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PARIS

Tourists and locals: Paris Metro tickets, passes and apps explained

Whether you're a full-time resident of Paris or a one-off visitor, there is a ticket option for you among the various passes, apps, cards, carnets and tickets for the city's public transport system - although finding the right one can be a challenge.

Tourists and locals: Paris Metro tickets, passes and apps explained
Travel passes, apps or paper tickets - here's out guide to the Paris public transport ticketing system. Photo by Philippe LOPEZ / AFP

You might have seen headlines about Paris phasing out paper Metro tickets, but in fact the public transport system has for some time had extra options of cards, travel passes and apps.

Whether you’re a regular Metro passenger, an occasional user of city public transport or a tourist here for a short visit, there is an option for you.

Overview

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 and the e-scooters are 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. 

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 €1.90 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 €10.30.  

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. 

Carnet 

The carnet (pronounced car-nay) is a way of buying 10 single tickets at the same time for €14.90 – working out at the cheaper price of €1.49 per ticket.

The cardboard versions of these are gradually being phased out, 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 €75.20 and for that you get unlimited travel within Paris and the greater Paris region. It’s also possible to buy slightly cheaper passes (€65-€68) 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 are 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 past 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 €70 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 €1.49 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.

Apps

There are also several apps that enable you to use your smartphone to buy virtual passes or tickets.

Instead of having to remember to have your Navigo card with you, 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).

Fare-dodging

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 barrier 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.

Bikes/scooters

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.  

Walk 

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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TRAVEL NEWS

What to expect if you’re travelling to France in December

From Covid rules to strikes, snow to festivals here's what you can expect if you are travelling to France in December or January.

What to expect if you're travelling to France in December

Covid rules

Travel over the previous two Christmases was heavily restricted because of Covid, but this year things are very different.

There are currently no travel restrictions in place, no requirement to show proof of a Covid vaccination to enter France and the vaccine pass is no longer in use.

Regarding masks, these are only compulsory in certain healthcare settings and are no longer required in other public places. However, the country is experiencing a surge in cases and the Prime Minister has called on people to wear masks on public transport, especially at peak times.

Paxlovid, tests and isolation: essential Covid information for tourists in France

Strikes

If you’re planning to use public transport you might need to keep an eye on strike announcements as several sectors have threatened strike action over the Christmas and New Year period.

On the railways, conductors and ticket collectors have filed a provisional strike notice that covers the weekends of December 23rd-26th and December 30th to January 2nd, while cabin crew at both Easyjet and Air France have also filed provisional strike notices for the Christmas period. Whether these strikes go ahead depends on the result of ongoing pay negotiations.

Meanwhile if you are intending to travel by Eurostar, security staff in the UK have called a strike on December 16th, 18th, 22nd and 23rd. Eurostar says it will notify passengers nearer the time if any services are cancelled or delayed on those days.

READ ALSO Should you travel to France if there is a strike on?

You can keep up to date with the latest at our strike section HERE

Weather

The long-term forecast for France, and indeed the rest of Europe, is a winter of above-average temperatures. However forecasters say there will be a “cold blast” and that will be concentrated in December, so expect chilly temperatures and flurries of snow, especially on higher ground.

If you’re planning to ski then snow will be exactly what you want – many of France’s Alps ski resorts saw delayed opening dates because of a lack of snow but as of the start of December the higher resorts – like Tignes, Val d’Isère and Courchevel – were open.

Power cuts 

Countries across Europe are grappling with power issues this winter due to the shortage of Russian gas, and France is no exception.

Local authorities have been asked to put in place emergency plans in case scheduled power cuts are required – here are the details – although the government insists this eventuality is unlikely.

Trains, hospitals and schools: How will handle possible blackouts this winter

There is a website and app called Ecowatt which gives the latest information on whether power cuts are likely, and which areas will be affected. Here’s how it works

Holidays

France has only two public holidays over the festive period – December 25th and January 1st. This year, both of these fall on a Sunday, meaning no extra day off for workers. Most shops will be closed on those days although on December 25th many boulangeries and patisseries will open in the morning only, along with some florists.

Other than that, you can expect most shops, restaurants and cafés to be open as normal over the holiday period, although offices are often closed for longer. French schools are closed between December 17th and January 3rd.

Traffic 

You can expect traffic to be heavy on certain days as French people travel to spend time with their families. The traffic forecasting site Bison futé predicts that traffic will be heavy on Thursday, December 22nd and very heavy on Friday, December 23rd, especially in the greater Paris Île-de-France region. 

The roads are also expected to be busy on Sunday, January 1st and Monday January 2nd. 

Festivals and events

You can also expect lots of fun festivals and events at this time of year, especially Christmas markets and light festivals.

Here’s our pick of some of the best Christmas markets and festive events

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