Talk about the underground! The RER Paris is a rapid-transit train system that runs beneath the Metro.
The RER Paris is part of the area-wide Paris public transportation system, RATP, that includes the Metro, the buses, the trams that run along the periphery of Paris, and even the Montmartre funicular train.
RER stands for Réseau Express Régional, or Regional Express Network. You can think of the RER as express trains running in central Paris. They run faster than the Metro trains and, because there are far fewer stops, you can get between points in an amazingly short time.
When we lived right at the Charles de Gaulle-Etoille Metro and RER station in the west part of Paris, we could get all the way across town to Vincennes (to visit the zoo) in just 15 minutes!
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There are five RER lines, designated A through E, with many branch lines, such as A1, A2, A3.
Within central Paris you usually don't have to worry about which branch line to take (for instance, A1 or A2 or A3). RER A (and most other RER lines) has only one line running through central Paris, and all the trains run on it. It's only when you are travelling outside of the city limits that you have to pay attention to the branch lines.
In Paris, we use the RER to get from one place to another very quickly, say from the Eiffel Tower to Porte de Clichy in the north.
The RER Paris takes the same tickets as the Metro – within central Paris. That's an important distinction, because if you want to go outside of central Paris, you will need a different ticket. (The same applies to Metro tickets.) For example, if you want to go to La Défense to the west of Paris, you can't just use a simple Metro/RER ticket.
But that's not usually a worry. Everything you want to see as a visitor is in central Paris, in the transportation zones covered by basic Metro/RER tickets, including the Paris Metro Pass that comes with the combined Paris city passes.
Most of the the RER stations are accessed through Metro stations.
For instance, at the Charles de Gaulle-Etoille station you use your Metro/RER ticket to get into the system, but to get to the RER you go down two long escalator flights. The main RER stations include St-Michel, Charles de Gaulle-Etoile, Auber, Les Halles, and all of the train stations.
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