Paris Guided Bus Tour
Our suggestion on arriving in any City for the first time is to take a guided bus tour the first day. Why? Because its the quickest way to get orientated. Stay on the bus for the full tour and you’ll see all the main sights, see what’s close to what, the actual distance between each sight…can be very different to what you see on a map because of hills, pedestrian traffic, etc. After that (usually 2 hour) tour you’ll been pleased that you’ve seen everything from outside and feel comfortable then to use other means of transport on subsequent days.
One of the best things about the bus tours is that they’re open-top double decker buses so you see the city from a slightly higher perspective than a pedestrian or car, therefore you see the amazing buildings around you, these will be some of the best photos you take on your trip to Paris!
With a lot of the guided bus tours you can hop on and off during the day, so once you’ve done one full route stay on the bus and wait to jump off at one of the first stops you want to visit. This way during that first day you will probably cover 3 or 4 of your major attractions all for the price of your guided bus tour. Bus tour tickets often also give you discounted entry to other attractions to keep an eye out for this.
Walking around Paris
I know its old fashioned, but the best way to take in the sights, sounds and culture of a city is to walk around it like a local. Don’t rush, take your time, open your eyes (even put your camera phone away for awhile!) and take it all in. You’ll soon relax and adjust to the pace of the City. Paris like a lot of European cities is built for pedestrians, there are large open pedestrianised squares and parks, paths to follow, and you can easily walk around the main city centre without having to sue any transport. You’ll also be able to stop and sit in a cafe for a drink every few hours, and do as the French do and people-watch.
Some of the nicest walks are along the river Seine, up the Champs Elysee, along the main shopping road Boulevard St Germain, through the Jardins du Luxembourg and across the Jardin des Tuileries to the Louvre. The two islands Ile de la Cite and Ile St-Louis are nice places to walk around as well.
While you’re walking don’t forget to look up occasionally to take in the buildings around you.
The Paris metro is good for the evenings are for later in your trip when you know your way around and there’s somewhere specific you want to be quickly. It can also help if you’ve picked a hotel on the outskirts, to get into the center quickly. It is a cheap way to travel longer distances and very quick as you’d expect. Metro trains are regular and on time, often just a few minutes in between each one. The service runs from around 6am to 1am most days with some fluctuation in operating times, so check timetables for your routes. Late at night you are probably advised to take a taxi rather than the Metro unless you’re confident of the area at both ends of your journey.
Paris Metro tickets are also valid for the trains, trams, Montmartre cable car, and the buses. A pack of 10 tickets (carnets) costs approximately $16.00 (€14.00).
Paris Train (RER)
For longer journeys outside of the city center you could use the RER train service. Metro tickets cover zones 1 and 2, but you will need an RER ticket for travel further into the suburbs or to the airport. We will soon be producing a further page on the train network and how to get to and from teh Airport via train, please be patient, hopefully it will be here soon.
The bus system in Paris is good but can be slow compared to the metro because of the levels of traffic in the city. You will also find it difficult to get a seat during peaks hours and when older residents are heading into the city between 9am and 10am. Buses run from 6.30am to 8.30pm typically, with some night buses running later to major areas. Bus route maps are available in Metro stations and on some buses.
Taxis in Paris
There are two ways to get a taxi in Paris, wait at a taxi rank or call from your hotel or restaurant for one to pick you up. Its a slightly more expensive but direct way of getting around Paris, and probably a good option at night to make sure you get to your dinner booking on time, or get back home afterwards safe. Taxis should have a meter running and best to ensure it is running before you set off so there’s no negotiation at the end! If you’re going on a longer journey feel free to set a price with the driver upfront so there are no surprises. A lot of drivers will speak English.
Some things to keep in mind are that some rivers only take a maximum of three passengers so all are sat in the back of the vehicle. You will be charged extra for luggage, or if you’ve been picked up from a train station.
Cycling in Paris
An ever more popular way of getting a round Paris and most European cities is by rented bicycle. You can now rent electric bikes, segways, mo-peds and standard bicycles. The city caters for cyclists with cycle lanes allowing you priority over cars and sometimes pedestrians. It can be a really nice way to see the city and cut down on walking. Rental shops will also provide a local so you can secure your bike as you stop off at different places. There are also bike rental services where you pay at a meter and then leave you bike at another meter to finish your journey. Prices are around $16.00 (€14.00) per day for a standard bike but will be more for electric bikes.
Paris Boats along the Seine
Another nice way to see Paris is by boat on the river Seine. The river cuts through the heart of the city and many major sights are on the shores. The Batobus runs from may to September for peak tourist season and for a $18.00 (€16.00) day pass you can jump on and off the boats from 10am to 9pm to see major sights.
There are also other boat companies that do specific day-time river tours and dinner cruises at night, so if this is of interest its worth checking them out. They can be busy during peak tourist seasons but ticket numbers are limited for safety reasons. Interestingly there are also canal tours of Paris which take you deeper into the city.
The tram system in Paris is new, launched in 2006 and has four major lines connecting major parts of the large Paris city. It is more for local city commuters than tourists as it doesn’t really cover the main tourist attractions, but its worth keeping in mind if you’re staying outside the city and want a quick, cheap and reliable route in each day.