Why Tourists Visiting Paris Should Think Twice Before Throwing Away Their Train Ticket

Learning to navigate a new location can be incredibly overwhelming, especially if you don't know the language. After all, each city has its own set of transportation options and fare structures that determine how travelers and locals can easily (and, in most cases, affordably) get around. However, it's worth noting that, although convenient, these also come with potential challenges.

Paris, for example, is a prime case of how complex navigation and ticketing rules can be. For starters, you have the city's Réseau Express Régional (RER) trains that travel around the city and surrounding areas. It operates in five zones, which determines the price of your journey. So, when you purchase a ticket, you must choose the right zone; otherwise, you'll get stuck inside the station. Meanwhile, the Paris underground operates as a single zone and under a single fare, even if you're traveling to a station that's technically located in zone one, two, or three. This is because most metro journeys are typically a start-and-stop affair.

So, why is purchasing the right ticket important while traveling on the RER line? Because you'll need to reinsert your ticket into the turnstiles in order to exit the station. This means that if you've bought the wrong ticket — or if you've lost it mid-ride or thrown it away — you simply won't be able to exit. Even worse, and according to a disgruntled TripAdvisor user, you might even be forced to pay a pretty hefty fine.

You need your ticket to exit an RER station

So, how come RER lines require you to hold on to your ticket? Put simply, it's because, unlike the metro, some rides are a little more expensive than others. By keeping your ticket, the city's transportation authorities can ensure that you've paid the right fare and that you're not trying to cheat them out by buying a cheaper ticket.

At the end of the day, learning how to navigate Paris' public transport system isn't necessarily as daunting as it sounds. You just need to keep your wits about you, especially if you want to avoid getting pickpocketed during your vacation and losing, perhaps, your train ticket. But most importantly, remember to always — and we mean always — save your ticket stub if you're riding on the RER. Once you've nailed those two things down, you can either download one of these apps to help you get around or simply ask one of the local station workers to help you figure out where to go.

Knowing which RER ticket to purchase

If you plan to spend a few days exploring Paris and its surrounding areas, using the city's RER trains and underground system can be the best way to get around Paris — especially if you're on a budget. There are a few options in terms of what RER tickets (or Pass Navigo) you can purchase. First, single-day Navigo passes are a good option if you're only looking to visit one destination. In terms of pricing, a single-day pass lets you ride into two zones of your choice and will be the cheapest option at about $9.50. If you want to cover more ground, a zone one through five ticket will cost just over $22 for unlimited rides within that one-day period.

Alternatively, the popular Paris Visite pass is a much more cost-effective option for travelers who want to get around as much as possible. At the time of writing, purchasing a Paris Visite card with unlimited journeys through zones one, two, and three over a 5-day period will cost about $48 for adults and $24 for children. A ticket that includes the same unlimited access, as well as zones four and five, will be a little more expensive at $82 for adults and $41 for children. Lastly, monthly and yearly passes are also available for locals and long-term visitors who want to enjoy even more savings.