Vélib Now Accessible to Tourists

Have you noticed all those strange khaki bicycles zipping around Paris?

Ever since the hip Paris urbanites adopted the system in 2007, the Vélib’ self-service bicycle system has become a huge hit, now emulated by a number of European cities.

Until April 2011, Vélib’ had one MAJOR drawback : you needed a smart-chip equipped credit card to purchase the surprisingly affordable pass. The many Anglo-Saxon visitors that didn’t were left out in the cold.

Not any more.

You can now purchase a pass online, before arriving in Paris! 🙂
Learn more, in English
Purchase a pass

Now you’ve got no excuse to miss out on this delightful way of getting from one part of Paris to the other, while enjoying the sights along the way (oh, and if you’re worried about the mad Parisian drivers, then you’ll love Sunday mornings).

There is a lot to be said about Vélib’, so I’ve taken the time to write a 6-page free report about how to get the best from the system.

In my Vélib’ report, you will discover:

  • What all the fuss is about
  • Why the system is so popular
  • How to pay less by exploiting a loophole in the pricing structure
  • How to grab a good bike and avoid a dud
  • Safety precautions
  • Why the system isn’t perfect (and how to manage anyway)

The Vélib Report, among other free reports, is reserved for subscribers of the A La Carte Paris newsletter.

Sign-up to the newsletter here, and you’ll receive the Vélib Report (among other free reports) as well as upgrades, offers, insider info and the chance to win a free one-week VIP stay in one of our apartments, worth over 1000€.

Have you tried Vélib’ yet?
– If so, what did you think? What were the advantages and drawbacks?
– If not, what is your opinion and why haven’t you tried yet?

Please do share your views by commenting below.

53 Comments Add yours

  1. Sean says:

    Velib in advance for tourists does not seem to work. I just purchased 1 week rental, received a reply saying my ticket number was below —there was no ticket number below and I can not contact Velib —they dont give an email address and their tel no. is just automated messages!

    1. Thank you Sean for your feedback ; I will ask my team if they have heard of any other reported cases of problems.

      1. Jacob says:

        I just experienced the exact same problem. What do I do Alex?

      2. For the exact same problem, I would tend to suggest the exact same solution.

      3. Jacob says:

        wait a sec. Does the subscription number = the ticket number ????

      4. A ticket is a one-day or one-week subscription, so yes, sounds like they are one and the same.

    2. Hey guys! I was in Paris 1 week ago and get 2 bikes without any problem.
      After few minutes of paying I got an email like this http://d.pr/WaD5 with account and pass (pin) and all the rules. Must be like that, if so = try to check your spam folder or something. And with bikes was everything perfect! Velib is really cool stuff!

      There is another misunderstanding = the company don’t freeze any amount on my card and don’t charge me for my 2 half hour delays, how it was displayed on the stations system..

  2. Kate says:

    Dear Sir / Madam,

    I will be in Paris for 2 days. That is why I would like to buy two daily tickets online. On the website I have read about 150 euro deposit. I have a debit card (not credit). How can I rent a bike in this case?

    1. Hi Kate, a debit card should work fine for the 150€ deposit. The 150€ is only actualyl withdrawn from your card if you don’t return the bike, so don’t worry. Simply use the links indicated in my blog post to sign up. Alex

  3. Kate says:

    Dear Sir / Madam,

    We used two bikes on August, 02 2011. I payed deposit twice for each bike (ticket number 12807399 and 12807465). When it would be possible to return those deposits back?

    1. Hi Kate, I believe the deposit (150€) is in fact NOT deducted from your accound unless you fail to return the bicycle.

      1. Andrew says:

        Hi Alex, I have had this problem as well and Velib has charged my account 150E. I used my card and pulled it out to early when it said transaction success. The machine did not print the ticket number so I could not even take a bike and now my account has been reduced by 150 euros. I have tried to get in contact but all I am getting is the same number for an automated service, very disappointed to say the least. What options do I have?

  4. Yfai33 says:

    Velib is a fun in Paris. But there is some trap for foreigners like me. I had a family of 4 visiting this week. I rented 4 Velib. When I subscribed, it said 1.7 euro per day. I thought it was so affordable and kept them for 7 hours, left them outside restaurant when I had dinner. Finally when I returned at night and check account balance, it paid 38 euro each Velib. I ended up paid almost 120 euro just for 4 bikes. This is terribly expensive.

    Also, I found it difficult to find a station with empty space to return the bike. I ended up wasted a lot of time to find a vacant location.

    In my last day, I was at a station near Louvre Museum. I rented a Velib but the bike was stuck at the station. I could not remove the bike from the post. I called the service at the station but could not talk to the operator effectively, it was very noisy over the speaker system. I called their hotline, but could not reach an operator to talk to. I want to send Velib an email to complain the case but could not find an email contact on their web site. I don’t know how much they will charge me this time. I thought that I could not remove the bike from the post and the system should know that I did not take the bike and did not count and charge me. When i checked the account, the system thought that I was renting the bike in progress.

    So I am robbed by the Velib system twice. I am leaving Paris and return to Asia tomorrow. Still cannot figure out how to report the case. I will try to call their hotline tomorrow before my departure.

    To be fair, Velib is a fun experience. I think to use it for 1-2 hours will be fine. But using it too long will give you a lot of headache.

    1. Yes, it is important to know the hopes, which is why we have compiled a free report about Velib, that we send out to our newsletter subscribers. It is very cheap indeed so long as you use the bikes for short trips (up to 30mins). The pricing system is designed to strongly discourage “hogging” bikes by attaching them to a tree while not using them. That way, bikes are available for others to use. Those who want more freedom need to rent a bicyle, which is more expensive for just short trips.

      1. Andrew says:

        Hi Alex,

        How do I claim back the 150 euros Velib has taken from my account for a bike the machine xould not even let me take??

      2. I’m afraid I cannot help with Velib contestations ; you would need to contact them.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Hey Alex, thanks for this helpful post & brilliant news about Velib!
    I have few questions about system, but Velib-twitter so quiet about answers. I’ll be appreciated if you can explain how to book Velib bike online.

    Here is the screen http://d.pr/WLex (from https://aboen-paris.cyclocity.fr/subscribe/start) and if we are two tourist-foreigners who want to rent-a-bike for a 5 days or week, what we need to choose from that?

  6. Hey Alex, thanks for this helpful post & brilliant news about Velib!
    I have few questions about system, but Velib-twitter so quiet about answers. I’ll be appreciated if you can explain how to book Velib bike online.

    Here is the screen http://d.pr/WLex (from https://aboen-paris.cyclocity.fr/subscribe/start) and if we are two tourist-foreigners who want to rent-a-bike for a 5 days or week, what we need to choose from that?

    1. Hi Dimitri,
      Here is the online subscription page with a 1-day or 7-day option:

      1. Wohow! Thank you so much Alex!
        And the last = when i’ll buy this card ( SHORT-TERM SUBSCRIPTION http://d.pr/YEVN ) what I’ll get as result? How I’ll get the Velib card?

  7. Louise says:

    I’m writing this as I’m currently on hold (for quite a long time!) to speak to the velib offices. Myself and my partner were in Paris just this weekend, and used 2 one day passes each (thats 4 in total). Velib then secured €600 from my debit card as a deposit, but five days after I have returned the bikes, the deposit STILL has not been released back into my account.

    My housemate is French and contacted the offices on my behalf, where they informed her that as it is a foreign debit card (ie. not French) it may take several weeks to refund?

    All of the literature on the web, and on the bike stations states clearly that the deposit is returned to your card if the bikes are returned safely. I can’t understand how a company can be allowed to hold your funds when you have obeyed all of the terms and conditions?? Has anyone any experience of this?? I really enjoyed using the service but am really angry that this can be allowed to happen with no forewarning by velib.

    1. Hello Louise, thank you for posting this. Please do let us know how your experience pans out, as I was under the impression that the security “deposit” was actually only deducted from your account in case of the bicycle not being returned. If it were systematically deducted and then returned, many students would not be able to afford it! Thanks for your feedback.

      1. Tim Smith says:

        Hello Alex, Do you have an email address for Velib offices – Neither of these work: ‘contact.velib@jcdecaux.fr’ or ‘blogvelib@velib.paris.fr’. Where on the Velib website (http://en.velib.paris.fr/Subscriptions-and-fees/Usage-charges) does it say how much you are charged after 2 hours? Absolutely no where.

        I now have a lovely big credit card bill.
        Any help greatly appreciated.

      2. Hi Tim,
        I phoned Velib on your behalf. There is no email address, but there is a customer complaint form (you did not see it because it only seems to exist on the French version of the website for some reason).
        Here are the online complaints / question forms: http://www.velib.paris.fr/Quel-est-votre-Probleme
        Here is the page with usage charges: http://en.velib.paris.fr/Subscriptions-and-fees/Usage-charges
        The moral of the story seems to be: Velib users should know the usage charges before using the system, as it is very cheap indeed for short trips and very very expensive if one “abuses” the spirit of the system by locking up a bicyle to a pillar (this is to give a strong incentive to keep the unused bikes available for others).
        Wishing you luck,

      3. Andrew says:

        Hi Alex,

        What can one do who has had his deposit taken for a bike the Velib machine would not let him take?? A contact number would be great, a refund would be ideal so I can stop wasting my time chasing them.


      4. To clarify: I run a business of short-term apartment rentals. My role is not really to assist with Velib deposit issues, much less refund Velib deposits… Velib has a website for these issues. Thanks for your understanding.

    2. Sarah Murphy says:

      I had the same experience, I rented a bike last Friday and another on Sunday – two one day passes. I never exceeded the half hour free period, and returned by final bike before my 24 hours pass had expired. My Maestro card was debited €150 twice, once for each pass. I was under the impression this amount would only be frozen and not debited. Was your account credited in the end or did you have to contact them? I’m not very happy at all with this service!

      1. JG de Villiers says:

        Good day Alex,

        I was a tourist in your lovely country 3 weeks ago. I am from South Africa and enjoyed the visit very much. Hopefully you can help me with the following query:

        My wife and I made use of the bicycle system (VELIB). We made use of the service two times (therefore 2 times we hired 2 bicycles), therefore it is 4 deposits still outstanding. The reference numbers on the tickets are:

        1) 14703161
        2) 14703174
        3) 14679876
        4) 14679807

        The money is still in my account but I do not have access to the funds as the deposit has not been released. Will you please look into this for me? On my budget 600 Euro’s is a lot of money.

        I can’t seem to get hold of any e-mail adress… I also want to know if the helpline is toll-free. This is because I am in South Africa again and do not want to waste more money on this.

        JG de Villiers

    3. I have had the same experience. It has been 4 days since I returned the bike and the 150 still is “unavailable” in my bank account. I have not been charged, but there is definitely 150 missing from my account that I cannot use. It is a UK card, so I am extremely concerned if it takes weeks to come back to me, my rent is due!! Very very poor way of selling the bikes to tourists, who can afford to just donate 150 euros for a few days with no way of knowing when you’ll get it back??

    4. I have had the same experience. It has been 4 days since I returned the bike and the 150 still is “unavailable” in my bank account. I have not been charged, but there is definitely 150 missing from my account that I cannot use. It is a UK card, so I am extremely concerned if it takes weeks to come back to me, my rent is due!! Very very poor way of selling the bikes to tourists, who can afford to just donate 150 euros for a few days with no way of knowing when you’ll get it back??

      1. Anonymous says:

        Hi Constanzehart,

        I have received my money back. My advise to you is to sort it out with your bank. I tried contacting VELIB, but this was impossible! After I contacted my bank they released the money held back by Velib within a couple of days.

        Best of luck!

    5. hanna weir says:

      Dear Louise,

      I also used a foreign debit card and also followed all the rules and returned the bikes but the “automatic” charge has not been reversed! were you able to get your funds back and if so how long did it take? thanks so much

  8. curt says:

    We just returned from Paris, where we used the Velib system extensively over the first weekend. On Monday it became unusable. Coming from the north (10th arr.) we couldn’t find any working bikes (and when we did rent we found out in a few minutes why the bikes were still there) and then when we got to the Musee D’Orsay, for instance, we found no available return slots for many blocks around. We then joined the ranks of users riding in circles looking for slots.

    I would strongly recommend to any tourist that they avoid using the Velib system on workdays. You end up wasting your sightseeing time trying to cope with the system’s shortcomings. On weekends it makes more sense.

    1. Hi Curt, yes indeed you highlight the shortcomings of the Velib system. By and large, this is deemed acceptable in view of the very low price and the flexibility of not having to own or rent a bike. I live in Paris and cycle to and from work, as well as some other errands. I used Velib for 3 years solid (because mostly, it works rather well) before eventually buying my own bicycle (to no longer have the inconveniences of Velib). Thanks for your feedback.

  9. Anish says:

    I just used a Velib on 30th October 2011 between 8.30 and 9.30pm. I did not have a very good ride as the bike was not in good shape at all. I returned it back after some time and waited till the green light illuminated at the respective Velib station.
    However I now see in my credit card bill that Velib has deducted 150 euros at the time of taking the bike i.e 8.30pm. As per the posts above it seems that Velib deducts the money only if the bike has not been received. This is not true in my case.

    Any idea why this has happened?
    Ticket no. 13524750
    Valid upto 31st Oct 2011 : 20.15

    1. I would contact Velib, as this is NOT normal… no idea what might have happened.

      1. Anish says:

        I called Velib up about a week back and explained the situation to them. They promised to send an email stating that 150 euros was not deducted by Velib for this transaction. However I have not received any email as yet.
        It is extremely irritating that Velib does not have any contact email address. I live in Helsinki and it is an unnecessary expense for me. Also, my bank now requires a ‘Refund/Void slip from the merchant ‘
        Makes me wish I never rented the bike at Paris 😦

  10. Helen says:

    Hello, I rented a Velib on November 19th for a few hours, and it is the perfect way for sightseeing. It was my perfect day in Paris until I realized that Velib took 300 euros from my account, (2 x 150 eur). The first attempt was unsuccesful, the second time was, and in both cases I was charged with 150 eur up front (first time 2:09 pm, second time 2:15 pm). I did this with a friend that lives here, and used the Velib service numerous times, I changed the bike every half an hour (to pay less), when I returned it I had the green light – I did everything right. Today, after 3 days and no money, I spent the day reading forums, to find that this is a very common problem, and Velib’s answer is that “it takes time” (up to 13 days) to return the money. But it seems like that not only takes few weeks, but some people never got the money back. Numerous complaints on the customer service, almost no one speaking english, and the ones that do have the same excuse – “it takes time with foreign banks”. How is this possible? This is outreageous! What am I supposed to do as a tourist? Is this how they promote tourism? I fear that I will never get the money back! 😦

    1. It certainly sounds like “Velib for tourists” is not always plain sailing. :-/ I hope these troubles are promptly sorted out by Velib.

  11. Me,Myself&Yo says:

    My girlfriend and I are on the same situation, Velib has deducted 150 euros for each card at the time of taking the bike… And 4 days after returning it, they have not refund the money!

    I think they find a very cheap for short-term financing…

  12. Dragomir says:

    Dear Alex,
    II have the following problem: At 21 may 2011 I rent four bicycles from Velib.
    At 06 June 2011 Velib took from my credit card 4 x 150 Euro and till today they have not back me the deposits. Could you please help me for this case?

    1. Dragomir,
      Actually, I am the CEO of A La Carte Paris, a firm that offers short-term apartment rentals in Paris and that runs this blog…
      That said, I can refer you to Velib help service:
      Here are the online complaints / question forms: http://www.velib.paris.fr/Quel-est-votre-Probleme
      Here is the page with usage charges: http://en.velib.paris.fr/Subscriptions-and-fees/Usage-charges
      Good luck,

  13. Bert Mebane says:

    Thanks for your help with regards to Velib. I also wish they had an email address so you could ask a question or two, but they don’t. You seem to get all the answers taken care of so I will ask you. My wife and I are visiting Paris for (2) days so it seems logical that we would sign up for (2) one-day passes for each of us. The thing is that we can’t seem to find a way to put all (4) passes on one transaction. The credit card company charges $2.50 per international money transaction. It would be nice to pay once for all instead of one at a time.

  14. Iani says:

    Hello Alex,

    I went to Paris with a friend, we hired two bikes, we both followed the same steps (basically because she put all the codes and everything for both of us) and she hasn´t been charged 150 and I´ve been. I checked that I returned the bike properly, the light was green. So, why did Velib take 150 euros from my account? how can I proceed to get my money back? I have called the telephone number provided but there was no way to contact anyone.
    I hope that you can help me and we can solve the problem.

    Thanks for your attention,


  15. Neha Agrawal says:

    I had the same experience. 2 cycles hired on 29th July 2013 and 300 euros deducted from debit card. Now we are back in India and don’t know what to do about it. Please please please help!

  16. sasa says:

    I rented 3 bicycles for 5 hours and I was charged 35 EUR each. I also rented car in Germany for 700 EUR for 25 days and it comes cheaper than BICYCLE RENTAL on Paris. Never again….you should spread the word do not rent bicycles in Paris.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Hi Alex,
    My partner and I rented two x velib bikes this morning & then again this afternoon, I just got home and checked my balance and the 600€ has definitely left my account and is not available to me at this point in time.
    After reading previous comments it is evident that velib DOES deduct the money from your account & I feel this cannot be disputed, there are enough comments alone on this website to support this and velib needs to take immediate action to let tourists know that this is the case.
    I am on my honeymoon from Australia and would like to know how velib is going to rectify this situation? What steps need to be taken as this is unacceptable. People have a right to know.

    1. vboom90 says:

      Hi Jess
      Having just used my Australian Credit Card in Paris for Velib I have the same issue with my money “Pending” after 4 days.
      Did this money eventually come back to you?
      If so do you know roughly how long?
      Many thanks

  18. Vitalii Tkachenko says:


    Today at 12:20 (UTC+3 ) Velib executed 2 payments from my card. On amount 50 EUR and 54 EUR.
    We bought 2 tickets online via site http://www.velib.paris.
    We took 2 bikes 2 times in one day. On Station n° 9013, 20 RUE DE LA GRANGE BATELIERE.
    And returned 1st time about 18.00 on Station n° 4007 BOULEVARD BOURDON
    And 2nd time on Station n° 9013, 20 RUE DE LA GRANGE BATELIERE.
    Each times, we have seen green light on parking stand.
    Please explain why I was charged extra money today?

    Subscriber number:

    Thank you,
    Vitalii Tkachenko.

  19. Owen says:

    Rented 2 bikes on or about April 12, 2015 near the Eiffel Tower. Returned them 15 minutes later near Musee D’Orsay. We were charged a 24 hour rental for both bikes. More ridiculous, we tried to rent a third bike at the same time but could not get it out of the rack (our son ended up jogging that trip instead) – they also charged us a 24 hour rental for the bike that never left the rack! There is no ability to complain online and links to the complaint forms in this blog are dead ends. What a racket! It is not worthwhile to rent the bikes.

    1. Hi Owen,

      Even though you are charged for 24 hours, you are able to use different bikes at different stations for that time period. For instance, if I ride velib home from work, I can still get up the next morning and ride to work… Also, there is a contact number to raise concerns should you have them, as I have used it before, however, it is exclusively in French.

  20. Daniel Romanholli says:


    This was our first time in Paris, we are very sad and disappointed with this situation.

    Me and my wife used the Vèlib service while in Paris. I decided to use my credit card and had no problem at all, so let’s keep that aside.

    She used her debit card, and as we expected, a 150€ deposit was issued from her bank account. Since she purchased the 1,70€ 1 day ticket three times (three different days), they took three 150€ deposits in a total of 450€ that should be refunded 10 to 15 days after the tickets expired. But she received no refund at all.

    The dates of the tickets purchased were 11 november 2015, 12 november 2015 and 13 november 2015.

    So as you can see, we patiently waited to receive the deserved refund but no refund was made.

    So I decided to e-mail them bacause calling would cost a lot, but finding no e-mail like a support on their website, ended writing them through Facebook. A staff called Gisèle aswered asking the tickets number, and after having them told me I was right and they had no reason to keep the money. She then generated a PDF file with some information telling me that I should go to a bank and show them to receive my money back. She even said this “works everywhere in the world”.

    Well, of course that’s not true and we couldn’t receive anything. No bank can do anything with that useless piece of paper. First of all, a refund or a payment should be addressed to my wife’s bank account where the deposits came from. And then maybe we needed a document telling the reason for that money so our government don’t apply taxes over it.

    After being told that paper does nothing, they simply stopped answering and kept our 450€.

    So please be aware that the Vèlib service can’t be really trusted and they may scam you if you use debit card. I need to share this because I don’t want them to make this to other people. Be aware.

  21. Gabi says:

    Me and my boyfriend left Paris last Thursday, we had 7 days Velib ticket, they reserved 300 Eur from bank account. We backed home without 0 money. We don’t know what to do, we didn’t rubbed bikes or something like that, we putted in place where they have to be. We thought that after 7 days period they will back money, but we still didn’t received anything, please help us. What we have to do to back our money in bank card?

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