Métro & Trains, Paris
I was in Paris in April 2015 and was stolen when buying metro tickets. This is how it works: you are buying the tickets in the machines and one young boy/girl comes to help you. You can ask them to go away, but they won't. Once you put the money in the slot they get the money and run away, if you are paying with credit card they get the card, and since they were around they saw you typing the password. Beware. I was robbed and saw another couple being robbed as well by the same gang! I believe they target women and older people that are less likely to react.
The lady we rented our apartments from informed us that we needed to be careful. So, being American, I took her at her word. It was chilly when we went and before venturing into the city from Mont Marte I took many precautions. Yes many will seem silly to some, but trust me they work. First, I had a belt with my ID & my travelers checks, and it was worn around my hip under my clothing. Second, I carried a small back pack with my medicine I may need, water, etc. But I also had my camera in there so that bag was worn backwards on the train, it stayed in front of me where I had total control over it. I had seen phones were being stolen often, and suggested it not be in your bag. So to protect mine, I purchased a necklace pouch. The pouch was worn under my clothing. Steer clear of souvenir shops that are over charging for everything, the more aggressive they are the more you get cheated. Don't buy anything gold or silver is what I was told. They will lie and you are out of the country, you have no recourse. Bring 2 extra suitcases from home that are empty and collapsible if you plan to shop. Keep your receipts for customs. Do not buy luggage there, I had to and boy was I ripped off. If someone is too close to you in any scenario, move or walk faster, if they match your pace, turn and go back the same direction and that will usually throw a criminal off guard. Hope this helps. AT night large stations can be empty, 2 women alone with bags equals target, be vigilant, be aware, be prepared. Try to hide the bags and DON'T WEAR LARGE JEWELRY. Even if you dress like a bum, they will knock you over for a ring.
My own experiences from last weekends trip with my friends:
1- Make sure to buy Metro tickets either directly from the office or from a machine. We were approached by a man holding a bunch of tickets asking us to buy them from him instead. The tickets he had were clearly used and therefore useless.
2- Be careful when passing through the turnstiles. A man tried passing through at the same time as me (in other words avoiding paying). I told him to back off and he stepped back with his hands in the air and wasn't seen on the platform after.
3- Beggars occasionally succeed in making it into the Metro system. One approached our group aggressively holding his hand in front of us and saying nothing. When we did not respond he began ranting in rapid French before getting off our carriage at the next station and hopping onto the next one.
We have not been in Paris 24 hours and were confronted by a tall young Subway controller. He was in a navy-grey uniform and accompanied by another young man and a female. The first young man demanded tickets as we departed the subway back from a trip to the Paris flea market at the Strasbourg-St. Denis terminal. So, husband, wife, and our two young daughters started looking in our billfolds, etc. for the tickets we used to get on the subway back. He did not seem to speak good English and became aggressive as we looked for our return tickets. He was particularly mean to my 25 year old daughter who weighs 95 lbs and is 5'4" tall. We all found our tickets, BUT, my one daughter's ticket was slightly crumpled and "his ticket reader could not read the ticket". I had two other unused tickets and offered one of those. He became hostile and demanded 50 Euros or we would go to the police. At this point he grabbed her arm to pull her away from her family; I told him I would feel better if he would call the police. At this point he told us, well..... it will take you all afternoon and it will cost 80 Euros and he needed her passport. He clearly did not want to do this and tried to pull her away again. I asked for his ID...which he at first acted as if he did not understand. Then finally showed me one...moving it quickly so I could not read it. I asked his name....of course he refused to give me his name. The point is.....we had the ticket....his reader could not read it. My terrified daughter begged that I just pay him.... being fearful to be taken to jail in a foreign country. I am pretty disappointed in this kind of conduct. I understand these "controllers" have a job, but is it to harass young girls? Extort money? There are better and more mature ways to police a system. We were in Paris for the first time for a visit....not to commit forgery for a 2 dollar subway ticket. There is a right way and wrong way to do a job. This cannot be defended.
We were riding on the Metro to the Eiffel Tower. We bought a 10 pack of tickets, and used 3 of them. Since there is only a check in and no check out in the Paris Metro, and we saw lots of people discard their tickets after checking in, we thought there is no point to keeping the tickets and tossed them after using them to enter the station. Upon leaving the station, train guards were checking for validated train tickets. Since we didn't have our train tickets we each got a 50 euro fine so it cost us 150 euros which is all the money we had at the moment. We showed him the 7 tickets left out of the 10 pack and he didn't change his mind. The guard said pay cash or credit on the spot or he would call the Police. We were devastated. We had no idea this could happen, and he was not budging as we were obviously not trying to cheat, we had all paid, and we obviously were tourists. And also nowhere on the Metro is there a sign or warning that validated tickets must be kept on your person. NOWHERE...and I can read french very well. Disgusting. Obviously a trap for tourists....After this happened we learned that locals do jump the train stiles but c'mon I really don't think a family of 3 is going to even attempt that...
This is a travel tip for anyone who wants to go to the Moulin Rouge. My husband and I purchased tickets for dinner and the show ($600 bucks U.S) online. We were going to go on our last day in Paris (01/14/2014). We left for the Metro at 6pm. It should have only taken us 15 minutes. We were supposed to be there 30 minutes prior to dinner (dinner was at 7pm).
Once we got on line 2 of the metro, it stopped. We were told it was having technical problems and we should get off and navigate around to the other side of the 2 and head back to get to our exit. No problem. This took us an extra 20 minutes. When we got on the 2. It started moving again. Once it did it stopped between stops. We were stuck on the Metro and could not get off for 2 hours. Once it started moving. It went to the next stop and Police officers came on board and told everyone to clear out and to leave the area. They would not tell us what to do.
At this time, we were already over 2 hours late. And it would have taken at least another 30 minutes. So we made the best we could out of the situation and went to a restaurant with a beautiful view of the Eiffel Tower and had a wonderful dinner.
When I contacted the Moulin Rouge to explain this to them. They basically said "Sorry for your troubles, but no refunds" They did say I could come back another night. But since this was our last night in Paris. We were out of luck.
Now I know this is an extreme example that probably rarely happens. However, on vacations things happen. People get sick, you get lost, you find something better to do at the last minute. My suggestion is never buy tickets for this show online. Get to the box office early and get them at the show when you know for sure you can make it.
Otherwise, you could be in our shoes. Out $600 bucks.
If you are using single metro tickets, it's really easy to misplace your metro tickets or confuse them with the one you used yesterday, I've ended up with a pocket full of metro tickets on many occasions. I've seen a couple of reports of people being fined hefty amounts when they could not produce a valid metro ticket. We did see one person get pulled over for inspection, based on who I saw cheating the system, their profiling was spot on.
Taking the metro without paying seems to be a huge problem in Paris, there wasn't one time that we took it on this trip where someone wasn't jumping over or crawling under the turnstyles, pushing through two at a time, usually right in front of someone who worked there or in one case in front of the police!
When you get done with your ride, either throw out the old ticket, fold it or move it to another place. I got in the habit of putting the current ticket in the same spot and it worked fine on this trip.
I made this mistake the first time I came to Paris, I won't make it again. I arrived at CDG early in the morning after an uneventful flight from Washington. So right away I got some euros from the automat and found my way to the RER station. My destination was Cardinal Lemoine station in the Latin Quarter and I came armed with detailed instructions from my hotel that seemed easy enough to follow. Just a change of trains at Austerlitz, should be no problem.
This took place before the airlines started charging for baggage, though a fair argument could be made that I was still carrying too much, Anyway.
Paris subways were built in the 1800's and they clearly did not anticipate the fact that tourists were going to be schlepping bulky stuff or even oversize bags. I saw a few people struggling mightily with the turnstiles and all. The trains were roomy enough, it was still quite early after all.
But after going up and down escalators and long corridors,loading my stuff onto one train, off and then on and off another train. I arrived at my hotel and swore to myself I would never ever take the train from the airport again.
My suggestion is if you are carrying only a light bag go for it, it will save you some money. Otherwise it's too much a hassle for the minimal money you will save in the process.
We took the train from from London to Gare du Nord during our trip. We noticed there were many youngsters hanging around, mostly young men, who would clutter in small groups to chat and then break off. They would approach people in the station, especially those in line for the automated ticket machine, asking if they can help them. There were also young women with clipboards asking you to sign petitions. Having read many of the Warnings & Dangers, we knew most of these youngsters were pickpockets, looking for a chance to distract you, so my husband and I were extra vigilant. Simply ignore anyone who approaches you and asks you to sign something. If you do need assistance, go to an official information desk or ticket counter. While doing anything, such as buying tickets, looking at a map, reading signs, going to the restroom, etc., have someone in your party keep watch. Pickpockets tend to stay away from people who are aware of their surroundings and are less likely to be distracted.
Several times I was warned to stand behind the yellow line in Le Metro, or I might be pushed onto the tracks.
Finally I asked, "Why would anyone want to push me onto the tracks?"
"To get your purse." Was the reply.
"Well," I said, "If I’m going, my purse is going with me."
I did, however, stand behind the line and was never pushed into the tracks.
I happened to need to be on the Metro one Sunday morning, where a gang of young men mugged one poor gentleman. They surrounded him and began to simply terrorize him. Two of the five had knives. Then, they began to simply injure him (superficial wounds, but bad enough), apparently for the entertainment value. The man had said or done nothing to provoke their attention. Everyone else on the car was terrified (mostly elderly) and looked away as if hoping not to be noticed. I intervened and summoned police and Metro staff (I am too large to fight with, apparently), and the gang finally took the man's wallet and fled. The police informed me that this was common on a Saturday or Sunday morning. Apparently these gangs of youths are from public housing (the Police explanation; not mine) projects in the suburbs. They come into the city for the evening...party all night...and then mug one or two people on the way home, both as a final form of entertainment and to recoup the night's expenses. They target people who look like they might have money, and who appear to be vulnerable. Be warned!
It's a good idea to check to make sure your train is operating as usual on the day you plan to take it to CDG or Orly.
I have listed two websites where you can check this.
Mainly for women, this tip is to warn you about the inherent dangers of walking over the air vents of the metro when a train passes. Be very aware of the approach of a train as you may end up in an embarrassing situation, notwithstanding the clicks of numerous cameras. ^_^
If you are arriving by train into Paris, bring a phone card with you if you plan on calling someone. There are several people around who jam the pay phones so they don't work and then they try and sell you phone cards. We got around it by asking someone to use his cell phone but it would have been better to have a phone card in advance.
Another good reason for taking one of the airport buses into/out of the city is that they pick you up and drop you off at street level, thus avoiding the RER and métro. As efficient as the trains are (when they're not on strike - ha!) the stations are underground and they either don't have escalators or lifts, or they're not working half the time. All those stairs can be a real pain with heavy luggage, strollers, wheelchairs or lousy knees.