Taking the bus is an essential part of Parisian life. Every time someone asks me about getting around Paris, I emphasise just how easy it is to use the bus to get to the sites. In the Montmartre area where you’ll find our cooking school, we have 5 great bus lines: the 31 (will get you to Gare du Nord, Gare de L’Est, and the Champs Elysée), the 67 (will take you to Ile Saint Louis), the 80 (will take you to the Eiffel Tower and the Champs Elysée), the 85 (will take you the Luxembourg Gardens and St Michel), and the 95 (Opera Garnier, drops you directly in front of Louvre and takes you into St Germain). So why trepidation when it comes to taking the bus? What’s the rush?
We get the question many many times, and I do understand the urgency, “how far are you from the sights”. But am I the only one who thinks that the entire city of Paris is a sight worth seeing? So why not take the time to see it while you are trying to get to the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, or the Champs Elysée? Stay above ground and take in the city. Walk or take the bus. The city has made it so easy for you to navigate its Haussmannian boulevards and even its windy medieval streets. Take a seat and look out your picturesque window on some of the greatest tours you will ever get.
You can find the maps of the bus routes closest to wherever you decide to stay, using the RATP website (the Paris transit site). You can plan your itinerary whether by bus, metro, or Vélib (bike).
Paris is a mere 86.9 km2 (33.6 square miles). The congestion zone of London is larger than the city of Paris. It took me 45 minutes on the bus to get from the Mairie du 18ème (18th district town hall) to the Porte de Versailles. 45 minutes may seem long when you are on a fast 3-day break in Paris but after walking around the Salon de l’Agriculture all day long, my tired legs were more than happy to be seated on the bus and to just admire the view.
Sitting on the 80 bus from the Mairie I sat back (something that you don’t often get to do on the subway), watching the city go by. It’s falling in love with Paris all over again. Just admire the architecture!
I hope to have inspired you a little bit to try it out if you haven’t already. If you’d like to get around by bus in Paris I won’t leave you guessing about navigating the Parisian way. Here are some handy tips for making your bus ride as smooth as possible.
Bus Rules & Etiquette:
Getting off the bus – you simply need to press the signalling button that is on the poles to signal to the driver that you are ready to get off at the next stop.
Rush Hour – understand that at rush hour the bus may be packed. Be sure to let people off before you get on. Like in all crowded places be careful of pickpockets, though I find in general that you have less to fear on the bus than in the metro.
Baby strollers/Wheelchairs – there is a section of the bus that is reserved for baby strollers and wheelchairs. Anyone using either of these has priority. However with the exception of the wheelchair user, during rush hour you are expected to fold the stroller (if possible) and anyone sitting on foldable chairs near the front of the bus should stand.
Seating priority – priority to the elderly, pregnant, or handicapped, please! This is something that certain Parisians forget or miss due to the immersive info on their phone screens. So even if you see other people sitting and you are nervous about speaking French, go for it! Try your best to say “vous voulez vous asseoir (pronounced asswahr) Madame/Monsieur?” with the intonation of a question or use the international bus language of standing up and motioning the person to your seat. In my five years of living in Paris there have only been two types of responses: a smile and appreciative “non merci” or an acceptance with a glint in their eye showing restored faith in humanity. The latter may not happen if you hesitate for too long and wait for a few glares at your spot and frustrated sighs from the person.
How to buy a Paris bus ticket in 2022:
Choosing which ticket to get and how many is one of the first questions people ask themselves when faced with any transport in Paris. This can be daunting for new arrivals but if you’ve visited before or even if you have lived here for some time, there are quite a few changes to adapt to.
It is always better to have your bus ticket BEFORE getting on the bus. When you board, you can choose to show it to the driver but they will most likely be disinterested because you are expected to insert your ticket into a machine located near an entrance that will check its validity. After it date-stamps it, your ticket will be spit back out. The driver trusts that you will do this and use a valid ticket because there are bus officers that sporadically enter the buses to check people’s tickets/bus passes and if they are not valid there is a fine to pay for this kind of misdemeanour. You can check the finable rules here.
Can you pay on the bus?
The bus drivers no longer accept coins to pay for a ticket. This started as a measure to protect the drivers from COVID-19 and ended briefly in July of 2022 BUT as of November, we’re back to no onboard ticket buying. They ask instead that you send an SMS text to 93100 using a message with the following format: BUS40
In this example, you want to buy a last-minute ticket for the number 40 bus (the former Montmatrobus, by the way – takes you up to Sacre Coeur), but you should insert the number of the bus you actually want to take.
If you are exploring the Parisian nightlife and miss the daytime buses, there are some night buses for which you would add an N in front of the number. You’ll know it’s a night bus because you will also see the N next to the number of that particular bus. But if you are out late I would suggest getting an Uber as the nighttime buses are typically carrying certain ‘characters’ that you might not want to write home about.
The cost of these text tickets is €2.00 and it will be automatically charged through your phone service. You don’t need to scan your phone anywhere but you can choose to quickly show the driver your text.
Where can I buy tickets in Paris?
So now let’s talk about buying your physical paper tickets, you have to plan a little ahead of hopping onto your bus but they will save you some money.
Head into any metro station and you will find the ticket machines, all of which have an English language option. FYI for those of you who prefer to buy from the help desk, this language option is definitely not a guarantee.
You can buy a single journey t+ ticket for €1.90 for the Paris region. The t+ ticket can still be used interchangeably for either the bus or metro. the bundle of 10 tickets is being phased out so if you want to get multiple tickets you can buy a Navigo Easy Pass (say Pass Navigo Easy in a French accent when asking at the help desk) for €2.00. A bundle of 10 regular tickets on your pass will cost €14.90, overall that’s €16.90 which is still cheaper than buying 10 individual tickets. Plus these passes cannot be demagnetised when left next to phones or keys, part of the reason that they have been introduced.
You can charge your pass at the metro help desk or at the ticket machines with a circular card reader. Keep in mind that it is one pass per person, so each person should have their own pass with tickets charged on it if travelling together.
You can also get a flexible day pass for €7.50 but it will expire at the end of the day. A 7-day pass is also available for €22.80, but be careful, your 7 days start on Monday and end on Sunday, with no exceptions even if you bought the ticket on Saturday.
How long are these tickets valid?
Your text ticket will only be valid for the bus you ride on and it will expire 1 hour after sending the text. Your RATP transport ticket marked with a t+ allows you to transfer from one bus to either another bus or a tram and is valid for 1.5 hours after it’s been date stamped. Attention! Your ticket does not allow you to transfer from bus to metro or vice-versa. your tickets will still be valid for the metro if not already used, and if you want to go from one metro to another or to the RER, your ticket remains valid for 2 hours.
Now that you have your ticket/pass hop onto a Paris bus, search for a window seat, snack on the chouquettes you learned how to make at our cooking school and simply enjoy the ride. The bus is one of my favorite ways to get around Paris. I remember being apprehensive when I was a student and it was my first time. It was my host mother who took us on the bus for the first time and she informed us that the bus and the Paris map book were the most Parisian of Parisian things.
Still not sold on the bus? Check out our blog on all the ways you can get around Paris.