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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
General information about Official Roissy (Charles de Gaulle) Airport Transfer Information
Secrets of Paris Guide to Paris Airports
Official RATP Website of Paris Transit (Multi-lingual)
Paris Trip Tips Transit Guide
More of my Paris Travel Tips