I am confused by the Paris Metro passes. We are a group of 15- 13 high school students and 2 adults. We will be in Paris for 8 days beginning on a Wednesday (June 8). We do not need transportation from/to CDG. We will be all over central Paris, Versailles, and Chateau Vincennes. We want to save money, but keep it as simple as possible to use metro, RER, and busses. Any wise counsel?
Look into the Paris Visite passes
Zones 1-3 include central Paris and Vincennes
Zones 1-5 include Versailles
The pass is sold in 1, 2, 3, or 5 consecutive day periods, so you will need at least two passes per person. Possibly 3 passes, if you just want to buy a 1 day pass (zone 1-5) for the Versailles day.
Most sites say the Visite pass is a scam for tourists- Convenient, but very expensive.
The Visite that gets you to Versailles is 66 Euro for 5 days. It is the most expensive possible product. So for 8 days -- a 5 day 5 zone pass and a 3 day 3 zone pass, you would pay about 92 Euro each.
For 22.50 a week (mon-sunday you can get the Navigo Decouverte (plus a one time 5 Euro charge for the card). It reguires a 25/30 head shot which you can just print on your computer and bring. Your dates are bad for this, so you would need two weeks of passes which would make it about 49 for the time you are there. This covers everything in the Ile de France/zones 1-5). Even getting two weekly passes is far cheaper than the Visite for your time there. roughly 50 Euro for unlimited travel for your entire time. (it also covers the trip to and from the airport but you indicated you didn't need that)
Another option is to get the Navigo D for the first week and do your out of Paris travel then and then for the Mon-Thurs second week, get everyone a Navigo Easy card with 10 Paris rides on it which is about 16 each. This would be about 40 Euro if you only need 10 rides that second week. ND for each week would be easiest. You just put a new pass on each card at a machine in the metro on Sunday for the second week.
As you can see, the VISITE is your worst choice and the ND while awkwardly timed for your dates might be your best bet. You can get the passes at the airport or at any metro station, although with 16, you may find a regular station doesn't have that many passes and you might have to go to more than one station -- getting it at the airport might be prudent.
Since you don't need the ride from the airport, you could buy all 16 cards and have the passes put on them at the airport but then wait till you get to your hotel to assemble the cards with photo etc. They come as a kit with two cards and a plastic case. Putting the photos on, printing the name, sealing with the gummed flap and inserting into the case, can all be done later (if you are not using the pass from the airport -- you can't use the pass unassembled without risking huge fine). I'd have the group leader just assemble the passes. (I'd also use them from the airport since that makes them super cost effective, but it sounds like you already bought another arrangement)
I agree with the idea of doing two Navigo Découverte passes as being most economical and likely simplest, even if the dates aren't a perfect fit. That said, it does take some logistical planning (but let's be real, travel with that many adolescents always does!).
If it were me, I'd make sure to collect photos that can be used before departure, even if it means taking a quick hallway pic and printing in the appropriate size. Cut them out and toss them in a ziplock baggie and keep with an adult. At the time of purchase, budget some time to hand out photos and for everyone to fill out their info (bring a few pens!). You may want to do this at a train station (or the airport as Janet suggests) versus a random metro station since you need a larger number of passes; you want to make sure they'll have enough. This page has good general instructions.
Budget time again to top them up, and it's on to the fun of navigating public transportation with teens! You might already have lots of tips and tricks for that, but if not, make sure you've got a plan for if someone doesn't get on or off with everyone else!
When I took students we got the Paris visite tickets . There just wasn’t time to get a photo for everyone and to wait in line for the passes. As an individual or family, totally worth it. But you’re going to want to choose ease over cost. I ordered them online and passed them out once I got to Paris. No regrets at all.
Thanks everyone for your wise counsel! €92 for the Visite Pass vs. €50.60 for the Decouvret Pass is a no-brainer. For our group of 15 that's a savings of €621- well worth a photo and a wait on line. And we cancelled our €1,000 private shuttle from the airport and will just take the RER.
and - bonus -the kids (and the old'ens) will have a spifty nifty 3-d souvenir when they get home, and when they get older they can use it again!!!
Do be sure everyone knows how to be pickpocket proof. The RER is not a greater risk than the metro or the Louvre or Eiffel tower for pickpockets but it is a real bummer to lose your money passport etc on the way into town -- make sure everyone has a neck wallet (just thinking that is the easiest thing to make sure 15 kids have and can use - that they wear under their shirts and that as few valuables as possible are carried around.