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 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 €14.90. 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
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 €22.80, plus €5 for the actual card that needs to be purchased from a ticket window. So the total is €27.80. But there is one more thing you need: a photo of yourself. You used to have to get the photo taken at a station, but now you can do it yourself. Your photo could be any size, and it does not have to be glossy or photo paper. There are instant photo booths in major stations if you need to take one there.
To insert your photo, peel the adhesive cover on the Navigo card and stick on the photo. Then you slide it into a plastic cover that comes with your pass. You can do this later, at your hotel or whenever you have a free moment. This is convenient because someone else (like a friend living in Paris) could buy the pass for you ahead of time, so you’ll be ready to go from the moment you arrive.
But for just €29.80, 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 €75.20 for all zones, which includes all 20 districts of Paris. Like the weekly pass, you’ll need to purchase the card and get 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.
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.