Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Dad's Review - Practical tips for Paris Metro Trains

an old metro station at Montmartre
If you have traveled around Asia then chances are you'll be able to cope up with Paris Metro including their RER trains without any major difficulties. Similar to Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore, Paris metro stations are intertwined both above and under ground. Comparing Paris Metro with the 3 places I mentioned earlier, don't be surprised that many metro stations in Paris look dilapidated and some of them seem abandoned while others are reeking of urine probably due to lack of toilets. Nevertheless they are relatively safe since CCTV abound each station aside from manned Service Counter. In our case, we haven't encountered any untoward incidents while we were using the metro for seven days except those train beggars who asked for alms.

scroll type ticket machine - you insert your credit card at the slot on top of numeric keypad

subway metro station - creepy isn't it?

In order to have smooth Paris metro train trip consider the following points:
  1. Download from net an updated Paris Metro map. To know whether your downloaded map is updated, RER train line "L" should be on the map.
  2. Plan your trip beforehand so that you'll know which station to get off and which stations are connected to other train lines. More so, due to unique name of places or stations, know the end route of the train you plan to board to avoid traveling in opposite direction. A couple of times we encountered tourists waiting for their train at the opposite direction.
  3. Ticket machine accepts Euro coins and credit card only; debit cards are not accepted. If you have Philippine issued Visa/MasterCard credit card then you are safe, I used mine flawlessly.  Make sure though that the machine is online otherwise it won't accept any cards; just like an offline ATM machine.
  4. Ticket machine can either touch screen or scroll and push button type. No worries since you can always select the language you prefer to use and just follow the instructions. In my case, I simply select U.K. Flag (English). One time use of this machine is enough for you to remember its functions.
  5. If you are not using Navigo card then make sure that the ticket machine is marked as Navigo / Ticket. The other type of ticket machine is solely used to charge Navigo cards (Navigo Recharge). You won't be able to buy single trip ticket from this type of machine.
  6. You need to be careful in selecting your route. Within Paris, just select Paris from the screen which will cost you 1.90 Euro for one way trip. For places outside Paris such as Disneyland, Chateau Versailles and Charles de Gaulle airport the fares are different. In this case select from the screen your proper destination. If you're not sure then inquire or buy your ticket from the "Service" counters. Don't even think of using a Paris only ticket in traveling to airport or other far places. Trust me, we have seen a group of ticket inspectors suddenly and randomly appearing and catching those individuals using "wrong" ticket. I believe you'll be asked to pay steep fine. 
  7. Some Paris metro trains are using manual button or lever to open the train doors. If nobody is getting off or embarking the doors will remain closed even upon reaching the station. So once you see a stainless button or lever on train doors then activate them once the train stops. You can do this at both sides of the doors.
  8. Your ticket is good for one "entrance" use only. If you commit mistake and pass the turnstiles then you won't be able to go back; you need to purchase another ticket. Moreover, disembarking from the airport (RER) train, some stations have no direct access to the metro train thus you won't be able to enter the turnstile. In this case, look for any manual door to pass. If there are no manual access door then look for any metro staff around and show your airport ticket, they'll use their badge to allow you to get inside the metro station.
  9. To exit, usually, you just pass through the exit (one way) turnstiles without using your ticket. 
  10. Be careful regarding some unscrupulous individuals. While using a ticket machine, an old lady approached us and tried to sell metro ticket for 1.50 Euro which is cheaper than the normal ticket. My wife and I refused because the ticket she was selling could be a "used" ticket. Once you bought it, the lady would disappear and you would end up having a useless ticket since it wouldn't be accepted by turnstile. Furthermore, I narrated this event to my French colleague and he told me that is considered "ticket black market" and it is considered illegal.
  11. Finally, when in doubt or confuse, don't be afraid to ask. Even in broken English, locals will try their best to assist you; one time when the wife and I were discussing about our route a French lady approached us and asked whether we need assistance. Another time we got lost searching for the nearest metro station we asked the only person we met while walking, he was drunk and reeking of alcohol and didn't know how to speak English but used body language to show us the correct way. Before I forget, when asking for assistance about places and location it is better to just type it on your mobile phone and show it. The way they pronounce the words most of the times are completely different from the usual English pronunciation like when we were asking for Saint Lazare station, the lady couldn't understand us but when we showed her the place on Google map the lady said SA' LAZAR, it sounded like Salazar; the same with the metro station near our hotel, Saint Augustin, they pronounce it SA' AGUSTA. It will take sometime before you get used to it.
Paris only metro ticket - 1.90 Euro

Paris to Chateau Versailles tickets - 4.45 Euro

Paris to Disneyland ticket - 7.60 Euro

Paris to Charles De Gaulle airport tickets - 10.30 Euro / but when traveling from the airport to Paris the ticket costs 15 Euro

Don't fret if you have started accumulating Euro coins while in Paris, it will surely happen, since it is preferable to have coins for metro trains rather than use your credit card, you're losing around 1 pesos for each Euro in credit card exchange rate.

typical map at bus station - metro stations are represented by letters M and RER

In case you get lost don't panic and argue with your companion, fortunately the wife has no time to read my blog, LOL. The easiest way to locate the nearest metro station is to look for bus station where a street map is normally posted. You'll find them at every corner of the streets.

All told, nothing beats a prepared and relaxed tourist.

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