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L'OpenTour and Les Car Rouges
If you're in Paris for only a short time, or if your body won't withstand hours of walking every day, a traditional escorted bus tour is a great convenience. (Our advertising partner, Viator, offers a variety of tours and excursions in Paris and the surrounding area. Prices are in euros, British pounds, U.S. dollars, or Australian dollars.)

Independent travelers often turn up their noses at guided tours, preferring to travel on foot, by M?ro or RER trains, or on city buses.

Nowadays, a third option offers a compromise between convenience and independence: the "hop on, hop off" sightseeing bus.

Double-decker buses of L'OpenTour and Les Cars Rouges follow set routes with stops at leading museums and tourist attractions. For a fixed price, you can step off a bus, explore an attraction or neighborhood at your leisure, and catch another bus when you're ready to move on. As a bonus, you can put on headphones and listen to a running commentary between stops.

The green-and-yellow buses of L'OpenTour cover four sightseeing routes: "Paris Grand Tour," "Bastille-Bercy," "Montmartre-Grands Boulevards," and "Montparnasse-Saint Germain." A single pass gives you access to all four routes. In 2005, a one-day adult pass will cost you €24, and a two-day pass is only three euros more at €27. Children from 4 to 11 pay €12 for one or two days of travel. (You can book ahead through Viator if you wish, but it's just as easy to buy a pass on the bus or at one of L'OpenTour's sales outlets in Paris.)

The red-and-white buses of Les Cars Rouges cover only one route, which stops at nine locations in the city center. 2005 prices are €22 for a two-day adult pass and €11 for children between 4 and 12. You can buy your pass on the bus.

Language note: L'OpenTour's commentaries are in French and English; Les Cars Rouges has narrations in eight languages: French, English, Spanish, German, Italian, Japanese Russian and Chinese.

If you prefer water to asphalt: Try the Batobus, which extends the "hop on, hop off" concept to the Seine.

Batobus water bus
Navette Batobus operates five trimaran sightseeing boats, with eight stops along a circular route that covers both the left and right banks of the Seine:

Left Bank: Tour Eiffel, Musee d'Orsay, Saint-Germain-des-Pres, Notre-Dame, Jardin des Plantes.

Right Bank: Hotel de Ville, Louvre, Champs-Elysees.

From these stops, you can easily reach the leading sights in central Paris. You can hop on and off the boats as often as you like.

In 2005, adult fares range from €11 (one-day pass) to €16 (five days), with children's rates of €5 to €7. Substantial discounts are available to holders of student, RATP, or SNCF cards. If you decide to settle in for a long stay, you can buy an annual pass.

Where to buy passes: At any Batobus stop, at the Paris Tourist Office, and at several other locations that are listed on the Batobus Web site.

When the boats run: Every 15 to 30 minutes year-round, except for a one-month winter break in January. (Boats run during the daytime only in the off-season but operate until 10 p.m. from late April until the end of September.)

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