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Paris Olympics Guide: How Metro tickets, passes and apps work

The Local France
The Local France - [email protected]
Paris Olympics Guide: How Metro tickets, passes and apps work
Travel passes, apps or paper tickets - here's out guide to the Paris public transport ticketing system. Photo by Philippe LOPEZ / AFP

There are various different types of tickets, passes, apps, cards, carnets for Paris' public transport system - here's how they work and the best options for visitors.


Whether you're a regular Metro passenger, an occasional user of city public transport or a tourist here for a short visit - including during the Olympics - there is an option for you.


The Paris public transport system is an integrated one, so tickets and passes cover either the Metro, bus, tram or suburban RER trains. The city's Velib' bike hire scheme is not covered by travel passes, but some of the city apps provide options for hiring them too.

You need to pay attention to the zones, because once you are outside the city boundaries - including trips to Paris' two airports or the Stade de France - your journey won't be covered by the standard city single ticket or day pass and if the ticket inspectors catch you they will fine you for travelling without a ticket and arguing, crying or pretending that you don't speak French will not save you (believe us, we've tried).


Likewise if you're using a Navigo pass or app you need validate it for each journey - at Metro stations this is done at the entrance to the station but if you're on the bus or tram you need to swipe your card on the reader once on board to validate it, travelling without a validated ticket will see you fined if there is an inspection. 

It's also worth pointing out that Paris is an extremely compact capital and many of the big attractions are within walking distance of each other.

For example the Games venues of Champ de Mars and Les Invalides are about a 20-minute walk apart, while Place de la Concorde is a little further away - roughly a 30-minute walk from the Eiffel Tower/ Champ de Mars area. 

When checking out a route it's always worth looking up how far you're actually going and whether it might even be quicker to walk.

With that in mind, let's look at some ticket options; 

Cardboard tickets

Although there are reports of these being phased out, at present this only affects the carnet - the book of 10 tickets which works out cheaper than buying 10 single tickets.

Single cardboard tickets can still be bought from machines, ticket kiosks and some shops, and they cost €2.15 for a journey within Paris.

Tickets that get you into the greater Paris region cost more, while a ticket between central Paris and Charles de Gaulle airport sets you back a whopping €11.80.  

Be careful how you store your cardboard tickets, they have a tendency to 'demagnetise' if you keep them next to coins or cards and always make sure you hang onto your validated card for the duration of your trip - if you cannot produce it during a ticket inspection you're likely to get fined. 


The carnet (pronounced car-nay) is a way of buying 10 single tickets at the same time for €17.35 - working out at the cheaper price of €1.73 per ticket.

The cardboard versions of these have now been scrapped, but you can still buy a 'virtual carnet' via various apps (see below).

Navigo pass

The pass that most people know about is the monthly Navigo pass - you pay a flat rate of €84.10 and for that you get unlimited travel within Paris and the greater Paris region. It's also possible to buy slightly cheaper passes (€72-€76) that limit you to certain zones or weekly passes.

Before you buy one, it's worth working out how often you actually use public transport to see if it's worth the cost - if you don't use public transport every day it may be cheaper to buy a different type of card or pass, or just buy single tickets or carnets as you need them.

Also, keep in mind that if the Navigo pass requires a picture, you can take one inside the photo booths inside Metro stations and paste it onto the pass. This helps to identify that the card is yours, so remember to add this if the card you are buying calls for it.

If you are an employee who uses public transport to get to work, your employer should pay at least half of the cost of the monthly Navigo pass.

Other Navigo passes

Recently the city has introduced several 'pay as you go' type passes which are aimed at more occasional transport users. They were introduced to encourage cycling and other green transport by giving you the option to pay less and use public transport less often (only when it's raining for example) but they're ideal for people who want to have a pass but don't use public transport enough to make it worth paying €80 a month for the Navigo pass.


Navigo Easy is a plastic card that you pay €2 for, and can then top up with single tickets, carnets or day passes. You can also use it to buy the reduced price single tickets that the city puts on sale during peak pollution periods.

Navigo Liberté is another plastic card that is basically a virtual 'carnet' - you load it up with books of 10 tickets at the reduced price of €1.69 per ticket and use them as and when you need them.

These two cards do not qualify you for a subsidy from your employer.

Discount cards - there are also discount cards available for students, children and pensioners although will need to live in the greater Paris region to benefit from these.


There are also several apps that enable you to use your smartphone to buy virtual passes or tickets. The benefit to these is that you can buy tickets in advance and therefore don't have to queue at the ticket machines.

Once you have installed the app, the phone itself acts as the ticket and you simply buy a ticket or pass and then swipe your phone over the Navigo card-reader at the entrance of the Metro stations, or validate it on the bus or tram. Via a clever little system called NFC this will work even if your phone is turned off or has run out of battery. 

Ile de France Mobilities and Bonjour RATP are the most commonly-used apps. They're created by the RATP network and sell tickets at the official prices.


Both allow you to buy tickets, carnets or passes while Bonjour RATP also has options for e-scooters and to hail a taxi (although this app doesn't work on all types of iPhone).

Former president Jacques Chirac demonstrating his Metro barrier vaulting technique in 1980, while opening a new station. Photo by JEAN-CLAUDE DELMAS / AFP


Unlike some other big cities, including London, Paris does not have a contactless payment system so there's no point trying to tap your bank card on the reader.


You will notice that fare-dodging is pretty endemic and plenty of people (the young and physically fit, that is) just casually vault over the barriers or squash through the turnstile with you.

This is an art best left to the locals - there are fairly regular ticket inspections on the network and you will be fined by the notoriously merciless transport police if caught without a valid ticket. Plus, obviously, if everyone dodged the fare there would be no money to keep the transport network going.


Not part of the RATP public transport network, but Paris also has options to hire bikes or e-scooters for short periods.

The bike hire network is called Velib, while the officially licensed scooter companies are Tier, Dott and Lime - each has its own app.

The city has quite strict rules for cyclists and scooter users including speed limits, a ban on riding on the pavements and a ban on having more than one person on a scooter. Are they well enforced? We'll let you make your own judgement on that, but each of these offences can net you a fine if police see you.  



And finally, there's always the simple option of walking. Paris is a remarkably compact capital and you can walk the entire way across the city in two hours, while most of the major tourist sites are clustered close together.

If you're using a mapping app like CityMapper or Google maps it's always worth checking the walking times as well as the public transport times - it's not at all uncommon for a journey of five stops on the Metro to be only about a 15 minute walk.

Walking also has the obvious advantage of letting you drink in the many fascinating and beautiful sites of Paris.  


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