Small, easy to lose, and oh so Parisian, it’s hard to imagine using the Paris metro system without those fiddly pieces of paper that are so synonymous with the public transport; i.e. the Paris metro tickets. However, with the introduction of a new ‘Passe Navigo easy’ pass (which essentially performs the same function but won’t become demagnetised in your pocket), the small billets will soon be phased out of use. Here’s a brief compendium on the history of the Paris metro ticket!
With this being said, you may well still be using cardboard Parisian metro tickets during your next France visit considering that the paper tickets won’t be completely phased out until the end of 2021. Until some time around mid-2020, it will also still be possible to purchase a carnet, i.e. a pack of ten metro tickets which offer a reduced price per ticket as opposed to buying each ticket individually.
Truth be told, over 500 million single-use tickets are used each year, meaning that the new card will certainly have a positive impact on the environment! On sale as of the 12th of June 2019, visitors to Paris will be able to load both single-use tickets, as well as carnets onto the Passe Navigo easy. More information and prices for the pass can be found on the RATP website. However, what you essentially need to know is that the pass is valid for ten years and costs €2 to purchase!
What are the Paris metro tickets?
If you’ve ever ridden on public transportation in Paris (that is to say, bus, metro, train, or tram) then you’ve likely had to purchase the small white rectangular slip of paper that allows you to check into the barriers. Up until now, only residents of the city with a Parisian address have been allowed to have Navigo passes, which can be topped up on a weekly or monthly basis.
Though there is only one type of transport ticket (the Paris metro ticket can be used for buses, trams, the métro, and the RER within zone 1), you can save a little money by purchasing the money-saver ‘Carnet,’ which can be purchased from vending machines and is essentially a set of ten single-use metro tickets in one go.
Rather than a single ticket costing €1,90 for a journey, it makes sense to purchase the carnet if you know you’ll be taking plenty of trips while in the French capital; which is easy to do if you’re looking to see multiple Parisian arrondissements! After all, a carnet of ten tickets costs €14,90, making each journey just €1,49.
Tips & things to know before purchasing Metro Tickets
Metro scams: With the exception of these Paris scams, one of the biggest scams tourists can expect to deal with in the French capital is people trying to ‘help’ them purchase their metro tickets at the machines in ticket stations (especially that of Gare du Nord).
These people are generally not trying to help you but will actually swindle you out of money by purchasing you a single-use children’s ticket as opposed to a proper carnet. As such, I would recommend only buying tickets from the machines themselves, or by asking behind an official counter!
Using the ticket machine: Metro ticket machines can be operated in several languages, including English, and are fairly easy to use. Tickets can be bought using cash (only certain machines accept bank notes, all accept coins over a certain denomination) or by using a card. If you’re using a card, then you’ll need to have a chip and pin enabled. In Europe, pin numbers are four characters long.
Using the metro tickets: A single metro ticket is valid for an entire journey, no matter how many changes you make, so long as you don’t exit the barrier. Be sure to keep your metro ticket until you exit the metro barriers as ticket inspectors operate throughout the entirety of the system and can check your ticket at any given point.
It’s easy to lose your paper ticket or throw it away so keep it in a safe place! Fines can be €30+ if you have an invalid metro ticket on you, and €50 if you have no metro tickets on you, so be sure to keep that little rectangle somewhere where you’ll easily find it again!
As of June 12 2019, you’ll want to forgo the paper metro tickets and instead opt for the Passe Navigo easy. At the moment, these passes can be purchased at official ticket machines and from counters in Parisian metro stations. From the end of 2019, it will also be possible to purchase the Navigo easy from official vendors across the city.
Paris metro safety: You should also know (and I don’t say this to scare you!) that pickpocketing is rife on Parisian transport, particularly in the metro. I have plenty of friends who have had their phones snatched straight out of their hands and so keep an eye on your valuables at all times and only use zip bags.
The Paris Pass and public transport: If you’re looking to visit plenty of Paris attractions during your visit, you might consider purchasing the Paris City Pass, which includes public transportation for the duration of the validity of the card. Though a little on the pricey side, to see if it’s worth it, I recommend adding up the value of the attractions you’re going to visit and see if you save money! Check prices and availability here.
A brief history of Metro tickets in Paris
First introduced at the opening of the Parisian metro in 1900 (so well over a century ago), metro tickets have been at the heart of the French transportation experience. In 1919, the tickets would have been brown paper and would have cost just 15 cents (in francs, the currency France used before the euro) for a single second class ride (there was a first-class carriage until the early 1990s).
Soon enough, the simple paper was replaced by cardboard, with a size of 57 mm x 30 mm and price increases occurred every few years. Though the metro tickets have always been a small rectangular shape, they’ve changed colours plenty of times throughout the years. White since 2007, the tickets have also been mauve, red, yellow, orange, and green.
In time, the metro system has expanded as fast as the city itself, with ongoing works such as the line 14 extension. Before the time of social media and modern-day advertising, the Paris metro tickets would have been used for adverts! The paperbacks would have displayed everything from clothing to alcoholic beverages. Want to explore more history of the Paris Métro? Here’s a guide to the most unusual and beautiful Parisian metro stations.