When I got back to my hotel in Paris it was nearly two in the morning and I was wide awake from an invigorating bicycle ride, so instead of going straight to bed I fired up my netbook to see what had transpired on VirtualTourist during my absence. It happened that on the Paris forum someone had just asked a question about tickets for the Métro and RER trains, so I wrote:
Re: Metro and RER
By coincidence I have just returned (ten minutes ago) to Paris from Versailles. Before leaving I bought two tickets “Paris Versailles-R.G.” (=rive gauche) from the machine at a Métro station for three Euros something each and went out to Versailles on the RER C line with no problems.
But on the way back it turned out that the last RER train, which was supposed to leave Versailles at 23:55, had been cancelled because of track work. It was replaced by a bus, which was slower and only went as far as Invalides, not to St. Michel where I wanted to go. By this time it was 1:00 a.m.
I don’t know what the other people did (the bus was full because we had all been to a fantastic show at the Royal Opera in Versailles) but for me it was no problem because I just took a Vélib’ bike and rode back to my hotel. (The bike ride woke me up completely, which is why I am writing this instead of going to bed.)
The only thing I would add to this now is that there are three train stations in Versailles, and the closest one to the palace is “Paris Versailles-R.G.”. Your normal Paris Métro ticket is not valid for a ride to Versailles, but you can get a Paris-to-Versailles ticket at any Métro station in Paris. The ticket machines are easy to use and have instructions in several languages.
If you return to Paris in the early evening, you are unlikely to find that your train has been cancelled, as mine was.
As of 2022, the traditional carnets of ten cardboard tickets are gradually being phased out in favor of various electronic options such as the Navigo Easy card (which is sort of like the Oyster Card in London, if that’s any help).
But they are still selling individual cardboard tickets (and if you have any left over from previous visits you can still use them). Just insert the ticket in the slot at the side of the turnstile and it pops out the top almost instantaneously. Be sure not to lose the ticket as you might need it again to leave the station in Versailles.
The RER C route goes right along the left bank of the Seine in Paris, but it is mostly in a tunnel so you can’t see much. Just occasionally you can catch a glimpse of the river and one of the bridges. In this photo (above) it is the Bir Hakeim Bridge with a barge passing through underneath and a Métro train from line # 6 crossing on the upper level.
My photos in this post are from 2014. I revised the text in 2022.