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Metro ticket police

Our recent trip to Paris ended with a very unpleasant encounter with Metro ticket inspectors. We were walking through the underground Metro corridor and almost at the entrance to the Louvre when we were approached by a man asking to see our tickets used for this ride. As we were almost at our destination I had tossed them in a garbage bin just seconds before this took place. Thinking this was a scam, we kept on walking. We were immediately surrounded by two other officials who now demanded that we produce the tickets or else pay a fine of 50 euros per person. I explained, as best I could in my limited ability to speak French, that we were not aware of this regulation and had just disposed of the tickets a few moments before. In fact, since it was early in the morning with few people in the area, we were able to retrieve the tickets from the clean and empty garbage bin just steps away - but to no avail. I tried to explain that we were English speaking tourists only in Paris for 6 days, were not aware of this regulation, and refused to pay the fine. They threatened to call the police which I encouraged them to do. We were kept waiting for 45 minutes before we were allowed to go but only after showing our passports. This is just a cash grab with tourists as the targets. Please make your readers aware of this situation. It can really spoil your vacation especially if you have to pay the fine, which is usually the case.

Posted by
4954 posts

Susan, you need to understand the rules of using public transportation in other countries. You are required to keep your ticket until you exit the metro area. Sometimes you will need to insert it in a machine to get through the turnstile (required on RER, often not on Metro). Too bad you were detained and hassled, but it was your fault, not theirs, that you didn't understand the rules.

Posted by
5750 posts

This is just a cash grab with tourists as the targets.

No it's not. It's the law, and it's how they ensure that people actually pay for the transit system. It's unfortunate that you did not understand how the system works but as they say, ignorance of the law is no excuse.

Posted by
3335 posts

The "ticket police" were doing their jobs, and it's not a cash grab. As already stated, you are required to retain your ticket until you have exited the Metro station. Similar to other metro systems, the ticket inspectors and fines are a means of deterring people who try to ride the Metro without paying. Too bad you had to learn about the law the hard way.

Posted by
1236 posts

We had the same experience in Paris about 15 years ago where we were asked to produce our tickets after exiting the gate. Luckily we knew enough to hang on to them. While the police do sometimes pick on the tourist, it is the law. Think of it as an expensive learning lesson.

Rick Steves actually mentions this in his guide to the Paris Metro:

Insert your ticket in the automatic turnstile, reclaim your ticket, pass through, and keep it until you exit the system (some stations require you to pass your ticket through a turnstile to exit). The smallest stations are unstaffed and have ticket machines (coins are essential). Be warned that fare inspectors regularly check for cheaters and accept absolutely no excuses — keep that ticket or pay a minimum fine of €45.

Posted by
2042 posts

Wonder how the police in Susan’s home town would respond to a French tourist claiming ignorance as an excuse to not follow the laws and regulations?

Posted by
12970 posts

After you retrieved the tickets from the garbage bin and showed them to these ticket "attendants," why was that to no avail? Didn't they just want to see the tickets in the first place? Your experience shows that it's better to carry the passport when out and about.

What would have happened if you had not had the passport on you at that moment?

In such an incident, I never throw away the cancelled ticket until I am totally done with a place or wait until I am back in the hotel room emptying my pockets and preparing for the next day.

Forget about explaining that you're just English speaking tourists and that you were ignorant of the regulation....they're not interested in hearing that. It's irrelevant to them. I don't say I am tourist to uniformed personnel unless I am asked. "They" should be able to tell I am a tourist since I have that written all over me.

Posted by
2923 posts

I can't tell from your story because you say that allowed to go but did you actually have to pay the fine? If you did not pay the fine and were allowed to go after showing your passport then it sounds like they made an exception for you because you were a tourist which in turn would really negate the cash grab claim. If you did not have to pay the fine, you should be happy and not complaining about being stopped for not following the rules: The glass is half full not half empty.
I am surprised by your request that RS make his readers aware of this rule when as noted above it is included in the portion of all his Paris books that discuss the Paris metro.

Posted by
11450 posts

It is no scam .

You broke the rules .

You then apparently whined untill they made an exception for you ( because you believe ignorance of the rules should excuse you ) .

The worst thing any tourist could do is to let a 50 euro ticket “ruin their holiday “ .

Posted by
971 posts

I feel sorry for the poor ticket inspectors who have to deal with the whining of entitled tourist, who can’t seem to follow the rules and blame it on everyone else and play ignorant when they get caught.

Posted by
7695 posts

This is just a cash grab with tourists as the targets.

Indeed it's not. It's the rules of the metro, and the inspectors stop everyone, locals and visitors at any given check. In fact, they have no way of knowing ahead of time whether someone is local or a visitor - they set up and stop EVERYONE who crosses a certain space.

Posted by
7695 posts

After you retrieved the tickets from the garbage bin and showed them to these ticket "attendants," why was that to no avail? Didn't they just want to see the tickets in the first place?

How would the inspectors have known that they were indeed the OP's tickets? They could have been tickets that anyone threw in the garbage bin.

Posted by
8293 posts

I see that this OP’s first post on the forum is to complain about the law with regard to the Metro. Had her first post been before her trip to do a bit of research, someone could have referred her to parisbytrain.com. To say that the inspectors target tourists is utter nonsense. I have seen inspectors, two of them, accompanied by a large dog, enter a metro car and watched as a lot of local people tried to make themselves invisible but to no avail.

Posted by
6509 posts

I have a sneaking suspicion that this 1 time poster will most likely not return. I don't think they got the response they were looking for. If I'm wrong I apologize.

Posted by
3 posts

Yes, I am a one time "poster" and merely wanted to ask RS to make people more aware of what can occur in the circumstances I described. I was not expecting a "right" answer on this forum but am surprised by the hostility that some people convey. There is much to research when one is traveling and it is easy to miss a detail or two. I certainly did not try to cheat the Paris Metro and since our tickets were easily retrieved just seconds after they were inadvertently dropped in the bin, I felt that reasonable consideration could be given to our situation in the spirit of good-will toward tourists. With proper training ticket inspectors can fulfill their duties while being a little flexible when encountering tourists who simply made a mistake - all it takes is hiring staff with people skills and the right attitude.

Posted by
8293 posts

Understood, .susan. Should you plan someday to rent a car in Europe, be sure to research all the laws, signage, speed cameras, ZTLs, etc. Tourists get no pity when pleading. Ignorance of the law. Nor should they.

Posted by
3493 posts

The thing is, these ticket inspector hear the same story over and over and over and over. If they were flexible every time they hear this exact story, no one would ever get a fine. They were flexible in your case because they did not have your group arrested after you refused to pay the fine.

Maybe you meant your posting to be a warning or an attempt to educate other travelers. Unfortunately, it came across as someone who felt entitled and expected special treatment when you made statements such as "This is just a cash grab with tourists as the targets". I guarantee you that just as many residents get approached by the ticket inspectors.

You broke the law, whether or not you were aware of that law. Complaining that it is unfair because you did not know about it does not absolve you of the penalty. Because of that, you will not get much sympathy here. At least you know for your next visit.

Posted by
2139 posts

If you hadn’t said “this is just a cash grab with tourist as targets” folks wouldn’t have been so hostile.

Think yourself fortunate that they didn’t call the police, or the situation could have escalated and you would have been fined.

Posted by
1236 posts

Looking at it from a ticket inspectors POV, if they gave leniency to tourists then everyone and their mother would claim they were a tourist and this was their first time offense. Much like the dreaded traffic cameras in Europe, ticket inspectors in Europe are no-nonsense and generally don't make exceptions. Budapest comes to mind as particularly aggressive and every month their is one message on the Germany forum about a tourist getting caught without validating a ticket on the U-Bahn and getting fined. Fortunately, with the internet, one can learn all the rules of a subway system before arrival.

Posted by
4370 posts

This has happened to us a few times in the Paris metro. The first time it happened we were a little surprised and did feel startled. I think the officials could be a little more polite. Even when we showed the tickets they didn't thank us or smile when they sent us on our way. It probably is the only less than friendly interaction we've had in Paris. I do not feel its a money grab, it's enforcing the rules. I recall that we were asked to show tickets once in Prague, but we anticipated that. People SHOULD be extra prepared when using public transportation. The rules are different in every city (which makes sense because every city is a different city) Some cities require a time stamp on the ticket, some don't seem to have place to insert or show ticket, but should you be stopped you'll wish you purchased/saved your ticket. I don't think RS could possibly anticipate everything one encounters when one travels. That is one thing that is really nice about this forum--users helping other users travel.

Posted by
12970 posts

50 Euro is not a significant amount, in Austria riding without a ticket, ie schwarzfahren, is even higher, ie, 60 Euro. Paying 50 Euro as a fine won't even pay a parking ticket in SF.

Posted by
8394 posts

jules m, “I think the officials could be a little more polite.”

I’ve been asked by Paris mêtro inspectors, more than once, to show my ticket and they were always polite. Polite but officious, which is as it should be imo. Being from Minnesotta, where most people are über nice, I can see your POV. Here in SF, BART/Muni/Golden Gate Transit officials would be just as officious as the Paris mêtro inspectors/police.

“I don't think RS could possibly anticipate everything one encounters when one travels.” Really true.

As others have said, it is in RS guidebooks to keep your mêtro ticket until you exit the system. I’m sure it’s in many other guidebooks as well.

Posted by
5149 posts

We have been asked to show tickets in Italy and in England.

And apropos of locals pretending to be tourists: there is a favorite and frequent poster here - a native Italian who now lives in the States - who got out of a fine in Italy by employing his best English (and American garb) to express ignorance of the law. He got away with it, but I wouldn't recommend anyone try it.

Posted by
12970 posts

"...they're always polite...." That has been my experience too all the times in Paris or France.

Posted by
3334 posts

Yes, I am a one time "poster" and merely wanted to ask RS to make
people more aware of what can occur in the circumstances I described.
I was not expecting a "right" answer on this forum but am surprised by
the hostility that some people convey.

The responses given are in direct correlation with the fact that you stated that enforcement of metro ticket rules is a scam, that you called your experience one in which you were specifically targeted because you are a tourist, and that you wanted to warn everyone here about this scam.

If you were in NYC on an SBS bus, you might have inspectors enter your bus to check everyone on board has a ticket from the machines located at every SBS bus stop. If you could not produce it, you would be fined $100 whether you are American, French, Japanese, Argentinian, any nationality. Ignorance of the rules is not an excuse and is immaterial. Unlike your experience in Paris, you would NOT have gotten away with not paying that fine as you did in Paris. So count yourselves lucky especially as they DID NOT call the police. Very lucky indeed.

Your thread would have been warmly received if you had offered a warning, essentially a PSA to all to make sure they NEVER discard those tickets because inspectors can always show up. Instead, you chose to blame those enforcing the rules. By doing that, you received the responses that come with such self-imposed victimhood.

Posted by
5262 posts

One of the telltale clues that tickets must be retained till after exiting is the showdrifts of discarded tickets just outside the exits of busy stations.

We've never had to show our tickets, but my wife had a problem with a station attendant when she tried to use a previously-used ticket to re-enter the system after several days away from Paris. She had kept it instead of discarding, and not noticed that it had already been stamped. This is an easy mistake to make (notwithstanding the snowdrift reminder).

I hope the OP returns to the forum with other questions and contributions. While RS and other guidebooks are clear about how Metro works, it's not easy to use an unfamiliar system in a strange city. And while this particular experience wasn't a "cash grab," we all know that Paris and some other cities have their share of scams, as described in guidebooks and documented on another board in this forum.

Posted by
4684 posts

Budapest comes to mind as particularly aggressive

Anyone else seen Kontroll? Brilliant film.

Posted by
2923 posts

One of the things about being stopped by the ticket inspectors is that people with no ill intentions expect the inspectors to believe their truthfully told story of not knowing the rules -- after all, they think, everyone who knows me knows I would never try to "cheat the Paris metro." But the inspectors do not know you and hear that story a million times. How are they to know that any one person is telling the truth. If word got out that tourists were let go without fines when stopped by inspectors, imagine the outcry from locals and the number of tourists who would not buy tickets and the number of locals who would pretend to be tourists.

@susan.m.roach, my mother used to tell me all the time that the world gives you back what you give it in multiples. The tone of your original post conveyed such hostility towards people who were doing their job that naturally enough you got hostility back from the people who responded. You could have informed people without generating the reactions that you got with just some simple word changes. All you would have had to do was delete the third to last sentence, especially since you got out of the situation without paying the fine. Add "continue to" after "Please" to the second to last sentence and make the last sentence read "Lucky us, the inspectors eventually let us go without paying but that is not always the case." Frankly, you are lucky the inspectors let you go and you should be celebrating that. If that is not "good-will toward tourists," I do not know what is.

Posted by
3 posts

I would not return to this forum for any reason. It seems to be made up, for the most part, of people not really interested in illuminating the situation or providing helpful information but rather to criticize, find fault and in general express a hostile attitude. I know the reason I chose to post my experience - to share so that it might not happen to others - but do wonder what motivates the majority of those who responded.

Posted by
12970 posts

Yes, Budapest...they know how to do it there, very efficient.

Each time I took the down escalator to reach the Metro platform, say the M-4, the ticket attendants, ie, the controllers, (more than one, sometimes three) were waiting to intercept you to see your ticket, almost like London, but in London this difference is no controller is waiting for you if you happen not to have the ticket. In Budapest I always did...so never a problem.

Posted by
1236 posts

I don't think anyone was finding fault with you and it is a good reminder. However, just as ticket inspectors don't know you, forum members don't know you and your inclusion of the inspectors as tourist cash grabbers came across as probably more bias then you intended. As most said, you were lucky they let you off without a fine and it does pay to learn about the Metro systems in the cities you travel.

A long while ago, my parents went to Rome and were accosted by the transit police. To make a long story short, they like you argued about the fine and in the end my father had to give them all the Lira in his pocket(about $30) before they let my parents go. While they were angry about it then, it has become part of family lore and we can all laugh about it now. BTW, they still enjoyed Italy and Rome, though maybe not the subway.

Posted by
11450 posts

Susan many posters “ illuminated “ the situation perfectly .

You just don’t like the information .

It was not a scam .

You are responsible for following the laws and rules in other countries .

If you had made even the slightest effort to do minimal research on this , or any travel forum , you would have learned about holding on to your ticket . You made no effort , until you had a complaint and accusation “ it’s a scam and money grab “ then you come on a forum .

Your tone on your last post if pretry agressive , I am impressed the French authorities were so kind and understanding to you , how about THANKING THEM !

Posted by
5262 posts

Alas, this thread is probably headed for the dumpster when the webmaster gets to work tomorrow. Too bad, because there's good info here about riding the Metro.

Posted by
323 posts

Hello Susan,
What I have done in countries that I am traveling in is first ask a ticket agent if anything needs to be validated or if tickets need to be saved. If I am taking a taxi or shuttle bus to my hotel, I actually ask the receptionist at check-in about those things (metro/bus/train). That might help next time.

Posted by
1581 posts

Give the poor OP a break! Everyone is jumping all over her. Sio what if she thought it was a scam! One friendly response that it wasn’t a scam and why would have been enough!

Posted by
12970 posts

I recall the one and only time I was fined riding the IC train in Germany. That was in 1989. It was my 6th trip in Germany since 1971 and certainly knew about train riding, had done nothing different from the 1987 trip or the '89 trip using a rail pass until encountering this train conductor. I ended up paying the 40 DM in cash. I may still have that receipt he gave, never asked at a station why I was fined.

Who knows if it was a scam? That idea never occurred to me then.

The argument with went back and forth. I purposely did that in German, ie his native language. What I knew from the outset was that you don't argue with officialdom (Beamtentum) since you don't win. The guy is not going to let up. What I did was to drag it out, ie a strategy of attrition to see how long he would last, basically to waste his time as the ride proceeded. I didn't call for his supervisor, even though I knew that German trains had one compartment reserved for the conductors. Maybe that was what I should have done.

Posted by
16941 posts

I used to toss my used t+ tickets after I entered the system so that I wouldn't have to worry about mixing used tickets with unused tickets from a carnet. But reading this forum, I have learned the error of my ways, before it got expensive. It seemed counter-intuitive, because you needed the ticket to open the gate, but I guess Paris has plenty of gate jumpers.

Posted by
8503 posts

Well Susan, I happen to agree with you and I’ve ridden the Metro in Paris more than any other poster here, with the exception of Kim. The fact that it was the Louvre entrance screams easy pickings to me. Otherwise, inspectors are often at other lines with heavy traffic and known turnstile jumpers.

Another metro line is the 2 on your way up to Montmartre. That’s less of an easy pickings scenario, but they are often there.

With the trash bins close to all the doors, it is indeed a temptation to toss the used ticket, but DON’T.

You got hosed because you declared cash grab and easy targets as fact when it is an opinion. I don’t think it’s a cash grab; I think they have a quota and tourists going to the Louvre are like fish in a barrel.

Posted by
2923 posts

"I’ve ridden the Metro in Paris more than any other poster here, with the exception of Kim."
Not arguing, just wondering but how do you know that? I know you do not know all the posters here because I know you do not know me so that fact got me to wondering what the basis is for that statement.

Posted by
4370 posts

So initially, my thought was that the officers were just enforcing the law. I still believe that though I got to thinking, when there is a place in a city or highway where police often sit to catch people speeding, people might call that a "speed trap" or a "fundraiser". People could argue, and they'd be right, that police are just trying to enforce speed limits for the safety of all, yet when many get a ticket, they bitterly talk about a speed trap. Anyway you look at it, the person that gets caught without their metro ticket, or pulled over for speeding is likely to be a little ticked off. It's human nature. And when the officers seem to be in a certain area mostly frequented by tourists, one might feel like a target. Is there a problem with tourists jumping the gates? Probably not. Do they not know that they need to save the ticket they paid for? Probably frequently.

Posted by
8503 posts

JHK--I took a flying leap on that one, considered putting "and maybe JHK" because you are at your apartment and know the city well. However, I took into account that I'd been riding the Metro since 1973 when some of the cars were still made of wood with wooden seats and floors, metal wheels, humans used to punch the tickets instead of machines, before Navigo, before La Carte Orange, where doors closed automatically at the entrance to the platforms to stop people from jumping into the trains at the last minute, when there were first and second class cars, before the RER existed when the Line B stopped at Luxembourg and was called the Ligne de Seaux, before CDG was built. I wondered if anyone else, in addition to Kim, was taking two or three different lines daily for years and running around town, working doing errands and enjoying the city afterwards. And I figured maybe but probably not.

Posted by
16941 posts

Hey, even I remember 1st and 2nd class Metro cars. And cops that wore kepis and capes.

Posted by
2923 posts

@ Bets, Actually, I had no doubt that you have ridden the metro more than I have because I ride it only if I have to and I rarely have to because I'll walk 30 to 40 minutes to get somewhere rather than take the metro. As a result, if I am on the metro, I am usually heading to visit a friend in the suburbs or heading to the 15th through 20th arrondissements.

It is interesting that people call ticket enforcement a scam when the definition of scam is "a confidence game or other fraudulent scheme, especially for making a quick profit; swindle." Basically, if there is a scam and the police find out about it and want to enforce the law, they arrest the perpetrator. No matter how many police officers are called when there is a ticket inspection, there is never going to be an arrest for an inspector who is only issuing a fine. Of course, it is could seem like a cash grab aimed at tourists when you see inspectors at metro stations near the Louvre but locals use those stations as well to go to work and I have seen ticket inspections in some of the most non-touristy parts of Paris such as Barbès – Rochechouart, La Defense, and Jaurès. I rarely ride the metro these days but over the years I have been through a few ticket inspections and other than one at Concorde metro station, they have all happened on the outskirts of Paris or Line 2. Maybe ticket inspection is a cash grab and maybe inspections happen more in central Paris at tourist hotspots than they do on the outskirts, but my experience has been to the contrary. The inspectors really cannot win. What are they supposed to do -- not do inspections in tourist hot spots? Imagine the outcry if locals found out that ticket inspections were only happening at stations not frequented by tourists.

Posted by
8503 posts

Sam--we're a dying breed. We got to keep the memory going.

Agree, never seen a ticket inspection at a place like Louvre Rivoli but a lot in rowdier neighborhoods.
Sooo, I'm beginning to wonder if these were really police but impersonators looking to scam. Louvre Rivoli is the only station with direct access--correct me if my memory is wrong. After you go through the glass doors at the end of the platform, you no longer need the ticket. The corridor is a bit hidden from view. She said they were stopped at the end if the corridor almost in the Louvre (shopping area). Did the inspectors have the electronic machines to check tickets (otherwise cheaters could oull any old ticket from last week out of your pocket). Usually some inspectors are in uniform. If no machines, no uniform, if outside the glass exit door, this could have been scammers and not real police. Did they stop others during the timeframe? Did you see others being checked, paying and getting receipts? Something is fishy. I wish she'd come back for more details.

Posted by
2437 posts

Did the inspectors have the electronic machines to check tickets (otherwise pull any old ticket from last week out of your pocket). Usually some are in uniform. If no machines, no uniform, if outside the glass exit door, this could have been scammers. Did they stop others during the timeframe? Did they see others paying and getting receipts? Something is fishy. I wish she'd come back for more details.

When I return from a trip to Europe, I love to go through all of the stubs and receipts in the bottom of my purse, so what happened to the OP would never happen to me. But, how do you not look like an "Ugly American" when you question the legitimacy/authority of someone who wants to check your ticket and then demands a fine?

Posted by
8394 posts

Bets, I remember those days too... : )

Posted by
12970 posts

I remember the seats on the Metro were still made of wood ...that was in 1973...and also if the train was approaching while you were still coming down the stairs almost to the platform, the big steel door like a saloon doors with the large sign in unmistakable bright red showing one word "Interdict" would shut on you before you could step on the platform.

Posted by
3493 posts

I guess they could print a warning on the tickets:

Conserver le carnet jusqu'à la fin du voyage
Retain ticket until completion of your trip

Posted by
28098 posts

That would have to be pretty small writing - the t+ ticket isn't very big.

And if it has to be bilingual, French and English, why not have to include Chinese and other languages too?

Posted by
8293 posts

The tickets are so small .... how I could this bilingual message fit on? Of. course, the tickets could be made larger to accommafate this warning, but then they would not fit into the turnstile slot. So retrofitting would be necessary. As well, would the English speaking tourist actually read this important message? Not bloody likely. And what about the unilingual German? Of Bulgarian? Maybe just read all about using the metro and buses in Paris BEFORE. your trip would work. Novel idea to contemplate.

Posted by
8503 posts

There are signs in the metro.

Posted by
3493 posts

Not saying the message should be multi lingual. Just put it out there for those who may not read French. And not completely sure that would be accurate French anyway.

I did not remember seeing the signs in the Metro. But then I am one of those who keeps all of my ticket stubs for no particular reason.

Posted by
12970 posts

I wonder if any country in Europe with bilingual Metro tickets That idea I would be against.

In 2001 I saw tri-lingual train tickets in Poland, still have one of them. The train ticket was not at all in English, but in Polish, obviously, French, and German.

Posted by
21293 posts

English has made major inroads in Poland. I didn't encounter any ticket machines that failed to offer English as an option. However, the tram-ticket machine I tried to use in Warsaw rejected my US credit card.

Posted by
8394 posts

Bottom Line:

Do not throw away any entry ticket until you actually exit... movies, theater, ballet, museums, symphony, busses, trains, mêtro, the tube, etc.

Posted by
12970 posts

Very true on "bottom line"

Why would one want to throw away the ticket so soon? As long as any of the tickets is in French or German, no problem. In commie Czechoslovakia in 1973 Prague central station, Praha hl n, had directional signs and instructions is three languages...Czech, German, and Russian. written in Cyrillic

Posted by
8889 posts

In commie Czechoslovakia in 1973 Prague central station, Praha hl n, had directional signs and instructions is three languages...Czech, German, and Russian.

Of course, those were the languages of their brother socialist countries: DDR (Deutsche Demokratische Republik, usually called "East Germany" by the English-language lying capitalist western press) and the USSR. Citizens of those brother countries did not need a visa to visit the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic.

Posted by
12970 posts

Exactly...the East German backpackers helped me in Prague to get accommodations at the student dorm. Still, German was the lingua franca there. At the hostel (it was full), no room for us, the girl clerk at the front desk...very nice...spoke to me only in German.

Posted by
8503 posts

Yes, but I think these were scam artists and not real inspectors. At the Louvre station, you go through the glass doors at the end of the platform. Once you are in the corridor, you are no longer inthe metro, you have exited. These people were in the corridor and were eventually let go, which never happens with real inspectors. Furthmore,the corridor is out of public view, so easy for scammers to occupy, pretending to be inspectors.