I am a little nervous about this trip. Have never been to Paris. Yes, am going to meet up with a tour group, but in meanttime will be travelling solo flying over there to begin with. I will be attending the Rick Steve "Paris" class coming this Saturday, but could use some encouragement as I'm feeling a little insecure going thinking about and getting to Paris UNTIL I mheeet the group. and hopefully some of the tour group will take me under their wings some. Thank you for anything you could offer besides "relax and have a good time" . lol thank you. My trip is July 27 - Aug 2.
Cathy, It sounds like you're worried about the logistics of flying in, dealing w customs, etc. and getting to your hotel? If that's the case, the Rick Steve's guidebooks are great for logistics. I would suggest you spend a fair amount of time studying the transportation sections that describe the airport and airport transportation options. That will tell you what to expect. Arriving in a new city, particularly jetlagged, is a time I always take a taxi. That saves me the stress of finding my hotel in the city I don't know. Just make sure you Get in line for an official taxi. Don't accept a ride from a driver that approaches you in a random location. Or if you want to make it super easy, maybe the Rick Steves folks or your hotel can arrange to have a driver pick you up at the gate; I have never taken this approach, so I don't know the prices.
Another thing that might help is to look at www.easycdg.com. Also, if you do not speak French and that is contributing to your unease, please know that the signage in CDG is very easy to follow so you should have no problem getting to the taxi stand. Write the name and address of you hotel on a piece of paper and after saying bonjour, politely give it to the driver. As mentioned above, if you take a taxi, do not accept rides from anyone but the dispatcher at the designated taxi spot. I am not sure that you can be met at the gate but there are car services that will meet you when you first come out of the arrivals door.
I doubt that you'll have any major problems with your trip to Paris. CDG is a bit large but if you've previously travelled by air, I'm sure you'll manage fine. When you disembark from the plane, just follow the herd through Passport control, collect your luggage and then proceed into the city.
There are several different options you can use to get to your hotel. The most common methods.....
- RER "B" (train) - this is one of the quickest ways as it's not affected by traffic. That will get you from the airport into Gare du Nord or one of the other stations, where you can transfer to the Metro. However, you'll need to be vigilant for scammers and watch your luggage carefully (although I should add that I've never had any problems). Have a look at the excellent Paris By Train website for more information. Be sure to read the "Safety & Security Tips" on that website, as there WILL be pickpockets and scammers in Paris.
- Taxi - the others have provided lots of good information on that.
- Shuttle (shared?) - there are a number of shuttle firms operating from CDG and you could pre-book for a ride right to your hotel. I believe there are some listings in the Guidebook.
- Roissy Bus - Goes from the airport to Paris-Opera. From there use a Taxi or Metro to reach the area of your hotel.
Which area of Paris will you be staying? Did the tour literature provide any suggestions on the best method to get from the airport to the hotel? Is this a RS tour?
The RS staff at the class on Saturday will be able to provide LOTS of information to allay any concerns you might have.
Hi, Cathy. It's okay to be a little nervous. :)
I'll admit that I don't particularly like CDG, but it's basically just like any other airport you've ever been in. Keep an eye out for signs (someone recommended the Paris by Train website, which is fantastic because it's got a lot of step-by-step photos), and if you suddenly feel unsure that you're going in the right direction, don't be afraid to step to the side to take a breath and figure it out. It may help you to create a small sheet of notes that you can keep in your pocket re getting from CDG to your hotel so that you can easily refer to it and reassure yourself. Remember that this is just a tiny portion of your trip and once you've done it, it's done! (And then you can "relax and have a good time.")
I've never taken a cab from CDG, but I've had great success with shuttles and the RER.
I think everyone will agree they get the pre trip jitters. Don't look it as a negative thing, but as a reaction to something new. Just like getting on a unknown horse for the first time.
I think if you spend some time learning how the metro works and learn some of the basic works/phrases you will find out once you get there, its all easy and will so fun you will look back at your jitters and think it was all for nothing. Note that i still get jitters going back even after 3 times. but i know its just the jitters and nothing else. Once I'm overthere, its full speed ahead and have loads of fun.
one other thing is that you will probably have all of your accommodations made so all you need to do is to get from A to B.
also, look at traveling in Paris as a multiple way trip. If you get on the wrong train, get off at the next stop and go back to where you started. Its not like a 1 way trip where if you screw up, they deport you.
You'll be fine. Good advice from all above. I think Alex might underestimate the % of French who like us (though they privately think we're a little goofy). I'd put it closer to 98%. But of course I'd defer to him! ; )
The "bonjour" thing is real. The only negativity I've had from Parisians is when I forget to say hello first and just launch into my question or problem. The person I'm accosting (as they see it) pointedly says "bonjour, monsieur" and waits for me to respond before being helpful. This politeness and formality seems ingrained into French discourse, and trips up some of us (at least western Americans) who are just more casual. But when in France, do as the French do. It's really easy enough and maybe we should do it here at home too. And I think "thank you" is the most important phrase to know in any language, and the one you'll be using most often.
So, to quote a wise traveler who might not know it yet, "relax and have a good time!"
In addition to the resources above, if it is a Rick Steves Tour that you are meeting, then you will receive a specific recommendation on how to reach the reserved tour hotel. We can certainly look at a map with you when you come into the store.
It will actually be easier than you think it will be when you get there! I agree that sometimes "relax and have a good time" is a well-meant but not actually very helpful sentiment.
I have not been to the individual classes Rick puts on, but have been to his Fall/spring/tour reunion festivals. You are going to feel so much more comfortable after you go to this class. You will probably have an opportunity to talk with the presenter afterward for advice as well.
Meanwhile, I suggest taking a taxi to your hotel. The first time is a bit overwhelming and this will be easiest. You will get some Euro from your bank before you leave home so you can pay the driver. If you are unsure about taking the Metro in Paris and you don' t run into anyone at the hotel who is also taking the tour, you can walk around the neighborhood. How many days ahead of the tour are you arriving?
Get the Streetwise Paris map which is foldable and laminated. With a sharpie, mark on it where you hotel is and see what is in the neighborhood. Then go to google street view and take a walk!
editing to add: just fully read Alex's advice. I cracked up thinking about having a drink from the mini bar and looking out the window at Paris! Excellent! I believe I will do just that.
Hi Cathy. Paris is my most favorite place! I did take a 7 day Paris city tour; that was a wonderful introduction. I do love Rick's Paris book but I always search my library and bookstore for additional information and another point of view. Using the library as a start works for me, then I can purchase it is it is great. I have a Paris Top 10 book, I am not sure of the writer, bit it is a large company like Frommers. I have seen them at Costco too.
I use a Paris Metro app, and plan from home on how to get places. The night before I write out the connections and line names and numbers for the Metro, so it is in my little pocket notebook , that I buy @ The dollar store! I am nervous about using my phone in a busy area, so my notes are easy to access and look at when I am on the train.
I always make a plan at home of what my priority must see items are and try to make a plan according to grouping things by area, so I make best use of my time. For instance, I find a local market, which is one of my favorite things to do, then walk about, find a cafe,see some gardens. And perhaps walk back to my hotel along the Seine. Views from walking along the river are marvellous, I never tire of it. As the light changes, the river views change. I am a bit planning crazy, so I make a large word doc table at home and print it out and mail it to myself. BUT if I want to sit in a cafe all afternoon and ditch my plans for the day, I just do it. I have learned that I love people watching from outdoor cafes; they do not mind is you sit for long periods. I do leave a larger tip if I stay for a long tome, but that is just me.
For me, if I do a lot of research beforehand, I am much more relaxed when I arrive. Each evening I review the next days plan. Everyone has varying comfort levels, so you need to find what will work for you.
Other faves for me is the Orsay museum, Notre Dame cathedral, and the Eiffel tower.
Have a great time.
Strikes by transportation employees with little or no public warning can crimp your plans. Stay flexible.
Pay attention to June's idea of writing down her metro destinations and change points so she can reference them easily the old-fashioned way without whipping out a smartphone or tablet. That takes just a little bit of time to do, but will make you so much more confident in navigating the metro!
If you are nervous about going to Paris on your own do some preparation beforehand and you'll feel more secure about traveling.
Upon Arrival in Paris -
First off, after leaving the customs and passport control area at Charles de Gaulle (CDG) airport, you can look for a tourist information desk. Most TI's have multi-lingual staff who you can answer any question.
I'd recommend you take the Roissy Bus into Paris. It will drop you off in the center of town on the Right Bank right by the Opera house (yes, this is the Opera house made famous in the Phantom of the Opera musical). I suggest you do that rather than take a taxi because of multiple reasons: you're jet-lagged, dealing with foreign paper money, would not know if the driver is going the right way or wrong way and the bus goes from point A to point B always.
Once in Paris (you're almost at your destination!), if it were me and I didn't speak French, I'd have a flash card that said "Gallerie Lafayette". This is a huge department store near the Opera on the Boulevard Hausmann. If you arrive during open hours (10 - 8pm-ish), go to the tourist information desk at the department store. The people there speak excellent English. They love American tourists. Ask for help as to which bus or RER or Metro to take. They will give you a Paris map and draw on it - where you are now and where you want to go. The Gallerie Lafayette maps have the Metro map on it, I believe.
Back out on the streets -
Have a French phrase sheet in hand. The RS guide has a good one. Be good at pointing at the phrases and reading mime.
Familiarize yourself with the most useful French phrases you'll be using:
(1) Bonjour! (hello!)
(2) Parlez-vous anglais? (Do you speak English); they'll say "Oui" (yes) or "Non" (no)
(3) Ou est (hold up flash card and point to the words)? (Where is ?); the name of your hotel and its address is important to have!
(4) Merci! (Thank you!)
This translates to: 1 + 2 + 3 + 4
At this point the person might speak to you in fast French. Just look confused, shake your head and lift your shoulders.
They may break down and speak to you in English or walk away in disgust. (a 50/50 chance) :)
In general -
If you have a good sense of direction, having a map and being able to read it is half the battle to navigating Paris.
Even though other people say it's not possible, you can get lost in Paris. Most of the buildings are the same height and it can get confusing as to which way is north, south, east or west especially if you walk along some neighborhoods with crooked streets. Keep a map in hand and be okay with people speaking French to you. If you need any other advice, feel free to send me a message.
I hope all this doesn't sound too silly because I'm really taking your concerns seriously.
Hi Cathy, Paris in 7 Days was the first RS tour I took (now on #5) and I guarantee that you'll have a terrific time! The French people are very nice and everyone I've dealt with has been helpful. Learn at least a few basics, bonjour, merci, etc and start with "bonjour, parle vous Anglais? (Do you speak English) , they will immediately switch to English and you'll be fine. It's helpful to get to Paris a day before the tour starts if possible to get over any jet lag. Just think of the trip over as an adventure and you'll be fine! Have a great trip and report back!
Thank you E V E R Y B O D Y for helping me with this! or... Merci! (it even sounds pretty - doesn't it?) ;) Yes, I am arriving on July 25th on purpose to ease off any jet lag for a day. and yes, I'm certainly doing a RS tour. I'm sure not doing a trip of this size by myself. noooooooo (lol).. so, yeh, some preparation I think. I did arrange for a shuttle via AAA to pick me up at the airport and shuttle me to the Eiffel hotel on the 25th.. so I don't have to worry about Metros and such. too overwhelming for me after that long of a flight ans d being in a foreign place... so a shuttle it is. this is "supposed" to be a vacation for myself, so anything to alleviate some anxiety. "And yes, I did attend "3" of RS's classes. Women travelling solo, Packing right and light.. and last Saturday-"Paris", so I'm slowly getting my courage up. I will put all the pieces together everyone has offered, minus the smoking in the bedroom (as I'm not a smoker), but I'll probably throw back a drink after my 1st travelling day (and I don't drink, but think I'll start under those circumstances). I can't thank everyone enough for all your tips... if you have more I'd love to hear them. I will also feel a lotttt better once I meet some of the other tourists in the group. Sincerely, sincerely and very grateful everybody! Cathy . Bothell, WA.