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Last minute questions

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Last minute questions

We will be in Paris for 3 nights in June at the Pullman Paris Montparnasse. How difficult is it to get around on the Metro from there to the major sights? Are there any signs in English? Are there senior discounts for the Metro and Museums? Should I be worried about walking around town or traveling on the Metro at night? Is there a 3 day Metro pass I can purchase?

Are there many public toilets and do we have to pay to use the WC's like in Italy?

Is the water safe to drink? (Sorry I know it is a major city).

Oakville, Canada
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1. Re: Last minute questions

it is very easy to use the métro or bus system. The station names are in French, of course, but I don't think you'll have a problem reading them. When you know where you are going, determine the name of the station you need, then just look for that name.

No senior discounts for metro or museums. Metro is fine at night, if you are not comfortable with that , use the bus. There is only a 7 day metro/bus pass. But you can purchase a carnet of tickets at a slightly discounted rate.

Water is fine. When in a restaurant just ask for a carafe d' eau (carafe of water) , no need to purchase bottled water, unless you want to.

Chicago, Illinois
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2. Re: Last minute questions

Where there are senior discounts in Europe they are not available to Americans (except in Spain which does not seem to use the EU standard) If you see them at small private exhibitions in Paris you can ask -- we have occasionally been successful with those, but in general not. I think seniors actually get into museums free in many cases, but they have to be EU Citizens. For train tickets you can get senior discounts but the times you can travel are restricted e.g. the most popular times for business commuters and on weekends are off limits to the cheaper tickets.

There is no 3 day metro pass that is not a total rip off. Just get carnet of 10 metro/bus tickets for 13.70. Montparnasse is a great location. It is well connected via metro to the rest of Paris and it is a walk to the center through the Luxembourg Gardens. Paris is best experienced on foot. What we do is use the metro to get to a distant spot e.g. Montmartre or Per Lachaise and then walk when in the area.

You don't need English signs in the metro because the only important information is place names and numbers e.g line 1 to the Louvre etc. It is really easy to navigate; get a map (plan) from the information booth the first time you use it. The metro is very well signed and in even the largest most complicated stations e.g. Chatelet, you just follow the signs directing to the number of the line you want; when entering the final passage to the platform there will be a list of stops so you can double check you are headed in the right direction; it is important to know the end station of the line you want so you go the right direction on it. I have traveled from one end of Paris to the other after midnight without problems many times. The metro is full of people at all hours -- groups of women, couples, individuals etc. Of course late at night the odds of the occasional drunk rise as anywhere, but we have never had any threatening situations. At any time of day and of course in touristy areas, pickpockets are at work on the metro, so take the common sense precautions to prevent being a victim. No wallet or valuables in pockets or backpack and keep purse forward and under your forearm or wear it cross body and have it under control. I have been riding the metro for 30 years and never been picked; my husband has been picked 3 times and foiled the perpetrator each time -- he now doesn't carry a wallet in his front pocket after the last attempt where he had to grab the pickpocket and jump off the train with him at the stop. By the way while seniors are entitled to a seat on the bus or metro on request, the age for 'senior' for this purpose is 75.

Paris has automatic toilets on the street in many locations; they are free. There are a few public toilets here and there e.g. there is one in the Tuilleries and one in Luxembourg Gardens. There are two at Notre Dame, a large one underground in front and a small one in the garden at the back. These do have a fee for the attendant.

It is best to use them in museums when you are there and to count on using them in bars and cafes during the day; buy an espresso at the bar (the cheapest thing) and use the facilities. I find it a lot easier to find a restroom in Paris than in American cities.

The water is not only safe to drink -- this is not the third world and in general public utilities and services are far better than in the US -- but it is a great money saver to order it with meals. by asking for a 'carefe, doh, see voo play' you get a nice carafe of tap water, often it is chilled rather than paying for bottled water. this is what most locals do most of the time. even in a nice restaurant lie les Ombres at lunch I noticed that virtually all the locals had carafe's of water while the tourists sat there with their pricey bottled water. There are Wallace Fountains all over Paris -- they are fancy green metal fountains where the water falls down in the center surrounded by statues of classical posed women -- which were designed back in the day to provide potable water to residents and still function. you can see people filling their water bottles at them.



Edited: 04 March 2014, 14:53
Gainesville, Florida
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3. Re: Last minute questions

Your questions have been answered, I think, but just let me add that I'm amused that you've referred to "last minute questions" for a trip 90 days away. You're a planner after my own heart! ;)

Los Angeles
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4. Re: Last minute questions

If you've never been on a metro (and coming from Seattle, that might be the case), do study it a little before you go:


Each line has a number, usually with two end points. If you're using Gare Montparnasse as your starting point, there will be several lines, just choose the right number and direction by knowing the end point in the direction you want to go. I downloaded a metro app and studied it a little before going, so that I knew which lines would take me, for example, to the Louvre or to other places I wanted to go. You'll figure it out pretty quickly. Try clicking on a line (the green one that comes to Gare Montparnasse, for example) and you'll see what I mean.

New Hampshire
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5. Re: Last minute questions

While the metro is very easy to learn to use, be advised that the Montparnasse station is gigantic with trains for some lines quite a hike from the entrance.

One advantage of the station is the easy to find ticket office which is almost always attended for purchasing tickets (with your USA credit cards).

We stay near that station frequently and rely almost solely on the buses.

Bus 94 goes to Musee d'Orsay, Place de la Concorde, Place de la Madeleine, blvd Haussmann (grands magazins), Gare St-Lazare (for going to Giverny, etc.). Bus 95 goes to the Louvre, Opera Garnier, Montmartre. Bus 96 goes to St-Chapelle, Notre Dame, Hotel de Ville (and BHV), Place des Vosges. Bus 87 goes to Eglise du Dome (Napoleon's Tomb and Musee de l'Armee) and the Eiffel Tower. And, so on.

If the weather is nice, you may want to consider the hop on/hop off l'Opentour buses with a stop on blvd Montparnasse. Not the cheapest nor most efficient way for getting around, but there are stops at all the major sights and attractions, no worry about figuring out routes or tickets.

San Diego
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6. Re: Last minute questions

In addition to all the great advice above, I found looking at some images of the metro to be helpful, too. www.parisbytrain.com has a lot of great sections to explore that show you what the tickets look like, the exits, the doors, everything you could possible want to know

For instance, this one of the signage inside the metro for metro line 8:


As you can see, it shows you all the stops and the end point. If your stop is listed, this is the platform you want to use. As others have said, make note of the end point because sometimes the track diverges into two lines with two different end points, so you want to make sure you get on the right train.

At the tracks are overhead signs which tell how long till the next train (usually just a few minutes) and which line/end point the train is. If more than one train is coming shortly, it will list them, so you can see that yours is, for instance, the second train to arrive.

Edited: 04 March 2014, 19:01
London, UK
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7. Re: Last minute questions

As others have said the signae on the Metro is generally self-explanatory, the way out is exit for example. One sign that is worth mentioning is "Correspondences" which shows the route to take if you have to change lines.

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8. Re: Last minute questions

Thanks Rigbyjack- yes, I'm a planner and for me 90 days is "last minute"! I've been busy traveling to other places in the world (Hawaii, Italy and Cabo San Lucas) recently so now I can focus on our trip to Paris.

Thanks to all who have helped to answer my questions.

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9. Re: Last minute questions

Do you have a chip and pin credit card? It can save time by letting you easily use automatic ticket machines and other unattended facilities.

You do have to stay alert wherever there are crowds--especially crowds of tourists--as pickpocketing is a popular money-raising option in some European cities. We have encountered pickpockets in Paris (on the Metro), Amsterdam (on a tram), and Madrid (walking to the Reina Sofia). That said, the odds of any individual being pickpocketed are small as there are so many visitors to Paris. Just stay alert as in any big city.

10. Re: Last minute questions

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