Paris Practique :: Arrivals
[in honor of my friend Aaron who arrives in Paris this weekend with his mother for the first time, ‘Paris Practique’ is a new series designed to have my favorite tips and tricks – in one place – for your next trip to Paris]
When flying in or out of Paris it’s good to know there are two main airports – Charles de Gaulle [CDG in the North] and Orly [ORY in the South] – and a third smaller airport – Beauvais (which gets its own post)- that caters to budget airlines such as Ryan Air. To make sure you’re getting to/from the right place it’s always good to triple check. This post will focus on CDG as that is the airport where most international flights fly into.
CDG is divided into two terminals aptly named Terminal 1 and Terminal 2. It is more important when leaving Paris to know which terminal you are flying out of because there’s it’s rare to find something in the RER train car that will help you know where to get off. Either way, it’s not the end of the world, as there is a free shuttle bus that goes between the two terminals.
Once you are through customs and have your bags, there are 3 major ways to get into the city.
- Taxi – This is your most expensive option (~50Euros – it’s now a fixed rate depending on which side of the river you’re staying on), but also, in theory, your most hassle free option. It is definitely a good option if you are sharing the cost with others. There will likely be people who try to offer you a ride, but only take an official taxi from a MARKED TAXI STAND. Depending on time of day, traffic could be a major annoyance making your trip twice as long. Or, if you arrive in August, when all the French are on vacation, your driver may take the opportunity of open roads to drive like he’s on a NASCAR raceway (or whatever the French equivalent would be).
(If you’re calling an Uber, I believe you have to have them pick you up in the Departures area. Chauffer Privé and Le Cab are the more local apps).
- Shuttle – Shuttles can be arranged ahead of time and are a more affordable option than taxis at about 30 Euros (which you can pay online). They are especially a good option for students moving to Paris with lots of bags. Just be warned that after a long flight you might not be overly eager taking the “scenic” route as the driver weaves his way throughout the city to drop off various passengers. And when leaving Paris to go to the airport, the shuttle can mean a 4am pick up for a 7 or 8am flight. I’ve had good experiences with Paris Airport Shuttle. If you are flying a major airline, like Air France, be sure to check with them about any services they offer (I’ve heard they have a shuttle bus that leaves from Charles de Gaulle Etoile [Arc de Triumph]). There is also an airport bus that leaves from Opera.
- RER – The RER is the commuter train line of the reliable (except when on strike) Paris Metro system. This provides the most affordable way into Paris at about ~10 Euros each way these days. When it comes to transportation, Paris is divided into 5 zones. Most of Paris you will be visiting is within zones 1-2 (so you will be able to purchase the cheaper metro pass), but since the airport is further out, you will have to buy a separate ticket just to get into the city. While it’s always good to keep your most current metro ticket at arm’s reach in case of a check point, the RER is the only time you will have to use the ticket when you enter and exit the station (this is to know what zone you are in). When you arrive at Gare du Nord or Chatelet, you will able to change to a regular metro line without extra cost. Both CDG and Orly are at the end of the [blue] RER B blue – not all trains go to all stations, nor to the airport (the further the RER goes it, it forks). There are screens in each station to show you where the next train will stop, but when in doubt, follow the masses who also have suitcases. The hardest thing about getting metro/RER tickets when you first arrive in Paris is that many of the self-use machines don’t like American credit cards (European credit cards use a “smart chip”), so to save yourself time, it’s probably best you just head to the queue of people buying tickets. If you want to save yourself a little hassle of dealing with it at the airport, various metro tickets can be purchased in advance through RailEurope.com.