A city made up of 20 districts (arrondissements). Advice for getting around Paris from our man on the ground Pierre Abecassis.
Visit 20 cities within in one great city. Paris is made up of 20 arrondissements, each with its own individual personality for your fun and pleasure!
Tipping in Paris
In Paris and in France the prices include the service and it is perfectly acceptable to give nothing at all without offending anyone. So tipping is completely at your discretion. The usual habit is to round up, so if a taxi ride costs €14, we suggest you give a total of €15. When it comes to restaurants, if you feel that the service was over and above normal then the French tend to give either €2, €5 or even €10 if you are more than two people.
The two main Paris airports are Roissy Charles De Gaulle and Orly. The nearest is Orly at 14 km on the south of Paris. It is divided in two different parts, Orly Ouest (which is mostly for Domestic flights) and Orly Sud. Roissy Charles de Gaulle is the biggest, located 25 km in the North East of Paris.
A taxi to or from Charles De Gaulle will take anything from 30 to 60 minutes depending on the time of the day. It can take as long as 80 minutes. The cost will be around €45 on a weekend and €60 at other times.
Both airports are also served by buses. The RoissyBus costs €10.00 and leaves from the center of Paris close at Paris Opéra (it is signposted). The Orlybus departs from Denfert Rochereau and costs €7.00.
I find the best way to get to Charles De Gaulle is by Métro and RER (line B). A ticket costs just €9.25 each way and the journey is about 35 minutes to or from Gare du Nord to the airport, a little longer from Châtelet-Les Halles (40 minutes). You can also reach Orly by Métro and RER departing from Châtelet-Les Halles if you are in the centre of Paris, where you will need to get on RER B heading south. At Antony you change to Orlyval (shuttle), which brings you to Orly Ouest (W) in 6 minutes and Orly Sud (S) a minute later.
Note that if you have a large suitcase some of the Métro stations do not have barriers you can get through that easily and also many Métro stations have no escalators and only stairs.
It is very important when taking a taxi from any airport to only use a licensed taxi which has a Taxi light on the roof. Never hesitate to ask for a receipt at the end of your journey, because that will have the taxi number and details in case of any follow up, such as you left something in the taxi.
If you are in a hurry and need to get into Paris or to the airport or station, there are Moto Taxis, which are large comfortable motor bikes that can even take small luggage. It is safe, quick and pleasant and they provide you with all the necessary equipment. There are a number of companies offering this service.
The best way to get around the city is by the very efficient Métro system. You never have to wait long for trains and it is easy to use. The main RATP website is in multiple languages and is very helpful.
If you are in Paris for a few days I would recommend you buy a Paris Visite, which you can buy for either 1, 2, 3 or 5 consecutive days of travel. It permits you to ride on all Métro and RER lines as well as buses within the zones you buy on an unlimted basis (either 1-3 or 1-6). Most people will only need zones 1-3. The prices (as at February 2012) are as follows:
1 day (zones 1-3): €9.75; children: €4.85 (children must be less than 12 years old)
2 day (zones 1-3): €15.85; children: €7.90
3 days (zones 1-3): €21.60; children: €10.80
5 days (zones 1-3): €31.15; children: €15.55
Another good ticket to buy if you want unlimited use of the system for a day is a one day Day Card for zones 1-2 at just €6.40, which will pretty much take you everywhere around Paris. You will have to use an autumated ticket machine and pay with either cash or credit card at smaller stations. The Carnet is still good value too if you are only using the system a few times over a few days. It currently costs €12.70 for 10 tickets.
A word of warning: you cannot use a zone 1-3 ticket to get to La Defense on the RER, you will be fined €25 if caught, but you can use the regular Métro to get there by Line 1 (Château de Vincennes-La Défense) with a normal Metro ticket or Day Card (Zone 1-2) too. If you visit Paris on a regular basis you might prefer to purchase a Passe Navigo, which you can simply top up with credit and it never expires. You can order it online or at a station but it is not a straughtforward process and you will need a French address and photograph.
It is easy to go anywhere in the suburbs of Paris by public transport: Metro when it is near, RER or/and buses everywhere. So do not hesitate to have a hotel which is not in Paris intra-muros.
Staying Safe in Paris
The Métro is perfectly safe during the day but after 10:00pm to the when it closes at around 1:00am you need to be more careful and especially in some of the larger stations such as Chatelet les Halles and Strasbourg St Denis and the main railway stations such as Gare du Nord, Gare St Lazare. (The Metro is closed between 1:00a.m. and 5:30a.m.)
Be careful when using your smart phone on the Métro, particularly iPhones, as aggravated robberies have increased by 40 percent recently. Phones tend to be grabbed quickly out of your hand as the doors are closing and robbers work in small groups so it changes hands quickly making it harder to give chase.
The RER, the larger express metro that runs out to the suburbs of Paris, maybe more dangerous. The advice is avoid showing your jewellery and to be too well dressed.
The French Brasserie
A Brasserie is a restaurant but most restaurants are not brasseries. In a brasserie you can eat early or very late. For example dinner at 6:30pm or 11:00pm is perfectly normal. You are free to eat what you want, be it 8 dishes or just one! Alternatively your dinner partner might like just one dish and you may prefer five and that is not a problem.
The food is always fresh in a brasserie as the turnover of people is fast. It is also the perfect place to eat very fresh seafood.
Brasseries are the perfect restaurant to go before or after the theatre and you will find this all over France and not just Paris.
In July and August the Paris Plages has become a summer tradition in Paris. Since 2002 the city has transformed the banks of the River Seine in to a Caribbean style beach. The beaches currently spread across three areas: Le Louvre/Pont de Sully, Port de la Gare and Bassin de la Villette. The beaches are open from 8am to midnight and you can even rent kayaks and sailboats!
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