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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.