When visitng a new city via public transit, one of the great debates is deciding which is cheaper – buying a pass for unlimited travel or buying individual tickets.
The Paris Métro has 16 lines, mostly underground, a total length of 214 km and there are 300 stations. To many, it is the ideal way to get around Paris fast and easily as each line has a different color and number. At first glance, the map appears overwhelming , but it quickly becomes easy when you understand how it works and what stations the key sights are located at.
It is obviously cheaper if you buy 10 tickets at a time (local’s call it a “carnet”). Key saving money principle: Buy in Bulk .There are also passes which are convenient and cheaper than purchasing individual tickets. For tourists, the Paris Visite pass can be purchased for one (€8.80), two (€14.40), three (€19.60), and five (€28.30) days. You can buy one for zones 1-3 covering the centre of Paris, or zones 1-6 covering the whole of the network including the RER out to the airports, Versailles and Disneyland Paris.
In my opinion, these passes are rather expensive, they make you feel pressured to take the métro everywhere to get your money’s worth, even if the sights are within walking distance of each other. The guilt of putting that money down up-front may sway you to take the métro, even if walking is faster and less tiring because you don’t have to walk up and down the stairs to the underground station.
Lastly, if it is warm enough and you want to save even more money, rent a bike from a Vélib’ station, users need to take out a subscription but it allows an unlimited number of rentals. Subscriptions can be purchased at €1 per day or €5/week.
Ask yourself the below (to determine if a carnet of tickets is cheaper than buying a multi-zone, unlimited pass)
- Are the sights, museums and galleries I want to see close enough to each other so I can walk to all of them?
- Are the sights I want to see within the city centre (Zone 1 or 2) and not in outlying suburbs like Zones 5 and 6?
- When I go out at night, will I be able to take the métro and make use of my pass or am I planning to take a taxi so I don’t have to walk in heels?
My advice: Map out all the sights you want to see, make sure you visit them in the most logical order – visiting various sights in the same neighbourhood on the same day. Try to limit taking the métro once in the morning, then walk to or bike to your next destination and then take the metro home a second time at the end of the day. Therefore only 2 tickets are used for the entire day and you are able to experience the city above ground, in the sunshine, instead of touring the dark tunnels of the Paris underground.