How to use taxicabs in Paris, France
a confession: We haven't ridden a Parisian taxi in decades--not merely out of
thrift, but because we'd rather walk or take the Métro, and traveling light with
wheeled luggage makes cabs unnecessary most of the time. Just as important,
using taxis can be frustrating (not to mention environmentally insensitive) in a
city like Paris where traffic is often congested.
ABOVE: A vacant taxi parisien in traffic.
Still, taxis do run 24 hours a day, unlike most forms of public
transportation in Paris. And when you need a taxi, it's nice to know how the system works.
Here, then, is a basic introduction to les taxis parisiens:
Paris and its suburbs have nearly 16,000 licensed taxis. Usually you
won't have a problem finding a cab, as long as it isn't lunchtime,
dinnertime, or rush hour on a rainy day. If you do require transportation at such
times, don't want until the last minute to get a cab.
You can hire a taxi at any of the nearly 500 official cab stands or taxi
ranks, by waving down a taxi from the curb, or by telephoning a cab stand or radio
dispatcher. (Warning: If you call for a taxi, the meter will start when the
driver heads for your pickup location--not after you get in the cab.)
Fares aren't cheap, but they aren't too bad with within the city. For
example, a taxi from the Gare du Nord to the
Marais might cost about €9, plus a 10-percent tip. Longer trips can be
expensive: The fare from Charles de De Gaulle Airport to a hotel in central
Paris could reach €40 to €50 plus tip, depending on traffic, the hotel's
location, and whether you're traveling in the daytime or evening. (You'll be
charged extra for luggage, baby strollers, and other bulky items, although
wheehclairs are free.)
Be prepared to pay in cash, since drivers aren't required to
accept credit or debit cards. (If the driver does take cards, the cab will
have a sign in the back side window.)
It's illegal for taxis to pick up passengers in the street within 50
meters of a taxi stand. If you're near a taxi stand, walk to the stand and take the first cab in line.
Hire only licensed taxis--and if you're ripped off by an unlicensed
cabbie, don't expect sympathy from the police.
Finally, here's how to know whether a taxi is vacant or
the new Paris taxi signs (introduced in 2011), a taxi's white roof
sign is illuminated with green LEDs when the cab is vacant, and with
red-amber LEDs if
the cab is occupied or on its way to pick up a customer.
the old Paris taxi signs (which are to be phased out by July, 2012), a taxi's white roof sign is lit up when the cab is
free and turned off when the cab is unavailable.
The three small lights below the rooftop taxi sign are "fare
lights" that show police which zone fare is being charged.
For more information on using taxis in Paris (including a list
of taxi stands, a fare calculator, and other third-party resources), see the
annotated Web links on the next page.
Top, 1st inset, 3rd inset photos copyright © Paris
Photographer: Jacques Lebar.
4th inset photo copyright © Alexander Rybakov.