Traveling solo is a scary thing. My first solo trip was to Paris, France. I knew from online research that in Paris, people rely and make use of the Metro. As a born and raised Angelino, I am not familiar with metros, or public transit at that. There are more cars in Los Angeles than there are people using public transit (I’m just taking a wild guess). We all dream of the day when we can drive our own car by ourself, and take ourselves anywhere by vehicle. I’m sure there are many people who utilize public transit in Los Angeles…..if it is convenient to their work or school. From what I learned in Paris, the Metro is convenient to everyone, no matter where they are headed. It is a city of walking and public transit.
If you are traveling to Paris and are worried about how to use the Metro, fear no more. It is SO easy to use, the signs are very clear as long as you read them. What helped me navigate from point A to point B are the 5 apps below.
I will disclose, though, that I purchased an international data plan for my vacation. I highly recommend this if you are traveling alone, as it will make you just a little less reliant on strangers and a bit more independent (especially good in uncomfortable or unsafe places/situations). BUT, I did meet many travelers who did not purchase data and relied on wifi- not a bad idea! Although when we would travel together, we did make the most use of my paid-for internet. What I am getting at, is that you can still use these apps without data and they will still be just as useful. Without a data plan, make sure you at least have a connection to wifi to utilize the apps: look up the info you need, screenshot, memorize, or write down the information necessary, and then use your noggin from there to explore Paris, France.
Here are my top 5 most-useful apps for getting around Paris:
1. Paris Metro Map
I found the Paris Metro Map through a simple search in the app store, actually. It was the first app….after the $0.99 Metro map that came up initially (lol, #budgettraveler ?). Boy, was I lucky. So! Let me show you why this is such an awesome app. It’s very straight forward, you choose the Metro station nearest you (they are everywhere, it’s never more than a 5-10 minute walk before you stumble upon one from another), select “route,” either put in a general landmark you are trying to go to, or the Metro station you’d like to reach. If you put in a landmark/monument, it will take you to the nearest Metro.
Here’s a quick screenshot tutorial:
First, open the app, this is what it looks like:
Type the landmark or metro, here I am using the metro station Riquet for this example, then click the suggestion below that matches your entry, then click route:
Next, type your destination, here I will use metro station “Chatelet”, because everyone should go explore Chatelet (one of my favorite areas of Paris):
Click Route, it will then show you a fastest, slower, and ride-share Uber suggestion:
I always click fastest. From there, you will see an over-view of your trip. You change trains (not quite the right terminology for when you’re there, but if I say you are changing Metros, you may think to leave the actual Metro. So, for the sake of not confusing anyone, changing trains means changing from one rail, to another, but you are still at the same metro…) at the black-outlined circles. Find the next line you are supposed to take, and ALWAYS make sure to go in the direction of your destination, there are signs at each entry:
For further help, they offer to show you a step-by-step guide on the map of how to get from Riquet to Chatelet. You can faintly see a circle around Riquet in the first screen shot- there is a pulsating circle around the station that the step is referring to, like in the last screen shot. My timing wasn’t great:
The app is very user friendly, and very helpful!
2. Google Maps
I like the Google Maps app because you don’t need to know the closest metro, or any metros at that, it will plan everything out for you if you choose to get directions by transit. It also even tells you the fair you need to pay, what stops are in-between changes, and how/where you should walk to the next station if needed. Like the Paris Metro Map app, it gives you multiple options based on time and ride-shares like Uber, but also a mixture of metro/train/bus. Assuming you know the basics of how to use Google Maps to get from point A to B, here is a screen-shot tutorial originating near Riquet again, but to a landmark instead of station:
From your current location, type your destination. I have used a dropped pin in this example (pretending that is my current location) with my destination being the Eiffel Tower:
Click the route you’d like, and you’re taken to a half-map half-list overview of your trip:
Pull down to see a map overview:
Slide up to see a list overview:
You can click on “map” for the walking directions between stations or from station to designation and it will show you:
This app is essential because it works for other cities as well, whereas the Paris Metro Maps app is only for Paris. I used the Google Maps app to find my way by metro in Paris, Marseilles, Nice, and other smaller cities.
3. Google Translate
Unless you are fluent in French, I recommend this app for anyone traveling in France. Not only can you translate by typing, but you can also translate by drawing, voice and pictures of text (ex. signs and menus). Using this app will lessen the stress a language barrier can have on a solo traveler, it can get frustrating trying to communicate without the same language. It is also respectful and courteous to at least attempt to begin and start a conversation in French, or any country’s primary language. My game plan was to speak as much French as I knew and converse until they started speaking to fast for me to understand, and only then “parlez-vous anglais?” was allowed. It’s a good push in the right direction, being multi-lingual is something I think everyone should strive for.
BTW this app has the feature to download any language you need for offline use (yay for wifi-only travelers!). The app will also verbally recite your requested translation for best pronunciation. A cool feature that Google Translate has is the ability to save the phrases you deem most important. I saved phrases such as “May I have…”, “How do I get to…”, and “What are your plans for the day?” I took some basic French, so I could get myself to these points in the conversation without using the app. To save the phrase, just “star” the phrase once you’re done translating. Here’s some quick visuals to get you familiar:
This is what it looks like when it translates a phrase for you:
When you’re on the home page and it shows you your recent translations, this is where you can “star” the phrase to save it for future uses:
This app is a must-have for the solo traveler without any accommodation plans. Or if you are planning your trip and want to make accommodations. Oh, and the solo-traveler who is staying at hostels, but I think its safe to say most do (hotels get expensive).
The app is great for Paris and any other city in the world. Simply search by city, the date of check-in, how many nights, and how many travelers. Hostelworld provides a rating, reviews, and lots of info on the hostels you are searching. You can book directly through the app, and they only require a small deposit, the rest is due upon check-in. I also recommend cross-referencing your hostel choice against the actual website of the hostel, just incase there are better deals!
Hostelworld is just like any other price-comparison booking site, just hostel driven. here are some visuals:
You can manage all of your bookings and even make a “hostel wishlist” from the app:
Search by location, date, and number of people with you:
Your search yields a long list of hostels with the best price they have to offer per night, stars, number of ratings, and other quick info as an overview:
You can sort your search to your liking (# of reviews, stars, price, location, etc.):
And you can search by $$ symbols on a map: