Monday 13 July 2015

Paris for Tourists- Take the Bus

Everyone knows that getting about Paris on the Metro is quick, and it is. But sometimes it's better to take the bus. Tourists don't always think about the bus, the Metro is so iconic, and tourist desitnations and shops will list nearest Metro stops on their webistes or info, there are t-shirts and a whole range of products with the Metro map on them. Books written on the Metro. Metro themed cushion covers. So it's no wonder that the Metro first comes to mind, but it's not the only way to get around Paris. To be truthful it took a few visits before I even really noticed the buses! Yes they're big and bus sized, and I didn't even notice them.

Check the route number
(all are colour coded)
and destination
The side of the bus highlights the major points along the route.

Taking the bus is a bit more complicated than using the Metro. You have to do a bit more homework to make it work, but then you can reap the rewards. The bus is vastly better than the Metro if you are travelling with someone older or less mobile, or indeed if you are someone older or less mobile. There can be many, many sets of stairs getting onto and out of your Metro platform, and changing platforms at the bigger stations can be a very long walk underground. Ride the bus and it's all above ground, no stairs, no unintentional walking for 15 minutes underneath Paris at Chatelet.

Riding the bus also gives you a much better sense of where you are, and helps integrate maps with actual vision. Whilst popping up from the Metro into a new quartier is always exciting, by taking the bus you see how you get there and see much magnificence on the way- monuments, museums, shops, amazing vistas when you cross the Seine.

I used the buses a few times in 2013 and when I was in Paris last we travelled on buses exclusively, and I only ventured into a Metro station to get our weekly passes topped up.

The bus stops are all named stops.

Each stop is packed with information. It will list the buses that stop there.

It will also show a Plan du Quartier, which shows local bus stops, where you can buy tickets and points of interest nearby.

And the bus stop will also show you a route map of the bus routes. These are very handy, they are everywhere. They show the names of the stops, and any differences in the route for either direction. I learnt more every time I looked at one of these. The bus route maps are also displayed inside the bus. 

Vous êtes ici = You are here
 Inside the bus.

Bus stops have a digital sign that tells you when the next bus is due. These are pretty accurate.  There's always something fascinating to see though while you're waiting for the bus....

Bus stops have great views while you wait!

Beware sometimes the same bus stop may be used  by a bus travelling in either direction e.g. #69 at Solferino-Bellechasse. This is rare I think but we got caught out, and it was only as the Eiffel Tower kept looming larger and larger that I realised we were heading the wrong way.

Sometimes there are temporary stops for roadworks or special events.

Enter the bus via the front door. Do greet your driver with a cheery Bonjour Monsieur, or Bonjour Madame (as you should do when entering shops).

Swipe your Navigo at the purple reader

Parents with strollers will enter via the back door to park the pram in the designated area, or sometimes mailmen with trolleys.

Once on the bus, move towards the back- you need to leave by the back doors anyhow. It can get Very Crowded in peak hour, or at random other times, or if the bus has been delayed. The Metro can get just as crowded too though.

More modern buses will indicate the next stop and you can follow progress on the route map.

Next stop:

Navigating by bus takes a little bit of preparation, more so than the Metro. But there are plenty of websites and an app to help you. 

RATP have a fantastic interactive Guide to the bus routes of Paris. Once again there is a wealth of information presented in the guide. It takes a number of uses to get used to it, and to realise how much information is there.

Click on a destination or interchange and it will show you all the buses that travel through there. 

Click on an individual route and it will be highlighted. If you then click on Plan de ligne  symbol (those linked red dots next to 24 in this example) you will get the familiar route map.

RATP also have a website to help plan your trip (by rail, bus or tramway). You can select many options.

I'm not sure why it says"most amount walking" when I was using it
last year it said "least amount walking"

It then will offer a suggested route. This one taking 14 minutes, with 1 minute of walking. There are often many different options so if you repeat the same search you'll often get a different result.

For a while I was only using the website at home, but it wasn't handy when out and about if you did some different things during the day and needed to change your plans, or ended up somewhere unexpected. And so I looked for an app. There's an app! And it's very, very handy (you do need to have your international roaming sorted out though so you don't get huge phone bills). I used it constantly.

Making connections is the hardest part, and can be a little tricky at times. There can be many bus stops at some locations such as Hotel de Ville for example. But checking the maps on the app, and also the Plan du Quartier at the bus stop.

You can buy tickets in many ways.

Directly from the bus driver with cash, which is not preferred as it takes longer and holds up the bus, and is the most expensive way to travel. Still cheap enough though at 2 euros per trip.

With a prepurched ticket- from some Tabacs, newspaper kiosks, or any Metro station (the same ticket works on any Metro, bus or tram- you can change modes or lines for any 90 minute journey). You can buy single tickets, or books (carnets) of 10 tickets which are a little cheaper. You can select English to when using a machine to buy your tickets, but it's pretty easy to get through in French too. Patientez.

The little blue sign indicates they sell tickets

Or get a pass. We used a Navigo Decouverte pass this last trip. It was fantastic! Cheap, easy and quick. I bought mine at a Metro station- you need a bit of preparation for this with passport sized photos- although of course there are photo booths at train stations a la Amelie.  Some websites suggest that non-French credit cards may be rejected by the ticket machines- I had no trouble at all with my Australian Visa card with a chip. The Navigo Decouverte is valid for 5 years, so I still have it in my handbag just in case I need to swipe onto a Paris bus sometime soon.

Check out my Paris for Tourists- What's On In Paris

Paris in July

Dreaming of France is a wonderful Monday meme
from Paulita at An Accidental Blog 


Mae Travels said...

This is an incredibly useful set of instructions. Your photos are amazing -- I can't believe you had the presence of mind to document the bus-taking process so effectively. In all my trips to Paris I've only used the bus system a little bit, mostly when I was going somewhere that the Metro didn't go to at all or didn't get to efficiently. In every case someone gave me detailed explanations of how to use the bus, but I've never seen a clear explanation of the whole process. Obviously the online maps etc. have made it a different game now!

Best... mae at

Mae Travels said...

This is an incredibly useful set of instructions. Your photos are amazing -- I can't believe you had the presence of mind to document the bus-taking process so effectively. In all my trips to Paris I've only used the bus system a little bit, mostly when I was going somewhere that the Metro didn't go to at all or didn't get to efficiently. In every case someone gave me detailed explanations of how to use the bus, but I've never seen a clear explanation of the whole process. Obviously the online maps etc. have made it a different game now!

Best... mae at

Paulita said...

Louise, I totally agree. The bus system is terrific and I love the free tour as I look out the window along the way. Thanks for playing along with Dreaming of France. Here’s my Dreaming of France meme

Lisbeth said...

Fantastic manual how to take the bus in Paris. I love going by bus, because you have time to look around in the area you are passing by. Thank you for all the tips. I will try it next time.

Esme said...

I have only taken the bus a few times in Paris-because I know the Metro so much better-but I do agree-it is a much better way to see the city and many times you just jump off before your destination because something caught your eye.

Sim Carter said...

What a fantastic post! Filled with get-around trips for anyone going to Paris, young or old. I'm so impressed I'm going to tweet it. I love the idea of seeing the city as you travel through it to your destination and Merci for the manners reminder. Here in the states we often walk into and out of stores doing our best to ignore the sales staff, lhoping they wont turn the sales pressure on, let alone greet them pleasantly.
Here's my Dreaming of France post:

Sally Tharpe Rowles said...

I love taking the bus in Paris! So many beautiful things to see as you reach your destination. This is a very comprehenive post with great instruction on how to get around by bus. Great post!

Mel u said...

Great post. I would love to just ride the bus all over Paris.

Anonymous said...

Oh to be on a bus in Paris!! It looks a really well-organized system with so much information. I don't normally like buses because I'm always unsure of where they'll take me and how long I have to wait, but with the all information they provide there, I'd have no qualms at all.

Tamara said...

You are the App queen! what an interesting and fantastically useful post. It's not something we think about when we think travelling to Paris - but buses are great. We caught buses in Paris when we were travelling with our Bikes and the bikes were in the cases ready to catch the train to Montpellier. The bus was very accomodating of large luggage items. Great work Louise.

Beth F said...

What an awesome post!!!! Thanks for this. It can be intimidating to ride mass transit when you don't know what to expect.

Jeanie said...

This is a fabulous post, Louise, and I wish I had read it before I went to Paris. Going to save the link for a return trip. I took plenty of busses but it was traveling blind in a way. Not blind, in that I had a ball looking out the windows and watching the people but never quite sure how it all worked and sure didn't want to try a transfer! Thanks for the excellent instructions!

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

This is the definitive guide to riding the buses in Paris. Thank you, Louise.

Teddyree said...

Wonderful, informative post Louise. I think I'll be game enough to give the bus a try next time. I had no trouble using the metro but it would be nice to actually 'see' where you're going to :)

JoAnn said...

Wow, this is such an informative, helpful post. Thank you!!

Molly said...

You are absolutely correct - I have given a thought to using the Paris bus system.

Thank you for this incredible post. I plan to bookmark for future visits.

skiourophile said...

Wonderfully useful! I have always been a bit afraid of the buses as I get lost very easily and somehow the Metro seems simpler in that sense -- although it never stops me from emerging via the wrong entrance and setting off in the wrong direction! ;-)

Christine Harding said...

My mother and I have used the buses on occasions in Paris, and it was certainly much easier for her than accessing some of the metro stations, and the drivers and passengers were incredibly helpful.