As a former New York City resident, I normally default to the metro for free transportation. This trip I discovered the super handy Vélib’ bike system which opened my world to a whole new way of seeing the city of lights!
With bike stands stationed within mere blocks of each other all around the city, you can easily plot a course to just about any destination within Paris…and, did I mention it’s FREE?!
For the first 30 minutes of every ride you will pay absolutely nothing. (CAUTION: you will see a holding fee of $150 on your credit card in case your bike is inconveniently stolen, but if you turn the bike back into a station, the hold is instantly removed).
To start your biking journey, you can sign up online or at any Vélib’ station. You can also visit the Paris render-vous office reception desk to pick-up a plastic Vélib’ bike card.
Taking out a bike
If you have a plastic Vélib’ card, just tap it to the bike stand and remove your bike. However, if you sign up at the kiosk or online there are a series of steps you’ll be required to walk through at the bike stand. The steps are not extremely easy to figure out (took me about 30 minutes!) so, I’ll walk through them here for clarification:
- Enter your code (10 digit number emailed to you or on your printed receipt)
- Put in your 4 digit passcode (the code you were asked to create)
- Validate that you understand the bike is your responsibility
- Select which bike you want to take out (you will need to put in the number for the bike stand you want, then hit “V” for “Validate)
- Once prompted on the screen, go to the bike and press the silver button on the adjacent stand
- Pull with all your might!! (Some of the bikes tend to get stuck and if you can’t get it out, you’ll have to go back to the kiosk and start all over again!)
Please Note: Inspect your bike to make sure EVERYTHING is functioning before you peddle off– missing gears and a basket full of bird poo is entirely possible!
We got a 7 Euro pass and took the bikes everywhere from the new restaurants I was dying to try to the sculpture garden at the Rodin!
Velib has a good app that will help you find the closest station, but you might need to employ another app for turn-by-turn directions. We tried a few local apps, but none were as effective as Google Maps biking directions (if you find something else, please let me know, I’m happy to try it!)
Bring your own gear:
Now that you’re feeling like a local, jaunting around on your Velib bike, plan ahead to visit farmers’ markets in preparation for picnics or wine nights by the Seine!
I personally NEVER travel without my Brita filtered water bottle. I’ve found that it’s challenging to get copious amount of water when traveling which you will definitely need if you’re biking in the August heat!
If you’re like me, no meal in Paris is complete without some delicious French wine! But, I FORGOT my wine opener (rookie move)!! Though you can easily procure a new one from a local G20 or Franprix grocery store, it might be a good idea to pack a easy to carry lightweight picnic basket equipped with glasses, wine opener and a blanket!
With bread and cheese in tow, you’re ready to see Paris for FREE!