Culture Magazine

FAQ: How to Take a Bus in Paris

By Sedulia @Sedulia

Many Paris tourists are proud to get around by métro. If that's you, why not be a bit venturesome, and take a bus next time instead? Unless you're in a big hurry, Paris buses are a cheap and pleasant way to get around the city and have the advantage that you'll actually be able to see it as you ride. So many times I have looked out of a bus window and found something intriguing that I made time to come back and visit later. You won't be able to do that on the metro! (Are you really in such a hurry?)

The city has made it as easy as possible to take the bus. On the back of the bus stops are maps of the buses' routes, and for the past year or two there have even been LED displays (not shown here) telling you how long it will be till the next two buses on each route arrive. I wish every city had this!


The metro and buses use the same tickets. (Of course, many people have passes, which you swipe over a reader as you go in.) You can buy individual tickets on the bus if you don't already have one, and the bus driver will even give you change. But it's quite a bit cheaper to buy a carnet or two of ten tickets in a metro station. Don't forget to say hello/bonjour to the driver as you get on board. They think you're rude if you don't.


Once you have the ticket, you have to validate it by getting it stamped in the little machine next to the driver (left). Keep the ticket till you get off in case controlleurs get on board and ask to see it. 

It's best to go to the middle or back of the bus at once, since the first seats will fill up with old people, pregnant women, and people with small children who have priority for them. Then sit down and enjoy your ride!

Bus stops are all marked on the map inside the bus and usually announced as well. When you want to get off, push the little buzzer you will see on every other pole along the aisles. An LED display above the front entrance of the bus will say that a stop has been requested. You must always leave the bus by the back door. It usually opens at once, but if for any reason you need to keep it open, call, "La porte, s'il vous plaît!"

Paris buses are more and more often equipped for the handicapped. These new buses "squat" when they stop, so that exits are low to the ground. This is convenient not only for people in wheelchairs, whom I have rarely seen using them, but also for people with baby strollers and especially old people. 

If you take the bus one way and plan to take it back again, you need to watch out for a change in the bus route on the way back. Because of Paris's many one-way streets (more all the time as the mayor pursues his traffic-lessening schemes), buses often have to use different streets to return. This is clearly marked on the individual bus-line charts, but less easy to see on the confusing large diagram on the back of shelters. 

Some Paris bus lines are so scenic that it seems a shame that tourists pay so much money for the fancy ones. Instead they could just take one of these lines! This is just a random sampling. Paris has 109 lines.

The 21 runs from the Gare Saint-Lazare to the Opera and Palais Royal near the Louvre, then to the Latin Quarter, the Pantheon and the Jardin de Luxembourg, the beautiful Val de Grâce hospital and the gorgeous Parc Montsouris and (open to the public) Cité Universitaire, where many different nations each have their own buildings, often constructed in national style.

The 63 runs from near the Musée Marmottan and the Bois de Boulogne, in western Paris, down pretty boulevards to Trocadero (nice view of the Eiffel Tower) and Alma, then along the Seine past Invalides, the Assemblée Nationale, and then goes along Boulevard Saint-Germain past the Musée d'Orsay (a couple of blocks north), the church of Saint-Germain des Prés, and the medieval Musée Cluny, on its way to the Gare de Lyon.

The 75 will take you from the Pont Neuf (the oldest bridge in Paris) at the tip of Île de la Cité through the chic and historic Marais, up to the beautiful Parc des Buttes Chaumont and the lovely area just northeast of it called the Mouzaia.

 There, that should whet your appetite for taking a little ride in the bus!

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