Is the Paris Navigo Card suitable for tourists?

Is the Paris Navigo Card suitable for tourists? Travel for a Living

When visiting a new city, working out which ticket is best for your needs should ideally be one of the first things to do. Otherwise you might end up spending a lot more money on public transport than you really need. And no one wants that. After all, we all know that city trips don’t come cheap, let’s not blow our budget on silly mistakes. When heading to Paris, there are many ticket options available, and I have written in great length about them. The one option that is probably least known to tourists is the Pass Navigo. What is it? Is the Paris Navigo Card suitable for tourists? And is the Navigo the cheapest option for my Paris trip?

Over the years, I always went for a multiday ticket when visiting Paris. It offered me access to the entire public transport network for my entire stay without really thinking much about it. However, this wasn’t always the cheapest and most suitable option for a Paris stay. As I started my work project in Paris last summer, I realised that the multiday tickets weren’t really working for me. First up, my client’s offices were outside Paris in Zone 5. I ended up buying a return tickets every time I had to go there, which at almost 15 Euros was adding up quickly (OK, I didn’t really have to pay for it myself. But even on business trips, I don’t like wasting money, be it my own or my clients). And as for the rest of my time in Paris? My hotels were usually fairly central, so that I wouldn’t need to use public transport to get to the office or get around town. Therefore, a pack of ten single tickets would last me a while.

However, it wasn’t so much the cost, but the hassle of queuing up for my train ticket every time I arrived in Paris, that eventually got me looking into the Navigo Card options. I found it rather confusing trying to work out, whether or not the Pass Navigo was suitable for me or not. Especially with my rather limited French. Luckily one of my colleagues helped me out and explained it all to me.

To make it easy for you, I’ve put together all you need to know about the Carte Navigo. So that you can work out, whether the Navigo card is suitable for your needs as Paris tourists.

Is the Paris Navigo Card suitable for tourists? Travel for a Living

What is the Navigo Card?

OK, let’s start with the most obvious question.

The Navigo Card (or Carte Navigo in French) is a plastic card, that can be pre-loaded with a daily, weekly or monthly ticket and used for public transport in Paris and its surroundings.

Which type of Navigo Card is suitable for tourists?

There are two different types of Navigo.

One is the Carte Navigo, which is available to those living or working in Paris. This card is linked to your bank account and can be loaded with a monthly or yearly pass for all 5 Paris zones (or zones 2-5, 3-5, 4-5, if you don’t need access to Paris centre). As tourists, you can completely forget about this type, as it is not available to you.

Instead, the Navigo card suitable for tourists is the Navigo Découverte card.

Once you’ve purchased your Navigo Découverte, you can load it with a day pass, week pass or even month pass, depending how long you stay in Paris. The prices for the individual passes (day, week, month) are the same for Navigo Découverte and Carte Navigo. So, there is no disadvantage to having the Navigo Découverte card, other than that you can’t have a yearly pass. But I guess that there isn’t much need for a yearly travel card for Paris, unless you are a resident there.

Is the Paris Navigo Card suitable for tourists? Travel for a Living

How much does the Navigo Card cost?

The Navigo card itself costs 5 Euros. Which are non-refundable. So, if you are only in Paris once, you will have to add those 5 Euros to the total cost, to work out whether the Navigo Card is suitable for you as tourists. Should you visit Paris more often, you can re-use your Navigo card over and over.

A day ticket for zone 1-2 (so central Paris) costs 7.50 EUR with any Navigo card (or 10 Euros, if you want a day ticket for zone 1-3).

To load a weekly ticket onto a Navigo card will cost you 22.80 EUR for all five zones. And a monthly ticket costs 75.20 EUR. So, even if you only stay in Paris for four days, the Navigo card might turn out cheaper than buying a 5-day Paris Visite standard ticket at 38.35 EUR).

Does my Navigo Card expire?

Yes, it does eventually expire. But it is valid for 10 years. Plenty of time for several trips to Paris, before you’ll have to replace it.

What do I need to buy a Navigo Card?

To buy your Navigo Decouverte card, you will need to visit one of the ticket counters at the Metro stations. Unfortunately, you cannot buy your actual card at the ticket machines. Getting my card was a bit of a struggle, as my French is fairly limited, and it seems I didn’t have much luck finding an assistant that would speak enough English to explain it all to me. Fortunately, my colleague came to my rescue and purchased the Navigo Card for me.

The Navigo Découverte Card consists of two parts. The actual re-loadable chip card and an ID card. On this, you will have to write your name and stick a photo on, before sealing it all with the stickers provided.

The photo needed for the ID card is smaller than a standard passport photo (3cm x 2.5cm). I simply printed a photo at home (on standard paper, not photo paper) and cut it to size, so no need to get proper photos taken. 

When you travel, you will always need to have both parts of the card with you, the chip card is not valid without the ID card.

There is no need to register the Navigo Découverte Card. Which gives you anonymity, but also means that if you lose your card, any ticket loaded onto it is lost.

You cannot share a Navigo card with others (unlike for example the Oyster card in London). Everyone travelling will need their own Navigo card (or other type of ticket).

How do I load my Navigo Card?

Once you have purchased your actual Navigo Card card, you can load it at any ticket machine in train or metro stations. There are special vending machines for Navigo, you can easily recognise them by the large purple dot to place your card on.

Once you’ve placed your card on the dot, it will be read, and you can if you want a day, week or month pass and for which zones. Ensure you keep your Navigo pass on the dot until you have completed the transaction and payment, then it is ready to go.

Is the Paris Navigo Card suitable for tourists? Travel for a Living

When is the Navigo Card suitable for tourists?

As I have mentioned before, the Navigo card can be a cheaper option. But not necessarily.

If you are only in Paris for a day or two, you might be better off with a Paris Visite ticket.

The Navigo card day pass costs 17.80 EUR for all five zones (there is no zone 1-3 option for Navigo). Whereas the day pass on Paris Visite only costs 12 Euros for zone 1-3. For most tourists a zone 1-3 ticket is sufficient, as it includes the entire centre area of Paris. Only if you are heading to or from the airport or are considering a trip further out (Versailles for example), would you need a ticket for zones 4 or 5.

Unless of course your accommodation is in zone 4 or 5. In that case the Navigo card is your best option from day one.

Once you get to 3 or more days, you might be better off with the Navigo card. At 22.80 Euros for a week ticket, Navigo is a cheaper option than a three-day Paris Visite ticket (although you will have to factor in the 5 Euro charge for the card itself).

But it isn’t as straight forward as this. The weekly pass is not valid for seven consecutive days. It is valid for one calendar week, so from Monday to Sunday. Let’s say, you visit Paris for four days from Friday to Monday. A weekly pass on your Navigo card would only cover the time from Friday to Sunday and you would need to buy an additional day pass for Monday. Making it more expensive than buying a Paris Visite 5-day ticket. However, if visiting from Thursday to Sunday, the Navigo card is suitable for tourists.

Same goes for monthly passes. They are valid from the first to last day of the month, not for 30 days. And can be bought from the 20th of the previous month. I had to learn the hard way that you don’t try to buy your monthly pass on the first of the month, as there is going to be a massive long queue at the stations that morning.

Hope this helps you a little in deciding whether the Navigo card is suitable for tourists or not. It sure made my life a lot easier travelling to Paris every week and I can very much see it as a benefit if I were to visit Paris as a tourist for a few days in future (sooner rather than later, as far as I am concerned, I do miss Paris and travelling in general at the moment).

Have you ever tried the Navigo card? Would you agree the Navigo card is suitable for tourists? Or which ticket option would you recommend?

All ticket prices are correct as of November 2020

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