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Gourmet restaurants, high fashion and the iconic Eiffel Tower are just a few of the reasons why Paris welcomes more tourists than any other city on Earth. Driving in Paris is certainly not for the faint hearted, but personal vehicles are much more useful for excursions to the world-famous châteaux and family friendly theme parks outside the city limits of France's national capital. Within Paris itself, visitors can travel aboard buses, taxis an affordable métro system, or even take the Batobus boat service across the Seine River. As well as the city’s many world-class museums and attractions, there is also several theme parks and châteaux to explore just outside the city centre.
Who to Book With
A French company called TT Car Transit stands next to half a dozen different international car rental franchises at both Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports, the two busiest air hubs in all of France. The independent UCAR is one of six car rental companies represented at the smaller Beauvais-Tillé Airport, nearly 53 miles north of Paris. Sixt, Europcar and Budget dealerships are among the many establishments clustered around central Paris. Booking early is the best way to ensure the best deals.
Best Time to Go
Airfare, hotel rooms and rented vehicles are all at their most expensive in Paris during the summer, when most Parisians leave the city for the beach but the tourists come flocking in. Spring and autumn are considered the most pleasant seasons to come to Paris, even though hotel rooms may be harder to find during autumn trade and fashion shows. Despite the gloomy reputation of Parisian winters, rock-bottom deals can be found and temperatures rarely fall below freezing.
Need to Know Essentials
Before collecting rented vehicles, this information must be presented:
- A passport or alternate photo identification
- A valid driving license owned by a motorist over 21
- Proof of insurance
- The booing agreement
Paris is almost as famous for its notoriously chaotic driving conditions as its high fashion and haute cuisine. A large percentage of Parisiens do not own their own vehicles and driving is often the least-recommended way to explore France's capital. Driving is most stressful and parking most difficult to find within the multi-lane ring road, known as the Périphérique, which surrounds Paris.
Driving challenges decrease once motorists pass the Périphérique and enter the motorways connecting France's capital with the rest of the country. The A1 and A3 are the main motorways leading north from Paris, while the A13 and the A10 branch out towards the west. The A4 is the major motorway east of Paris, while the two motorways leading south of the city are the A5 and A6. Two more beltways, the N104 and the A86, are currently under construction.
Boarding one of the 16 métro lines, taking the bus or even cruising along the Seine aboard a Batobus river boat are just a few ways visitors can travel around the city of Paris. Taxi stands are found close to most métro stations and major intersections. Feet, scooters and motorbikes are usually the best ways to navigate the narrow streets of Paris. All three Paris airports supply several public transportation options to reach all parts of the city.
RATP handles most public transportation in Paris, except for taxis and SNCF trains, but the same tickets are accepted by both companies. The farther passengers travel outside of Paris, the more expensive tickets become. A €13.30 carnet of 10 tickets available for purchase at any Paris Métro station is a better bargain than single €1.70 tickets. These tickets can be used for certain time periods on any bus, Métro, tram or RER line in the city.
Many Paris visitors are surprised to learn that the large city has no inner-city rail network. There are seven rail stations scattered across France's capital, but none of them are connected. Therefore, rail passengers must make a note of which station they are due to arrive at. In addition to the famous SNCF high speed trains that zoom across all of France, passengers can also board slower, but cheaper, TER trains. CNL overnight trains to Germany, as well as Eurostar trains to Brussels and London, are also available. Tickets for any of the 16 lines forming the city's rapid transit Métro system cost €1.70 apiece. The Paris Métro boasts 384 stops and a total length of 133 miles.
Parisian taxi drivers may have reputations for unfriendliness and speak little English, but they are at least easy to find outside the city's Métro stations and intersections. Taxis Bleus and Taxis G7 are two Parisian taxi companies that accept advance telephone reservations. Vehicles with illuminated 'Taxi' signs are available for hire. Passengers must sit in backseat and are often expected to give drivers a 10 per cent tip. Taxi fares begin at €5.50, but can soar to €70 for journeys to Charles de Gaulle Airport.
The main RATP bus network in Paris boasts more than 350 different lines, 31 of which are special night buses called Noctilien. Both buses and the Paris Métro use the same green tickets, which passengers punch into machines when boarding. Buses, however, travel to many places that the Métro does not reach. Tourists may prefer seeing the city aboard an open-topped Paris L'Opentour Bus. One-day passes aboard these bright yellow double decker buses cost €25 each and are valid on up to four routes.
Paris itself contains enough worthwhile attractions for a lifetime of exploring, but some of the things visitors come to see are actually situated quite a distance outside of the city limits. These include the family-friendly Parc Astérix and Disneyland Paris theme parks, as well as the legendary Château de Versailles. Lesser-known than Versailles, but still worth a daytrips to, are the châteaux of Fontainebleau and Chantilly. The French president has used the Château de Rambouillet as a summer residence since 1897.
Parc Astérix - The nearby presence of Disneyland Paris has done nothing to diminish the popularity of Parc Astérix, the theme park based on France's own indomitable rogue. All of the rides and attractions at this park, located 22 miles north of Paris, are based on events in the Astérix comic books or during the Ancient Roman era in which the comics were set. The inverted OzIris roller coaster is merely the newest of the park's many thrilling rides.
Disneyland Paris - Recently celebrated its 20th anniversary as the second Disney theme park to have opened outside the United States. Over two decades after its initial 1992 opening, this park, set 20 miles outside of central Paris, now welcomes more visitors than any other theme park in Europe. Disneyland Paris now contains a separate entertainment complex filled with shops and restaurants, as well as a Walt Disney Studios Park.
Château de Versailles - Few palaces on Earth can rival the splendour of Château de Versailles, which King Louis XIV first built 12.5 miles from Paris in 1682. The landscaped gardens surrounding this castle are nearly as impressive as the building itself. The south and north apartments are connected by the especially-spectacular 236ft Hall of Mirrors.