another app you might want to consider, is the RATP app. It’s probably the most accurate and reliable since it is a French-State owned enterprise operating the public transportation systems.


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Above is an example of how you would get from the train station Paris Est (Gare de l’Est) using Google Maps. The fastest option is approximately 29 minutes long. You will be taking the M4 (metro in purple) and then RER C (local train in yellow) with a 5-minute walk to the Eiffel at the end.


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If you click on (select) the M4 and RER C option, you’ll be given more details. You will take the M4 in the direction of Bagneaux - Lucie Aubrac (there will usually be two options available each going in opposite directions).


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You will ride the M4 for 8 stops. If you expand the 8 stops, you will see which ones you will pass until you arrive at your destination: Saint-Michel Notre-Dame. I always double check what the next stop will be so I can ensure I am heading in the right direction. If not, simply exit, and follow the signs to get on the metro going in the opposite direction.


Don’t fret! This happens to the best of us sometimes!


Do not officially exit the metro station, or you will have to use/purchase another ticket to get in. Usually they have routes/tunnels you can use without having to exit.


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Next will be a short walk (follow signs) to the RER C (yellow) Saint-Michel Notre-Dame station and you will be heading in the direction of Saint-Quentin en Yvelines-Montigny-Le-Bretonneux. 4 stops. Exiting at the Champ de Mars Eiffel Tower. They even give you the appropriate exit to use: 2. At. Suffren / Tour Eiffel (follow the sortie (exit) signs that state this).


From there you will walk 5 minutes to the Eiffel!


Easy Peasy!


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To exit the metro/trains there are different buttons/handles. Sometimes you will simply push a button and others you will need to pull a handle down or up (etc.). They are not all the same! Keep this in mind, so when you stop, you don’t just stand at the door waiting for it to open. It may be automatic, but there’s the possibility that you’ll need to manually open the door.


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If you arrive early, and do not have a hotel, you can store your luggage at lockers provided at some train stations. Just follow the signs with the suitcase and key.


There are also other options such as Stasher and LuggageHero, but I can’t personally recommend them (never used before).


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Cost depends on the size of your luggage, and often you’ll need cash.


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Above, is an example of what you might find.


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As you can see, this particular one, takes coins. There should be a nearby change station you can use, but I’ve found that many times they were out of order.


The logistics of where to store your luggage after arrival, is usually why I always book hotels with 24/7 service. That way no matter when you arrive, you’ll have somewhere to store your things.


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If you find yourself traveling with excess baggage or someone unable to stand/walk for long periods, you can call an Uber. In Paris, the popular companies are FREENOW and Bolt. They both have apps you can download, just like Uber.


Be aware, though, that it may be challenging to find a driver who can get to you within a reasonable amount of time due to heavy traffic in Paris. I’ve experienced a situation where the drivers kept canceling our rides, and we had to make the executive decision to take the metro instead. We would have missed our train if we had kept trying to call a ride, and they kept canceling! 


Also, due to heavy traffic, driving can be a slower form of transportation than walking or using other forms of public transportation. It’s all about picking what logistics work best for you and those you are traveling with.


Warning: Always pay for these services via apps. Never agree to pay in cash once they arrive. If you pay and trip on your phone, everything is already paid for, and the price is set in stone. If you agree to pay cash, many times you will arrive at your destination and drivers will try to scam you with an outrageously inflated price. I know quite a few people who this has happened to!


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Thank you for being here and hope this Paris Travel Guide helped! ❤️


Life is short. Live it well. 🙏


Yours truly, Allie 😘


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Thank you for being here.

Happy adventures!

❤️ Allie

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