Trains in Paris Explained

RER. Metro. SNCF. TGV. And How to Get Tickets

Author: The Traveling Professor/Monday, September 5, 2016/Categories: Paris

Rate this article:

In Paris, the public transportation system is divided into 8 zones (note that these transportation zones are not the same as arrondissements).  Zones 1 and 2 are in the center covering nearly every place in the city a tourist would want to go.  Further out is Versailles (zone 4), Parc Disneyland, the airports, and the suburbs.

Métro:  Designed for travel within Paris.  Serves tourists well for traveling within zones 1 and 2.  There are 14 major lines with 245 stations.  It is rare to not find a métro station within a 5-10 minute walk.  It is safe, clean and efficient.  Trains run frequently from 5:30 a.m. until about 1:15 a.m. on weeknights and about 1 ½ hours later on weekends and holidays.  The issue I have with the métro system is that it provides no perspective of location and the scenery is what would be expected when traveling in a hole in the ground.  There is probably more chance of petty crimes in the subway than in using the bus.  

RER train:  Best suited for transportation to/from outlying areas and suburbs as far as zone 8.  RER trains make limited intra-city stops within zones 1 & 2.  There are 5 RER lines.  Use the RER to go to Versailles, Parc Disneyland, and the airports.  Think of the RER as the commuter train that brings people in and out of Paris from the suburbs.

SNCF and TGV trains:  For inter-city travel and beyond.  For instance, we take a regular SNCF train from Paris to Vernon (Giverny) or to Bayeux (Normandy Invasion Beaches).  The high-speed, train-on-steroids TGV traveling at speeds up to 320kmh (198 mph) serves major cities and other parts of Europe.  Purchase tickets at a train station or an SNCF “boutique” located around Paris.  I find the boutique located near the entrance at the Musée d'Orsay RER train station to be least crowded and staffed by English-speaking agents providing courteous service.  Senior discounts are available on SNCF/TGV trains.

I have some reluctance about purchasing RER, SNCF and TGV tickets from the website RailEurope.Com.  They don’t always offer discounts (i.e., senior citizen, off-peak) that I can get when I visit an SNCF boutique or purchase at the train station.  They also don’t let online purchasers print tickets.  Instead, tickets are shipped to North America for a fee of about $15.   A better option is to purchase tickets on the website (soon to become   

Number of views (938)/Comments ()

«October 2019»

The Joy of Inexpensively Flying Premium Economy Overseas

Flying Premium EconomyIf you are like The Traveling Professor, you abhor those overnight coach class trans-Atlantic flights from North America to Europe.  They are jam-packed, cramped, and they are practically impossible to get any sleep on.  You could always book business or first class, but that will probably cost about $3,000 or more.  But on a recent small group tour to Italy, we took an overseas flight from New York to Italy, I flew in comfort with a good 6 hours of shut-eye, for less than a coach-class seat.  See why Premium Economy is the only way to go to Europe.
Read more

5 Places to Eat in Florence Italy

Flying Premium Economy

The Professor just returned from a small group tour to Italy.  We saw a lot of great sites like the David at the Accademia and the classic Renaissance Italian art at the Uffizi Palace.  We enjoyed the charm and history of this great Tuscan city.  But when it came time to eat, we took advantage of the bounty of wonderful Italian food, Tuscan style. The best restaurants in Florence feature fresh vegetables, aromatic herbs, home-made pasta, organic beef.  Don't forget about the pizza, cheeses, fruits and of course the best gelato in the world.  Read about The Traveling Professor's ppicks for some of the best restaurants in Florence.

Read more

The Professor's Top 5 Travel Tips

Top 5 Travel TipsIn my 15 years as The Traveling Professor I have learned a lot about travel and how to travel comfortably, efficiently and as inexpensively as possible.  I am not a "cheap" traveler who does anything to save a buck (or a euro).  My travel tips make sense, they do not sacrifice comfort for cost.  They are easy to implement - by that I mean you don't need to jump through hoops to save money or time. Take a moment and read my best international travel tips and make your next overseas trip easier, more comfortable, and less expensive.
Read more

Why We Love Cruising in Croatia

small ship cruise Croatia

We introduced our Croatia and the Dalmatian Coast cruise with a preview tour in October 2017.  Since then, we have taken many travelers on our 30-person small ship luxury charter on 4 subsequent tours, including 2 this past August. There is a lot to like about visiting Croatia and especially cruising along the Adriatic coast.  The Traveling Professor will tell you all about it, with photos, in his latest blog post about a small group tour to Croatia.  Maybe you will consider a small ship cruise with The Professor too!

Read more