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I plan to visit Paris from July 6 to July 9. I want to know what are the peak hours for public transportation in that time frame. When to avoid taking bus or trains, and when to take profit of low traffic.

Each city has it's own peak hours, and I want to plan my stay with those factors in head.

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    It might be helpful to check when the sights you want to visit are open. What I remember was that it was useless to travel in the time people go to the offices as the museums would not be open. – Willeke Jun 2 at 17:49
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    I'm more interested seeing the city than seeing the inside of museums. If I can reduce my travel time, I can always find something to see near my destination, or an open café to pass time :) – Eradash Jun 2 at 17:51
  • That's Saturday thru Tuesday. On the first two days it might be quieter travelling early in the day, than the second two days. – Weather Vane Jun 2 at 17:56
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    Take into account the fast that there is a protest every Saturday, blocking the lines 1 and A (which go through the center of Paris along the East-West axis). Citymapper will tell you which stations are closed. And, as Gilles said, from Monday to Friday, peak hours are 8-10, 17-19 (and a bit later on Friday). – C.F Jun 3 at 15:12
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The short answer is that it doesn't matter. It won't make a noticeable difference to your travel time. Public transport is not like driving where rush hour traffic moves at a snail's pace. Buses can get stuck in traffic (even when there are lanes, French drivers often block them) but it's hardly ever slower than walking these days.

There are a few places where it's better to avoid traveling with bulky luggage at peak hours, but it isn't just a matter of time, it's also a matter of where. And parts of some lines are crowded outside peak hours because there are still many people traveling but fewer buses or trains.

Paris does not have any kind of reduced rate for off-peak travel.

Very very roughly, the morning peak in Paris is between 8am and 10am, and earlier in the suburbs: a lot of people start work at 9am or 10am. The evening peak starts around 5pm and lasts about as long. But once again, the effect depends on where you are. For example, if you're moving from a business district to a residential neighborhood during morning peak, you'll have frequent, half-empty trains, while the other direction is jam-packed.

You can get an idea of when peak hours are on a given line by checking its frequency: buses and trams, suburban lines (RER, transilien). That usually won't tell you which part of the line is busy however.

Weekdays are Monday to Friday. Note that many attractions are open on Sundays and closed on Mondays. (Nationally, museum closing day is Tuesday, but in Paris it's usually Monday instead.) Most shops are closed on Sundays (but more and more shops are open 7 days a week, especially in touristic areas).

Many French people take a long vacation during the July-August period. However, that doesn't make a significant difference until around July 14.

One thing that's a lot more useful to know than traffic pattern is real-time traffic information. You can get it from the RATP or transilien website or from the respective apps (on Android, I use the RATP app inside Paris and the SNCF app for suburban trains).

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    I would also recommend Citymapper inside Paris. I find that it works really well and it even tells you in which part of the train you should sit so as to make the line changes faster :) – ar5975 Jun 2 at 19:58
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    Citymapper is a must have, even as a local. – qht Jun 3 at 14:30
  • @qht I can see the appeal of a single app that works reasonably well in many cities for a traveler. But for a local, what does it do better than the local apps? – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Jun 3 at 16:54
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    It aggregates EVERY means of transportation. In one look you know if you should take the metro, the bus, an Uber, a bike, a free floating scooter or if you would get there quicker by foot. And it's often more accurate than the apps from the transportation companies it pulls it's data from. Disclaimer: I'm not related to Citymapper. – qht Jun 3 at 20:04
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In general, the peak hour in the morning is about 8:30 to 9:30, though this can vary a bit depending on which line segment and which direction.

I’d say the peak hour in the evening is around 17:30 to 19:30. Here there are probably even more local variations.

Note however that July and August have less traffic than other periods, and they cover the school holidays, and many people take holidays during that period. The lowest traffic is probably observed first half of August, followed by second halves of August and July.

But as those are school holidays, there are actually less trains/trams/buses than during other periods, so you could actually end up having more people per train/tram/bus.

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The question, which has evolved somewhat given the comment, and could be now considered to be one of those requests-for-opinions questions, which the moderators don't like. I would have liked to add this as a comment but I don't have the points yet. If you like the answer you can put me over that threshold, hint hint hint.

If your desire is to maximize the experience of Paris on the street, her architecture, parks, street life, and the chance to examine at close hand and your leisure some spot of interest then I commend to you, as part of your studies of the French language, the word Flâneur.

The core of Paris is sufficiently dense as to make a set of walking tours, either just you swanning about, following routes from books which have routes marked out, or formal walking tours offered or some combination, worthwhile and alleviate the requirement of using public transport.

I know that the buses in off-peak hours will be sufficiently swift as to preclude any reasonable chance of much enjoyment of viewing what you can see.

Most museums in Paris would be madhouses in July, with the possible exceptions of the Musée de l'air et de l'espace and the Musée de la musique and I've found attendance on autumn Saturdays in the former to approach the level of annoyance.

  • Do you have times for when the office workers will be in work in July? (I know buses can be busy all day, but not as busy as when the people still travel to work.) – Willeke Jun 2 at 18:44
  • One warning. When I was last there (in 1991 so this may be badly out of date), there were big signs warning of pickpockets on the R.E.R. My French is not great and I'm not sure I know the French word for pickpocket any more so the signs may have been in English. Perhaps this is not a concern any more but it certainly was then. (By the way, most people reflexively pat the pocket where their valuables are when they see a sign like that but try to avoid that; apparently pickpockets congregate around those signs and wait to see where you pat, then they follow you to try to rob you!) Or so I heard. – Henry Jun 4 at 2:34
  • @Henry having just returned I can confirm that there are still signs, and indeed audio announcements in several languages about pickpockets. – briantist Jun 6 at 0:18
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Peak hours aren't really a thing in Paris (although expect more passengers between 7-9, 12-13, 17.30-18.30), moreso in July (quite a lot of tourists).

General travel in Paris advice :

My advice, for any long trip take the metro (don't go to the ticket machines if possible, got to the desks RATP agents tend to be really helpful as long as you're polite), depending the number of trips a day ticket or a 10 trips may be the best (if you're travelling in the same zone).Once again, the best is to ask the RATP agent on site and they'll get you the best deal. For the trip hotel/airport depending on where is your hotel the RER may be the best solution, taking the taxi is really expensive but may be more convenient.

In the metro/RER, like in any other big cities, be mindful of your possessions and read the mood. If everyone is shutting up, keeping to themselves and are blanked eyed, now is the time to not stand out and do the same. If everyone is lively and are chatting, there may be an event/concert etc.., ask around (politely) could be an opportunity to do something unexpected.

For short distances, get a good pair of comfortable shoes (and it will be a blessing whilst queuing).

If you need directions or tips (where is the closest cheap and cheerful eatery, etc...), start any interaction with "bonjour" during the day or "bonsoir" at night, even if you don't speak French. It's a standard and even if you are the nicest most polite person if the world, if you don't start a conversation by saying hello under French standard it will be considered extremely rude.

A simple "bonjour" and an awkward smile will often open you a lot of doors and get you around in a more efficient and cheaper way.

If you don't speak French, younger people (18-35) will tend to have a better grasp of English than older people. Otherwise it's like in any city, if you see him/her fast pacing, don't bother he/she is going to work/class etc...

If you are a person of colour, openly gay etc... be mindful that 23% of French people voted for the Rassemblement National in the European elections (extreme right generally racist/xenophobic conservative party). So some of my compatriots may not be as helpful as they can :/ , although most people are fine with you.

I'm painting a bad picture but in reality as long as you follow the Wheaton law, everything is going to be fine.

Have a fun trip and take the time to "boire l'apéro en térasse" !

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    Do you start by « bonjour » when asking for directions? I feel « excusez-moi » sounds more natural, no? – Blaszard Jun 3 at 13:11

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