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How difficult is it to use the buses in Paris?

How difficult is it to use the buses in Paris?

Old Jun 20th, 2005, 01:55 PM
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Join Date: Feb 2005
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How difficult is it to use the buses in Paris?

I was reading the posts under "What NOT to do in Paris" and someone suggested not using the metro unless it was long distance like across town...

They said it was much more relaxing taking a bus and more scenic.

I have no problems getting around by subway in Montreal or Toronto and mastered the bus system in Ottawa very well. I speak and read French as I am Acadian...

How difficult is it to naviguate the buses in Paris? When do you recommend not taking the bus?

Any hints, tips or warnings are appreciated.
Photobear is offline  
Old Jun 20th, 2005, 02:42 PM
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The big difference is that the buses have to sit in traffic so they are not a fast as taking the metro. However, if you are not in a big hurry it is nice to take the bus and see where you are going. There are no stairs to climb on the buses. They have these free maps given out by the Department stores which detail the bus and metro routes.Like the metro the buses are quite packed during rush hour. I credit Rick Steve's detailed bus instructions for getting me past my fears of getting on the bus. He recommends #69 which leaves from the Eiffel Tower and takes you to most of the major attractions. When you board the bus you will see a little machine behind the driver. Stick yor metro ticket into the machine and pull it back out and take your seat. I was expecting the ticket to shoot out the other side like it does in the metro. A nice Parsian helped me out with this.
Suzanne2 is offline  
Old Jun 20th, 2005, 02:42 PM
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Found it very easy. All the routes and numbers are well-displayed at all the stops. I've been to Paris 3 times - didn't use it until the last trip - and regretted not trying them earlier.

However, there's no free transfer between buses, or between bus and Metro. So we only used it when there was a direct bus to get to where we wanted to go.
rkkwan is offline  
Old Jun 20th, 2005, 02:49 PM
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After several times in Paris over the years, I'd never been on a bus until 2 trips ago. I think they are great, and the advantage is, as you mention, being able to see things. I like the Metro, too, but if the route I'm taking involves changing lines, I'm now apt to check to see if there's a bus that's "direct." Eg, from St. Germain to Galeries Lafayette, it's a simple bus ride, but the Metro would involve changing lines at Chatelet. Same with going to Gare de Lyon. That said, I probably do use the Metro more, but not exclusively.

I just ask at the hotel as to which bus to take and where to get it, etc.

Give it a try!
grandmere is offline  
Old Jun 20th, 2005, 02:57 PM
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I much prefer the bus over the Metro to avoid all those stairs and long corridors in the metro. I think there was only one time I missed the stop we should have gotten off at and had to walk a ways to get to where we wanted to go. Mostly, it was pretty easy.

There are times, though, when it makes sense to take the Metro. For instance, staying in St. Germain and wanting to go to Sacre Coeur, it would take a LOT longer on the bus. Other than going to Versailles, that's the only time we took the Metro.
SusanP is online now  
Old Jun 20th, 2005, 03:02 PM
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I love taking the bus in Paris! At first it can be a little confusing, but once you get the hang of it, it's great.

It's best if you have a Carte Orange (weekly pass for metro and buses), or a carte Mobilis (daily unlimited pass). Then you can use it as a poor man's "hop-on hop-off" city tour if you want.

At rush hour they can be crowded and slow, but other times of the day it's very relaxing, and helpful as far as keeping your bearings since you can see where you're going.

You definitely need a good map. You can get a free one of metro & bus routes at any metro station.
marcy_ is offline  
Old Jun 20th, 2005, 03:09 PM
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The Carte Orange, which is good from Monday morning to the next Monday morning is an expensive way to use both buses and the métro in Paris. It can be purchased through Wednesday. I probably wouldn't use two tickets from my carnet to change and get somewhere on the bus, but with the CO, one can take as many bus and subway rides as one likes. I lived in Paris for a time, so the bus is easy for me, but if this is your first time there, it may take a bit of studying, but you will master it. Some routes are quite scenic, so it is an inexpensive way to look at various parts of Paris. Good luck! Boots
Boots is offline  
Old Jun 20th, 2005, 03:11 PM
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Paris busses do not sit in traffic - they drive in dedicated bus lanes and BYPASS any traffic. It is obviuosly more scenic than the trians. How scenic depends on the route.

It is about the easiest bus system I have ever used. At each bus stop there is a map of all routes served by that stop along with timetables. On the outside of each bus is a huge map showing the route of that bus - listing every stop. These routes and stops also show up on the inside of of each bus.

The only time I would suggest NOT taking the bus is for very long trips (like outside the city) and those times you feel like walking.

Depending on how long you plan to visit, you might want a weekly transit pass (Carte Orange). Check out the different bus routes at www.ratp.fr
bardo1 is offline  
Old Jun 20th, 2005, 03:16 PM
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Correction to my post: The CO is an INEXPENSIVE way to . . .
Boots is offline  
Old Jun 20th, 2005, 06:29 PM
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Robespierre did a very nice post on the subject several weeks ago...maybe you can search for it.

The Paris Mapguide, which shows bus routes, is very helpful for seeing what line[s] serve a particular area [or street]. Then, when you get to Paris, buy a pocket bus guide--"Le Bus" by Indispensible.

Here are the "plans de quartiers," neighborhood maps listed by Metro station. These will show the locations of bus stops and the direction of the lines---handy for the hotel neighborhood and for places served by many lines where it is difficult to find the right stop.


And here are the bus routes:


The following is a self guided circular city tour using 3 bus lines--one I never seem to tire of. A plan de quartier for Bastille and for Opera are advised. For ease of explanation we are starting at the Opera Metro.

Walk down the Ave. de líOpera and left on rue du Quatre Septembre [second street] and board the 29 bus [direction Gare du Nord]. You will pass the Bourse, Place des Victoires, Centre Pompidou...into the Marais...passing Musees Cognacq Jay, Picasso, Carnavaet and Place des Vosges. Get off at Bastille and then board the 69 bus [direction Champ de Mars].

If you prefer to get off at the Place des Vosges and walk through [maybe stopping for a coffee at one of the cafes], proceed through the center south exit and down the street to the corner and left [rue Saint Antoine] a few steps to the 69 bus stop. This is the best of all the bus routes.

Soon youíll be on the rue de Rivoli, passing the Hotel de Ville and close to the Palais Royale before going left through the Louvre complex [between the pyramid and the Arc du Carrousel] and crossing on the Pont Royale. Now itís past the Musees díOrsay and Rodin, through the Place des Invalides, past Rue Cler and into the Champ de Mars.

At the end of the line, board the 42 bus [same stop]. If you prefer to walk to the Eiffel Tower, continue to the quay, turn right and board at the next street.

Now itís across the Pont de Alma up Ave Montaigne, past the famous shops and the Plaza Athene to the Rond Point des Champs-Elysses and down past the Grand Palais and the Petit Palais and through the Place de la Concorde. Then up Rue Royale to the Madeleine and to Opera.

RonZ is offline  
Old Jun 20th, 2005, 06:39 PM
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"...when you get to Paris, buy a pocket bus guide--"Le Bus" by Indispensible..."

RonZ - does "le Bus" show the bus stops/lines -and- the metro stops on the street map? Does it also have the system maps for both the bus and the metro? thanks...
Travelnut is offline  
Old Jun 20th, 2005, 07:05 PM
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We've always preferred the buses to the metro (no hallways, stairways, stops are much closer to your destinations), and the new bus-only lanes are magnificent!

You don't really save a lot of time on the metro unless you are traveling a very long distance. In the larger stations, with a lot of exits, you could walk four blocks to get to the exit you should have used to head for your destination. And, much walking is required whenever you have to transfer lines, whereas with the buses, you transfer at the same stop, or right around the corner.

The resources for using the buses in Paris are fantastic at www.ratp.fr.

If you have a PDA and a program such as RepliGo, you can download individual bus routes, neighborhood maps (with the stops annotated), etc., to your PDA.

Also, the bus stops are clearly marked everywhere. Nearly all stops have neighborhood maps, along with detailed maps of the bus routes which stop there and a map of the entire bus route system.

Not only do you get to enjoy the fabulous scenery all about riding the buses, I've never seen any pickpockets on a bus. We've discovered many, many neighborhoods, markets, shops, restaurants, we'd never have happened by with the metro.

Also fabulous is the L'Indispensable BUS (not to be confused with the book of individual routes - which I don't like much because the print is so small and where I'm going is nearly always in the binding area) available at most newsstands. This is a gorgeous fold-out map of all the bus routes on a terrific street map. The stops are clear. And the legend tells you which buses run only weekdays, only until 8:30, and there are separate route maps for those running until 12:30 and Sundays/holidays.

The very same map is available here http://www.ratp.info/orienter/tous_plans_pdf.php (click on Bus Paris (avec rues)). Unfortunately, the print button is grayed out. But, you can still enlarge, crop, and print if you have a good print-screen program.

We usually plan to arrive on a Wednesday (due to our work schedules) and buy a Carte Orange weekly ticket, then buy another on Monday. Quite the bargain!
djkbooks is offline  
Old Jun 20th, 2005, 07:06 PM
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The mother of all bus maps is Bus Paris (avec rues), which is found at


Once you've got an idea which bus will get you from A to B, download the route map corresponding to your bus number by substituting it for the 99 in this URL:


Once you have downloaded all the bus maps to your Pocket PC, you can carry all 200 of them everywhere you go.
Robespierre is offline  
Old Jun 20th, 2005, 07:22 PM
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Photobear: If you can bear to ride the ghastly, ghastly Ottawa bus system, the Paris bus system will seem like a limo ride through Paradise.

There are such wonderful characters on the buses. Most notable in my experience was some demented older guy who, every time he saw an attractively dressed younger woman on the street, shouted "Salope! Salope!" from the rear of the bus.

BTW I love the metro too and cannot imagine a visit to Paris without a few metro rides, most notably:

Crossing the Seine from Passy and travelling the elevated bits, south of the river; crossing the Canal St Martin on the metro; the Art Moderne F D Roosevelt stop; etc.
tedgale is offline  
Old Jun 20th, 2005, 07:23 PM
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By the way, the neighborhood maps can be found in PDF form at


Adobe Reader is available free for all platforms (including Pocket PC and Palm OS) from

Robespierre is offline  
Old Jun 20th, 2005, 10:02 PM
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Some advantages to the bus are:

1. It's more scenic.
2. There are few stairs to negotiate.
3. It is very efficient if your depature and destination locations happen to be on the same line (not as unlikely as one might think, since bus lines follow traffic patterns).
4. There are far more bus lines and stops than Métro lines and stops.

Some disadvantages to the bus are:

1. It's slower than the Métro.
2. It can be blocked by traffic, despite special bus lanes.
3. Buses are even more of a haven for pickpockets than the Métro.
4. Temperatures are more subject to the weather than in the Métro, which is especially troublesome in summer (but some buses are air-conditioned now).
5. It can be very hard to figure out bus maps, and unless you find a line going from where you are to where you are going, changing buses can be more trouble than it is worth (especially if you don't have a multiple-use ticket--every change then requires a new ticket).

I usually tell visitors that buses work best for the locals (who regularly commute between specific points that are often served by specific bus lines), and the Métro works well for everyone. But if the advantages of the bus are important to you there's no reason not to use them. And they accept the same tickets as the Métro.
AnthonyGA is offline  
Old Jun 21st, 2005, 02:29 AM
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FYI, don't assume that the Paris metro is easy to take even after you've mastered the subway system in Toronto and Montreal.

The 2-directional TTC subway system in Toronto (i.e. north-south/Yonge and east=west/Bloor) lines are miniscule in coverage and much less sophisticated when compared to the Paris metro system.

One issue about the Paris bus system is when you get stuck with a free, small bus map where it becomes an exercise in "Superman" microscopic eye-vision in order to spot and follow the routes that you may want to take. This is especially true when you're trying to figure out your best routes during the night on a Parisian street. Otherwise, it's an easy system to follow and use.
billy_boy is offline  
Old Jun 21st, 2005, 04:57 AM
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To Travelnut--

The Paris Mapguide has basic metro and bus info, Le Bus is more specific as to routes. So one compliments the other.
RonZ is offline  
Old Jun 21st, 2005, 06:40 AM
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IMHO it is a bit useless to systematically tell yourself "I'll use the only the metro or the buses". As previous posters have pointed it out, both have their pros and cons. Personnally, I use the bus when it avoids a metro ride with a change. Bus travel is scenic, that's for sure, but is not as smooth as the metro (lots of stop and go), you can easily feel cramped, as it is invaded by mums with prams who find it difficult to take the metro, but who take up three to four "normal" passengers' space. More importantly, only one third of the lines operate after 21h00 and on Sundays, and anyway after 21h00 the frequency is down to one bus every 20, if not 30 minutes. It is true that mayor Delanoë has greatly improved bus speed, but on the big axis only (namely boulevards and rue de Rivoli). For all the other streets, it's business as usual, and the business being mostly represented by delivery vans blocking the street, illegally parked cars preventing the bus to turn, etc. Someone talked about the 69, well, try and take it in the mornings, and you're lucky if you arrive from Gambetta to Bastille in less than 42 mn!
Art_Vandelay is offline  
Old Jun 21st, 2005, 10:43 AM
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I agree with Art on this. It isn't a matter of deciding I prefer bus to metro or whatever. I choose based on my route and which I think is more efficient or will avoid a large number of metro transfers. However, the buses are affected by traffic, and the schedules are a big drawback in comparison to metro.

Re the 69 bus -- I waited for that once 45 minutes in summer around 6 pm. The driver had no explanation as to why it was so long between buses. I have also waited for bus 27 between Luxembourg and Censier 30-45 minutes before giving up. Sometimes they do not follow their schedules or buses are missing, and lots of lines don't run at night or Sundays. It's great for lines that do, but sometimes I prefer the metro.

As for difficulty -- it's the same as any bus system in a big city. The main problem is just figuring out the route you need and where to get the bus. It is nice that the maps are on the stops and in the bus, but that doesn't help you plan in advance if you are in your hotel and deciding how you need to get somewhere that day. It also isn't that easy always to see the maps inside the bus, depending on where you are sitted, and you may not be that familiar with the street names it shows to figure out when to get off. This is not extraordinary, but you really have to keep an eye out.

A lot of the bus maps I've seen in Paris mapbooks, etc, are not detailed enough that you can even tell for sure what streets the bus runs on or where to get the bus. They are just very general maps of lines which can give you an idea of which detailed line maps to check out for your route. If you really wanted to use it a lot, a good bus map guidebook would be useful.
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