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How to Buy Paris Metro Tickets (With Photos!)

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So you’re trying to figure out how to buy Paris Metro tickets? Here’s everything you need to know, based on my own experience!

*Disclosure: If you decide to make a purchase after clicking any affiliate links that may be included below, I may earn a commission (at no extra cost to you).

First, familiarize yourself with these two things:


Be very aware which zones you are traveling to. Most of the popular landmarks in Paris are in zones 1 and 2 (Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre, Notre Dame, etc.). I rarely left zone 2.

If you travel beyond the zone number your ticket allows, you could be fined. All Navigo passes cover Zones 1-5.

Pay close attention to which zones you’re buying for your tickets. See the Paris zones map from RATP to figure this out.

The Different Forms of Public Transportation in Paris

There are five different public transit options in Paris, and all tickets/passes will include more than just the Metro.

Metro – The subway, hence it’s underground. This takes you all throughout the city of Paris and is what most people refer to when they’re talking about public transportation in Paris.

Metro station in Paris
A Metro station in Paris. It’s underground.

RER – High-speed train. Many Metro stations connect to RER stations, so don’t get them confused. The RER travels mostly above ground and is mostly used for travel between Paris and the suburbs, but you can also use it to get around the city center.

I used the Metro most of the time, and the RER was my second most-used form of public transportation in Paris. Compared to the Metro, the RER looks more like your traditional train.

IMPORTANT: On the RER, you must put your ticket/pass into the turnstile to enter AND to exit, so hold onto your ticket/pass throughout the entire trip. 

RER station Paris
A RER station in Paris. Notice it’s above ground.

SNCF – Trains that travel between Paris and its suburbs. This is the type of train I used to travel from Paris to La Celle-Saint-Cloud, near Versailles. The two busiest SNCF stations are Gare Saint Lazare (with trains to Versailles) and Gare du Nord (where Eurostar departs to London).

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    how to buy paris metro tickets - sncf train station

    how to buy paris metro tickets - sncf train interior

    Tramway – Very similar to the Metro, but way fewer lines. You’ll probably never need to use this as a visitor.

    Bus – Another way of getting around the city, though obviously not as reliable as the rail options since buses are subject to traffic.

    Now, decide which Paris Metro ticket/pass type you’d like to buy (keep in mind many include the RER, other rail networks, and the buses)

    There are many different types of tickets. The Paris Metro tickets include other public transportation as well, such as the RER, bus, and SNCF mentioned above. The ticket types are detailed on the official RATP (Paris public transit) site.

    Below I’ll detail the types of tickets/passes you as a foreigner are likely to buy:

    Le Ticket t+ 

    For: RER, Metro, Bus, and Tramway

    If you plan to ride the metro only a few times during your stay, or are unsure of exactly how many times you’ll ride it, buy the single tickets.

    A single ticket allows travel on Metro (zones 1-5), RER (zone 1 ONLY), bus, and tramway, You have 1.5 hours from the point of validation to use this ticket.

    You can also buy a pack of 10 tickets. This is great if you plan to ride the metro often, but are staying in Paris for less than one week.

    Navigo Pass Semaine – Weekly

    For: RER, Metro, Bus, Tramway, and SNCF

    If you’re staying in Paris one week or longer, but less than one month, and plan to use the Metro often, buy the weekly Navigo pass. It allows unlimited travel on Metro, RER, bus, tramway, and SNCF in zones 1-5.

    Navigo Pass Mois – Monthly

    For: RER, Metro, Bus, Tramway, and SNCF

    If you’re staying in Paris for one month or longer and plan to ride the Metro often, buy the monthly Navigo pass.

    It allows unlimited travel on Metro, RER, bus, tramway, and SNCF in zones 1-5.

    Mobilis – 1 day pass

    For: RER, Metro, Bus, Tramway, and SNCF

    If you will be in Paris only one day and plan to use the Metro at least 4 times, then get the Mobilis pass, which will give you unlimited travel within whichever zones you select.

    Paris Visite – 1, 2, 3 and 5 day passes

    For: RER, Metro, Bus, Tramway, and SNCF

    The Paris Visite pass is made specifically for tourists. It allows unlimited travel on zones 1-3 (Center) or 1-5 (Suburbs), depending on which one you buy.

    It also gives you up to 100 Euros in discounts at participating businesses. Get details on the Paris Visite pass here.

    Paris Centre (Center; zones 1-3)

    Paris Banlieue (Suburbs; zones 1-5)

    Should I Get the Paris Visite Pass?

    Honestly, I didn’t find any use for the discounts on the Paris Visite. If you want just a 1-day pass that allows unlimited travel on all rail and bus lines, then get the Mobilis, as it’s cheaper. A 1-day pass to zones 1-3 will get you everywhere in the main part of Paris.

    Where to buy Paris Metro tickets and passes

    You can buy tickets at staffed booths OR automated machines within the Metro stations.

    Here’s a helpful video on how to buy tickets from the machines (and yes, some are outdated and still have those little rolly things you have to use to select the option you want):

    But wait! I don’t speak French!
    Ah, neither do I, though I honestly tried my hardest while I was there…even paying more than $300 for classes…anyway, don’t fret!

    The ticket machines usually allow you to select English as the language. And if you must go to the booth with an actual person (you have to  buy the Navigo pass), relax!

    Just memorize and practice these words before going to Paris: “Désolé, je ne parle pas français. Parlez-vous anglais?” (Sorry, I don’t speak French. Do you speak English?”) Here’s exactly how to pronounce each phrase:

    Parisians will be much more sympathetic to you if you at least attempt some French, and then apologize profusely for not being able to speak it.

    On top of that, the employees who staff the ticket booths are used to tourists needing help. Every employee I encountered in the Metro stations spoke great English.

    You must buy a first time Navigo pass from a booth

    The first time you buy a Navigo pass, you MUST go to a real person at a booth–you cannot buy a Navigo pass from a machine, you can only RELOAD your pass from a machine.

    You must bring a small headshot photo

    To buy a Navigo pass, you will need to bring a small headshot. A passport photo is okay, but you will need to trim the edges.

    Where can you get a photo there?

    Don’t have a photo? It’s easy! Get your photo taken at one of the photo booths you’ll see all over Paris, especially inside metro stations.

    You MUST bring a photo, or the employee will NOT give you a Navigo pass. There are exceptions. One employee gave me my loaded monthly Navigo pass even though I didn’t have a photo yet–on the condition that I would then go get my photo taken at the next station which had photo booths.

    Now, be careful doing this. IF you get caught riding the Metro with a Navigo pass that does NOT have a photo of you and/or your name written on it, you could be fined.

    Now that you know how to buy Paris Metro tickets, be sure to check out my How to Ride the Paris Metro post!

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