Who's Afraid of the RER?

cartoon - paris transports
The RER runs deep under Paris;
up on the surface in the suburbs.

I Only Worry About the Ticket Controllers

by Linda Thalman

Paris:- Thursday, 14. May 1998:- You just may use the RER - Reseaux Express Regional, or Regional Express Network - while you are in Paris. This is not the same as the métro or the suburban trains; but it is part of the overall transport system.

Here are just a few tips on surviving the RER:

Should you be travelling from Paris to a station outside of Paris on the RER, you will need an RER-specific ticket to your destination. Paris métro tickets will not be valid.

You can get onto the RER on Line 'B,' for example, at Luxembourg, and ride all the way to Saint-Rémy-les-Chevreuse with a Paris métro ticket - but you will be 'cheating' as the ticket is only valid up to Cité Universitaire. If you get caught by the controllers, expect a nice little fine.

Most of the suburban stations do not have turnstiles where you exit, you simply get off the train and walk out of the station.

Getting on at a suburban RER station you must cancel your ticket in the machines before boarding the train - or again risk being 'en enfraction,' which is considered cheating.

Let's say you've rented a nice little bungalow in the suburbs for a week or two and want to commute to Paris almost every day. In this case, you should buy a weekly RER ticket from your closest RER station.

If you think you'll only be going in to Paris now and then, simply buy a 'carnet' of ten tickets from the local, or any, RER station. This could meansncf carnet ticket saving up to five francs per ticket. These tickets can be used for either going or coming.

Ordinary train ticket, with magic word 'carnet' - means savings.

If you just commute now and again an 'aller-retour' - round trip - ticket will do just fine. You'll get two tickets and you can use either one to go into Paris and either one to come back. They are not specifically marked 'to Paris' or 'from Paris.'

For example, take Saint-Rémy-les-Chevreuse to Paris or vice versa. This is 23 francs per single ticket or 184 francs for a carnet of ten. You save 46 Francs, almost enough for eight cups of express café.

If you think you'll be using the RER almost daily in any given calendar month, then a 'Carte Orange' for the appropriate zones will be your best bet.

Serious Parano Advice:

Don't try and cheat on the RER, the suburban trains - or the métro, for that matter. When I take the RER somewhat regularly, I get checked regularly.

This means a team of about eight folks go through all the compartments and ask everyone for their valid tickets. They haveresto on montmartre always been very polite and very 'correct' but if you don't have the right ticket: you do get a cash fine on the spot.

There are good places to dine in the 'burbs,' but more of them in Paris.

Once I saw a whole herd of controllers outside the Saint-Rémy-les-Chevreuse station checking everyone and everything - with the CRS civil mutiny police in a van parked in front of the station. I believe they were on the lookout for some kind of 'criminal element' that day, and I was really glad I had my little azur-blue ticket in my hot little hand.

Just because you do not speak French, have a foreign passport, and can pretend to be a clueless soul from Outer Mongolia, don't imagine for a moment you can get away with not having the correct ticket. The controllers know how to deal with cases like this.

Here's another RER tip: Don't put your feet on the seats opposite you. A friend of mine got royally told off for doing this.

The RER can get very crowded at peak times: from 7:30 to 9:00 and from 17:30 to 19:00. If you can, keep moving to the center of the carriage so that when someone liberates a seat, you can plop down and relax. As in any public transportation system in most places in the world, be sensible and keep your handbags and wallets close to you.

On the RER there is space for luggage in racks above the seats. Don't leave your luggage there when you hop off and especially not at Charles-de-Gaulle or Orly airports.

And if you see someone leaving without the bag they stuffed on the rack, call out loudly before they leave the train: "Madame - ou Monsieur: C'est a vous?" and point to the object while shaking your arms wildly. In English, if you have to, loudly shout: "HELLO Sir, Miss, Madam, Ms., is this your bag?"

This is not just courtesy. It is also for security - I keep a good eye open for potential left luggage on the trains and the métro to avoid possible very unpleasant surprises.

Save Money - Possibly

Another idea to consider is getting one of the several combination tickets which have the advantage of giving you one ticket to use everywhere: on the métro, RER, buses, trams, the Montmartre funiculaire, Montmartrobus,ratp carnet ticket Noctambus, suburban SNCF trains, ADATRIF buses and the APTR.

Second-class 'carnet' métro ticket, is also good for the RER, but only within Paris.

Some of these I've never been on. Details about the special tickets can be found in this issue of Metropole in the feature 'Public Transport Tariff Maze Explained'. These tickets can save you money if you intend to travel on public transport a lot. If this is not your intention, stick to the 'carnets.'

As a final note, I have ridden on the Ile-de-France RER for 18 years and have experienced strikes and slow-downs and canceled trains now and again - but I've found the RER to be very reliable and very safe. I'm somewhat scared to take the New York subway, but I'm not afraid for one single minute in Paris.

Linda Thalman©1998
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