In Praise of the humble Metro ticket.


The best value for money in Paris – the humble Metro ticket. Just 1.70€ to trundle through tunnels under the city streets for a couple of hours. So, you don’t see the sights, but you see work-a-day Parisians in their natural environment, and underground there are plenty of coffee shops, food outlets if you get hungry, and there is even entertainment – buskers – from the solitary blues guitarist right through to string quartets and jazz band. You’ve figured it. I like the Paris metro. The iconic metro station signs, the rectangular clinical white tiling, the advertising posters for department stores, theatre plays, shows. I suppose you might say its like a metro system anywhere, but no. This is the Metro. One distinct advantage of the Paris Metro, it is  not as deep as the London Tube. Some of those London stations are so deep, that actually getting to the platform is like a journey to the centre of the earth. Besides on a cold day, (like yesterday) better to stay underground in the warmth of the Metro than brave the elements.

The Metro ticket is undoubtedly excellent value. In a city where property prices in the more fashionable areas can reach over 9000 Euros per square metre, the Metro ticket gives you the right to legally occupy your space in the capital.

So how much floor or seat space do you take up on a Metro? Certainly not a square metre (which is roughly nine square feet – though I stand to be corrected) – you might only be taking up a half of this. Were you to buy this amount of floor space above ground, it would cost you well over 4500 Euros to have a warm space protected from the elements – On the Metro though, you can « rent » the space for a few hours for only 1.70Euros – I suppose to escape the early December chill, you could always head for one of the very iconic Parisian Bistros and order a simple coffee, however the coffee is going to set you back at least 2.50 Euros, and Parisian café owners don’t take too kindly if you take more than ten or fifteen minutes to drink your coffee. There are those bars in Paris with prominently displayed signs asking their clients to « renew » their order every half hour. Thirty minutes to drink a coffee – the humble metro ticket will enable you to stay out the cold for two hours. Why therefore I maintain that the 1.70€ ticket is still the best value in Paris.

Now, this Metro post coincides with the publication of a « courtesy » guide by the Paris public transport authorities – the RATP – advice for staff and passengers alike on avoiding certain incivilities on the Metro – most of it is common sense (or just plan good manners) – don’t put your feet on the seats. Keep your personal stereo personal. Avoid loud conversations on your phone – let people off the train before you barge on. No spitting, no smoking, no bad language… the strangest (though most pertinent and practical of suggestions) when gripping for the hand rails in a crowded metro train carriage, try to keep your hands at waist height as much as possible – no armpits please, especially in summer – because there is nothing more unpleasant than getting your nose stuck in someone’s smelly, sweaty armpits. I think they should have some kind of summer time regulation banning, exceptionally tall people, from using the Metro during the summer months. There again the RATP could also issue advice for very short people, dissuading them from using the Metro in summer. Those of a short disposition are very likely to get the full summer armpit treatment from anyone of medium height.

To finish, a few Metro facts

There are 300 stations on the Paris Metro for 213 kilometres of track. No Parisian living within the city centre is any further than 800 metres from a Metro station. The Metro has fourteen lines in total, with the most recent line 14 having driverless trains – meaning that during the frequent Metro strikes, line 14 is always operational. The Paris Metro counts 1.4 billion users even year.