Paris has two international airports: Aéroport d’Orly, 18km (11 miles) south of the city (mostly European flights), and Aéroport Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle (CDG; mostly long-haul carriers), 30km (19 miles) northeast. The contact information for both airports is www.parisaeroport.fr; 00-33-1-70-36-39-50 from abroad, and 39-50 from France (.35€/min.).
If you are taking Ryanair or another discount airline that arrives at Beauvais airport (see below), be advised that that airport is about 80km (50 miles) from Paris.
ROISSY-CHARLES-DE-GAULLE (CDG) AIRPORT: CDG has three terminals that are some distance apart from one another. A free train called the CDGVAL connects all three to the two train stations.
The quickest way into central Paris from the airport is the fast RER B (www.ratp.fr) suburban trains, which leave every 10 to 15 minutes between roughly 4:50am and 11:50pm. It takes about 40 minutes to get to Paris, and RER B stops at several central Métro stations, including Châtelet-Les-Halles and Saint-Michel–Notre-Dame. A single ticket, which can be bought at the machines in the stations at the terminals, costs 12€.
Le Bus Direct operates three routes from the airport to the center of Paris (www.lebusdirect.com; 08-10-81-20-01; .12€/min.): The first (line 2) stops at Port Maillot, Charles de Gaulle–Etoile, and Trocadéro, with a terminus at the Eiffel Tower; the second (line 3) links CDG to Orly airport; while the third stops at Gare de Lyon with a terminus at Gare Montparnasse. You’ll find good Métro connections from all stops. Depending on the route, a one-way trip costs 12€ to 22€ adults and children age 4 and over (children 3 and under travel free), and e-tickets can be bought in advance online (valid for 1 year from purchase); trips take about 1 hour and 10 minutes, depending on traffic. Buses leave every 30 minutes between roughly 5am and 11:40pm. The Roissybus (https://www.ratp.fr/en/titres-et-tarifs/airport-tickets; 34-24) departs every 20 minutes from the airport daily from 6am to 12:30am and costs 12€ for the 70-minute ride. The bus leaves you in the center of Paris, at the corner of rue Scribe and rue Auber, near the Opéra.
The flat rates for a taxi from Roissy into the city are 50€ Right Bank, 55€ Left Bank, not including supplements (1€/item of luggage, 20 percent extra 5pm–10am and Sun and bank holidays). Taxi stands are outside each of the airport’s terminals. Alternatively, Uber functions in France, with flat rates of 45€ to 50€ in an uberX car (www.uber.com).
ORLY AIRPORT: Orly has two terminals: Orly Sud and Orly Ouest. To get to the center of Paris, take the 8-minute monorail OrlyVal to the RER station “Antony” to get RER B into the center. Combined travel time is about 40 minutes. Trains run between 5:30am and 11:30pm; the one-way fare for the OrlyVal plus the RER B is 12.05€ adults, 6€ children ages 4 to 10, free for children 3 and under.
Le Bus Direct operates one route (line 1) from the airport to the center of Paris (www.lebusdirect.com; 08-10-81-20-01; .12€/min.), leaving from both Orly terminals every 20 minutes between 5am and 11:30pm, stopping at Gare Montparnasse, Trocadéro, and Charles de Gaulle–Etoile. The fare is 12€ one-way for adults, 7€ children ages 4 to 11, free for kids 3 and under. E-tickets can be bought in advance online (valid for 1 year from purchase). Depending on the traffic, the journey takes about 1 hour. The Orlybus (https://www.ratp.fr/en/titres-et-tarifs/airport-tickets), which leaves every 15 minutes between 5am and 12:30am, links the airport with place Denfert-Rochereau, a 30-minute trip that costs 8.70€ for both adults and children.
The flat rates for a taxi from Orly to central Paris are 30€ Left Bank, 35€ Right Bank, not including supplements (1€/item of luggage, and 20 percent extra 5pm–10am and Sun and bank holidays). Uber offers a flat rate of 35€ for the Left Bank and 40€ for the Right Bank in an uberX car (www.uber.com).
BEAUVAIS AIRPORT: Beauvais airport (www.aeroportbeauvais.com; 08-92-68-20-66; .45€/min.) is around 80km (50 miles) from Paris and is served by budget airlines such as Ryanair and Wizz Air. Buses leave about 20 minutes after each flight has landed and, depending on the traffic, take about 1 hour and 15 minutes to get to Porte Maillot on the western edge of Paris. To return to Beauvais, you need to be at the bus station at least 3 hours before the departure of your flight. A one-way ticket costs 17€ (15.90€ if you purchase it online in advance).
One of the best ways to get around France and Europe is by train. The French railway agency, the SNCF (Societé Nationale des Chemins de Fer Français; www.oui.sncf), has a vast network that connects most major cities and quite a few smaller towns, though you will often have to pass through Paris to get from one place to another. The cheapest tickets are sold online at www.ouigo.com, this is part of Oui SNCF, but the on-board service (which usually includes a buffet car or trolley service, and lets you travel with as many bags as you need) is different: On Ouigo trains no food or drink is sold (bring your own or starve), and like with low-cost airlines, you are allowed one item of size-restricted hand luggage, plus a shoulder bag. Any extra/larger items are charged at 5€ each way upon reservation. If you are caught with more luggage than you reserved, you will be asked to pay 20€ extra per bag as you go through the ticket gate (aka the cattle-herd gate, as people line up untidily as they wait their turn). As a result, travelers must arrive 30 minutes before departure. This is especially necessary at Gare Montparnasse, where Ouigo trains leave from platforms in the Hall Vaugirard, which is a good 10-minute walk from the main station.
If you’re traveling with kids 3 and under, they are allowed to sit on your knees and travel for free, but I recommend paying for an extra seat by selecting the Forfait Bambin for 9€; your child will have their own space, and you’ll have more room for bags.
The SNCF connects to railways in neighboring countries, including the U.K. The Eurostar (www.eurostar.com), which passes under the channel for a nerve-wracking 20 minutes, will get you from Paris’s Gare du Nord to St. Pancras Station, London, in just 2 1/4 hours. If London is your destination, know that even though the regular ticket price can be high (around 200€ one-way!), scads of discounts are available (from as little as around 40€ one-way) on the website, especially if you purchase in advance and/or are flexible about times. Brussels is only 1 hour and 15 minutes away on the high-speed Thalys (www.thalys.com) train, and tickets range anywhere from 25€ to 145€ depending on what deal you get. Visit the site for high-speed trains to Brussels, Amsterdam, and Cologne. For rail passes that you can use throughout Europe, visit Rail Europe (www.raileurope.com).
Paris has six major train stations: Gare d’Austerlitz (13th arrond.), Gare de Lyon (12th arrond.), Gare Montparnasse (14th arrond.), Gare St-Lazare (8th arrond.), Gare de l’Est (10th arrond.), and Gare du Nord (10th arrond.). Stations can be reached by bus or Métro. Warning: As in many cities, stations and surrounding areas can be seedy and are frequented by pickpockets. Be alert, especially at night.
Cheapest of all, and the most time-consuming, is the bus. For travel within Europe, contact Eurolines (www.eurolines.com), a consortium of dozens of different bus lines with routes that span the continent (Seville to Zurich, anyone?). Most long-haul buses arrive at the Eurolines France station on the eastern edge of the city, 23 av. du Général-de-Gaulle, Bagnolet; Métro: Gallieni.
We wouldn’t recommend driving in Paris to our worst enemy but renting a car and driving around France can be a lovely way to see the country. All of the major car-rental companies have offices here, but you’ll often get better deals if you reserve before you leave home. AutoEurope (www.autoeurope.com) is an excellent source for discounted rentals. Even better may be AutoSlash.com which applies discount codes to rentals from all of the major multinational firms, which can mean big savings. It also monitors prices, so if a rate drops, it re-books you automatically. You pay for the rental at the counter, not in advance.
Before you step on the gas, at the very least, try to get a list of international road signs; your car rental agency should have one. Driving in France is not substantially different from driving in most English-speaking countries (although British travelers will have to get used to driving on the “wrong” side of the road). However, you’ll have to get used to French drivers, who tend to zoom around with what the more-timid among us would call reckless abandon (particularly look out for motorcyclists, who can be daredevils). Truthfully, since the installation of radar a few years ago, drivers have become much more well-behaved; you, too, should pay attention to speed limits or risk a steep fine. The two biggest driving differences: priorité à droite, which means priority is always given to vehicles approaching from the right at intersections, unless otherwise indicated; and the fondness for roundabouts. Rule number one regarding the latter: The person getting into the roundabout does not have priority. Rule number two: Be sure to take a look at the sign posted before the roundabout that indicates which exit goes in what direction so that you’ll be prepared when it’s time to get off. The good news is that if you miss your turnoff, you can just circle around until you figure out where it is. In Paris, certain large roundabouts, like Place Charles de Gaulle at the top of the Champs-Elysées, don’t have marked lanes, so it can seem like a free for all. The key here is not to hesitate and look around you at all times.
By Ferry from England or Ireland
Ferry travel to France appears to be in its waning days, since more and more travelers are opting for low-cost flights or a much speedier passage through the Channel Tunnel. In England the two leading operators of ferries are P&O Ferries (www.poferries.com; 03-66-74-03-25), which runs ferries from Dover to Calais, and Brittany Ferries (www.brittanyferries.com; 08-25-828-828; .15€/min.), which runs ferries from Portsmouth to Caen, Cherbourg, St-Malo, or Le Havre and Plymouth to Roscoff. Irish Ferries (www.irishferries.com; 01-70-72-03-26) operates an overnight ferry from Cherbourg for Roscoff to Rosslare or Dublin. Call or check websites for times, prices, and points of departure/arrival.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.