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Studying in France
Arrival in Paris
ISG presents you all the information you need to move in Paris serenely: form your arrival to the airport to your day-to-day trips within the city (metro, bus, RER…).
Upon Arrival: the airports
You will most certainly arrive in one of the two main Paris airports: Roissy Charles de Gaulle or Orly. In order to have information about the airports and how to reach the city, please go to their website.
If you have heavy luggage with you, we recommend you take a cab or a bus because the RER and metro can sometimes be difficult with big suitcases.
To move in Paris
One of the first things you should purchase when you arrive in Paris is a map of the city called Plan de Paris par arrondissements (there are two versions, one includes Paris and the suburbs and the other includes only Paris). This handy map which lists detailed mini maps of each arrondissement, all the subway and bus lines, and an index of streets and métro stops, can be obtained from any newspaper stand. Unfortunately, the subway and bus lines may not be updated; therefore it is advisable to pick up a free subway and bus map from the métro.
Districts – Paris is divided into districts (arrondissements) starting at the Louvre and continuing clockwise around the map. Paris has 20 arrondissements, which are indicated in the postal code as the last two digits. The first two digits are the department code for the city (Paris being 75). For example, 75016 is the 16th arrondissement (where ISG is located).
The public transport system in Paris is probably the best of many cities. The capital is criss-crossed with metro trains (métro), buses (bus), high speed underground trains (RER) and trams (tramway), which are all grouped under the same authority: the RATP.
The subway (Paris Métropolitain – Métro) in Paris has been in existence since 1898. Although it is one of the oldest subway systems, you will find that it is extremely efficient (except when there is a strike).
The system has 14 lines that reach 322 stations. All stations are marked with an "M" or the unique "Métropolitain" sign. Trains run frequently starting at 5:30 and ending at 0:30 during the week and 1:30 on Fridays and Saturdays (please check the poster at each of the stations marked Principes de Tarification for specific start and end times).
In addition to the free maps distributed by the métro (make sure to ask for one), each station has maps posted on the wall. In order to ride the métro, you should first find out which zones you will be travelling to. Paris is organized in five circular zones with Paris-proper consisting of zones 1 and 2.
The other three zones extend into the suburbs. If you live in Paris, then purchasing tickets for zones 1 and 2 is sufficient. Should you wish to go to zones 3, 4 or 5 occasionally, the cheapest alternative to buying a zone 1-3, zone 1-4 or zone 1-5 is to use your zone 1-2 ticket to take you to the end of zone 2, then purchase a ticket for the remaining zone.
It is worth mentioning that should you wish to use the métro, all lines are named after their end points as well as their respective numbers. For example, if you wish to go to the Motte-Picquet Grenelle from Montparnasse you would have to follow Direction Charles de Gaulle-Etoile, line #6.
While it is usually safe to ride the métro, they are sometimes frequented by thieves and other troublemakers looking for easy prey.
Subway ticket prices
Tickets can be purchased at the ticket booths where you can choose to buy either a Single trip (ticket), Booklet of ten (carnet), Weekly, monthly or yearly pass (Carte Navigo). The single ticket costs around 1.80 €, a book of 10 tickets is about 14.10 €, and a monthly pass is 60 €. It works out cheaper to pay for a yearly pass or monthly rather than individual tickets.
Students under 26 years old can also get a yearly pass called Imagine R. In order to obtain a metro pass (Carte Navigo) you must complete a form (available from the ticket booth) and have 2 passport size photos).
Please note that you should purchase any of the above tickets, make sure that you carry it with you at all times even after you have entered the train since you may be asked to present it once you exit from the train. If you get caught without possessing a ticket, you will have to pay a fine. The above types of tickets (except for the single tickets) and prices are valid for unlimited travel on bus, métro and RER. The single ticket is valid for one travel on buses, métro or RER.
The RER (Réseau Express Régional) is a high speed subway system which runs from the city to the suburbs. There are five lines (A, B, C, D, E) which connect to the métro lines.
The key junction stations for the RER are Châtelet/Les Halles, Nation, Etoile and Auber. Be careful not to confuse Charles de Gaulle – Etoile (where the Arc de Triomphe is located) with Charles de Gaulle - Roissy (the main airport of Paris).
Fares for the RER are identical to the ones listed for the metro.
When you use the RER, you will note that there are fixed signs suspended over the platforms indicating the various destinations, times and names of the trains. The name will appear on the front of the first car. Also, note that the sign will indicate whether the train is short (train court) or long (train long). This is of importance because if you are waiting for a train on the correct platform, when it arrives, if it is a train court, you might be 100 meters behind or in front of the train.
A word of caution: in the places outside of Paris, stations in the evenings are normally deserted and can be unsafe for a single traveler.
Should you decide to use the buses in Paris, it is advisable to consult your Paris par arrondissement map for the various bus routes or you may refer to the maps inside the métro, at bus stops, or on the side of the buses (in large black letters).
Fares for the buses are identical to the ones listed for the metro. When you board the bus, you must punch the ticket (not your pass) in the machine located at the front of the bus. In the event that you possess a travel pass simply show it to the driver. Individual tickets can also be purchased from the driver should you not possess any tickets.
Most buses run every day of the year from about 5:30 till 0:30.
These buses are indicated at stops by black numbers on a white circle.
Buses that run from about 6:00 till 20:00 are indicated by a white number on a black circle.
Buses that have a number in front of the bus with a slash through it, indicates that the bus will run only half of the route.
There are several night buses: the Noctiliens. They run every half hour from 11:30 p.m. Until 5:30 a.m.
More information, Metro, RER and BUS Map on www.ratp.fr
Paris taxis are reasonably priced but are generally hard to find. When you hail a taxi (the bulb on the roof of taxis indicates that it is in service), it is up to the cab drivers discretion whether he/she wants to take you to your destination.The following are private taxi companies you can call:
- Les Taxis Bleus : 08 25 16 10 10
- Alpha Taxis : 01 45 85 85 85
Generally, it is advisable to find the taxi stand which is closest to you as opposed to trying to hail one or calling one by phone. Normally, if you call a taxi by phone, the meter starts running from the location the cab is at until it reaches your location. Rates vary according to the time of day and geographical location.
Temperatures: in order to obtain an approximate conversion from Celsius to Fahrenheit, multiply Celsius by 2 and add 32.
Dates: Dates in France are written as follows: March 1, 1999 is 1/3/99
Climate: The temperature in Paris varies throughout the year. Based on the last years, the winter time in Paris is rather cold. Summer in Paris can be hot, with the temperature climbing up to thirty degrees. In general, the weather fluctuates all the time.
Electric current: The current in Paris is based on a 220 volt system. Should you have appliances with another type of system (American 110 volts, British 250 volts, etc.); you will then require a plug adapter and transformer that are appropriate for the wattage of the appliance. Please note that a transformer is important to have or else you will burn your appliances. The transformer and plug adapters can be found at BHV (Bazar de l'Hôtel de Ville) which is located at 52, rue de Rivoli (metro Palais Royal) or in most department or electronic stores. Please note that when buying light bulbs, there are two types, vis (screws into the socket) and baionnette (hooks into the socket).