The Paris metro is impressive!

  • It is extensive and can take you anywhere you want to go in Paris.
  • It is one of the densest subway systems in the world, meaning you will never have to walk very far from the station to get to your destination.
  • It has over 300 stations on its 14 metro lines.
  • It moves over 4 million passengers per day.

BUT – don’t take the Paris Metro at rush hour unless you absolutely have to.  For example,

  • You absolutely need to get to work, school, or the airport.
  • You want to experience life as a true Parisien.

I take the Metro at rush hour on average 4 times per day.   In the morning two trips – to school with fille and back home for me.   In the afternoon two trips again – to school to pick her up and then home with fille.  Some days there are extra trips for fille’s after-school activities.  Morning rush hour runs approx. 7 – 10 with the peak around 8:30.  Afternoon rush hour runs approx. 4-7:30 with the peak around 6.

The Metro is fully utilized at rush hour – in other words it is CROWDED.  Trains come into the station with people smashed against the windows and doors.

All of our trips to and from school are on Line 13.  It is one of the most crowded lines in the system. It has two northern branches (which branch at La Fourche) serving highly populated areas and suburbs which have been growing. Furthermore, it is long and runs through Gare St. Lazare which is a big transfer point.  All of this means it is at its limit! An extension of line 14 due to be completed in 2019 is expected to alleviate some of the crowding.  In the meantime, there are days when there is so little room that you can only breath out when your neighbor breathes in.

However, the good news is that you can almost always get on.   And off.  Even though you may think sometimes that neither is possible.

  • Don’t be intimidated about getting on.  People will move to make room but you have to gently push.  People tend to congregate near the doors since it is a) hard to move back further into the car and b) people are stationing themselves to get off.
  • Don’t worry about getting off.   The time the train stops at each station is quite generous. Just start to make a movement as you get into the station.  People will notice and be ready to move.  You can also say “pardon”.    You can also tap the person in front of you on the back gently.

By the way, you will feel like you are being squeezed out of a toothpaste tube!

Some words of etiquette for when the train is full.

  • Don’t use the fold-down seats.
  • If you are near the exit get off even if it is not your stop so that people behind you can more easily and quickly get off.

Some of the worst stations (like Saint-Lazare line 13), have workers who help direct people on and off.  In particular they stand and say:

  • Let the people off first before trying to get on!
  • The doors are closing.

These pictures don’t do justice to how crowded it can get… I wish I could take a better picture of the crowds.  We’re about to move closer to fille’s school.   I will miss the special experience of line 13 — but not too much!