Is a Paris Visite Pass Worth It?

The Paris Visite pass is designed to make the Paris Metro a tourist-friendly experience for travelers from abroad. It’s generally more expensive than buying tickets or one-day passes a la carte, but the Visite gives peace of mind to travelers who don’t speak French or are uncomfortable interacting with the Metro cashiers or ticket machines everyday.

The Paris Visite pass is valid for 1, 2, 3 or 5 consecutive days of unlimited travel on Metro trains, RER, buses, tramways, and the funicular in Montmartre. (On the bus, just show the pass to the driver — don’t feed your ticket to the machine.) The clock starts when you use the pass for the first time. The unlimited travel feature is essential if you’re type of travel who makes outings to several different places in one day.

There are two types of Visite passes: The Zone 1-3 pass for Central Paris (including La Defense in Zone 3), and the Zone 1-5 pass which includes Charles de Gaulle airport, Orly Airport, and the suburbs (Versailles and Disneyland Paris). If you want your pass to cover airport transportation, you can either buy the Zone 1-5 pass, or simply buy a Zone 1-3 pass, and purchase a la carte RER tickets for your ride to and from the airport (the cheaper option).

The Visite has two pieces, and you need both of them in order for the pass to be valid. You will get a pouch with a credit card-sized pass, and a reusable paper ticket with a magnetic strip. There’s a slot on the pass that holds the paper ticket in place.

You must sign the back, copy the serial number on the pass onto the magnetic paper ticket, and fill in the start date (du) and end date (au) of your pass on the paper ticket. (Hold off on doing this until you’re actually heading to the station for your first ride. You don’t want to start the clock running on your pass until you’re sure you’re about to use it.) The magnetic paper ticket is what you insert (magnetic strip down) to go through the Metro turnstile. You will need to retrieve it from the turnstile every time and put it back into your pouch.

Don’t know where to buy a Paris Visite Pass? You can buy it online here. Also, travel agencies that sell European rail tickets will also usually have them for sale.

In Paris, you can buy them at any Metro, RER or SNCF train station. The Metro ticket machines don’t provide the complete pass, only the paper ticket. You still have to get the pass from a staffed ticket window, so you might as well conduct the whole transaction at a window if you wait to buy your pass upon arrival.

Though it’s not their main selling point, the passes also grant you discounts on certain tours, a coupon for Galeries Lafayette department store, and discounted admission to certain tourist attractions like Les Invalides (Napoleon’s Tomb), the Pantheon and the Arc de Triomphe, and Disneyland Paris (20% off). The Paris Visite should not be confused with the Paris Museum Pass. It does not grant any sort of “skip the line” privileges.

There are some other benefits to having this Metro pass for your trip. It keeps you from having to wait and line and speak to an attendant every time you want to get somewhere, and saves you frustration if you don’t speak French. (Plus, it spares the local French commuters who would be in line behind you while you try to sort things out.)

It’s hard enough trying to keep your things organized and secure while you navigate the city as an out-of-towner. A pass is much easier to keep up with than a single paper ticket – and trust me, you DO have to keep up with those paper tickets, even after you board the train. You can be stopped and fined by the transit police for being caught anywhere in the Metro system without one.

You can’t count on Metro ticket windows to always be manned. Some Paris Metro stations aren’t staffed with ticket cashiers at all, only self-service machines that take euros (sometimes only euro coins) and debit cards with chips (not the kind we use in the U.S.). It’s better to have a Metro pass on you at all times than to take a chance. And once again, you can avoid being the annoying tourist who holds up the line trying to figure out the machine, and you won’t have any worries about conducting daily transactions with French cashiers or ticket machines there.

Another reason to buy it is that it’s the only Metro pass you can buy in advance before you get to Paris. Some travelers prefer to purchase a Metro pass in advance. This allows you to pay for it in U.S. dollars and be ready to hit the ground running with it as soon as you arrive, so you can bypass the seemingly endless line at the ticket window at Charles de Gaulle airport.

Whether there’s a cost savings in the Visite for you depends on how much back and forth you plan to do on your trip, but regardless of that, there are definitely plenty of time savings and lots of convenience to having it.

 

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