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Paris - transportation on the surface

The Paris Velib scheme has more than 20,000 available cycles
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Taxis, bicycles and buses are the surface alternatives to the underground services of the Metro and RER ("Réseau Express Régional", "Regional Express Network"). Traveling above ground means better sightseeing opportunities but may involve a bit more effort. Of the three, buses are the most difficult for visitors and non-French speakers. With the exception of the airport buses, Roissybus and Orlybus, they're are best avoided on a short visit.



Finding a taxi: Any substantial sedan can be a Paris taxi, so don't look out for specially shaped or coloured cars. A licenced, metered taxi carries a lit sign on its roof. If the entire sign is lit, the taxi is available for hire. If it is occupied, only a small orange bulb is lit.

Get taxis at taxi ranks or by hailing them in the street. Taxi ranks are located all over the city - at train stations, near landmarks and major shops. To hail a taxi simply raise your arm for attention. Don't shout or whistle. Drivers won't stop for you within 50 meters of a taxi rank but will otherwise pick you up at the nearest safe place to stop.

You can also ask your hotel or restaurant to call you a taxi but if you do that, the meter will be running when the taxi arrives and you will be charged for the car's travel to your pickup and waiting time.

Drivers can refuse to take you if they don't want to go in the direction you are going, at the end of the driver's shift, for example.

Fares: The fare is established by a meter that measures both distance travelled and waiting time, so the fare will vary depending upon traffic. If hailing a cab in the street or at a taxi rank, make sure the driver starts the meter when your journey begins. The fare, along with a total for extra charges, is shown on the taximeter. Extras include night journeys, luggage that must be stowed in the boot, train station or airport pickups and a fourth passenger. You can ask your driver to estimate the minimum fare before you accept a ride, but remember, it is only an estimate.

Payment: Most taxis only take cash and drivers do not have access to a lot of change, so be sure to carry a supply of smaller notes and coins. A tip of 10 to 15% of the metered fare is customary.


More taxi pointers:


  • Write down the address if you want to avoid confusion. You can also point out a route on a map.
  • Watch the meter. It is not unusual for Paris taxi drivers to take advantage of tourists.
  • Carry a business card with your hotel's address and phone number.
  • Ask for a receipt or "ticket" with the taxi ID, just in case you forget something or have a problem.
  • Learn to say bonjour (good day) or bonsoir (good evening) when entering a taxi. Drivers expect it and will be more helpful if you remember to greet them.



'Velib', the Paris bicycle rental scheme, was the first of its kind in the world. Cycles are parked at self-service locking stations about 300 meters apart, all around the city. To release one, you swipe your credit card through the machine and subscribe for a day, a week or longer. Each time you use the cycle during your subscription period, you are charged a further hourly fee. However, there is no hourly fee charged for each use between Velib stations of 30 minutes or less. Unlike bicycle shop rentals, Velib' cycles can be returned to any station, 24-hours a day. The downside is that Parisian drivers are aggressive and unless you are an experienced urban cyclist, bike riding can be stressful and dangerous.


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