Results tagged CDG from David Lebovitz

Paris Taxi News and Tips

Taxi in Paris

Like many cities, taxis play a major role in getting people around Paris. However getting a taxi in Paris can be quite a challenge. And with only 4000 cabs added since 1937, from 14k to 18K, if you’ve ever been standing on a deserted street at 2am, then you don’t need me to tell you what a relief it is to find a taxi when you need it.

Also, as far as I know, Paris is one of the only European cities where the meters start when you call the cab. So be aware that if calling in advance, there will already be a higher fare on the meter than what is normally there if you just hail one yourself. (The Lyria train has a service where they will have a cab waiting for you at the Gare de Lyon, which I once used and when I got in, I saw the meter already had €17 on it. The total fare was €24 so most of it was “waiting time. I do recommend using a driver or making arrangements to be picked up by a service or taxi if arriving at the Gare du Nord via the Eurostar as there can be huge lines for taxis there. But at the other stations, it’s usually not a problem.)

A couple of new services have started in Paris. One are shared cabs, where you split the fare with someone. I’m not sure if you’ll save all that much on a trip within the city, but going to the airport can cut the far almost by half. Another development are véhicules de tourisme avec chauffeur (VTC), or taxi-like vehicles with private drivers. The government is trying to impose a rule that if you use a non taxi chauffeur, they have to wait 15 minutes before picking you up. Here are a few other caveats to know about taking a taxi in Paris:

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Milan

Italian Breakfast

Even though it’s just next door, every time I go to Italy, I wonder why I don’t go more often. Before I moved to Europe, I used to wonder why Europeans didn’t travel to other countries more often. And now I’m one of them. I think it’s because just to go anywhere, whether it’s a 45 minutes flight or a 4.5 hour flight, you still need to schlep to the airport, arrive in a new city, find your bearings, and by the time you’ve finally figured out most of the good places to go, it’s time to head home.

babas

It also doesn’t help that when I returned from this trip, two airlines were striking at Charles de Gaulle airport, the RER train was closed for some unexpected (and unexplained) reason, prompting a few thousand of us to be bused to a deserted train station in the middle of nowhere, to wait in the cold pre-winter air until a train showed up nearly an hour-and-a-half later, well after midnight, making the trip from the Paris airport back to the city (which is a mere 23 km, or 14 miles), nearly four hours – or three times longer than the flight to Milan.

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Favorite Travel Items

I’ve made a couple of big trips lately, and although I’m (almost) home for a while, I’m not really a good traveler so I take a few things along to make traveling easier and more comfortable. Here’s a list of things that I don’t leave home without, to make life a little more pleasant on the road, and in the air…

Tempur-Pedic Eye Mask

My whole travel life changed with the Tempur-Pedic eye mask, which is the only one that blocks out all light and doesn’t hurt your head and make you feel like you’re recovering from brain surgery. It also doesn’t press on your eyes, which is said to discourage REM movements, necessary for good sleep. It takes a few moments for the memory foam to conform – and you look like a robotroid wearing it – but when you’re blissed out in total darkness, who cares if others on the plane think you look funny having a puffy black band around your head.

They used to sell them at Brookstone but replaced them with another eye mask for whatever reason. (Amazon seems to be habitually out of them as well.)

And there is a Rick Steves Travel Dreams Sleep Mask that is said to block all light, but with all those dark angles and pleats, it might make your face look like the batmobile.

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Paris Apps

I am accro (hooked) on my smartphone and when friends told me right before I got it, about how it would change my life, I was skeptical. But the moment I started figuring out all the features and downloading apps, it became an integral part of my life. And like many things, the rest of the world has adapted to the phones and enterprising folks have created a myriad of applications for them.

Here are some of the apps that I have on my smartphone. Because they rely on a relatively new technology, in some you might encounter bugs and glitches. Some are free and others cost. But I’ve come to realize that with “free”, you sometimes get what you pay for – some of the free ones are ad-supported – (I have no commercial affiliation with any of these apps) and am happy to pay a few bucks for an application that I’ll use – like a good French dictionary. Which I am sure the rest of the people in France appreciate me having as well.

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Why is the food so abysmal at Charles de Gaulle Airport?

aeroports de Paris

Because they recently asked, since my last trip out of Charles de Gaulle airport, I decided that I would try to imagine the perfect airport in Paris.

I sometimes take a bit of ribbing because being a good American, I can’t go too far without having le snack handy. And with airlines requiring earlier check-ins and cutting down on food service, a number of airports have gotten with the program and realized that there’s thousands of people passing through daily, many waiting…and waiting…and waiting, with nothing to do but eat.

I’ve given up on the food on the trains since those plastic-wrapped triangular sandwiches look terrible. If I was famished, I’d sooner eat the armrests. They apparently gave up the pioneering sous vide cuisine that three-star chef Joël Robuchon created for the trains, and while rail technology was embraced and swiftly moved forward, the food unfortunately didn’t zoom exactly in the same direction.

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Paris Transit Options

water taxi

Here is information about Paris transit passes. (Please note that fares change, so check the RATP website directly for latest information and fares.) Tickets and passes are available in métro and bus stations, as well as RER and train stations, and kiosks at Orly and Charles de Gaulle Airport. You’ll also find a link at the end for a listing of other places in Paris to buy transit tickets and passes.

Please note that many of the métro stations have changed and the people in the ticket booth no longer sell tickets. The major stations, however, are still manned by cashiers. Most of the transactions are now done by bilingual machines which don’t take American credit cards, although the machines they do take cash and coins in euros. I recommend bringing exact change in coins when you go.

Also prices are subject to change and for the most up-to-date information, follow the links provided to check on prices directly at the website(s).

Paris passes are generally good for zones 1 and 2, which are sufficient for most visitors. Tickets to the airports or to Versailles (which are other zones) are best purchased separately since you will likely only be making that trip once or twice, which isn’t enough to justify the higher-priced pass

In my opinion, if your arrival dates jibe with the ones for the Navigo Découverte, that’s the best pass as it allows unlimited travel so you don’t have to fumble and worry with tickets and transfers.

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Crazy Americans

airport line

When you fly in to Charles de Gaulle airport, there’s a mad rush to get off the plane. Then you’re herded to a holding pen-like area, where you wait to go through passport control. It’s complete chaos: everyone surging forward, en masse, trying to get around everyone else, regardless of who got there first. That is, except for the Americans, who wait patiently for their turn, but quickly learn that if they don’t assert themselves, they’re going to spend their entire vacation in that stifling, airless space.

If you leave 4.5-inches of space in front or behind you in France, you may as well not even be there as people take that to mean you’re not waiting. I know that because they act very surprised when I tap them on the shoulder and point out that yes, I are indeed standing in that line with my luggage, just like they are, to check in to my flight. I’m not just hanging out at the airport with a suitcase because I had nothing better to do.

So you have to constantly be on your toes and you can’t let your guard down for a second. If you do, you’ll never get anywhere. It’s pretty exhausting.

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Paris Airport Transfers: Charles de Gaulle/Roissy

Bastille Day in Paris

Here’s a list of the various ways for visitors to get to and from the city of Paris from Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG), where a majority of international flights arrive and depart from.

The airport is undergoing a much-needed renovation, so give yourself a bit of extra time to catch public transit and find your way around once you’re dropped off. They’ve also added an extra security stop (passport control) before you can enter the satellites and duty-free shopping area, which you need to pass before you get to the gate area, lounges, and x-ray screening.

Even though they’ve made the airport a bit easier to navigate, it’s still confusing and things aren’t always where you might think they’d logically be. On my last trip, a group of us loaded with luggage followed the signs to the airport from the RER station—which led to a solid brick wall. Ouch!

Depending on traffic, the ride can take anywhere from a minimum of 30 minutes to 1 hour or more. Because schedules, fares, and hours of service change frequently, I suggest you check the website of the mode of transit you prefer for the most up-to-date information.



RER Train

The RER is fast and economical, and doesn’t depend on traffic patterns so even if you’re traveling during rush hour, it pretty much runs on schedule. The RER B line, the one to Charles de Gaulle Airport, travels through some dubious areas on the outskirts of Paris and I’ve heard third-hand reports of pickpockets and trouble, but haven’t experienced any of them firsthand. As always when traveling anywhere, be cautious, but not paranoid.

If you have a lot of luggage, schlepping through the underground métro and RER stations can be a big hassle, especially when the escalators and elevators aren’t functioning. If you do take the RER, when you arrive at the airport, you’ll need to hop on the tram (Terminal 1) or a shuttle (Terminal 2) to take you to whichever terminal you’re going to. Make a note of that before you get on so you’re not fumbling with paperwork during the scrum to get off the train.

The stations in Paris where the RER line B goes directly to the airport are: Gare du Nord, Châtelet/Les Halles, St. Michel, and Luxembourg. Some of these stations are very big and bustling so give yourself extra navigational time. Trains go every 15 minutes, from around 5am to 11:40pm and note the ‘B’ line splits, so make sure the sign on the platform says that the train is headed towards the airport before you hop on.

Frequent travelers might want to invest in a carnet aeroport of ten tickets, good for going to-and-from the airport. You get a discount for buying ten at once, and they don’t expire so you can use them on future trips. They can be purchased at the cashier’s desk, or in the machines, by scrolling past the single airport ticket option.

Website: Ratp.fr
(Click on country flag for other languages)

Roissybus

Takes 45 minutes to an hour, and leaves from the rue Scribe and rue Auber, just across from the American Express office. From Paris, if you take the métro, there’ll be signs in the station directing you where to go when you exit the train.

This is an inexpensive way to go at €9.40 and there are no staircases to contend with. Although unless you’re staying near the Opéra, you’ll have to take transit to get to the departure area in Paris, or vice versa. The other downside is that you’re traveling on surface roads and there may be traffic, especially at rush hour (although there are special lanes within Paris for buses.) Buses go every 15-20 minutes and run 5:45am until 11pm. There is a machine to buy tickets at the airport, or you can buy tickets from the driver.

Website: Roissybus

Air France Bus

These buses, called ‘les cars’ in France, depart from Charles De Gaulle every 30 minutes. Four various routes in Paris stop at Charles De Gaulle & Eacute;toile (Arc de Triomphe), Porte Maillot, Invalides, Gare de Lyon and Montparnasse. You can purchase tickets from the driver or the ticket booth in some instances.

The bus is inexpensive (around 15€) and relatively fast since they go on direct routes. They do travel on surface roads so travel time is subject to traffic.

Website: Les Cars Air France.

Noctilien Bus

If you arrive late at night, the Noctilien bus of Paris runs from 12:30am to 5am. You can get to the Châtelet, Gare de Lyon, Gare Montparnasse, Gare de l’Est and Gare St. Lazare using lines N120, N121, and N140.

Buses run every hour and the trip isn’t very rapid, so unless you’re really pinching centimes, my recommendation would be to spring for a taxi late at night.

Website: Noctilien

Semi-Private Shuttle

With these, you can pay in advance, online with a credit card, and you’ll be given a toll-free number to call which you do when you arrive at the airport. The operators and drivers usually speak English, but be sure to print out your confirmation with the number in case they don’t have it on record (which has happened to me.)

The best part of the shuttles are that they take you right to the front door of where you’re going. The downside is that you may end up cooling your heels at the airport waiting for others to arrive, or you may be the last to be dropped off in Paris, depending on where you’re going. The cost is usually close to 24€ for one person, with economical discounts for two or more. (You can tip the driver around 2€ if you wish.)

A few I’ve taken are Bluvan and Yellow Airport Shuttle. You can search for others online. One I’ve had particularly good luck with is Bee Shuttle which offers a “First Class” shared option, promising only two stops.

Taxi

You can get a taxi from the stand at the airport, although there can be a line waiting. In general, the fare to CDG is between 35-55€ and there’s a surcharge for each piece of luggage. Drivers will only take 3 people maximum unless they have a van.

From Paris, you can hail a cab although they’re technically not supposed to stop anywhere except at taxi stands, which are listed in your handy Guide d’Arrondissements. Since cabs can be scarce, especially in bad weather or during busy times, the hotel can call you a cab. Be aware that in Paris, the meter starts when the driver gets the call, so don’t be surprised to find a few euros on the tab when they show up. There is also a minimum charge in Paris. (You can scope out the cab stand near your hotel the night before, although see if it’s well-occupied which will give you an idea of availability the next day.)

Or better yet, get the phone number of a good driver you might have come across during your stay. Most drivers have mobile phones. A typical gratuity is 5%, or 10% for particularly excellent service.

You can also call G7 taxis direct or order one online. Their website has an English-speaking phone number and G7 also has over 100 wheelchair accessible taxis available (with advanced notice.)

Les Taxis Bleus has a bi-lingual website as well, and you can find more information here.

Private Driver

It’s possible to hire a private driver who’ll meet you as you exit customs. After a long overseas flight, it’s a nice luxury to have someone waiting for you with a sign with your name on it to take you right to your hotel or apartment.

Prices for drivers range from 75€-90€ per trip, although some apartment rental firms and hotels charge 4 or 5 times that for personalized service so it pays to check around. Since many drivers have their own vans, they can take more than 3 people and lots more luggage, which can mitigate the higher price. A typical gratuity is 5%, or slightly more—although it’s not required.



Note: Prices are subject to change and are noted just for informational purposes. Best to check the websites of the various operators for the most up-to-date information.



Links

General information about Official Roissy (Charles de Gaulle) Airport Transfer Information

Secrets of Paris Guide to Paris Airports

Top-rated Paris Travel and Dining Guides and Travel Necessities

Official RATP Website of Paris Transit (Multi-lingual)

Paris Trip Tips Transit Guide

10 Insanely Delicious Things You Shouldn’t Miss in Paris

More of my Paris Travel Tips