From my few years of living in France, especially in the Paris region, I have learned to always have a backup way to get around. In fact, after moving here, it is a good idea to know all your options to get around for when there is a strike, or a train you are on is canceled three towns away from your home and you have a stroller with you (sigh). At this moment, France is experiencing a gas/petrol shortage from a refinery worker’s strike. In the winter, we will undoubtedly have at least one train strike. In all these cases, we have listed different apps below to help you find alternative routes or solutions. The following resources also take into account transportation options for families with little kids and babies around Paris.
First off, there are some French words you should know related to transportation. You will see them on the covers of newspapers, posted signs, and muttered by the people in line at the boulangerie.
Annuler/ Annulé - To cancel/ canceled
L’essence - The gas/ petrol
Fermer/ Fermé/ Fermetures - To close/ closed/ closures
La grève - The strike
Perturber/ Perturbé - To disrupt/ disrupted
RATP - (Régie autonome des transports parisiens) The state -owned group that runs public transport in and around Paris.
SNCF - (Société nationale des chemins de fer français), the name of the state-owned train company in France. Tip: when traveling between cities, it is important to book in advance.
TGV - France’s high speed train! It is so cool but again, book in advance. Train tickets in France are like airplane tickets in that prices increase over holidays, and the closer you are to the date of travel.
Les travaux - Construction work
La trottinette - The E-scooter, or a kid’s scooter
Le vélo - The bike
General Transportation Apps
Citymapper - Citymapper is the most important app I would say to download when moving to Paris (it has other cities as well). It is mainly used for its information on public transportation. You enter a destination and can filter your route, from type of transport to accessibility which is important in the stroller years. (If you have a stroller or need step-free access, you can search for those routes too.)
I really love it for the information about buses too - not only will it give arrival times of buses but you can also click into the number of the bus route to see all stops. And, crucially, it is accurate on the timing of buses.
Google Maps - Google has improved Google Maps a lot so it has many similar features now to Citymapper. I use it primarily for driving directions, especially right now during the gas crunch because it shows driving routes that use the least amount of gas, and traffic around gas stations which show there is indeed gas at the station. Google Maps also has a lot of options for other means of transportation and sometimes I cross check it with Citymapper.
Tip: When it comes to transport strikes, it is important to know a few things. The union and/or workers will announce their strike in advance. Also, say if it is a train strike for example, there might be a partial schedule or a certain line that is not running. In the Île de France there are trams, the RER commuter trains, and of course the metro in Paris. These do not all go on strike at the same time. If the RER is down, people use the trams. If the metro is down, people use the automated metro lines, buses and bikes etc. So there is a lot of quick thinking and adaptability needed on the part of locals and somehow, life goes on.
(all the following websites have an English version)
Vélib Metropole - Paris’ first bike share, now with 20,000 bikes in and around Paris with 40% of the fleet comprised of electric bikes.
Véligo - long term bike rentals for the Île de France region, including bikes with child seats, and three wheel cargo bikes. Helmets and other equipment are also rentable.
Tier - another bike and e-scooter rental company, in the Île de France . They have no docking stations and are located in designated areas on sidewalks.
Carsharing in Paris
Certified Car Sharing Companies - This website from the Île de France Mobilités shows certified car sharing operators (some are electric cars), click into each for more information and apps.
Taxis in Paris
G7 - The app for taxis, there is a family option for renting a car seat or booster seat, and larger vehicles are an option for more passengers and luggage. You can book in advance and pay through the app. A good choice for getting to a Paris airport with a baby.
Uber - The ubiquitous ride share app is in Paris, not uncontroversially, and is not necessarily a cheaper option here, but good to have in case of emergencies.
Babycabs - Need a ride to the airport but have young kids and no car? Enter Babycabs, they are expert drivers for families in Paris. No app here, but really good to know just the same! There is a contact form to fill out with trip details and receive a quote.
Independent drivers - ask for recommendations on our forum, sometimes people have drivers they call directly for trips
Train Apps in France (both have English versions)
RATP App - The app for RATP which controls the public transport around Paris: Metro, RER, Transilien and buses. You can plan your trip (and see where there are closures or disruptions) and get notifications about changes. If you have to go far, always check your line before you go to make sure there’s no work being done!
SNCF App - Buy, cancel and view information on train tickets, including the TGV high speed train
Tip: You can also check Twitter for a particular line to see what people are saying about it, in the case of strikes or track work closures.
Gas Apps in France
Gaspal - Want to see the price of gas near you, or along the route of your road trip? Gaspal is a free app that allows you to see gas prices by searching by geographic area and type of fuel. Information includes the last time the price was updated. In the case of the refinery workers’ strike, it helps to refresh the app and see if any stations update their prices. If they do, you know they have a stock of fuel. Now bring a snack for the queue, or go in the middle of the night.
There is another website that has information about gas supplies, https://penurie.mon-essence.fr/, however it isn’t as updated as Gaspal and doesn’t have price information. It does show a rather overwhelming map view of how many stations are en rupture total (completely out of stock) though.
When it comes to surviving a French transportation strike, flexibility and resources are the best things to have. Hopefully these apps can help you find your way around and keep your family’s schedule as normal as it can be.
Are there any apps we should add? What are your tips for navigating transport strikes?