Finding a parking spot in Paris can be tricky. And once you squeeze your car in between a Smart car parked perpendicular to the curb and a delivery van half on the sidewalk, the next step is to pay up. You won’t find a meter for each space as in the U.S. Instead, look up and down the block and you should see a meter like the one pictured on the left. The principle is that for any space marked “payant,” (virtually any legal parking space within the city limits) you pay, the machine spits out a ticket, and then you leave the ticket on your dashboard (on the passenger side) where a meter reader can check to make sure you’re legal.
Forget about putting your loose change in the meter. Parisian meters don’t take cash. You need to use either a prepaid card (Paris Carte) available in amounts of 10 and 30 euros from tabacs and some press kiosks or Moneo. Moneo is more flexible because it can be used in other towns. To obtain Moneo credit, you go to a Moneo machine located at some banks and post offices, insert your French bank card, and indicate an amount of money to be transferred over to Moneo. At the meter itself, you insert your bank card and the meter deducts the amount of Moneo credit you select.
Parisian meters have two rates: one for visitors and one for residents. The resident rate allows you to park your car close to your home for relatively long periods (up to a week) at relatively low rates (currently 65 centimes a day or 3.25 euros a week). To benefit from this rate, you need to display a carte de stationnement résidentiel available for free from the city upon presentation of certain documents proving your residency at a fixed address. Note: if you have a company car registered at a business address, you very likely will not be able to take advantage of the resident rate. Otherwise, you pay a regular fee betweeen 1.20 and 3.60 euros an hour, depending upon the location, between the hours of 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. You can park for free in some locations on Saturday; all parking is free on Sundays, holidays, and the entire month of August. But check the details on the meter just to be sure that you’re legal. And another thing: if the meter where you want to park is broken, you still have to pay even if it means hunting for a meter in service.
If all else fails, consider a paid underground lot. At most lots, you take a ticket from the machine upon entering. Take the ticket with you and pay at a machine upon returning. (You generally have to walk up to the machine thus the logic of keeping the ticket on your person rather than in the car.) You will have to put the ticket into a second machine in order to exit the garage.
And while you’re there, have your car washed or gas up. The lot pictured here, like many others in Paris, houses a service station.
Obtaining a residential permit for parking (in French)