The Paris metro system is awesome. It’s extensive (over three hundred stations), it is beautiful, and if you play your cards right, it can also be cheap.
You may already know that the metro service area in Paris is divided into 5 zones. Travel within the zones is priced according to distance: the farther out you go from the center (zones 1-2), the more expensive your trip will be.
There are a few different options for Paris metro tickets. If you are planning a trip to Paris, this is worth a read – it could save you a nice chunk of change!
Paris Visite pass – Just say non.
Many tourists opt for the Paris Visite pass, which offers unlimited travel in Paris (Metro, RER, bus, tramway, and regional SNCF trains) and (for an additional fee) the greater Paris region, including travel to Disneyland Paris and Versailles. You can get a pass good for 1-5 days.
At first glance, this seems to be the way to go: it’s easily available and is convenient. However, it may not be the best option or bang for your buck.
A 5-day adult pass costs 38.20 euros for zones 1-3, and 65.50 euros for zones 1-5.
Mobilis pass – maybe.
The Mobilis pass is good for one day. There are four different levels, again priced according to zone.
Individual tickets – sometimes.
You can purchase individual metro tickets for 1.70 euros apiece, or you can buy a carnet (a little stack) of ten tickets for 13.70 euros.
These are good if you are only using the metro sparingly.
Navigo Decouverte – oui!
This is the hidden gem of the Paris metro. It’s a little more complicated to get and use than the other options, but could be well worth it, depending on when you are in town and how much you use the system.
The Navigo Decouverte pass is a smart card. The card itself is good for ten years, so if you end up buying one, don’t throw it away if you anticipate returning to Paris in the next few years.
The cost for the smart card itself is 5 euros. There is an additional cost to load the card:
- 20.40 euros for Paris only (zones 1-2)
- 34.40 euros for Paris and all the other zones (1-5)
The unlimited-ride card is valid on the metro, RER train, buses, and trams within the zone limits of your pass.
One tricky part about this pass is the timing. The pass is valid starting on Monday night at 12:01 am (1 minute past midnight), and expires on Sunday night at 11:59 pm (1 minute before midnight). So, you need to figure out if you will be able to extract maximum value from the card based on the days of the week that you will be in Paris, and how much you will use the system on those days. We ended up purchasing the Navigo passes even though our days didn’t align perfectly with the Monday-Sunday window; we supplemented with a carnet for the additional days, and it was still less expensive than other options would have been.
The other tricky thing about the Navigo pass is that you need to provide a small (1-inch square) photo of yourself to affix to the card.
Tip: this is a great use for any stray passport photos you happen to have lying around!
If you don’t have an extra tiny photo of yourself (shocking!), you can also purchase a sheet of photos at conveniently-located photo booths in the metro stations. These sheets of photos cost 5 euros, so it may not be worth it – but do the math, because it might! (As an example, the 5-day Paris Visite pass would still cost more than the week-long Navigo pass + the 5 euro initial cost + a sheet of photos for 5 euros).
To purchase the pass, you need to go to a staffed metro kiosk in any station and buy it in person. Takes two minutes!
A votre sante!
Now go have a nice carafe of wine with all the euros you just saved. 🙂