Paris is one of those great big cities that can overwhelm as well as frustrate travelers. Having just gotten back from a nearly two-week stay, here are some of my travel tips that are fresh in mind. These ones are transportation-related (although the first one is a bit of stretch to fit that category) and I’ll have some others on here later in the week:
1. Don’t stop – Book your tickets to the Louvre online. On many days, you can stand two hours in line before you enter the world’s most visited museum. While the glass Pyramid and the Louvre’s courtyard are beautiful to look at, doing so for 120 minutes will make you as mad as van Gogh. Not many people are aware you don’t have to endure the wait. Sign up for an account with FNAC Spectacles and you’ll be able to order your tickets online (for the Louvre and other attractions). FNAC is a ticket seller like TicketMaster. You’ll have to pick up your tickets before you go to the Louvre. FNAC has locations throughout Paris, with one of the main ones standing across the street from Saint Lazare Station, about a 20-minute walk to the museum. The cost of a single ticket through FNAC is 11.60 euros, only 1.60 euros more than the regular admission price, and that’s a small charge to pay to avoid the massive queue. Take your pre-purchased ticket to the entrance beneath the arch of Pavilion Richelieu in the courtyard. You can also buy tickets to special exhibits online, but I’d advise against doing so. Once you get inside, the lineups aren’t long to purchase extras and you can do so at some automatic machines that don’t charge the premium that ticket resellers do.
2. Travel underground. Buy Metro tickets in bulk (12 euros will get you a book of 10) and study the system so you know the most efficient way to get where you want to go. Don’t discard your ticket once you’ve passed through the turnstile; at some stations you will need to re-use your ticket to either exit or connect to another train (which happens if you’re traveling on a line that services suburban areas as well as the city). If you do have to change trains to reach your destination, budget five minutes to get from platform to platform. The tunnel system is vast and the lines can be far apart from each other. Beware that some older trains don’t have doors that open automatically. You’ll either have to push a button or turn a handle to get on or out. The Metro has 16 lines and runs from 5:30 a.m. until 1:15 a.m. from Sunday to Thursday and until 2:15 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. A single ride costs 1.80 euros. The Paris Metro is one of the best in the world and will likely be a saviour for you in the City of Light. Getting to know it is only going to make your life easier.
3. Grab the bus. Like the subway system, the bus system is vast and convenient. It also has the added benefit of allowing you to get on and off for a single fare within a 90-minute period. So long as you don’t use the same bus number, you can re-use your ticket within that timeframe. For tourists looking to explore the city that’s a real advantage.
4. Shuttle from the airport. If you’re traveling light, you can take a subway train from Charles de Gaulle or Orly airports into Paris, but if you’ve got luggage you’ll need to arrange for ground transportation. Your hotel might have a pick up or you might be okay taking the public bus. On my recent trip, I opted to book with Parishuttle.com online and had a satisfying experience. The round-trip cost for two people was 76 euros. The drivers were friendly and on time, transporting clients in vans that seat up to 12. It’s cheaper than a taxi and more convenient and time efficient than the public bus.
5. Walk all over. From the steep steps of Montmartre to the flat, long stretches of gravel at Luxembourg Gardens and the tiny streets that run through every district, Paris is a wonderful walking city. It’s the best way to discover its charms and secrets. I particularly enjoyed Rue de Caumartin in the 9th Arrondisement, where I stayed during my recent stop. You’ll read more about that spot in an upcoming post as well as an article in the Toronto Star’s Travel section.
Have you got Paris travel tips of your own? Share them!