Paris public transport systems and tickets
The network for public transport in Paris is one of the most comprehensive and dense systems in the world, meaning that you are never far away from an option you can utilise to get you around the city or far further beyond.
About the Paris Public Transport systems
Whatever mode of Paris public transport you wish to use, whether it is buses or night buses, the Paris Metro, which is often referred to as an underground, trains or trams, there is an option suitable for all. These will get you within walking distance of numerous monuments, tourist attractions, museums, entertainment venues and event centres, not just within the heart of Paris, but also within the region, Ile de France, not forgetting options for accessing the Paris airports.
Ile de France Mobilities is the company that organises the public transport within Paris and the region of Ile de France, which incorporates different departments, or areas, and there are two main operators for Paris, being RATP and SNCF Transilien that work together to provide all of the various modes of public transport within the city and the Paris region.
However, there are also other operators such as Keolis and Transdev that provide transport options within the different departments of Ile de France as well, meaning that well over 3000 tourist attractions are within easy reach of the public transport network, which includes famous castles such as Chateau de Versailles and theme parks like Disneyland Paris.
The Paris Metro
You will often see signs over entrances saying Metropolitain, which is the full name for the Paris Metro taken from the company that first started this rapid transport system, and often referred to as an underground the word Metro is now used throughout the world.
The Paris Metro is one of the most dense Metro systems in the world, plus it also is one of the busiest that has been running since the first line was officially opened in 1900 for the Paris World Fair, with the first ever Paris Metro maps being produced in 1901 and still continuing to this day.
You will find that the Paris Metro lines operate from 5:30am to around 1:15am, although on a Friday and Saturday evening along with the eve of a bank holiday the service does not finish until around 2:15am and the ticketing for this public transport option works on a zone system, which you can find out more about in the section on tickets and zones further below.
Known for short as RER, the full name is Reseau Express Regional, which translates to Regional Express Network in English, and this was designed as a commuter and rapid transit system that operates in Paris travelling to the suburbs of the city.
Incorporating over 250 stations, of which over 30 are located in the centre of Paris, with some of these being underground, they are operated in collaboration between RATP and SNCF, running daily from around 5:30am through to about 1:20am and you will find that they travel to key destinations including the RER B line for Charles de Gaulle Airport and the RER A line for Disneyland Paris.
Transilien are the suburban trains that connect the capital city to numerous areas throughout Ile de France, making it easy to commute, rather than having to consider the costs of living in Paris. Yet these are also a great way of being able to reach train stations located within easy reach of famous tourist attractions in the region including castles like Chateau de Versailles, the Medieval town of Provins, etc.
The name itself is derived from the word transit and also from the word Francilien, which means a person who resides within the Paris region of Ile de France, and hence Transilien, which is the train network operated by SNCF that runs daily going to and from the major Paris train stations including Gare du Nord and Gare Saint-Lazare, which also operate from around 5:30am to approximately 12:50am.
Originally starting in the 1850s, the Paris tramway network ran until the late 1930s, yet in the 1990s it started to become a part of the transport network once more within the Paris region of Ile de France. Although most of its tram lines operate in the suburbs of Paris on the outskirts of the city, there are some that are classed as within the city itself, plus connect with key locations for both business and pleasure.
There are numerous transport connections that connect at stations of the tramway system to other transport in Paris including to buses, where you will find that one ticket links to both when transferring, as you can read further down below, with the tramway service operating from approximately 5:30am through to 12:40am daily.
There is also a vast bus network in Paris, mainly run by RATP, with numerous central lines and many others that travel to the suburbs and within the Paris region of Ile de France, although you will also find that there are other companies that have buses operating in specific areas such as Keolis.
The Paris buses operated by RATP usually run from around 5:30am through to 12:30am daily, although you do have to check each bus line and its timetables carefully as there are variations with some of the Paris bus routes either going further or stopping at a different terminus at a weekend or French national holiday, compared to a week day, and of course the times also vary from one bus line to another.
Noctilien Night Buses
As you have already read, the majority of Paris public transport stops running during the early hours and this is where the Noctilien transport service take over.
The Paris Noctilien is a night bus service that operates between the hours of approximately 12:30am and 5:30am starting from 5 key points in Paris, which are trains stations and major transport hubs, and they travel to more than 200 different towns and cities in the Paris region of Ile de France, with the Noctilien Paris night buses being run by the two main transport companies of RATP and SNCF Transilien in conjunction with each other.
The Montmartre Funicular
Called the Funiculaire de Montmartre in French, the system was first opened in 1900 as a true funicular with two counterbalanced cars that moved up and down the steep incline in opposite directions at the same time, whereas having been rebuilt, it now has independently operated cars, but has still retained its original name.
For the same price as a Paris Metro ticket you can utilise the Funicular to reach the top of the Montmartre Hill where Sacre Coeur Basilica is located, which is a ride of approximately 90 seconds and means you avoid hundreds of steps up the steep incline, and this is in operation year round from 6am through to around 12:30am.
Paris Airport Buses
There are two dedicated buses that offer a direct service to the Paris airports, which are operated by RATP and these are called the OrlyBus that goes from Gare Denfert-Rochereau in Paris to Orly Airport and RoissyBus that goes from Palais Garnier Opera in Paris to Charles de Gaulle Airport.
With a journey time of around 60 to 75 minutes, the RoissyBus operates daily from around 5:15am to 12:30am at intervals of around 20 minutes, whereas the OrlyBus runs from around 5:30am to midnight daily at approximately 15 minute intervals with the journey time taking between around 30 to 40 minutes.
However there are also dedicated Airport shuttle bus services called Le Bus Direct that are operated by the Paris Airports with 4 different routes that have stops at various locations in Paris including at the Eiffel Tower, plus one of these operates as airport shuttle bus service between the two airports of Charles de Gaulle (CDG) and Orly (ORY).
Travel within Paris and the region of Ile de France is based upon a zone system with zone 1 being the heart of Paris, then as you go further out towards the periphery and hit downtown Paris with the closest urban areas you will reach zones 2 and 3. Zones 4 and 5 are the more distant areas of the Paris region, which include places such as Rambouillet, Versailles, Fontainebleau, Disneyland Paris and CDG Airport.
Tickets for Paris Public Transport
The T+ ticket is suitable for occasional users of public transport in Paris and with just 1 ticket this will allow you to travel on a single journey utilising the Paris Metro, although you can also transfer to the RER trains for a journey in Zone 1 and the other way round within a limited time period of 90 minutes.
A T+ ticket is also valid for the RATP buses and the Paris Tramway, where you can also change between the two different forms of transport, again for a duration of 90 minutes. Yet when it comes to utilising the Noctilien night buses, 1 T+ ticket is valid for those with two digits such as bus line N01, whereas you would need 2 T+ tickets for the three digit lines such as bus line N144.
However, we would like to point out that a T+ ticket will not provide you access to the Paris Airports, as there are dedicated tickets for these, plus if you are travelling further than Zone 1 on Paris RER trains for example, then you must purchase a ticket that states the destination.
Although, if you are going to be on holiday in Paris for a few days, then you will be pleased to know that you can obtain a Paris Visite pass that allows you unlimited travel on the Metro, the Paris tramway system, the buses, RER and Transilien Trains.
You can obtain a pass for just 1 day or for 2, 3 or 5 consecutive days that allows you to travel within Paris and the nearest suburbs within the tariff zones of 1 to 3. Alternatively, if you are thinking of visiting tourist attractions like Chateau de Fontainebleau or even want the option to get back to one of the Paris airports within the cost, then you would need to purchase a Paris Visite Ile-de-France Region ticket, which then covers all the zones from 1 to 5, along with destinations such as Versailles, Disneyland Paris, the airports, etc.