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Arriving and Departing Paris

The excellent national train service in France means that long-distance bus service in the country is practically nonexistent; regional buses are found where train service is spotty. Local bus information to the rare rural areas where trains do not have access can be obtained from the SNCF .

The largest international bus operator here is Eurolines, whose main terminal is in the Parisian suburb of Bagnolet (a ½-hour métro ride from central Paris, at the end of métro Line 3). It runs to more than 600 cities in Europe. In general, the price of a round-trip bus ticket is 50% less than that of a plane ticket and 25% less than that of a train ticket, so if you have the time and the energy, this is a good way to cut the cost of travel.

Eurolines provides bus service from London's Victoria Coach Station, via the Dover–Calais ferry, to Paris's Porte de Bagnolet. There's an 8 am departure that arrives in Paris at 4:45 pm, a 10 am departure that arrives at 7:45 pm, and a 1:30 pm departure that arrives at 10 pm, plus three overnight trips with departures at 9:30 pm, 10:30 pm, and 11:30 that pull into Paris between 7:15 am and 9 am. Fares are €34–€49 round-trip. The company also offers a 15-day (€215–€355) or 30-day (€320–€465) pass if you're planning on doing the grand European tour. Ask about one of the Circle tours that leave from Paris (for example, via London, Amsterdam, then back to Paris again). Check the Eurolines website for special discounts or incentives, and avoid buying your ticket at the last minute, when prices are highest. Reservations for international bus trips are essential.

In Paris

With dedicated bus lanes now in place throughout the city—allowing buses and taxis to whiz past other traffic mired in tedious jams—taking the bus is an appealing option. Although nothing can beat the métro for speed, buses offer great city views, and the newer ones are equipped with air-conditioning—a real perk on those sweltering August days.

Paris buses are green and white; the route number and destination are marked in front, major stopping places along the sides. Glass-covered bus shelters contain timetables and route maps; note that buses must be hailed at these larger bus shelters, as they service multiple lines and routes. Smaller stops are designated simply by a pole bearing bus numbers.

Today 59 bus routes run throughout Paris, reaching virtually every nook and cranny of the city. On weekdays and Saturday, buses run every 5 to 10 minutes; but you'll have to wait 15 to 20 minutes on Sunday and holidays. One ticket will take you anywhere within the city and is valid for one transfer within 90 minutes.

Most routes operate from 7 am to 8:30 pm; some continue until midnight. After midnight you must take either the métro (which shuts down at 12:40 am Sun.–Thurs. and 2:15 am Fri., Sat., and the night before holidays) or one of the Noctilien lines (indicated by a separate signal at bus stops). Using the same tickets as the métro and regular buses, Noctilien buses operate every 10–60 minutes (12:30 am–5:30 am) between Châtelet, major train stations, and various nearby suburbs; you can hail them at any point on their route.

A map of the bus system is on the flip side of every métro map, in all métro stations, and at all bus stops. Maps are also found in each bus; a free map is available at RER stations and tourist offices. A recorded message and onboard electronic display announce the name of the next stop. To get off, press one of the red buttons mounted on the silver poles that run the length of the bus, and the arrêt demandé (stop requested) light directly behind the driver will light up. Use the middle or rear door to exit.

The Balabus—an orange-and-white public bus that runs on Sunday and holidays from 1:30 pm to 8:30 pm, April through September—gives an eye-catching 50-minute tour around the major sights. You can use your Paris-Visite or Mobilis pass (), or one to three bus tickets, depending on how far you ride. The route runs from La Défense to the Gare de Lyon.

The city also has expanded its tram system with the opening of three new lines: T-5 (St-Denis to Garges-Sarcelles); T-6 (Châtillon to Viroflay); and T-7 (Villejuif to Athis-Mons). T-8 (St-Denis to Épinay-Villetanuese) opened in part in late 2014, with underground access slated for spring 2016 . Designed more to serve locals getting into and around the city, these lines operate in the suburbs, with T-3 trams running along Paris’s entire southern edge. One ticket is good for the whole line.

Trams and buses take the same tickets as the métro. When buying tickets, your best bet is a carnet of 10 tickets, available for €13.30 at any métro station, or a single ticket, which can be bought onboard for €1.70 (exact change appreciated). If you have individual tickets or Paris-Visite passes, you should be prepared to validate your ticket in the gray machines at the entrance of the vehicle. Tickets can be bought on board, in the métro, or in most bar–tabac stores displaying the lime-green métro symbol above their street signs.

Bus Information

Eurolines. 08–92–89–90–91; 0033/141–862–421; www.eurolines.fr; www.eurolines-pass.eu.

Noctilien. vianavigo.com.

RATP. 3246; www.ratp.com.