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How to rent a Velib in Paris

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008

Velib bikes, ParisThe appearance of the much talked about Velib system, put into place last June, has made the streets of Paris resemble those of Amsterdam or even a far corner of the countryside, with everyone from tourists to ‘les Parisiens’ themselves desperate to test out this latest craze.

A velib station can be found every 150 m in Paris, each with a machine at the center, where with a simple credit card transaction you can sign up for either a one day (€1) or a 7 day (€5) pass. Once joined you can click in and out as much as you like by punching in the number on your ticket until it runs out!

Velibers are everywhere, and although they may share an affection for these strange looking beige bicycles, look out for the different ‘types’ lurking around the stations…

  • The Navighosts-the proud owners of the much sought after Navigo Pass, allowing them to just wave their pass in front of the light by the bike, and off they go.
  • The savvy locals who have keenly embraced this new way of getting to work and know the sequence of buttons by heart.
  • The tourists-of course anyone visiting Paris is bound to give them a go. Usually to be found in front of the machine, confused as to why their foreign card won’t work, while the ‘savvy locals’ behind them wish they had a navigo too.

The navighost however are the ones to watch out for. You’re in the queue, no doubt stuck behind the above mentioned ‘tourists’ but nevertheless quietly content as you have worked out that number of people in the queue corresponds perfectly to the number of bikes available (the ones with illuminated green lights) and therefore its only a matter of time before you get going. When suddenly, the Navighost, as if from nowhere (hence the name) swoops in, smugly swipes his pass, releases the bike and before you know it he’s off, pedaling into the distance before you’ve even had a chance to ‘choose language’ on the screen in front of you.

They have no shame, and even during the recent transport strikes, when demand was at its highest and everyone was desperate to find any way of getting home, they had no problem swiping that last bike from under your nose.

If you’re planning to be in Paris for a while I suggest you join the Navighosts and avoid such frustrations. If not, be patient, for thankfully the bikes seem to come and go pretty frequently, so there is usually another one about to appear around the corner.

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Photos originally posted by François Lafite and Austinevan

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About the author

Venere Travel Blog writer emilie holmes

Emilie is a Bristol University student, studying French and Italian. She is currently working for Elle magazine in Paris, before heading to Milan. She loves spending time with her friends, cooking and getting lost in Paris.

10 responses to “How to rent a Velib in Paris”

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  1. Liz Love says:
    January 23rd, 2008 at 10:25 pm

    How do I get a Navigo pass and how long do you have to be in Paris to make it worthwhile. We will be there for 6 days at the beginning of June 2008.

  2. Jette says:
    January 24th, 2008 at 6:36 pm

    I had heard that the bikes were very expensive. Does it really only cost 1 Euro a day?? Or is that the sign up?Don’t you have to pay per hour??

  3. Michael Chapman says:
    January 24th, 2008 at 8:24 pm

    I found the answers here:

  4. Marion says:
    January 25th, 2008 at 10:02 am

    Liz, if you’re spending a 6-day holiday in Paris, you have to ask for a “Passe Navigo Découverte” (the free “Passe Navigo” is reserved to people with permanent residence in Ile-de-France). The card is available at any metro ticket booth. You must sign in and pay a 5-Euro registration fee to get it. Don’t forget to bring a passport photo. Once you’ve got your “Navigo Découverte”, you can load money on it and get a monthly or weekly pass (“Carte Orange”) depending on the length of your stay in Paris. The weekly pass costs 16,30 euros, a single ticket 1,60, and a carnet of 10 tickets 11,10… So do the math and decide what’s more convenient for you.

    The website of Parisian public transportation network ( also has pages in English where you can find info about fares and timetables

  5. Katie says:
    January 25th, 2008 at 4:38 pm

    what a great bike system! Thanks for the info. I hope they move that system to other countries as well.
    a presto,
    Katie :)

  6. Jette says:
    January 25th, 2008 at 8:53 pm

    Michael, thanks a lot :-) That answered everything.
    And Emilie, thanks for the article. I saw the bikes last time I was in Paris but didn’t get a chance to try them out. I’m planing to do that next time I’m there.
    Katie, we have the same system in some cities in Denmark, but here they are free. You just put in a coin. You pay 20 kroner (3 euro) and then you can ride it as long as you would like. The get the coin back when you put the bike back at one of the stations.
    But you really can ride it as far as you’d like. They once found one of the bikes in Berlin, Germany :-) Of course the person who rode it there didn’t get the 20 kroner back course there was no station to put it back at :-)

  7. Phil says:
    September 7th, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    Emilie, thanks for this great article.

    However, I still wonder if you can become a Navighost without having to pay the fee for the public transports. Is there a way to just get the Navigo Pass without any subscription, load it with some money and use it like a prepaid card? That would be marvellous.

  8. Pat Crosbie says:
    September 9th, 2010 at 7:33 am

    I am vacationing in Paris right now and I can tell you the Navigo is the marvelous thing. You can breeze though the Metro, the train system, and the bike rentals like a local. We just went up to the Window at the Châtelet Les Halles and asked for one. The card is 5 euro then you pay for one week of access depending on how many zones you need. If you’re going out of the city center and need 5 zones you have to pay more. You need pictures. We just printed off pictures before we left home. Small face shots about postage stamp size. You trim them and put them in the spot indicated, write your name on it, and then fold the lamination down over it. Voila, you are set. You dont even need to take it out of your purse! Youcan must slide it alson the purple swirly logo at the turnstiles!!

  9. hector says:
    October 6th, 2010 at 2:29 pm

    Great article! Riding a bicycle to tour the city and other wonderful sceneries are nice experiences.

  10. Card Transaction says:
    October 5th, 2012 at 1:15 am

    When someone writes an piece of writing he/she maintains the idea of a user in his/her brain that how a user can understand it.
    Thus that’s why this piece of writing is great. Thanks!

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