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RER train in Paris

Hello! We are happily enjoying our time here in Paris! What a beautiful city! We had a bit of a glitch on the RER train from Versailles to Paris today, and I was wondering if anyone else has had the same problem. We bought round trip tickets in RER C from Paris to Versailles. They look just like the regular metro tickets and you put them into the readers at the entry turnstiles and then you're on your way. On the way back to Paris, we put them in the machines and got on the train. After the train left the station, some SNCF officials came around announcing a ticket check. My husband couldn't find his stub at first and the official threatened him with a 50 euro fine for being on a train without a valid ticket. Luckily he did find it, but we saw several others get fined because they hadn't kept their tickets. I think people thought that they were like the metro tickets and could be tossed after use because they are just used to get through the turnstiles. My husband felt this was directed targeted towards tourists because they made their announcement about searching the tickets only in English, which we had not seen with any other announcement on a train. So, lesson learned, make sure to always keep your metro tickets even after you've made it through the turnstiles! That could be an expensive mistake! I've heard of this sort of issue in Italy, but I had not read about it in Paris.

Posted by
28100 posts

That is a regular topic here, that RER tickets have to be held onto to get out the barriers at the end - I fact I repeated it just half an hour ago.

There have been several reports of tickets being examined on the RER, with severe fines mentioned.

It isn't targeted at tourists or Americans.

Posted by
16883 posts

Since the RER tickets have different prices depending on your destination, they do check at the destination that you paid the correct fare, not just the cheapest RER or Metro fare that would allow you through the first turnstile.

Posted by
4535 posts

Exactly as above. The ticket is used to exit the turnstiles.

In my experience, and I used to ride the Versailles-Paris RER a lot, as many French locals get fined as tourists. Maybe less so now since turn styles have been introduced (and the locals know they need the ticket to get out or will have to jump over).

Tourists are always at a disadvantage because they don't know all the rules and procedures and can innocently make mistakes. But the old adage applies, ignorance is no defense.

Posted by
608 posts

Ah, well I somehow missed all the warnings during my research. Call me ignorant. We won't make that mistake again. The rationale makes sense to me now, thank you for shedding light on the subject.

Posted by
8502 posts

Also, don't assume you don't have to hold onto Metro tickets just because you go through a door to exit instead of a turnstile. There are signs in the trains that say you must be in possession of a valid ticket. Don't throw it away until you exit.

There are many reasons it could have been announced in English. For example, the French riding the trains know who they are and why they are there, but the English speakers don't.

Posted by
852 posts

Like Bets noted, we were told to also hold on to our Metro tickets as well because it is proof of purchase.

We had a similar search on the RER to the airport, and our tickets were not validated since the turnstile was broken at our point of entry and no one was around at the station. We attempted to explain this in broken French, and they called over an official who spoke English for us to communicate the situation better, and then they called over to the station we entered from to confirm our story, so they do take it pretty seriously. All was settled nicely and the official tore our tickets before giving them back! Our announcement for the search was in French, and two of the three officials did not speak English, so I'm assuming it was meant for tourists and locals alike. Sorry you had to get fined though!

Posted by
608 posts

The public transit we have used in the states has automated systems where you use the ticket to enter and exit the stations to prove you have the correct ticket for the journey. If you didn't purchase the correct ticket, you would simply add additional money to your ticket before you are able to exit. Threatening a 50 euro fine for not having the correct 3,50 euro ticket seems a bit intense compared to my experience in the states. All in all, we did retain our tickets just in case, but my husband just had difficulty locating his at first. Actually, the problem started because I gave the officer my afternoon ticket but my husband originally handed him the one that had been validated at the morning trip rather than the afternoon trip because we did not see the difference. We were just surprised because we did not have the same experience on the morning journey. I just wanted to give a reminder to people traveling because several travelers on the train did not have their tickets still and it is an expensive mistake. It can all be very overwhelming for new travelers like us, despite the amount of research we did to prepare. For instance, we took a TGV train to Tours and at first we couldn't figure out how to open the door to our compartment! We had to wait until a local came by! ha! There are so many things I take for granted here, traveling can definitely make you feel very small! :)

Posted by
6722 posts

If you have been throwing out metro tickets you have been courting those 50 Euro fines with every trip. We average about one ticket check a week on the metro and if you can't produce a validated ticket you are fined on the spot. There are tons of young people who jump turnstiles and old people who enter through exits; it is a big revenue issue for public transport.

If they don't check for validated tickets on regional trains then a person could ride with the same ticket forever till checked. Since they spot check the fine system is the only way to assure people are not gaming the system. To just charge the ticket price as you advocate would mean I could ride 10 times perhaps and then just pay once when 'caught'; it is obvious that this would mean increasing inspectors 10 fold or losing revenue. I don't have much sympathy after hearing American tourists in Florence explain 'you can ride the bus for free and then if they check, you just cry and claim you are a tourist and didn't understand; I've been using this same ticket for a week now.'

Why do you think they are 'targeting tourists' if they are coming through the car checking everyone's ticket? Were they skipping people carrying french bread and wearing a beret?

This is riding transport 101 in Europe. Spot checking is the norm. It is also the norm on the metro and buses of Paris so you are lucky not to have discovered that the hard way after tossing a ticket. The inspectors usually form a barrier to pass through at exit or at the entrance to a platform and check every rider on the metro. At some large stations they team with police so that exits to other tunnels are blocked and passengers are herded through the check so that those cheating can't turn and escape via another route.

We have made errors in travel that cost us -- we just take it as a learning experience.

Posted by
9906 posts

Tamara, I appreciate your taking the time to post. Since many folks who come to this forum are new to international travel it is extremely helpful to be able to read of your first-hand experience. I always find myself clutching my public transportation tickets hoping the sweat doesn't erase vital information, lol.

I am always surprised at heavy-handed responses to posts here because this is a site where new travelers should feel comfortable posting about their travels or asking questions not one where people are demeaning to others' lack of experience.

Posted by
6722 posts

I am always surprised when posters argue that common local customs are scams and that have been 'targeted as tourists' when they don't follow the rules. Anyone can make a mistake, blaming the authorities for abusing one is unseemly when you do.

Posted by
608 posts

Janettravels, I did not mean to blame the authorities for my mistake. I am used to living in Florida, which is very consumer friendly. Everything is run with Disney World efficency here, and we cater to visitors who are clueless and everything is very clear. This is our first time in Europe and visiting a country where we don't speak the language, and I don't live in an area with public transit, so I find the whole system overwhelming. Regardless, I learned my lesson, and I was just trying to share that in case it could help someone else avoid a costly mistake. It was never my intention to create so much debate with one sentence in my post. I have always found this board to be helpful before, but I do think sometimes very seasoned travelers here forget what it is like for those of us who are new to traveling and find these situations overwhelming and scary. Traveling is intimidating on it's own and it has been nice in the past to feel like there is a place to go for advice from more seasoned travelers, but I imagine you guys get sick of the newbie questions and stupid mistakes made by those of us who are inexperienced. Hopefully one day I will have learned enough to be helpful to someone else.

Posted by
28100 posts

Tamera

It is not always a country with a foreign language where people are fined on public transport.

In London, people who are found without the appropriate ticket having had the opportunity to obtain one prior to travel are fined £50.

On the railways - I work on the railways - on many lines in England the fine is £20 or double the single fare whichever is higher, and the offender's details are taken, and repeat offenders are prosecuted with court fines reaching quite high. The number of tourists caught in these sweeps is extremely low - the vast majority are fare dodgers and chancers.

And we all speak English - some more intelligibly than others, granted, and there are great big yellow posters and signs on every platform of every station warning of the consequences. Not many excuses are given much credence, I'm afraid.

I understand that the experience of the confrontation can be quite unpleasant if you don't have everything in order, and I'm sorry for that, but an entire train needs to be checked quickly and inspectors expect all passengers to be able to quickly demonstrate their valid tickets, spending time only with those who don't.

Fare dodgers come in all flavours, and not always the rough looking hooligan types. It is my experience that suit wearing City types are more likely often to be "missing" or "lost" or "left at home" or "in the machine", and that they are often less likely to pay up when caught.

It does show the advantage of checking the local laws and practices, just like learning the driving laws of a new country.

I'm sorry your holiday was disturbed.

Posted by
608 posts

Thanks for your concern, Nigel. Our trip was unaffected - we try to go with the flow and consider it all an adventure ;) I have to admit to being naive as to all the ways people try to dodge the fares - doesn't seem worth all the trouble and risk.