French lesson: Increase Your Vocabulary

French Phrases And Tips For Tourists Taking A Taxi In Paris

I once sat next to a particularly obnoxious American woman on a flight to France who was complaining that the taxi drivers in Paris refused to speak English to her.  That’s right: refused.

The absurdity of this remark really stuck with me.  Yes, many people in Paris speak English, and yes, some Parisians are snobs, but isn’t it much snobbier to show up in a country and not even attempt to speak the language?  To expect that the people of the country you are visiting should, without exception, speak you’re native language?

Don’t be like this woman.  Many professionals in Paris speak English (hospitality workers, especially), but you must remember that you are the visitor, and it is important to make an effort with the language.

Consider that many taxi drivers (as in cities like New York) are not Native to France, so their first concern is to master French.  Those who are native French speakers would not have to know English to get a job as a taxi driver (as would a hotel receptionist or a server at a fancy restaurant).

As a visitor, communication is your responsibility.  Even a small attempt can go a long way.  Here are some useful phrases for booking or catching a taxi:

Phrases & Questions Phrases & Questions
Je voudrais aller à…

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I would like to go to…
Combien ça va me coûter pour aller à…?

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How much is it to get to…?
Vous pouvez m’arrêter ici.

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You can drop me here.
Je peux descendre ici.

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I can get out here.
Je voudrais un taxi pour 6h.

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I would like a taxi for 6:00.
Je voudrais un taxi à…. pour aller à….

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I would like a taxi at…. to go to…
Nous sommes quatre.

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There are four of us.
Nous avons des bagages, ça va nous coûter plus cher?

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We have baggage, will it cost more?

Taxi fares in Paris:

Traveling by taxi within the city center is generally very cheap.  If you are alone and without baggage, it will likely cost you under 10€.  Once you head out of the city center (i.e. towards the airport), the tarifs change a bit.  Night travel can also be more expensive, but if it’s just a matter of getting back across town to your hotel once the métro has stopped running, taxis are always a cheap and viable option.

There are certain unavoidable fees in Paris taxis:

  • If you’re traveling with more than one suitcase or bag, each additional piece of luggage will incur a 1€ frais de bagages (baggage fee).

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  • If there are more than three passengers, an additional 2.75€ per person is added on at the end of your ride.

(I once got in a heated debate with a taxi driver before I knew about either of the above fees, think my visiting family and I had been ripped off.  In the end, I gave in, and I later found out these additions are standard and unavoidable.)

  • 5.20€ is the current minimum charge for any journey
  • There is often a fee (between 2 and 3€) for being picked up at a train station or
  • If you order a taxi by phone, they will start the meter as soon as they start driving towards your location.
  • The taxi tariff system is government-regulated, and all taxis must follow it.  There are, however, three types of tariff (A, B, and C) that apply depending on what time of day or night you are traveling and whether it is a weekend or a holiday.

Useful Tips:

  • In case the language barrier becomes a problem, always write down the address of your destination for your reference, as well as the driver’s.
  • On an available taxi, the Taxi Parisien sign on the top of the vehicle will be lit up.

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  • There are taxi stands throughout the city where you can line up a wait for a cab.  Keep an eye out for them, because if you’re standing close to one but not at one, you will be ignored.
  • Most taxis only take cash, and it’s good to have small bills in case they are short on change.
  • As when getting into a taxi in any city, always be sure you are getting into a legal, marked taxi with a registered driver.  If you are standing in line at a taxi stand, never accept a ride from a driver who approaches you and offers to take you without waiting.
  • The métro is one of the easiest subway systems to use and it’s a very reliable way of getting all over the city (if you want to avoid taxis all together).  It starts every day at 5:30 a.m. and runs until 1:15 a.m. Sunday – Thursday, and until 2:15 a.m. Friday – Saturday.

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