Having grown up in a middle-of-nowhere town, I was always used to carpooling or driving wherever I needed to be for school or extracurricular activities. When I decided to go to Parsons, I was somewhat afraid to learn to use the public transport because it seemed so foreign to me. Quickly I realized my fears were unreasonable, and as soon as it became part of my daily routine, public transit became one of my best friends. Fred Ebb was right about New York, “If you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere,” and having learned the NYC subway system, it made the transition to european public transport very simple. So how do I get around Paris? Here are some of my preferred options as a temporary Parisenne.
First, you should note, Paris is a much smaller city than New York, so if you’re coming here for studying abroad or even just a family vacation, a lot of your visits can be made just by foot ! At Parsons Paris we’re just a 5 minute walk away from the Louvre Museum, and the Tuileries gardens, two of my favorite places to go if I ever want to clear my head.
Another note about Paris though, is the way it’s streets are mapped is nothing like New York’s grid-like streets. You may think you’re walking down the right street, but even one street too early and you can wind up in a completely different arrondissement! What’s very helpful about Paris is that there are maps everywhere which include *you are here* stickers so as to not get lost too often. Also, many of the street signs list the arrondissement you are in, so as to give an even clearer idea of where you are.
If walking is too slow of a pace for you, perhaps you’d like to try Vélib’? Vélib’ is the Parisian version of Citi bike, and they are very popular to use in Paris. Pretty much every other block has a Vélib’ docking station where you can pick up or return a bike during the duration of your pass. Using vélib’ can seem confusing as if you are going to rent one directly from a docking machine, you’ll need a European Bank card with a chip, or as they say in french “carte-bleue.” Luckily, for short time visitors who want to try out the bikes, you can also buy day passes online, so you just get the code, type it in at the station, and Voilà ! You’re on your way. Each rental has the following costs: 1.70 EUR/ day, 8,00 EUR/week, 29 EUR/year. It’s a really good deal, especially since this year it has been warm enough to bike even through the winter. You’ll also notice motorbikes and scooters are everywhere around Paris, so be mindful that you’re sharing the road with other kinds of vehicles, often times there are shared bike and bus lanes.
If you’re not brave enough to bare the winter chill by bike, then you might want to take the metro system! The Paris metro is similar and different to the New York Subway System in many ways. First of all, you always know when the Paris metro will arrive because the time is listed above each platform, as well as how many minutes there are to the next train. Second of all, you always know when it’s not coming because it closes every weekday at 12:30AM or every weekend at 1:30 AM, and doesn’t re-open until 5:30AM. There are also many lines to the Paris metro system, and more often than not, you’ll have to make at least one transfer to get to where you’re going— this is made very easy because again there are maps and signs everywhere. Directions aren’t as simple as uptown or downtown, but you’ll know very quickly if you’re going the opposite direction because each station is about a one minute ride from the last.
Conveniently, Parsons Paris is located in the 1ere arrondissement, which means it’s right in the heart of the city making it very easy to get anywhere from school. The metro and bus fares are the same: 1,70 EUR /individual ride, 20.40 EUR/Week, 67.10 EUR/month for zones 1-2. The price for tickets varies as you go further out into Paris’ suburbs, but typically if you’re a student in Paris you’ll only need basic tickets or a weekly/monthly NAVIGO pass for touring central Paris. The Navigo Pass is very convenient because it’s required that you have a photo to identify that it belongs to you, there is no sharing of Navigo passes, and the parisian metro is very strict about their fines if you’re caught without a ticket. Beware that if you do buy single tickets that you keep them until you’ve exited the station, the metro workers have the right to stop and ask for your proof of payment whenever they want, and if you’ve unluckily lost your stub, you can run the risk of a heavy fine. Another benefit of having the navigo pass, is on the weekend students under 26 can use it for the RER (which works as both a central paris metro line, and a suburban train) to go places outside of central Paris like Versailles, or Disney Parks Paris, etc –but for a reduced rate.
Overall, getting around Paris is a breeze. In fact your prefered mode of transport may change from day-to-day, but the point is you have plenty of options. My biggest tip, be sure to download your Pairs Metro, and paris map apps before getting here, just in case. Or maybe you’re old fashioned like me, and like to have a pocket sized map, either way, It never hurts to be extra prepared.