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The RER Paris suburban railway system will be mostly used by visitors for their airport transfer into Paris City Centre to and from Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) and Orly Airport or for independent excursions to Disneyland and Versailles.
There are five lines, simply lettered A to E. Unlike most city suburban lines, there are no city centre terminals.
All lines except E go straight through Paris to a destination on the other side of the city.
In Paris City Centre the key stations are Chatelet and Gare du Nord. These are vast transport hubs, with Metro lines as well as RER lines interchanging.
If you are travelling within central Paris you can use a single ticket which is also valid for Metro and buses. Within central Paris you can think of the RER as just another Metro line
There is a mix of single deck trains (like in the image) and double deck trains predominantly operating on lines A and C
Trains will commonly run at 15-20 minute intervals and run from about 5.00am to around midnight.
Paris uses a zonal system with six circular zones radiating out from the centre. Zone 1 is where nearly all hotels are and where all the city centre sights are located. The Paris Metro system is largely confined to just zones 1 and 2.
The zones are clearly marked on the RER map (see link, left). For most lines the first train is about 5.30am and the last well after midnight. Frequencies are very high, a few minutes between each train at most.
There is a strict non-smoking policy.
The most popular destinations that visitors will use the RER trains when in Paris have dedicated pages where we go into more detail:
To access the RER system you will need a ticket of course. Whatever ticket you have, (including travel passes) you insert the ticket into an automatic barrier which validates it and allows you through.
The first time, just position yourself behind a local and follow what they are doing - it really is simple and identical to many other systems like the London Underground.
You can buy tickets at Metro and RER Railway Station ticket offices which have manned ticket offices.
The ticket offices at places like Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) have helpful, competent English speaking attendants used to overseas travellers not confident in what they need and are for the most part remarkably patient.
You will also find multilingual ticket machines like the one pictured below, and machines for topping up the Navigo Cards everywhere.
If you purchase a ticket for a single journey the cost will depend upon which zones your originating and destination stations are located in. You can find this out easily enough by looking at the RER map, (see link above).
If both stations are in zones 1 and 2 then the fare will be the same as the Paris Metro fare. See our Paris Metro page for current fares.
If you are travelling around Paris like most visitors do its worth studying the various travel passes available that cover all of the trains and buses in the Paris area.
There is a wide range of passes and tickets available other than for a single journey. We have a dedicated page for these so you can identify the right public transport for your needs in Paris.
Once in Paris it is easy to buy tickets from manned ticket offices and automatic ticket machines.
There are several variants of ticket machines, most have a choice of languages including English of course.
The ticket machines are reliable and sell a range of transport tickets, very few people will be buying the single T+ tickets.
We would recommend you take a few minutes to read the other ticket types available to you as they well be more economical and convenient than single tickets.
Using the Paris Visite travel card, you will be able to use all the public transport services in Paris. The metro pass consists of a simple ticket, no photo required.
It provides travel rides in Paris (with no limit) on the transport system including Metro, RER (regional express trains), bus, tramway, suburban Transilien SNCF trains, Montmartre funicular, Noctambus, Optile bus system and Montmartrobus.
As well as being a travel pass the ticket also provides discounts to tourist attractions though not the main head-liners like the Eiffel Tower and Louvre Museum. Typically a 20% discount on entrance to the Arc de Triomphe which may not be a high priority for you.
The Paris Visite/Paris Metro Pass is heavily marketed at tourists by both Paris authorities and the tourist sector, many visitors are unaware that there are alternatives.
If you are using public transport a lot in Paris or are staying for more than the 2 or 3 days of the average visitor then these are worth evaluating.
There are quite a few options available combining public transport passes combined with tickets to some of the leading Paris attractions.
For the visitor only in Paris a day or two these can make a lot of sense, offering a one-stop solution to getting around Paris and visiting the main sights in one convenient package.