How to Travel Around Paris Like a Local

Navigo Pass card being held in a Paris Metro station

Emily Jackson / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

There are two types of multi-day rail travel passes that visitors to Paris should consider: the Paris Visite pass and the Passe Navigo Découverte. Both transportation passes work on almost all metro and commuter trains around Paris, and are especially valuable for traveling outside of the city center to either of the airports, Versailles, or Disneyland Paris.

The Paris Visite pass is more expensive than the Navigo Découverte, but depending on what days of the week you're traveling around Paris, it may be a better deal.

The Paris Visite Pass

If you want to avoid the hassle and purchase a Paris transportation pass from another country, you can get the Paris Visite Pass, which is specially designed for tourists and also offers discounts on museums and tours. The Paris Visite Pass is available online.

Though the Paris Visite pass isn't quite as good value as the Navigo Découverte, it has three main advantages:

  • The Paris Visite pass is valid beginning from any day of the week.
  • The Paris Visite pass can be purchased online from any country.
  • The Paris Visite also offers museum and tour discounts.

The Paris Visite is available in 1-, 2-, 3-, and 5-day versions for either zones one through three (central Paris) or all zones (including Chateau Versailles, Fontainebleau, Disneyland Paris, and both airports). The Paris Visite pass is valid for the Paris metro, the RER trains, buses, regional trains, and trams.

The price of the Paris Visite pass ranges from €12 for one day in central Paris to €65.80 for five days in all zones. Discounts for children under nine are also available.

Keep in mind that "one day" of the pass ends at midnight, regardless of what time you first use it. For example, if you arrive in Paris on Friday and swipe your three-day pass at 8 p.m., your first day is already used up four hours later, and your three days would end on Sunday night at 11:59 p.m.

The Passe Navigo Découverte

The Navigo Découverte covers transportation on trains, the RER, and the metro in Paris. The current pass includes transportation within Paris and suburbs, airports Charles de Gaulle (CDG) and Orly (ORY), Chateau Versailles, Fontainebleau, and Parc Disney.

Tourists can purchase a Navigo Découverte pass at almost any Metro, RER, or Transilien train ticket window—including in the airport—that normally sells tickets and passes in Paris. There are currently two versions of the Navigo pass, the standard Navigo and the Navigo Découverte. The Navigo pass is reserved for the locals, but anyone can purchase a Navigo Découverte. Some sellers of the popular transportation pass may try to discourage foreign tourists from purchasing a Navigo Découverte, leading them to the more expensive Paris Visite pass.

You will need a picture of yourself for the card, 3 cm high by 2.5 cm wide, which is smaller than passport size. You can purchase them in photo kiosks located in most stations.

The Navigo Découverte pass costs about 23 euros ($26) and covers all zones, plus a fee for the card itself (5 euro, or $6 USD) and the cost of the photos.

The Navigo Découverte pass is a one week pass that begins Monday morning and expires Sunday at midnight, regardless of when you start using it. So if you arrive in Paris on a Thursday and purchase the Navigo Découverte card, your "week pass" will only last four days.

Paris Visite or Passe Navigo Découverte?

The Navigo Découverte is a better deal than the Paris Visite pass for travelers staying longer, albeit slightly more complicated since you need to provide a photo and purchase it in person. For a more hassle-free process, buy the Paris Visite online.

The most important factor, however, is what days you plan to use the pass. Since the Navigo pass only works from Monday to Sunday, if you arrive mid-week or later, you're better off using the Paris Visite pass for the number of days you need transportation. You can also purchase individual metro tickets if you plan on staying around the city center.

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