Renting Velibs Sans European Charge Card

Since July 2007, when the City of Paris inaugurated a wildly successful system of low-cost bike rentals called Velib’ (vel-leeb), it’s really hard to resist the temptation to do so. Quite simply it’s fun to check out these high-tech, sexy looking bikes and take them for a spin, dropping them off at bike stands with no fuss and no muss.

The way it works is this: You buy a 1- or 7-day subscription (1.70 euros or 8 euros, respectively) from the machine at one of the futuristic-looking bike stands, which gives you the right to as many half-hour rides as you’d like for 1 or 7 days. If you want to go over a half-hour, you can either check in your bike, wait 5 minutes, and check it out again, or you can pay 1 euro for your extra half-hour, 2 euros for the half-hour after that one and 4 euros for the third half-hour on. Everything is meticulously explained, in English, on the website, velib.fr. There’s one big catch, however—to use the machines you must have a credit or debit card with a chip in it. This can be a problem for North American tourists, so I advise either getting a TravelEx “cash passport” with money on it (travelex.com) just buy your subscription on line (make sure you have your secret code to punch in on the stand). Helmets are not provided, so if you’re feeling queasy about launching into traffic, bring one along. There are few bike lanes so far, but success has been such that new ones are being added, and cyclists have the right to ride in the bus lanes. One more tip: Before you ride, get a map of the city that shows where the bike stands are so you don’t waste precious time looking for a place to check in or check out.

[excerpted from Frommer’s 2014 Easy Guide to Paris by Margie Rynn. Click here to order.]

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