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I will be visiting Paris in a couple of days.

I was wondering what is the cheapest way to visit all the major tourist attractions in Paris?

Do they have 3-day passes for all the public transportation (bus-metro-train) or is it cheaper if I buy tickets when I use them?

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The metro is €1,90 per ride, and if you buy a carnet of 10 the price is €14.50 for all 10.

Probably your best bet. I hate cycling because of the issues with locking it up, worrying about theft, and if you're in the upper arrondissements going uphill on cobblestone sounds like a miserable experience I would rather spare myself from.

The city is surprisingly small, with a most of it very walkable (especially the major tourist attractions). Over three days I imagine 10 tickets is more then enough for the two of you.

Tip: After you've validated your ticket, don't forget to hang on to it for the duration of your ride. My girlfriend once lost hers and had the unfortunate experience of random ticket inspection upon exiting the subway station: Where a guy with a machine asks to see your ticket, and if you don't have one that's validated, he has a fancy debit machine to collect €40 :-)

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    With the velib you don't have to worry about locking it up or theft. Once you are at your destination you just put them back in the frame and you walk away. You only need to make sure the velib bike is properly inserted when returned. – user141 Feb 19 '13 at 17:23
  • @Andra which is fine if your starting point is a Velib station and your destination is a Velib station. However if you're going outside of the 7th it becomes problematic. – Stephen P. Feb 19 '13 at 21:56
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    Most tourists never get outside the area where velibs stations are plentifull, and as a tourist in Paris I have not seen that many empty station outside the rush hours for office workers. If you stay near offices they will even be thankful for your to use a velib, as it opens up one more space for them to park. – Willeke Feb 18 '17 at 8:51
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+500

The cheapest, but especially most efficient way of transport to get around Paris is the Velib. You pay a fee of 1,70 EUR for a dayticket or 8 Eur for a week ticket. During the validity of this ticket you can use any bicycle from the velib network.

Source WikiCommons Source: Wikimedia Commons

The catch to really travel cheap is to change bikes every 30 minutes. If you cycle more then 30 min you will have to pay an additional fee, which gradually increases the longer you cycle. When you change bikes within 30 minutes you don't need to pay an additional fee.

It is also quite efficient. Paris is a huge city, but in terms of km it is not such a big city (as long as you consider Paris to be bordered by the Boulevard Peripherique. So within 30 minutes you can cycle easily between the major highlights within the triangle Notre Dame, Eiffel tower, Sacre Coeur). Doing this in the same time frame with public transport is more challenging.

You can buy your tickets at every velib terminal, but personally I prefer buying them online. It takes a little time to get into the habit of selecting a bicycle, but once you have selected 2 bicycles it is plain simple.

  • This is a very good option, unfortunately my girlfriend can not ride a bicycle. I would choose this, if it wasn't for her. – dare2k Feb 18 '13 at 11:41
  • Then the good old metro and bus system is your other efficient and cheap option. I am mainly cycling when in Paris, so I don't know the latest price for a ticket. It can't be more then 2 Eur though for a one-way trip – user141 Feb 18 '13 at 11:50
  • When using the Velib remember to make sure your bike's docked properly. We've had some readers that have had their bike stolen after docking or been charged for an extra day or so. Although great option in the Spring and Summer if you're looking to stroll. OP's partner can't ride a bike though. – Stephen P. Feb 18 '13 at 19:59
  • Another piece of warning... the rental is done using a credit card on which the €150 authorization is blocked. As in many places in France, cards must have a chip to work. Most US cards are magnetic stripe only. Also, now there is the Autolib system that allows you to rent electric vehicles the same way as Vélib' bicycles. – DavGin Feb 19 '13 at 22:40
  • @DavLink not if you buy your subscription online. I would recommend buying at online anyway. The terminals near the bike station are not quite user friendly – user141 Feb 19 '13 at 22:45
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Cheap + Efficient = Walk!

Paris "intra muros", i.e. the area inside the ring road (boulevard périphérique, postal codes starting with 75) is relatively small. It has a surface of 105 square kilometers. On the North-South axis the largest distance is 10 kilometers and on the East-West 12 kilometers. These distances are rough estimates but give you a good idea of the size.

Thus if you stay in Paris "intra muros", and if you plan your sightseeing efficiently, you can do a lot by walking. If you are tired or if you want to proceed faster, use the public transport, as described in the other answers. The bicycle rental (Vélib) is another cool and interesting alternative. However, if you want it to be cheap and effective you have to you use it more than once a day. Otherwise you can use the Metro or the bus for the same price (1.70 EUR). If you are consider Vélib, note that although Paris "intra muros" is rather compact, it is far from being flat! The Vélibs are not fancy lightweight cycles but 20+ kilogram ploughs with only three speeds. They are meant to be robust.

In my opinion, public transport tickets for several days, like the "Paris visite" are hardly worth the money, unless you are heavily using the Metro. A carnet of 10 tickets (13,30 EUR) is usually more interesting.

A last word on effectiveness. If you decide to take the public transport, prefer the bus to the metro whenever feasible. Contrary to the Metro, buses are always running on the surface and you will get to see a lot of Paris that way.

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    +1. I agree with you that you should prefer busses over the metro. Also the the typical formula's other then the carnet are not worth it. Unless you want to spent the day in public transport – user141 Feb 18 '13 at 20:59
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    Busses have a good coverage of the city. Beware though of traffic jams during rush hours; bus lanes do exist but not everywhere. And the Metro can be a destination by itself with its special architecture. – DavGin Feb 19 '13 at 22:36
  • Congrats on the 10k :) :) – Gayot Fow Apr 27 '15 at 21:07
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Take the Metro. Better than a carnet if you plan to ride often, I suggest you consider unlimited-ride passes. These give a sense of freedom, "need a ride? let's go!". You an use the underground network as well as buses and light rail.

Available short-term passes that are:

  • Paris Visite : The tourist thing. Rather expensive, with a booklet of vouchers for museums and such.
  • Mobilis : what the locals use when occasionally need a day of travel. Much less advertised but cheaper. Cover same as Paris Visite, minus airport access using Orlyval and RER B and you don't get the vouchers booklet.
  • Ticket Jeunes : weekends and state holidays only, for people under 26. Very good value.

On a longer term, there is the Navigo for the week, but it's forced to be from Monday to Sunday.

When you buy a pass, you have to choose the zones of validity; there is a minimum of 2 zones. Zones 1 will allow you to see all Paris. In the suburbs, you may add zone 3 to see La Défense and zone 4 to visit Versailles.

Many attractions are located on Metro line 1. The line was converted to driverless operation during the previous year and is very reliable; there is a fun view in the front of the trains.

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    Note that for a Mobilis to be profitable you need to take at least 4 rides on single tickets or 5 rides on "carnet" tickets. – Maître Peseur Feb 19 '13 at 14:46
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    It depends on your zones. Also, note that if you want to ride a metro or RER line then tranfer to surface modes (bus or lignt rail), it will cost you a second ticket on the same trip. – DavGin Feb 19 '13 at 22:32

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