How to Buy a Paris Travel Card

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Descend into any metro station in Paris and you’ll see locals swiping a purple card before entering the gates. This contactless smart card is called Navigo, and it’s a public transportation card that allows its user unlimited travel for whatever length of time they bought the pass for.

It’s not only locals that can benefit from the Navigo card, either – tourists and short-term visitors can, too! Find out how below.

Buying a Navigo Pass

Navigo passes can be purchased at any metro, RER, or Transilien station with an underground service desk or ticket window. Regardless of which type of card you wish to buy, you will have to come armed with the following items:

  • An ID card
  • A passport-sized photo (exact measurements 3cm tall x 2.5cm wide) – don’t worry if you don’t have one handy, there’s almost always a photo booth nearby that’ll get you four photos for €5.
  • A pen or marker to sign your name on the card

After letting the ticket seller know what kind of card you wish to purchase, they will prepare the card for you in a matter of minutes.

Navigo vs. Navigo Découverte

The simple Passe Navigo card is intended for people who live or work in the Ile-de-France region and is attached to an account that you create online (I’ll get back to that later!). The Passe Navigo Découverte on the other hand is available to anyone and everyone.

If you order a Passe Navigo online, the card won’t cost you a cent. People who are only valid for the Passe Navigo Découverte are a little less lucky – the pass itself will cost €5.

Paris Pass Cost

A weekly Navigo card will ring up at €22.15.

A monthly Navigo card, meanwhile, will cost you 73.

Yearly passes can also be purchased, but for Passe Navigo holders only. They are discounted with one free month per year. The price is a hard-to-swallow 803, but, mercifully, payment is debited automatically from your bank account monthly. Pretty convenient, as it means you don’t need to stand in any queues at the end of each month to reload your pass!

Validity

Unlike some cards in other major metropolitan cities, Paris transport passes have strict start and end times.

If you opt for a weekly pass, it’ll only be valid starting first service on Monday (around 5:30) and ending last service on Sunday (around 1:00). As such, if you arrive mid-week in Paris, you are better off buying metro tickets instead of a metro pass. Not that you’d have much choice: You can buy or reload a weekly pass only until the Wednesday of that week.

Monthly passes are also subject to set time frames. Validity will start on the first service of the first day of the month and end on the last service of the last day of the month.

You can reload your monthly Navigo card starting the 20th of each month (get there early to avoid the queues!). Keep in mind that if it’s your first Navigo card and you buy and load it end of the current month, it won’t actually work until the first of the following month.

How to Get a Passe Navigo

As I mentioned before, people who live or work in Paris are valid for a Passe Navigo. These can only be purchased online at the official Navigo website. (A word of warning: This website is in French only, so if you are not fluent, enlist a French friend to help you create an account!)

As long as you’re eligible for a Passe Navigo, getting one is actually very easy. You just need to follow these steps:

  1. Go to Navigo.fr and click Je gère ma carte
  2. Click either Commande de carte Navigo (if you want a weekly or monthly pass) or Souscription Navigo Annuel (if you want an annual pass)
  3. In the Informations personnelles section fill in personal details including name, French address, French phone number, and email address
  4. Create a password and accept the terms and conditions to complete your account
  5. In the Photo section upload a coloured headshot photo taken against a neutral background. It must be maximum 5 MB, with accepted formats being JPEG, GIF, BMP, TIFF, PNG and PDF
  6. In the Récapitulatif section, review that all of your information is correct before submitting

Once your information and photo have been reviewed and accepted (maximum 21 days), your Passe Navigo will be mailed to you free of charge. Once you receive your card you can charge it at any recharge station.

Reloading Your Paris Travel Card

If your card is nearing its expiry, you can either return in-person to a ticket seller booth to reload your card, or go to a machine. A machine meant for reloading Navigo cards will be specially designated as such, with at least one being found in every metro, RER, and train station.

The beautiful thing about Navigo cards? After your first one made up, that’s all you need. If you visit Paris three times a year, or simply don’t need your card every month, don’t toss it – just let it go unloaded. You’ll always be able to reload it again when necessity strikes.

Paris Metro Tickets vs. Navigo Card

If you’re just visiting Paris for the short period of time, are not going to be in the city for an entire month, or simply don’t travel by metro often, you can vouch for metro tickets instead of a Paris travel card.

One Paris metro ticket costs €1.90. However, you can save a few euros by buying a pack of 10 at once. That’ll ring up at €14.50.

Where Can I Use a Paris Travel Card?

The Navigo card allows its user free travel in central Paris and all Zones 1-5. This includes travel to Charles de Gaulle Airport, Orly Airport (via RER C and Orlybus only), Disneyland Paris, and Chateau de Versailles.

You can use your pass on any vehicles from the RATP, the SNCF, Optile, and all companies under the STIF. It will not work on TGV trains.

Little known fact: You can also use your Navigo card with the Vélib bicycle rental network and the Autolib electric car sharing service!

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