Métro & Trains, Paris
Whenever you push your metro ticket (or any other point to point ticket) through the turnstile, don't forget to take it back and to keep it until you exit your arrival station.
You will have to present it if a control occurs (and to be fined is not fine).
Oh! and an another "risk" for your beloved transport pass : when taking the bus, you have to punch the metro ticket/ticket t/Optile ticket (all the point to point tickets), but don't punch your pass (Paris Visite, Mobilis, Carte Orange, ...) as it won't work anymore then (just present it to the bus driver).
you should be very careful taking the RER-B trains, if you are planning to leave Zone 1-2. check the board that states on which stations will the next train stop. they are on every RER platform, stating all the upcoming stations, with a little yellow light in front of the name, if the train stops there.
if you don't check, you can easily find yourself on an express train to the airport (CDG or Orly). as this is with a special fare, you are very likely to get a fine (I got one two weeks ago - 42 euros) for travelling without a valid ticket.
Everybody recommended us to buy Carte Orange as the best option for transportation in Paris, from all points of view, including the price.
But when we arrived in Paris trying to buy it from a couple of Metro stations was really an adventure.
Understanding that we are tourists some of the sellers were quite aggressive and rude when explaining that the only pass we are allowed to buy is the Tourist Pass, which obviously was almost 50% more expensive than Carte Orange.
At the end we succeeded to buy it from a smaller, not so "ouristy" metro station, but not without a lot of useless efforts.
Those pesky ticket inspectors pop up at the most unexpected times so be sure you keep your stamped metro ticket on hand for the entire ride. I took the funicular to the top of MontMartre at 7:45 in the morning and waiting at the top was Ticket Inspector Javert and three of his deputies. Then on the RER back to CDG, zee Ticket Inspector again (with three of his deputies) checked for tickets. The young man across the seat didn't even try to use the "but it was in my pocket" routine. Apparently his second violation and a 72 euro fine.
At the Metro station Abbesses, which is a very popular starting point when visiting Montmartre there is something you should know. When leaving the station you will come upon a lift (ascenseur) and most probably there will be several people waiting to use it. BE WARNED..... if you have bad knees or feet, respiratory or heart problems etc. wait for the lift because the alternative is a mountain of stairs to climb before you will see daylight. I have it on good authority (Sally aka beausoleil) that these stairs number 287. Felt like 2,087 to me!
The Metro of Paris can be a very crowded place. Especially line 1 can be very chaotic. To avoid that you´ll lose you travel company, you have to make one agreement before using the Metro:
If the doors of the Metro close and not everybody is inside, you step out the forthcoming station and wait for the next ones. Then you can never lose eachother.
Not necessary, you´ll find out yourself!
Recent visitors to Paris will note the appearance of these "in case of emergency break glass" things. They are to meet a very specific need. The rough translation is "In case of someone falling on the track" -- what happens if you pull the handle inside is that it stops the power to the third rail for that side of the platform. It continues "and in this case alone ... all abuse will be punished"
I asked a friend of mine resident in Paris what was up and he said that there are often train stoppages from people committing suicide on the tracks, so these were installed.
Be careful when on the metro especially in rush hours and at busy times as there are (as there are in many other places) many pickpockets. They are very clever and quite often (like my father) people don't even know they have had their pockets picked.
I always keep my bag in front of me when travelling as a precaution.
I've heard that these guys that jump on the metros and play you accordian music are only after tips and will corner you if you look like you're enjoying their playing. I don't know if it's true. I've never had it happen to me. I presume all they would do is just be mad at you if you didn't tip them. Just thought I'd share because I have this great picture a friend of mine took. I also have a picture of some guys, an accordian and trumpet player, in Angers, France that used to come into the restaurants and play for tips. On the last trip, there seemed to be even more performers everywhere we went...some were even selling CDs in the Montparnasse metro station.
There is a scam that is going on that we got caught with concerning the Metro and we knew about it before we even got to Paris!.
Official looking people, with matching jackets and patches, will offer to help you purchase your tickets and give you travle help. Be wary since some of these will only be looking to sell you a cheaper ticket for the correct fair higher price fair. It is difficult to detect since the METRO tickets all look the same. EVEYTHING they do to help you is correct and helpful until you realise you have been swindled. One tip off might be that they are looking around and will seem to want to hurry you along. Don't be rushed and don't believe that the ticket machine is broken. They will work in teams to make it all look true. Lucky for us we did get caught in this scam but did not lose any money.
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. ^_^
Though the metro and bus system in Paris are excellent, I find that I have one very big complaint. Unlike New York and Washington, DC, you cannot transfer from bus to metro or metro to bus. But you can transfer from bus to bus or bus to tram within 90 minutes and you can only do this one time.
It would seem to me that Paris has made less effort in accommodating wheelchair users than other major cities I have visted recently.
New buildings and new metro lines (like line 14 and most of the RER system) are excellent, but all to often you are faced with a flight of steps and little obvious alternative.
I some stations have a lift shaft directly from street level to the platform, but if they do exist, they certainly arn't well sign-posted. Assistence is at best patchy, and it is no use advertising that a station has disabled access if Metro Maintenance can't be bothered to check if it is working.
In addition many restaurants seemed to lack seperate disabled toilets on the ground floor.
On the plus side, you can go staright to the front of the queue at major tourist sites where the staff seems to be very 'clued up' and helpful. The service received at the Eiffel tower and the Placae of Versaiiles was excellent.
When getting onto the Metro (subway system), there may be men who seem too willing to help a foreign tourist-no they don't work for the Paris Tourism Board.
These unscrupulous characters will 'assist' you in getting a ticket for the subway...they may buy a daily one-time ticket and charge you a longer-term ticket. The scam doesn't cost you too much but it feels like *** to get scammed no matter what the amount! Yes, I (we) got scammed this way and can still remember some of the details some 3 years later!
By the way, avoid Pigalle at all costs, nothing but bad news and con men/women there. Those champagne bottles don't come free and definitely not cheap!
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.