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The best travel deal in Paris has to be the Navigo Decouverie Pass. It’s an unlimited weekly pass that is good for buses, metro, and the RER train lines. And it’s ONLY 22.15€ for the whole week.
The Paris metro system is the second busiest subway in Europe and tenth in the world. It has over 245 stations including the world’s largest station – Chatelet – Les Halles (5 Metro lines and 3 commuter rail lines). It felt like there was a stop no more than a 5 minute walk away. The system is broken into two different types of trains. Click here for full size map in pdf.
The Metro which is a classic subway system is made up of 16 lines that serves central Paris. The lines are numbered 1 thru 14 with two short extensions numbered: 3bis and 7 bis. There are short distances between the stations and a single fare zone is (1.90€ as of April 2017). It is mostly underground and has frequent service.
On the other hand, the RER (Réseau Express Régionale or Regional Express Network) is a commuter train system. There are a total of 5 lines (RER A thru E). The RER trains extend out past central Paris city (including CDG Airport & Disneyland Paris). The RER trains have fewer stops and travel greater distances between stations. The system is also separated into fare zones 1-6, but tickets are priced from station to station.
The Paris metro runs from 5:30AM – 12:40AM Sunday thru Thursday and from 5:30AM-1:40AM on Fridays and Saturdays. During rush hour trains would run every 2 minutes – yes – 2 minutes, it was amazingly fast. During off hours, holidays and Sundays the frequency was still very good (approximately every 8-10 minutes).
Here were the trains heading back into Paris from Disneyland – every 10 minutes.
You could download schedules and timetables from the Paris Metro website – but don’t waste your time. The easiest way I found to get around was by simply using Google Maps. Here is an example:
Route Planning / Getting Around
We were in Versailles and wanted to visit the Sewer Museum – after finding it in Google maps, it gave me the following options:
We obviously took the quickest option that only used the RER C line and had no other transfers. After clicking on it, Google showed us exactly where to walk to nearest metro station, which metro line to pickup and which direction, how many stops in between, and which stop to get off. It was easy!
You can even click on the metro line and it will expand and show you all of the stops along the way so you can make sure you are going in the correct direction:
Tickets & Passes
There are many options for tickets – single ride tickets, books of 10 or 20, single day passes, multi-day passes, weekly and monthly passes.
Single Use Tickets
Single tickets are sometime known as ‘Ticket t+’. These are good for a single ride of any length throughout the metro system including changes to other metro lines and RER trains within Zone 1.
These tickets are sold at ticket windows in stations or automated vending machines. The price in April 2017 was 1.90€.
You can also buy a book of 10, 20, etc, and get discount. A book of 10 was 14.50€. There is special children pricing also (4-9 years old was 7.50€ for a book of 10). Children 3 and under are free.
Day tickets are called Ticket Mobilis which is good for the whole day (but not for airports). There are various prices depending if you just want central Paris (Zones 1 & 2) or if you want the full system (Zones 1-5). Versailles is in Zone 4, Disneyland Paris is in Zone 5.
The multi-day tickets are called ‘Paris Visite’ and aimed at tourists. These too are available in different combinations (3 zone and 5 zone versions along with 1, 2, 3, or 5 day lengths).
Now for my favorite and what I think is the best deal in Paris. The Navigo Decouverte is a weekly pass for unlimited rides on all metro, RER, and bus lines in all zones 1-5 including the airports (CDG & ORY). And it’s cheap – only 22.15€ for the whole week.
The catch though is that timing is critical. The pass is good from Monday thru Sunday and not a 7 day continuous period. So if you arrive on a Wednesday and buy this pass, it will only be good until Sunday at 11:59PM. You can buy the pass until Thursday. The following week’s pass is on sale starting Friday morning.
Timing worked out perfectly for us as we left Washington DC on Sunday evening and arrived into Paris on a Monday morning. We stayed 6 night and left Sunday morning. So when we bought our passes, it was good the whole time.
A few other notes:
- If don’t buy the pass, a single ticket from CDG to central Paris is 10€ and can be purchased from the vending machines.
- You have to buy these at a ticket window, you can’t get from a vending machine.
- The 22.15€ does not include a 5€ fee for the card with smart chip in it (left in photo below). So your total cost will be 27.15€.
- You will also have to provide a small face photo that measures 3cm x 2.5cm (a little smaller than a passport photo). Most stations have a photo booth nearby for 5€ fee. We printed out our photos out on card stock paper at home before our trip and they were perfectly fine.
- You will get the smart card wrapped in a paper case with your photo on it. The attendant will have you write your name in the space, then they will insert it into a protective plastic sleeve.
Where to Buy
We ended up purchasing our Navigo passes at CDG airport as soon as we landed. There are 3 terminals at CDG and the RER B train stops at two of them (Terminal 3 & Terminal 2). We ended up arriving in Terminal 1 – but there is an internal tram system that goes from Terminal 1 to Terminal 3 to Terminal 2. Terminal 3 is in between 1 & 2 as shown in the map below.
Here is the ticket window to buy the pass in Terminal 3 – there was no line and took about 5 minutes for two passes.
Next, simply swipe your card at the turnstile and the glass doors open.
Head down the escalator to the platforms and hop on the next train. It couldn’t have been easier.
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