If you’re on a budget, or just a budget-savvy traveler, you may be wondering what the most affordable way to get around Paris, France. We looked at single tickets, rail-passes like Eurail, and hiring/renting a car. It took a bit of digging through the internet, but we found a budget-friendly way to get around Paris. It’s the navigo découverte.
Loved by many people around the world, it’s no surprise that Paris and its many icons have been the setting of numerous films and stories. Midnight in Paris, Moulin Rouge, and Amélie are just a few of many well-loved movies that have inspired travelers near and far – including us – to flock to the City of Light and Love.
Paris is a wonderful city to walk around and explore, but you're going to want to use the trains, subway, and buses to get around as well. If you're staying within the city there are passes that work in zones 1-3, and there are additional options if you're staying in zones 4 or 5.
We stayed at an AirBnB (click here to get $25 off your first stay!) that was in zone 4 and after weighing our options decided to go with the Navigo Decouverte. The Navigo Decouverte is a weekly transportation pass that is sold Monday-Thursday and is valid from Monday-Sunday of that week.
So whether you purchase it on Monday or Thursday, it will expire at the end of Sunday. They are re-loadable, so if you're staying for a couple of weeks then you are able to re-activate them. You'll have to determine whether or not it makes sense for you depending on these factors:
Which days will you arrive and how long are you staying?
Which zone will you be staying in?
What are you planning to do in and around Paris?
For us, even with our plane delays causing us to lose 2 days in Paris, the Navigo Decouverte zones 1-5 coupled with a day of purchasing individual tickets was the best deal. We were able to use the Navigo on buses, RER trains, and the Metro. We used it to see famous Paris sites in a day, and also to visit Walt Disney Studios Park.
It was very convenient and easy to use–no little paper tickets to lose or damage. The Navigo Decouverte comes as a card that you just touch to the purple swirly marks at the station gates or bus entrances.
There are some articles online stating that some people have had challenges being able to purchase the Navigo Decouverte as a tourist, but our experience was hassle-free. A train station employee actually recommended it to us after asking us about our itinerary for the week, however she did not tell us about signing it or adding our photo to the pass.
A quick internet search discovered that there have been cases of a 35€ penalty fee if you are using the pass without a photo. We were fortunate and didn't run into anyone checking our passes, but we did see the French police on the trains and at the stations regularly throughout our 5-day visit. So we'd highly recommend attaching your photo and signing your pass.
Have you ever used the Navigo Decouverte? Let us know your experiences or questions with the Paris public transportation in the comments below!
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Jenny & Bradley of EatWanderExplore