Details on how to physically use the Paris Metro such as opening Paris Metro train doors, etiquette on Paris Metro seating, exiting train when arriving at your Metro stop, etc.
How to Ride Paris Metro
Metro train cars come in a variety of different shapes, colours and sizes. Some Paris Metro trains are completely automated, without a driver/conductor, with automatically opening doors and in some stations, gates on the train station platform which close and open in sync with the Metro train car doors.
Nearly all Paris Metro train cars require a rider to use a lever or a button to manually open the train car door. If you are the person nearest the Paris Metro car door when the train arrives and there are no passengers exiting, who will open the door as they need to exit before you can enter, you will be expected to open the train car door. This is done through either a lever or a button on the door itself near the center of the two sliding doors of a Metro car. Metro Line 14 is a notable exception being completely automated and driver-less.
To operate the lever, take hold of the handle that points toward you and rotate the lever upwards to unlatch the train car door. The doors will then slide apart (they are assisted by springs/air pressure) to allow you to enter. On occasion the Metro car doors can be sticky and do not slide open fully to let you enter. In this case a firm pull to the side with your hand on the door itself in the direction it was attempting to travel, will usually suffice to open the train car door the rest of the way.
Fold-down seats are available just inside Metro train car doors (called strapontins), but these seats should only be used when there is sufficient space for travelers to easily enter and exit the train car. This means you shouldn’t use these seats during rush hours as generally the Paris Metro will be too busy to use these seats. Instead, stand where the fold-down seats would otherwise be. Rush hour travel on the Paris Metro is a chance to exercise your “personal space” limits. Don’t be surprised if you end up completely pressed up against other passengers. It’s normal and commonplace, happening every rush hour… it’s simply a slice of commuter life in Paris.
During busy hours on the Paris Metro, passengers are expected to move towards the center of the train car in order to make more space for passengers wanting to board the train car. There will be Metro passengers standing in the aisles of the train car holding on to the many hand holds placed at the tops of seatbacks, to vertical poles throughout the train car and poles attached along the ceilings of the train car, some with straps, some without.
If you find yourself in the middle of the train car with your stop nearing, try to move closer to the doors during the arrival at the station before your desired stop. This puts you in a better position to exit the train when your Metro stop arrives. At each Paris Metro stop there will be an exchange of passengers getting off the train car and entering the car. When arriving at the station before your desired stop, join the group of passengers moving toward the exit, but stop short of the doors to allow other passengers to pass you to exit (and to enter). You want to be close to the doors for your exit, but not right in front as you would block those who need to exit/enter at this stop. Don’t worry about not being able to descend the train when your stop arrives. Simply say “Excusez-moi” and people will immediately begin making room for you to alight, even if it requires that they descend the train also, just to let you off. Parisiens are very well versed in Metro manners and if you’ve read up to this point… you are now as well.
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Exiting a Paris Metro train car
After having arrived at your desired station you can make your way out of the station by following the blue “Sortie” signs. These signs will often be mixed with directional signs for various Metro lines shared by a station. This photo shows the multitude of exits and lines available for both the Metro and the RER at the world’s largest underground station: Chatelet Les Halles.
Each exit is usually referred to by the street or landmark upon which it exits.
To determine which exit is best for you refer to an exit map located within the Metro station, usually just after exiting the fare paid zone.
To exit the fare paid zone within stations you’ll either pass through exit turnstiles (look for green lights on the face of the turnstiles or for open gates) or through doors opened by pressure plates or infrared sensors.(Pressure activated doors are visible on the left hand side of the photo below.)
Frequently Asked Questions
Paris Metro vs. RER – What’s the difference?
The Metro is a classic subway system: mostly underground, many stops, frequent service, short line distances, serving the urban city centre, non-scheduled train timings. The RER (Réseau Express Régional) is a commuter train system that covers much of the greater metropolitan area of Paris (Ile-de-France ), much further out than that covered by the Metro, including specifically both Paris Airports: Paris Roissy-Charles de Gaulle (CDG) and Paris-Orly (ORY) , Disneyland® Paris, and Chateau Versailles. The confusing part is that the RER traverses central Paris with a handful of stations, acting like an express Metro system with fewer stops, larger trains and faster movement. Paris fare zones apply to the RER train system, unlike the Metro and there are six of them. Using a Metro ticket, the Ticket t+, is permitted on the RER, but only to the limits of Zone 1, the true center of Paris, bordered by the ring road surrounding it, the Boulevard Periphérique.
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History, facts and figures of the Paris Metro (wikipedia, en français )
Paris Regional Transport Authority, RATP (partial site available in in English )
Photos of the Paris Metro system (wikipedia commons)
Guides on Paris Airport trains, Paris Disneyland train and Paris train stations
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