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Navigate the Paris Metro – How to Buy Tickets

Navigate the Paris Metro – How to Buy Tickets

navigate the paris metro and buy tickets

It can be stressful to find your way in an unfamiliar city, but add to it being a foreign city with a language you may not speak, and things can feel overwhelming pretty fast.  Getting from Point A to Point B has been what’s caused hiccups in our own prior travels, as well as a couple arguments I can remember stemming from one person being hangry combined with feeling at a loss of how to get to our destination because we didn’t understand the metro options.  Here we will help you navigate the Paris metro and buy tickets.

Fast forward a few years, and we finally feel we’ve got a good grasp on public transportation, even when we travel to other new cities because Paris has presented us with a great foundation.  We will be continuing a series of navigating Paris to give you our best tips and practices.  We’ll include lessons we’ve learned the hard way in hopes that you won’t make the same mistakes and can worry about one less thing during your trip.

The Paris Metro is one of the best and most efficient in the world.  It has 14 lines serving 303 stations, and that doesn’t include the bus lines, trams, and RER trains! Most of the larger, tourist stations will have people stationed near the ticket kiosks to help answer any questions you may have. Typically they do speak English as well, so don’t be afraid to ask for help if you feel lost.  They also have maps that they can give to you.  There is also generally a ticket window you can purchase your tickets from with a real live person.

Before you can pass through the turn styles and head to your destination, you need to purchase your tickets.  Our first time trying to look at the screen and figure out what we needed was a horrible experience!  And yes, it was one of those times that we had just departed a long train into Paris, needed a restroom break, and we were starving!  We thought we understood the options by reading a sign next to the ticket machine, but we still did not understand it when we started scrolling through the options on the screen in front of us.

If you are staying within the city, you likely only need Zone 1.  The main exceptions outside of Zone 1 are day trips to Disney, Chateau de Versailles,  and the Charles DeGaulle Airport.  You can find a zone map here: http://parisbytrain.com/paris-transportation-zone-map/

We’ve calculated the cost benefits on the different types of daily and monthly passes since we live here.  Unless you are going to be super ambitious, taking the metro (or bus/trams) an average of 5-7 times a day, your best bet is to purchase the book of 10 tickets, called a carnet.  This is the approach we still take on a regular basis for our own transportation needs.  Even on a busy weekend, the most tickets we may need in a day is 4-5 per person.  When you purchase a carnet, you receive a 25% discounted rate.  The individual tickets become 1,49 euro as opposed to 1,90 euro.  You’re already saving money for more wine and croissants!  🙂

I’d start with only one book and gauge how fast you use your tickets.  If you are traveling as a couple you may go through one book quickly, but it’s better to buy as you go than overspend and have too many tickets left at the end of your trip.  You will likely end up walking more than you expect, and you can also hop on a velib (bicycle) as well to help you get around more quickly.  We’ll cover the velibs on another day though!

Step by Step Paris Metro Ticket Purchase

Okay, let’s go through the images below step by step to learn how to purchase your tickets.  The first image below is what the ticket station looks like.  You’ll see stations with the touch screen as shown here, or the ones with the roller option instead of a touch screen.  If you see the purple Navigo circle as seen here, that is for locals to refill their card.  If you only see the purple circle, without the credit card option, or if it says Navigo Rechargement above it, some stations are only for the refills.  I always look for the rollers myself.  (The roller is pictured towards the bottom of this post for reference.)


Select your preferred language first by touching the screen.  If you are using a roller machine, roll to English and then click the round validate button after each selection you wish to make.  (Touchez l’écran = Touch the screen)

paris metro ticket screen

Next, touch (or roll and validate) here to buy tickets.  If you are an adult you’ll select full fare tickets on the next screen.

paris metro ticket selection

Then you select the Ticket t+ option.  (The t+ ticket is good on the metro, buses, and trams.  You may purchase individual tickets on the bus, but they are 2€ and you should try to have exact change.  Tickets purchased on the bus are not good for transfers.)

Next, you either select single journey tickets, or the book of ten tickets (carnet) as we suggested above.

paris metro ticket selections

The next screen is simply to confirm and validate your purchase.  Then you will be guided to insert your bank card or your euros.  At this point, you put your credit card in the slot, and then, very important, start looking at the instructions on the key pad/credit card screen.  It will say Patienz first, then it will ask you to enter your pin if it’s a debit card, and then wait until the screen says Retirez, which is to retrieve your card.  (Not pictured here is the screen that will ask if you would like a receipt – simply select yes or no.)  That’s it!  Your tickets will print out below.  Voila!

paris metro ticket purchase

On the main entry screen above (the fourth image) for T+ tickets, Paris Region etc. you’ll see that they saved you a step for Disney tickets. It’s listed as “Tickets for MLV Chessy Disney.”  You can skip straight to that option if you are headed out to Disney for the day and purchase the amount of tickets you’ll need.  Disney Paris is really a ton of fun!!   (NOTE:  when you depart from an RER line, which you’ll take to Disney, you do need your ticket to exit the station.)

paris metro ticket to disney

We highly recommend visiting Chateau de Versailles if your itinerary permits.  It does take a solid 1/2 to full day to go out there and explore the palace and the gardens.  If you’re going to Versailles, select the option on the T+ screen that says “Tickets for the Paris Region” and begin typing the letters for your destination.  For Versailles, we typically take the train to Versailles-Rive Gauche, and it’s a short walk to the chateau from there.  If you purchase a skip the line tour through Guidatours, their office and meeting point is directly across from the Versailles-Rive Gauche-Chateau station.  Several of our friends have used their tours and we’re very pleased with their service.

paris metro ticket to versailles

The below image shows the roller bar you’ll find on some of the machines in lieu of the touch screen functionality.  The sign to the right is a sample directory sign once inside a metro station.  This is for the 9 line.  If my stop is Trocadero for the Eiffel Tower, I would head towards Montreuil (named this because is is the final stop on this line) and depart at Trocadero.  The M6 that icon beside Trocadero simply means that the metro 6 line is also accessible from that station.  The same goes for RER AB and M3 at Havre-Caumartin station — the RER lines A and B, and the metro line 3 are all accessible at that station.

paris metro navigation

Below is the main map of the Metro, RER, and Trams within Paris courtesy of the RATP site. https://www.ratp.fr/plans

paris metro map

Paris Metro Tips

A few final tips about the metro.

Traffic is heaviest during rush hour.  It can be uncomfortably crowded if you aren’t used to being in that environment, or especially if its summertime and hot!  The rush hour here differs from the United States.  I’d say it’s busiest from about 8AM to 9:30AM and 5:30-7:30PM.

The metro runs from 5:30AM to about 1:15AM daily.  There are Noctilien buses that operate during the late night/early morning hours.  View the Noctilien, RER, and tram maps here:  https://www.ratp.fr/en/visite-paris/english/help-you-get-your-bearings-several-maps-are-your-disposal

Always hold onto your metro ticket until you have completed your journey and exited the station. Occasionally the RATP workers will be present to check and scan tickets for validity.  If you have already tossed your ticket you could be fined.  As mentioned above, if you take an RER train, it will be required to put your ticket into the turn style again to exit.  This ensures that you had purchased the correct ticket.  If your ticket doesn’t allow you to pass through, you likely went beyond your zones. The first time we went to Disney this happened to us, which is how we realized we needed a different ticket option.

We have lived in Paris for awhile now, and luckily we have not been the victim of a pick pocket, but it does happen, and we have had it happen to people we know.  The most important advice is to be especially diligent when you are in crowded situations.  Keep your wallets or phones in an interior pocket or in between yourself and your significant other.  Do not leave backpack zippers turned out towards strangers.  Take your bag off and put it in front of you in a crowded metro car.  Keep an alert eye and you should be fine.  Recently some young girls boarded the metro, and shortly after we heard an announcement on the overhead speaker.  We were being warned about the possibility of theft. How the perpetrators are so obvious and still get away with it is a bit of a mystery, but if you’re not paying attention you’re an easy target.

The more popular metro stations have an extra set of doors at the point of entry onto each metro car. When you hear the loud horn sound, it means they are closing.  The double set of doors hurt more if you get caught in the doors in an attempt to run on board last minute, ask Doug, he knows from experience.  Ouch!  Make sure you have enough time to make it through the doors, or simply wait 3-5 more minutes for the next metro train.

We hope these tips will help make your experience run more smoothly while you’re visiting us in Paris. We believe this is a very important topic; stay tuned!  We will be adding more helpful information on travel logistics in the upcoming months.  Please leave us any comments or feedback below.  Bon Voyage!

Also, if you’re looking for things to do within Paris and France, and ready to use your new skills to navigate around, check out this article we think you’ll find inspiring. https://www.your-rv-lifestyle.com/things-to-do-in-france.html 

(Finally, Below is a listing of the different prices for the other travel pass options for your review.)

paris metro ticket options

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Intimate Paris Elopement

I adore the notion of hopping on a plane with the love of your life and flying half way around the world to the City of Love to profess your undying love to your significant other in front of the Eiffel Tower. Doesn’t it sound like the making of a dreamy, romantic chick flick?  For Katie and Phanath this was not a movie, but real life just a few short weeks ago when they arrived for their intimate Paris elopement.

We were honored to document their intimate Paris wedding on an early summer morning at Trocadero.  The Paris Officiant, Laura Montario, presided over their ceremony.  Her beautiful accent adds the perfect touch of French allure to make it completely authentic!  With the exception of Laura, Doug and myself, they pretty much had Paris to themselves for the morning.

After their vows were complete and the rings exchanged, Laura stepped to the side as she pronounced the pair husband and wife.  Without any guidance, Phanath literally swept his bride off her feet as he left her feet dangling as he scooped her into his arms for a big celebratory bear hug and kiss!  The cutest!!

Enjoy some of their images below.  If you are looking to renew your vows, or do a post-wedding session in Paris, we can help!

paris elopement officiant paris elopement at eiffel towerparis elopement at eiffel tower with officiantparis elopement at eiffel tower 03paris elopement at eiffel tower 04paris wedding at eiffel tower paris wedding at eiffel tower 02paris wedding at eiffel tower 03paris wedding at eiffel tower 04paris wedding at trocadero near eiffel tower

Paris Museums – Musée Rodin

From my own knowledge of Paris I would venture to say that most people think of the Louvre and Musée D’Orsay first on their list of museums to visit.  I don’t disagree with tourists wanting to visit these two, but if you are looking for a smaller scale, yet wonderful museum experience, I’d certainly add Musée Rodin to your list.

I recall visiting this museum as a child, but the only reason I remember it was because my parents purchased a souvenir sculpture of The Thinker that sat on our entertainment center for years.  It was nice to go back and appreciate the museum as an adult.  The museum is largely dedicated to the works of French sculptor Auguste Rodin.  When you see the vast number of sculptures he produced during his lifetime you can assume he did not have much idle time!  He’s largely famous for The Thinker, The Kiss, and The Gates of Hell.

The Gates of Hell are located outside the museum in the gardens to the left of the house.  It’s a very intricate sculpture that takes a few minutes (or more) to best be appreciated.  It’s also a bit creepy too, so I found myself wandering taking more photos while our friends studied it longer.

Admission to the museum is extremely reasonable.  It’s approximately 11€ per person.  They do offer a separate ticket for the gardens only as well.  And they also have a dual museum pass that allows you to go to Musée D’Orsay on another day if that is on your itinerary as well.  The entrance building where you buy tickets is air conditioned.  The exhibits rotate out in that area from time to time.  The house however, is not air conditioned.  We were there on a pretty warm day, so be prepared for it to be stuffy if you visit on a hot day.

Once you’ve wrapped up with your tour of the house, the gardens are pretty expansive offering more larger than life sized sculptures.  There’s also an area with food in the back garden if you need to break for lunch or rest your feet.

I still need to visit some of the other smaller museums in Paris, but currently, this one ranks pretty high.  Below is a brief glimpse into some of my favorite parts.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but the sculpture of the hands is called The Cathedral.  This one in particular moved me and was my favorite of the day.  Enjoy!

paris museums france 01paris museums musee rodin paris france 02musee rodin paris france 04paris museums musee rodin paris france 05musee rodin the thinker paris france 06

Jardin du Luxembourg – A Perfect Day

Paris has so many beautiful green spaces to choose from within the city with Jardin du Luxembourg being one of the most infamous ones.  It is situated between St. Germain de Prés and the Latin Quarter.  You can find many  locals and families hanging out here.  Jardin du Luxembourg is quite large with many areas to explore.

We recently visited and we were overwhelmed by everything it had to offer.  We’ve only posted a sneak peek here of some of our favorite images from that day, but honestly, we want to go back and take even more photos to share.  We were immediately welcomed by a classical concert in the grandstand when we first entered the garden.  We had made a pit stop at De Clercq, the King of Frites, up the hill by the Pantheon and brought the food to the park with us.  We found a bench near the music and enjoyed the amazing frites from De Clercq.  Then we wandered over to an area that would allow us to sit on the banister and enjoy the main fountain.  The live music was still lingering and creating a relaxing yet energetic atmosphere.

When the music ended we ventured off in search of the Medici Fountain.  It was lovely and calming.  I could certainly picture pulling up a chair and reading a book in that area. From that area we went closer to the fountain and watched the kids playing with the wooden sail boats in the fountain.  And after that was when I think we slowed down on photos and simply took in all the other pockets of the park.

There were a couple of food stands, an incredible playground for kids, a puppet theatre, horses, pétanque games in progress, chess games, card games, tennis, basketball, birthday parties in a side garden.  I’m sure I’m forgetting something!  Which means we’ll have to go back and enjoy it again.  For now, I hope you enjoy the sneak peek.  I do love the first image below.  The statue is representing an actor, but when we first saw it at a glance, it looked like he was taking a selfie of himself.  🙂  I also adore the photo of the couple relaxing and holding hands.  We should all make it a point to take time out for the simple moments.

luxembourg garden paris pantheon


luxembourg garden medici fountain

jardin du luxembourg garden fountain

jardin du luxembourg garden sweet couple relaxing

jardin du luxembourg garden overview

Caitlin Edwards - Luxembourg Gardens are my favourite sight to see in beautiful Paris. Everyone is always so happy to be out in the sunshine amongst the grandeur of the gardens. Definitely one of my happy places on this Earth!


Chelsea & Bryan’s Eiffel Tower Mini Portrait Session

Chelsea & Bryan were one of the first mini-sessions we photographed this past summer as Stacy was showing us how to capture things in the L’amour de Paris way. They were the sweetest, most down to earth couple and we think their Paris portraits at the Eiffel Tower really show their sweet personalities! If you’re planning a trip to Paris, don’t forget to contact us to schedule your portrait session!

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