Should I Buy Tickets, or a Transport Pass?
The RATP offers a wide array of ticketing options to visitors and residents of Ile-de-France (fr. les Franciliens). Your choice of ticket or transport pass will depend on factors such as length of stay, frequency of travel, convenience, budget, age, student status, legal residency, physical disability, past military service, or qualification for social programs.
In any case, most of the transport options are sold and validated according to the intended zones of travel, i.e. within Paris city limits and immediately surrounding suburbs (zones 1-2), or extending further into the outer suburbs – to destinations such as Château de Versailles or Orly Airport (zone 4), Disneyland Paris or Charles de Gaulle Airport (zone 5), and Château de Fontainebleau (zone 6).
The "t+" Ticket
These single-fare paper tickets are best suited for visitors in Paris on a short stay (1-3 days), who will be using public transport infrequently each day. They are also practical for families or groups.
A "t+" is valid on either the métro, buses, or the central Paris RER trains (zones 1 & 2), as well as certain select venues, such as the funicular at Montmartre. To travel beyond zones 1-2 requires an additional ticket for each zone traveled.
One ticket may be used for unlimited transfers (fr. correspondances) between métro and/or RER trains for up to 90 minutes, and also for single transfers between two buses or a bus and a tram – but not between a bus and the métro/RER system.
Single tickets (€1.90) may be purchased at the station counters (fr. guichets) each time, but the better value is a carnet of 10 (adults: €14.50; children ages 4-9: €7.25), which will save you queuing. Ticket books (and certain passes) may also be purchased from a network of 1,500 retailers (commerces agréés) approved by RATP – including bookstores, newsstands, and tobacconists.
Note: while tickets may also be purchased on board buses (€2.00 each, no carnets available), these are sold sans correspondances (with no transfer privilege), meaning that a new ticket must be purchased to board a second bus or a tram – one of those odd eccentricities of the RATP system.
One-Day Mobilis Pass
A convenient option for frequent travel during a short visit is the Mobilis unlimited 1-day pass, available in various denominations according to the zones of travel. The pass may be purchased in advance at station counters; its day of validity starts upon the first use, and ends at around 12:45 or 1:00 a.m. the following morning (up to 2:00 a.m. on weekends/holidays), when métro service ceases.
At a cost of €7.30 for zones 1-2, a Mobilis pass is cheaper than four individual "t+" tickets (and about equal to five tickets in a carnet). If your day's sightseeing plans will cover a broad swath of Paris, it's easy to break even on this pass versus buying tickets.
An advantage of this pass, when compared to "t+" paper tickets, is that transfers between bus and rail lines do not require a new fare.
Mobilis is valid on the métro, day & night buses, trams, RER trains, and the Montmartre funicular – but can not be used for travel to or from CDG and Orly airports via Roissybus, Orlybus, Orlyval, or RER; it is also not valid on Filéo (suburban bus) or Voguéo (river shuttle).
However, when purchased for the appropriate zones, Mobilis does permit travel to or from Orly (zone 4, €12.00) via the #183 or #285 city bus, and to or from CDG (zone 5, €17.30) via the #350 or #351 city bus.
Paris Visite Pass
A special pass offered only to foreign travelers, Paris Visite provides several advantages over the one-day Mobilis pass: it can be purchased online in advance of your trip to Paris, and activated on any day of the week you choose. It is valid for either 1, 2, 3 or 5 days' unlimited use on the entire RATP network: métro, RER, day & night buses, trams, the Montmartre funicular, and SNCF suburban trains – depending on the zones you choose (1-3, or 1-5).
Your Paris Visite privileges include 20-50% discounts on admission to 18 popular tourist attractions in and near Paris – such as 20% off on tickets to Disneyland, 30% off at France Miniature, €20 off + ½ bottle of champagne at the Paradis Latin cabaret, a free shopping bag plus 10% off on purchases at Galeries Lafayette.
Pass prices vary according to the number of days and travel zones selected; children 4 to 11 years old are half-price (kids under 4 ride free of charge). The pass comes as a card with a coupon attached; fill in your first and last name on the card, and write its serial number along with your planned start date on the coupon. The card and coupon must be kept together and produced for inspection when requested.
NaviGo Découverte: The Weekly or Monthly Pass for Visitors and Residents
Because there is no residency requirement to purchase NaviGo Découverte, it can be an economical choice for visitors planning to stay in the Paris region more than 5 days (weekly version) or more than 2 weeks (monthly version) – but it also depends on the timing of one's arrival:
A NaviGo semaine (which replaces the former Carte Orange coupon hebdomadaire) is valid for specific days only, from Monday morning through Sunday night; it may be purchased starting on the Friday before validity until Thursday of the week it is used.
The Carte Orange card and
A NaviGo mois (which replaces the former Carte Orange coupon mensuel) is valid only from the first to the last day of a calendar month; it may be purchased starting on the 20th of the prior month until the 19th of the month it is used.
There are a couple of caveats, however:
(1.) Tourists – while cheaper than a Paris Visite card purchased for similar zones of travel, Découverte offers none of the admission discounts to popular tourist attractions, and its validity cannot be started on the day of one's choosing;
(2.) Residents who might appreciate the relative anonymity of not registering one's pass with the RATP – in case of loss or theft, a new one costs €5.00, and one must pay full price for the fares to be added again (because RATP has no way to verify what one's old fares were).
If you will be arriving in Paris toward the end of a week, or a few days before the beginning of a new month, then you may wish to consider purchasing a Paris Visite (1, 2, 3 or 5 days' unlimited use) or some daily Mobilis passes for the intervening days.
Effective 1 August 2016, the fares for Découverte are €22.15 for a weekly pass valid in all zones (1-2 up to 1-5, same price), and €73.00 for a monthly pass (also valid in all zones). An annual pass is now available for all zones, at a cost of €803.00. Consult the RATP fare schedule to see if the current rates have changed.
Note: While it is possible that some cantankerous ticket agent may resist selling Découverte to a non-resident, we recommend that you carry a printed copy of this panel from the NaviGo brochure which states that the pass is available to anyone, resident or not – and show it to the agent.
You'll need a slightly smaller than passport-sized photo (25 x 30 mm / 0.984 x 1.18 in.) to place on the pass; be sure to bring extras from home or purchase one for about €5 from machines in the main stations.
Student Pass: Imagine "R"
Any student under the age of 26, whether a native of France or a foreigner with a student visa who is enrolled in a study abroad program, may sign up for the special Imagine "R" pass which confers a number of benefits and privileges. A requirement is that you have a residential mailing address in any of the eight departments within Ile-de-France (75, 77, 78, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95).
It is valid for a year's unlimited use on the entire RATP network: métro, RER, day & night buses, trams, the Montmartre funicular, and SNCF suburban trains (Transilien, not TGV). Exceptions: the pass is not valid on the OrlyVAL airport train, AlloBus-Roissy CDG, Filéo suburban buses, certain Optile bus lines, or any SNCF train requiring reservations.
Students can choose whether to begin the validity of their Imagine "R" pass on the first day of September, October, November, December, or January. The flat €333.90 annual fare may be paid in advance, or divided into 9 equal, interest-free monthly installments of €37.10.
Presentation of the Imagine "R" pass also entitles you to numerous discounts at retail establishments, restaurants, movie theaters, and attractions – plus a 10% discount (during May only) on the purchase of a Sony Vaio laptop. For a complete list of these benefits, consult the www.imagine-r.com web site.
Applications for the pass are available at ticket counters in most métro/RER and SNCF railway stations or RATP retail locations, but must be processed by postal mail. Send your completed application, along with any required documentation, to:
Agence Imagine R
Imagine "R" cards can be renewed each year, provided that you remain a student under the age of 26. Renewal invitations are usually mailed out toward the end of May, and renewals can be started as early as June. In the case of loss or theft of a card, Imagine "R" offers a one-time replacement at no charge; simply visit an RATP agency with proper identification, and your card will be replaced immediately.
Purchasing Tickets & Pass Fares from Vending Machines
Automation is gradually replacing human ticket agents throughout the network. A variety of free-standing or wall-mounted vending machines can be found in most métro, RER, and SNCF railway stations, though the posted directions may only be in French. Many of these will dispense "t+" tickets – including carnets – and can also add fares to existing NaviGo passes.
While most of the machines will accept both cash and credit cards, the form of credit card they recognize is the type containing a smart chip rather than a magnetic strip. Therefore, the older style of North American credit and debit cards with magnetic strips will typically not work in any of them. Agents at station ticket windows and participating RATP retailers are able to process such American cards at their terminals. Since American banks have finally begun converting their cards to the chip type, this issue will soon be a thing of the past.
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