Paris: Will buying a Navigo pass help you save on the Metro and bus?

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Paris Metro
The Metro is a great way to get around Paris, but is buying a Navigo pass worth your time? We investigate. Photo: Bryan Pirolli

Everyone wants to feel like a local in Paris, and taking the Metro is one of the best ways to achieve such status. But is it worth taking the plunge and subscribing to a transit pass, called the Navigo? Let’s break it down.

The Navigo

The Navigo pass is a card that allows you to enter the Metro or bus system by simply tapping your card at the turnstile or on board. No paper tickets. No multiple visits to the machine. Once your card is charged for the week or month, you can take the Metro, bus or tram as many times as you’d like within a certain area.

Depending on your plan, the Navigo will cover only a certain number of the five zones in the greater Paris region. Most visitors will only visit within zones 1-2, but you can buy for zones 1-5 if needed. Separate “supplement” tickets can be bought to get to the outer zones for those isolated trips to Versailles or the airport.

It’s a convenience for those commuting to and from work every day, but the Navigo isn’t always going to be a budget traveler’s best friend.

Navigo

To purchase a Navigo pass, you need to get your photo taken at one of the bigger Metro stations, even if you’re only visiting for a short time. Photo: Bryan Pirolli

Short Visits

If you’re only in Paris for a few days, I don’t think that you should even consider it. A monthly or weekly pass isn’t worth it, and you can rely simply on the “carnets,” or packs of 10 tickets purchased at a reduced rate of €13.70. So you get 10 rides split between however many people you’d like.

Besides, walking is the best way to explore the city.

Related: 10 tips for riding the Metro like a local

Longer Visits

If you’re here for at least a week, you may want to consider a weekly pass. The passes start on Monday and are valid through Sunday, so if you arrive on Friday, you’ll still have to buy regular tickets (or carnets) and wait until Monday to start the weekly pass. If this seems frustrating and complicated, don’t even bother with it.

The pass costs €20.40, plus €5 for the actual card that needs to be purchased from a ticket window. You also have to include a photo on the card, and ID photos can be taken in many big Metro stations (like République, Denfert-Rochereau or Chatelet) for €5. So for €30.40, you get a weekly Monday-to-Sunday pass.

But for just €27.40, you could have 20 tickets, or two carnets, that will probably be more than sufficient for your trip. If you think you’ll take more than 20 rides in a week, then consider the weekly Navigo.

Or maybe consider re-organizing your trip, because that is a lot of time in the Metro.

Related: 50 ways to save time and money in Paris

Really Long Visits

If you’re staying for more than three weeks, you may want to opt for the monthly Navigo at €67.10 for zones 1 and 2, which includes all 20 districts of Paris. Like the weekly pass, you’ll need to purchase the card and take a photo for it.

These passes start at the beginning of the month and have an advantage that the weekly passes do not. On weekends (midnight on Friday to midnight on Sunday) and holidays, the passes allow you to travel to any zone. So if you are planning weekend trips to Versailles, Disneyland, the airport, or anywhere else that is outside of central Paris, you could end up benefiting from a monthly pass.

And chances are if you are here for a few weeks, you’ll have walked enough that the comfort and ease of the Metro will come in handy more than just once a day.

Bottom Line

Plan it out. If you’re staying out in zone 4 for some reason during a prolonged three-week stay, you might want to consider the monthly or weekly pass to save money.

But if you’re staying central for a few days, forget the Navigo pass. It would be a shame to waste hard-earned money on a Navigo that you end up not using at all.

What do you think?

Do you agree with our assessment of the Navigo pass? Have you purchased one when visiting Paris? Tell us about your experience in the comments section below.

Note: This article was updated on June 27, 2014 to reflect that the Navigo pass works on Paris’ bus and tram systems, as well as the Metro. Many thanks to our readers who left comments below.

About the author

Bryan Pirolli

About the author: With his college diploma fresh off the press, Bryan Pirolli headed for Paris and four years later he’s still there. A journalist and a tour guide, his main M.O. is pursuing a doctorate degree in communications at the Sorbonne Nouvelle. Bryan regularly travels on a budget, experiencing the best of European culture while still trying to make rent.  So far, so good. You can follow his adventures on his blog: www.bryanpirolli.com.

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12 thoughts on “Paris: Will buying a Navigo pass help you save on the Metro and bus?”

  1. Hello,
    It is not clear to me if the actual Navigo pass can be recharged for one week only. I still have my Navigo pass from when I studied in Paris (where I charged it monthly) and am wondering if I can pay to use it for just one week when I return there soon. In other words, I don’t need to pay for a new Navigo but am wondering if I can recharge the one I have already?
    Thank you very much,

    Katie

    Reply
  2. Hey Guys,

    This post is one of the most easy to understand when it comes to traveling in Paris with the Navigo pass. Thx for this!!

    But, I have a question and was wondering if you could clarify.

    So, I landed in Paris yesterday and am staying near Noisy-Champs station in Zone 4. I am here for three week summer course and will leave Paris on 30 July. My course is in Central Paris which means that I have to travel from Noisy-Champs (Zone 4) to Central Paris (Zone 1/2) almost everyday. I am confused about the concept of zone-free travel mentioned in the comments by KC (June 23, 2014 at 2:58 pm) and Rob (June 26, 2014 at 2:17 pm).

    Do I have to buy a monthly Navigo for zones 1-4 costing 105.40 Euros or I can just buy a monthly Navigo for zones 1-2 costing 67.10 Euros and still travel from Noisy-Champs (Zone 4) to Central Paris (Zone 1/2) because its is summer and the travel is ‘zone free’.

    Thank you for the help!!

    Reply
  3. Hi Melanie,

    The Navigo Semaine (weekly) pass is good for a calendar week – Monday to Sunday. You could buy a card for Aug 4 – 10, and would need to use regular tickets from Aug 1 – 3.

    Kids 4 and under are free. There is a reduced price carnet for children 4 to 10, but I don’t see anything about a Navigo for children.

    KC

    Reply
  4. If I buy a monthly pass but need an extra week, can I add a week and not an extra month? Example: arrive July 7 to July 31, but then need Aug 1-7

    Are kids discounted? Do they need their own pass?

    Thanks for the help

    Reply
  5. Good comments on the Navigo Pass, but a few other points are worth considering for those staying in Paris a week or more:

    1. The Navigo is valid on both the bus and Metro, so you can easily transfer between them for journeys that require both. (For example, in some locations like Montmartre, you can be 8 or 10 minutes from a Metro, so a bus to the Metro saves steps. With tickets, you can’t transfer between the Metro and bus, so you have to use two tickets.)

    2. You can just bring a photo with you of the required size. We photocopied our driver’s licenses and trimmed them. They worked fine.

    3. If you’re staying a month or more in the summer, the Navigo gives you free travel throughout the Ile de France in weekends, which makes it a bargain to go to Vaux-le-Vicomte, Fountainebleu, Provins, Auvers-sur-Oise, and other places.

    Reply
  6. I have a month navigo card. I have to go to the airport on Monday. So if I go RER can I just pay a supplement?

    Reply
    1. The RER stations have machines that sell the supplement. You place your Navigo on the machine’s charging dock, pay the fee, wait for it to download to the card, and go.

      On my trip last year the supplement had to be bought within hours of the trip, so you can’t do it the day before.

      The Navigo is one of the great conveniences of the Paris public transit system. It’s possible to over-calculate the costs — at worst it might cost you a euro or two more than using the tickets, but as one reader noted, with the Navigo you feel perfectly free to catch the bus for a one- or two-stop trip if time is short or it’s just started to rain.

      Navigo can now be used to register for Velib – check out its web site, Velib.fr. (I haven’t tried it.)

      Reply
  7. Here are a few more data points to enter into the calculation:

    First, Navigo is not just a Metro pass. It works as well on the buses and trams. You just swipe your card over the reader as you enter. If you have a Navigo card, you won’t have to think twice about hopping on a bus for two stops when it’s raining or just to save your energy. Depending on the journey, buses can just be plain easier to use than switching on the metro.

    Second, the Navigo (month or longer) besides during holidays and summer vacation (mentioned above) also allows one to travel in all zones during school holiday periods of Zone C (Winter, Spring, All Saints, and Christmas.)

    Third, if you do travel outside your zone(s) when not free, you now need only pay the additional fare (le complément de parcours), say, if you are going to Versailles.

    Lastly, do not underestimate the ease of just slapping down a card on the reader instead of fishing around for tickets, or change to buy tickets, or finding a station that will actually accept your non-chip credit card to buy a carnet.

    Reply
    1. Is this something that I should ask for specifically? We will be there from July 7 to Aug 7… ( with kids who are 3.5 and 5.5 yrs old) suggestions for them?
      Thanks for the help, especially the part about the navigo being used on the bus system too :-)

      Reply
  8. Hi Bryan,

    Thanks for the tip that monthly Navigo passes are good for all zones on the weekend! I’m flying in/out on weekends and staying for 3 weeks.

    It’s worth mentioning that the 5 euro for the card is a one time cost. I’m about to take my 3rd trip, and will use the same card.

    You can also save the cost of the photo by bringing one from home. I printed mine on photo paper on an ordinary inkjet printer. The RATP website has details on the size.

    KC

    Reply

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