Public Transport Tariff Maze Explained

collage transport tickets
A small fraction of my collection of used 'carnet' tickets for train and métro.

Some 'Good Deals' Are Better Than Others

Paris:- Thursday, 14. May 1998:- Single tickets for the métro, the RER, suburban SNCF trains and other forms of public transport in and around Paris are not especially cheap.

Although the métro train wagon that used to be set aside for first-class passengers has been abolished, the joys of a two-class fare structure are very much in evidence. The price of a single métro, or bus, ticket is high. So high in fact, that I can't remember what it is. It has been a long time since I bought one.

Suburban SNCF and RER trains still have first-class sections. You can buy carnets for these too, but the wagon layout, decor and seats are identical to second-class. Fewer passengers ride in first-class and this might seem like an advantage to some people; but logic says the maintenance of a two-price system costs something extra, and all passengers pay for it.

The First-Class Carnet for a Second-Class Price

I follow the 'carnet' price. This is the price for a block of ten tickets and the current RATP price is 48 francs, or 4.80 francs per ticket. This is about 35 to 40 percent less than the single-ticket price. These tickets are good for bus rides of any distance on one line, and metro trips of any distance, regardless of the number of changes of lines.

'Carnets' are also available for point-to-point trips on RER trains and suburban SNCF lines. The savings are not as much as the RATP's carnet but often amount to the equivalent of ten rides for the price of eight.

There are no formalities involved for buying a carnet; you just ask for one instead of a ticket. When getting one for the RER or the SNCF, you say you want a 'carnet,' from station 'X' to station 'Y.'

The Magic Mobilis Ticket For a Day

The fairly new 'Mobilis' ticket seems to be an older idea with a new name, and a simpler set of conditions. Basically it is a daily ticket, good for unlimited travel. The Ile-de-France and Paris comprise eight tariff zones, with the centre of Paris being zones one and two.

The furthest-out zone is eight. Many métro lines run beyond the city, out to zone three. La Défense is in this zone as is the Saint-Denis station on the métro line 13. You could use this line to go to the Stade de France - but a simple métro ticket will do the trickbrochure mobilis - for a round-trip simple 'carnet' price of 9.60 francs. The same goes for La Défense.

The 'Mobilis' ticket's advantage is that it is for unlimited travel on any form of transport with wheels. For Paris' two zones it costs 30 francs; for three zones, 40 francs. For a one-day lightning tour of the city, 30 or 40 francs is a real bargain.

Eight zones are pricey at 110 francs, mainly because beyond zone four, there are not many connections joining the lines as they radiate away from Paris. Distances are further and it might be hard to make enough trips to make this option worthwhile.

If you planned to spend part of the day in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, part in Versailles and the rest in Paris, a 'Mobilis' ticket for 70 francs for the five zones involved, would probably be a fair economy as well as being convenient.

The Good Old Orange Card

The hard-core Parisian commuter's weekly or monthly ticket also has rates based on the zone-system. Any combination of zones can be chosen - just zones eight to three, or the more usual zones one to three for example.

Although the most common ticket used by commuters, the Orange Card also has the advantage of allowing unlimited travel. If you only do a straight point-to-point commute, you begin to save money with this card on the fourth day, on a weekly basis. For making a lot of trips over a period of ten days or two weeks, this card is the winner.

Paris Visite and Carte Musées Monuments Combo

The 'Paris Visite' ticket has the heaviest promotion budget and is the card to most likely to bebrochure taris visite condemned by consumer organizations. Its relatively high one-day price outweighs its slim advantages.

At 50 francs, it is ten francs more than a 'Mobilis' card for zones one to three. Just for the two city centre zones, there is no Paris-Visite card, so it doesn't compete here at all.

For two days and the first three zones, the Mobilis card is still five francs less. Paris Visite matches the Mobilis card for price at the three day mark. But for five zones and three days, the Mobilis card still costs 35 francs less than Paris Visite.

The 'Musées Monuments' card is available only with the Paris Visite card. It costs 80 francs for one day, 160 for three and 240 francs for five days. An entry to a top exhibition usually costs 40 to 50 francs - or less, and if you take in two of these per day, you will not really need the transport provided by the Paris Visite card.

There are advantages that go with the Paris Visite card, such as first class seats on RER and SNCF trains. Some commercial firms offer discounts as well. Taken alltogether, you have to be a go-go sightseer and museum addict to get much of a price advantage with the Paris Visite-Musées Monuments Combo.

The Seine's BatoBus ShuttleBoat

In six stops, from the Tour Eiffel to the upstream tip of the Ile Saint-Louis, the regularly scheduled 'Batobus' is a very agreeable way to see the heart of Paris and its major sights, with a minimum of hassle and a maximum of flexibility.

Along the way, the Batobus stops at three of the world's top attractions: the Tour Eiffel, the Notre-Dame church and the Louvre museum. Bonus stops are at the Musée d'Orsay, Saint-Germain and the Hôtel-de-Ville.

There are point-to-point fares, but the best deal is the 60 francs per day - 30 francs for children under 12 - all daybrochure batobus ticket. This ticket costs 90 francs for two days; half for children.

With the all day ticket, you can get on and off as often as you please. The service begins at 10:00, and runs to 22:00 in June, July and August. There is a boat about every 25 minutes.

Top-Down Double-Decker

The city of Paris has been trying to chase away the locally-operated tour buses, mainly by making it impossible for them to park anywhere.

Now the RATP, presumably with the city's blessing, has gone a step further; by teaming up with city-based sightseeing operators, 'Guide Friday' and 'Cityrama.' To their existing fleet of sightseeing buses, the RATP is adding its own roofless doubledeckers.

Some tour operators use doubledeckers too, but it has been a long time since the RATP has had any on the streets. Starting Tuesday, 19. May, six of these specially-built buses will be put into service, from 9:00 to 19:00 daily.

To be called 'L'OpenTour,' the green and yellow buses will operate year-round. The bus shown in Le Parisien's photo does not look like it has a detachable roof, so these might be a bit 'fresh' in winter and maybe a bit damp as well in rain. If all works well, six more of these buses will be added to the fleet.

The buses will do a 'tour' of the major sights, taking a circuit supposed to last two hours. Like the Batobus, it is possible to get off, do sightseeing, and catch a following bus, which should appear within 25 minutes. The buses take 45 passengers downstairs and 50 up with the birds.

The paper hints that a daily ticket costs 135 francs, and for children from four to 12 it is 70 francs. It also says that you can buy a ticket for 110 francs - 60 for children - if you already have either an Orange Card, a Paris Visite ticket or a Batobus daily ticket.

You can buy the tickets from the bus driver, or from the Batobus ticket vendors on the Seine, or from some RATP ticket booths - and from 900 hotels.

There is also mention of the possibility of being able to use two minibus shuttle services, for no extra charge if you have a L'OpenTour ticket. One runs from the big tour-bus parking lot at Bercy into the city centre, and the other knocks off round-trips from Madeleine to the Montmartre funicular.

As with the Paris Visite card, there is a trick bit to these L'OpenTour tariffs. There is a plan in the works: if you buy L'OpenTour ticket, you pay nothing extra to sail on the Batobus, and nothing extra to travel on the RATP's regular métro and bus services. But this is just an idea; and there is no mention of what sort of fare this will involve.


I like the 'Mobilis' ticket. It is simple and good value. Riding on city buses doesn't get you bilingual commentary, but they get you there - all day long, for 20 francs less than a Paris Visite card. Twenty francs is worth about half a major museum entry. It's nothing to sneeze at.

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