I don’t know about you guys, but when the weather is good, I just love to stroll around in a beautiful city and look at everything around me, taking it all in as I go. But, when being in a vast city like Paris, it’s almost impossible to see everything by foot. On rainy or cold days, the Parisian Metro is definitely a good option, but on warmer, sunnier days, we highly recommend the Vélib service. The what?

Hey, it’s ok! We didn’t know about the service until a few weeks ago as well, so it’s still kind of a publicly kept secret for tourists, but in short: this ‘Vélib’-service lets you ride around Paris on a bicycle for a whole day for a fixed fee less than the price of a single metro-ticket!

This large-scale public bicycle sharing system encompasses around 14,500 bicycles and 1,230 bicycle stations, located across Paris and in some of the surrounding municipalities. The name Vélib’ is a ‘portmanteau’ of the French words vélo – “bicycle” – and liberté  – “freedom” – and has been around since 2007.

Each Vélib’ station is equipped with an automatic rental terminal, a map of other nearby stations and stands for bicycles. The rental terminals also displays information about neighbouring Vélib’ stations, including its location, the number of available bicycles and open stands. Vélib also offers an app, which shows you the same info in real-time on your device. Very handy when you’re in need of a bicycle and you don’t know where your nearest station is.

In order to use the system, users need to take out a subscription (can be purchased online or at a rental terminal) which allows the subscriber an unlimited number of rentals. Subscriptions can be purchased from €1.70 per day. With a subscription, bike rental is free for the first half hour of every individual trip an unlimited number of such free trips can be made per day.

A trip that lasts longer than 30 minutes costs €1 to €4 for each subsequent 30‑minute period. A credit card or debit card with a PIN is required to sign up for the program and to rent the bikes. The credit/debit card is charged a €150 deposit, to protect against bikes not being returned. But when you use the bikes to go from A to B, it won’t cost you anything.

Just two things you should know: first, get your subscription or app ready-to-go before going to a terminal. Not all terminals work that well and this can be very, very frustrating – and yes, we were frustrated at some point – at times. Also, take a picture of your subscribtion-card. You never know what happens..

Secondly, make sure you put the bicycles in the docking stations correctly.  Sometimes the system glitches, so the bike & pole don’t connect properly, so the system thinks you haven’t returned the bike. Pretty annoying when it happens – and it did .. – but after a quick call to the Vélib-service, we exactly knew which bike wasn’t connected properly. When it’s plugged in properly, it makes a beeping sound.

Besides these two items, we were very happy about this service, and highly recommend it to everybody who wants to see the whole of Paris, without being stuck underground!