Navigating Paris during the Olympics: transport passes and tips to avoid Metro fare increase

With an estimated 15 million visitors expected to descend on the French capital during the Olympic and Paralympic games, Paris’s public transportation system and security forces will be under immense pressure.

In the lead-up to the games, which start after the opening ceremony July 26 and end September 8, a flurry of new metro fare announcements, road and metro closures and security measures have caused confusion even among the locals.

So it goes without saying that visitors can be forgiven for feeling overwhelmed by information overload as well. To help clear up the confusion, here’s a break-down of how to best navigate Paris (during the Olympics, but also after) and how new security rules will impact your travels:

What documents do I need to prepare for my visit to the Paris 2024 Olympics?

Holders of American, Canadian, British and (of course) EU passports can travel to France visa-free if their stay is less than 90 days. If you’re not from any of these countries, the government has a clever portal called the “visa wizard” that will tell you if you need a visa for your visit, and the kinds of travel documents you’ll need to bring.

Where are the Paris 2024 Olympics taking place?

In Paris, the games will be spread out across 15 Olympic and 11 Paralympic sites and extend beyond the Paris perimeter to suburbs like Les Yvelines to Hauts-de-Seine, Seine-et-Marne and Seine-St-Denis.

Certain events such as soccer, handball, basketball and sailing will be held in Bordeaux, Nantes, Lyon, St-Etienne, Nice and Marseille. 

The surfing competition will be held in the overseas territory of Tahiti.

Entrance to Paris metro station
The price of Metro tickets are set to double – but you can bypass the fare hike with some planning © Shutterstock

Are metro tickets really double the price during the Olympics?

The rumors are true. The cost of a metro ticket in Paris is set to double during the Olympics. But only for visitors who leave things to the last minute and don’t plan ahead. From July 20 to September 8, the price of a single metro ticket will rise from €2.15 to €4.

But there’s a way to bypass this entirely with just a little advance planning.

By downloading the regional transport authority’s app on your smartphone before July 20, visitors can buy single tickets at the regular fare of €2.15 per ticket in advance. You can also save a bit more if you buy a book of 10 tickets for €17.35 (a reduced fare of  €1.73 per trip). Users can store up to 30 tickets at a time and buy top-up tickets as you go. It’s a handy way to avoid long line-ups at ticket kiosks. Just scan your phone at the metro turnstile and you’re on your way.

For those who prefer an actual metro card, you’ll want to buy a Navigo Easy pass at metro stations or at approved sellers like tobacco shops and newspaper kiosks for €2. Cards are rechargeable, and tickets can be purchased from the app and loaded directly on the card: just hold the Navigo pass to the top of the phone. For the less tech savvy, cards can still be topped up at metro stations as well. 

New Olympic daily pass

Visitors can also purchase a specially created daily Paris 2024 Pass, which starts at €16 for 1 day and gives users unlimited access to all competition venues in  Île-de-France, as well as Orly and Roissy Charles-de-Gaulle airports. Fares are on a sliding scale and get cheaper as you go: for example, a 7-day Paris 2024 pass works out to €10 a day (€70 for 7 days). This pass can also be purchased from the app or at train stations and ticket machines and is valid for use between July 20-Sept. 8.

After September 8, fares will return to normal pricing. Future visitors should also consider downloading the transportation app in order to avoid line-ups at metro stations and save a few euros.

New service to Orly airport

If you’re flying in and out of Paris-Orly airport, a new extension on metro line 14 linking the airport to the city center was recently inaugurated. Flyers arriving at Orly can now take the metro line to popular transfer and stop-off stations like Châtelet and Saint-Lazare, all the way up to the northern suburb of Saint-Ouen. Just remember that fares to the airport are not included in the standard metro rates and are an additional €10.30 per trip.

A panel showing the sites where the Paris 2024 Olympic Games events will be held is displayed in the Paris metro
Not all Metro stations will be operating during the Games © Chesnot/Getty Images

Station closures to be aware of:

While mapping out your metro itinerary, keep in mind that the following stations will be closed throughout much of the summer until September 21:

Concorde, Tuileries, Champs-Elysées – Clemenceau

A full list of closures and reduced metro service between July 18-25 can be found here. To find the best metro itinerary with up-to-date information on closures and service disruptions, Google Maps is pretty reliable, as are the apps for the Paris metro Bonjour RATP and the regional transport authority Île-de-France Mobilités. 

Users can also use the Bonjour RATP app to rent any one of the 35,000 bikes from Dott, Lime Tier and Vélib. 

Do I need a QR code to get around Paris during the games?

It depends on a lot of factors, including your mode of transport, your dates of travel, and the location of your destination. But sorting out the rules requires wading through a maze of conditions and exceptions.

The Pass Jeux or Games Pass is a digital pass or QR code that allows holders to access sensitive security areas, particularly in the lead-up to the opening ceremony. For the first time in Olympic history, the opening ceremony will be held outdoors on the Seine river, rather than a stadium—a spectacle that carries with it huge security challenges.

Triathlon athletes start to compete swimming in the Seine river next to the Alexandre III bridge during a Test Event for the women's triathlon
Triathlon athletes start to compete swimming in the Seine river next to the Alexandre III bridge during a Test Event for the women’s triathlon © Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty Images

In the days leading up to opening ceremony

From July 18-26, if your hotel or restaurant reservation is in the high security grey zone along the Seine, and you will be traveling on foot or by bike, you will need to apply for a QR code to justify your access to the area. Cars, including taxis and ride-shares, are strictly prohibited. 

This doesn’t apply, however, to ticket holders for attractions located in the area. Those who hold confirmed bookings are exempt from having to apply for a QR code and can simply present their ticket at security checkpoints. That includes the Louvre and Orsay museums, the Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac (all of which will be closed July 25-26), the Eiffel Tower (closed July 26) and the Institut du Monde Arabe.

Note that all river cruise excursions will be suspended between July 20-26.

Outside the grey zone and into the broader red perimeter, pedestrians, cyclists and scooters are allowed to move freely without a QR code. If traveling by taxi or ride-share, you don’t need the QR code but you must be able to present proof of a hotel, museum or restaurant reservation to gain access to the area. 

After the opening ceremony

Between July 27-August 11 and then for the Paralympics August 28-September 8, areas around competition sites will become red zones up to 2.5 hours before a sporting event, and for an hour afterwards. Pedestrians and cyclists won’t require a QR code, but those planning to travel in a taxi or ride-share in the area will be required to present a Games Pass. 

Along with the digital pass, make sure you have your photo ID, along with proof of accommodation or reservations on you to present to police.

Ticket holders of Olympic sporting events do not need a QR code to access the sites.

If you’re not sure, check the interactive map to see if your destination falls in one of the security zones.

Digital passes are free and not required for those under 13. 

QR codes can be obtained on the platform Pass Jeux and require applicants to send photo ID and proof of reservations.

The main takeaway: if you want to avoid traffic headaches, the best way to get to your destination, be it a competition venue or restaurant, is to take public transport, walk or bike—modes that also align well with the Paris Olympics’ sustainability goals.

France’s superb rail system will whisk you from event to event, and from city to city © EQRoy / Shutterstock

Visiting other French cities for the Olympic games? Here’s how to navigate France’s rail network

Keep in mind that France’s ban on domestic short-haul flights of under 2.5 hours for trips that can be completed by train came into force in 2022. That means that if your Olympic events are in cities like Nantes, Bordeaux and Lyon, your only option (unless you plan to drive yourself) is the train. Luckily, this also happens to be the easier and less stressful method of transportation.

That said, the different rail operators in France can cause confusion. Here’s a quick primer on the different rail lines and operators:

  • The SNCF is the national rail service and operates the country’s high-speed TGV trains. A trip from Paris to Lyon on a high-speed train, for, instance, takes about two hours. This will be your first stop when looking up train tickets to other host cities.
  • Inoui designates premium seats and service.
  • Ouigo is the low-cost version of the SNCF, but tickets and times are more limited.
  • Trains operated by Intercité serve cities without high-speed train routes and connect major cities without the need to transit from Paris. Routes include Nantes–Bordeaux and Toulouse–Marseille. The outfit also operates night-train services connecting Paris with cities like Nice, Lourdes and Toulouse.
  • TER (Transport Express Régional) trains connect cities and smaller towns within the country’s 12 regions in metropolitan France.
  • Transilien is the equivalent of the TER but for the region of Île-de-France.
  • The RER (Réseau Express Régional) is a commuter line that operates within Paris and its suburbs.
Paris Olympics train station chart
List of major transport hubs

The logistics of planning a trip for the Olympics may seem daunting at first, but knowing your options and understanding how all the systems – for match ticketing, accommodations and transportation – work will hopefully make the picture clearer so that you can look forward to being a part of history.

This article was first published Jul 26, 2023 and updated Jul 8, 2024.

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