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How early must I arrive at CDG for a 3:30 (15:30) flight to the U.S.?

Hello all,

I will be in Paris this April for the RS Paris tour, then staying on for a few days.

CDG has been described as a "mob scene" (among other things) in previous posts. I have been harboring a fantasy of a leisurely alfresco breakfast and a lovely, refreshing walk before leaving for the airport. Is this ridiculous? I will be staying near the Eiffel Tower. So, 2 questions:

How far in advance of a flight (to U.S.) do I get to CDG?
Which is quickest/best - taxi or public transport?

Merci beaucoup!

Posted by
8009 posts

12:30 or at the time recommended by your airline which from experience sometimes they will say 4 hours before if there is going to be additional screening after security. I always use the metro and the RER B to get to the airport at a cost of 12 euros and have never had a problem but take a taxi arranged by your hotel if you have around 55 euros

Posted by
46 posts

Thank you for your response, Jazz! Very helpful. Yes, airlines always ask for 4 hours -- or more! It seems ridiculous to me, but...

Posted by
1080 posts

Most airports I try to arrive 3 hours early but at CDG arrive 4 hours early because it can get very crowded more than once I have barely made my flight due to delays during screening, checking in, etc.

I arrive early to Ohara in Chicago because it can get crazy backed up also.

Posted by
60 posts

Definitely four hours at CDG. It can be very inconsistent, sometimes short lines, but sometimes hours long lines. Taking public transportation to the airport is excellent advice. Taxi is more comfortable, but when traffic gets backed up, you can sit in traffic for hours too. It often seems that during the day traffic is worse than at "rush hour"! I hate sitting in airports, but I hate worse panicking because I'm about to miss my flight!

Posted by
1384 posts

3 of my 4 trips through CDG I have arrived 3 hours early. Security can sometimes take an hour itself. This past December Air France & Delta recommended that we arrive 4 hours early because of the added paperwork due to COVID. We did, but did not need to, 3 hours would have been fine. The longest line was getting through Security, checking in at the counter took less than 10 minutes.

Posted by
14166 posts

Is your tour hotel Londres Eiffel? If so, your closest Metro Stop is Ecole Militaire on Line 8 and it is awkward to get to the RER line B to CDG from there. The route will require 2 Metro changes.

Here's one of the routes:

Ecole Militaire in the direction of Balard 1 stop to the station called La Motte-Picquet Grenelle. Transfer there to Line 6 in the direction of Nation. Take that to the Denfert-Rochereau stop and transfer to the RER B for the airport. I "think" you have to watch for the train labeled CDG.

There may be an easier route and if so someone will suggest it.

I'm saying this to say that a cab is going to be way easier than 2 changes on the Metro up and down stairs and escalators with luggage. As indicated, I'd want a cab pick up for 4-5 hours ahead of my flight and indeed, that is what I do when I leave from this neighborhood. Your hotel front desk can arrange your cab the night before and tell you if you need more time for that in case of some kind of local disruption.

IF you are at Londres Eiffel, you can certainly go out for a last walk to the Eiffel Tower from your hotel, lol!! I'm an early bird, so I'd eat at 7 then hoof it over to the ET for a half hour walk and then finish up things at the hotel for a taxi pick up.

Have a wonderful time!

Posted by
46 posts

Dear Donald, Kimmiek and brushtim,

Thank you for taking the time to give me such useful information. Frankly, I was hoping you'd say that CDG would be organized, efficient, and a real breeze to sail through. Unfortunately, that very likely will not be the case. Therefore, on your recommendations I will drag my reluctant and irritated self to CDG... 4 HOURS EARLY!! Jeez.

Merci beaucoup!

Posted by
46 posts

Hello Pam!

Thank you for your excellent advice. It was just the nuanced information I was hoping for. I have been in cabs in American cities (Chicago comes to mind), at a dead standstill for seemingly hours, fretting, anxious, miserable, and in danger of missing our flights! Quel horreur! Nevertheless, it seems like a better idea to take the chance on a taxi, than drag myself (avec luggage) through le metro with two stops prior to reaching CDG! At age 70, I am happy to choose the easier route, if it makes sense.

Merci beaucoup!

Posted by
3311 posts

What date is your tour and are you on the Best of Paris city tour? I am in that tour starting April 24, but do Paris & HOF on the 12th. Maybe I will see you.

Posted by
46 posts

Hello Tammy/diveloonie,

I am doing the April 24 - 30 Paris tour. Is that yours as well? If so, I will look forward to meeting you in person. Are you the person who posted some interesting photos of a trip to Egypt? Loved them, and can't wait to hear more.

All the best,
Lydia

Posted by
14166 posts

"At age 70, I am happy to choose the easier route, if it makes sense."

Oh Lydia, yes! I am 72 and stay in the area, using the Ecole Militaire stop daily and the Motte-Picquet Grenelle station for a change often. The Motte-Picquet Grenelle station is partially above ground and although it has some escalators and elevators they are a little hard to find. I would NOT want to be pulling luggage thru this station. At Ecole Militaire you'd have to go down a flight to the main area, then down another flight to the track platform.

In thinking, I'd probably want to leave 4.5 to 5 hours early going mid-day. Your guide will also have a feel for what time you should leave.

I'll also add that when I flew home in October the lines at the food outlets near the gates at 2E had really, really long lines. It was really ridiculous. So...the advantage to getting there early, even if you sail thru check in/departure Passport checks/security, is that you will have time to stand in line to get something for a pre-flight meal or snack.

So fun that you will be on the same tour as Tammy! I'll be in the area at the same time as well. Will you be there for a few days before your tour starts?

Posted by
8173 posts

If you get there super early you will probably sail through in half an hour BUT I have barely made it with 3 hours --- I'd rather be sipping coffee and reading than anxious about missing the flight. We have had both experiences -- half an hour to over 3 hours in lines and processes.

Note too that many airlines have processes to upload your COVID tests and other documents on line before the flight -- when you get to the airport then you are not in the long long long check in line but a much shorter one for 'travel ready' fliers. WE stayed at the airport this fall and the shuttle dropped us a very long way from the check in -- byt the time we legged it there the line was over a hundred people long. While my husband stood in line I scouted and found the 'travel ready line' ---- there were maybe 3 groups ahead of us in that line and so it was quick. Each group however even travel ready took several minutes to check in -- double checking COVID paperwork etc.

Posted by
140 posts

This thread is making me really glad that I booked a hotel near CDG before our flight home. We have a 9:45 am flight, so getting there hours early will be a very early morning but at least we won’t have to factor in an extra hour for Paris traffic.

It is funny how many of us are going to Paris in late April — we are there from the 26th thru May 3 before heading to Italy.

Posted by
8173 posts

LOL. I have had nearly uniformly pleasant interactions with French people all over France in the many months total I have spent there over the years. Maybe 2 or 3 unpleasant waiters. I swear that every person who meets the negative stereotypes of the French is employed at CDG. I could give half a dozen really aggravating examples of their boorish, lazy and hostile behavior. I just don't see that anywhere else in France. The emigration workers who don't care that people have to catch a plane -- at an airport -- are typical.

Posted by
2764 posts

Before any US citizens trash immigration at CDG, fly through Atlanta. Those of us who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. Atlanta has worked hard to make sure that returning home is difficult. (I once saw an agent spend 15 minutes quizzing a Delta Flight Attendant about why he had so many stamps in his passport. Gee,,,,, he’s a FLIGHT ATTENDANT 😅)

Posted by
1384 posts

When arriving in CDG last November my mother was in a wheelchair, so we were escorted to the Passport Control agent window that was handling those in wheelchairs or limited mobility. I noticed that a boarder agent was scanning the Non-EU Citizen line, 100 plus people in that line, and families that had crying kids or a single adult with multiple children she would pull them out and have them process through the shorter line we were in. I thought that was nice.

Posted by
46 posts

Dear Carol,

YIKES!! I have flights connecting in Atlanta - both traveling to the Netherlands, and returning home from Paris. If it's as bad as you indicate, I may have to restructure my flight schedule! Is 1 1/2 hours enough to change terminals traveling to Europe? How much time do you recommend when I return from Paris??

Thank you!
Lydia

p.s., I am amazed at how useful this thread has been!
p.p.s., Your post reminds me of traveling to/from San Francisco. What an irritating and disorganized mess! I finally wound up scheduling my flights out of Oakland (a much more rational airport situation). Hopefully, things in SF have improved.

Posted by
46 posts

RATS! My final morning-in-Paris fantasy has now dissipated!

Thank you everyone for your time and attention responding. Super helpful (sob).

Happy trails,
Lydia

Posted by
1625 posts

As early as you can, for us that is 4-5 hours. Like Janet said I would rather be sipping a cup of coffee reading my book than have the anxiety of stuck in traffic then stuck in long lines as my blood pressure gets elevated.
CDG is amazing, especially if you love to shop. My Husband also loves to browse and buy alcohol duty free, rare bottles that he cannot find locally and that takes a full hour. At the airport we will also buy souvenirs for the grandkids, box of chocolates/cookies to take into work etc.

Posted by
12 posts

Is the 4 hour recommendation also advisable for domestic flights? We will be staying in a Paris apartment (on Île Saint Louis) and then taking Air France from CDG to BOD (Bordeaux). Flight leaves at 8:30am on a Wednesday.

Posted by
2764 posts

I’m at the airport now

because of my status with the airline I was in the priority queue for immigration. In that line with me were at least three people trying to force their way to the front because they had not allowed enough time. One of them actually managed to be beg his way fairly far up the line before the staff walked up to him told him “no you stand in line and stay where you”. Another couple got out of line behind me and tried to go through the crew/ special assistance line because they were going to miss their plane. they got sent to the back of the line which was now even longer and told to stay where they were. Immigration appears understaffed. Plan ahead.

Posted by
7006 posts

@julian, 2 hours is plenty for a domestic flight... Even 90 minutes is OK. But why are you flying to Bordeaux ? The train takes 2h15 and leaves from Montparnasse station which is 20-30 minutes away from Ile Saint Louis. So if you fly, the time when you take off is roughly when you would have arrived in Bordeaux by train.

Posted by
14166 posts

@Julian, completely agree with Balso regarding taking the train to Bordeaux. It also puts you in the City Center instead of the airport which is on the outskirts. I did a Road Scholar tour starting in Bordeaux last October and the people coming in from the airport were saying they'd had an hour ride in the taxi on the way in. I took the train from Paris and then a cab to the hotel and it was about 15 minutes.

If you've not bought your plane ticket, go with the TGV train. Plus if you are on the TGV wifi you get a cute digital certificate for going over 300km/hour, lol.

@Carol...thanks for the update!

Posted by
1340 posts

Foodwise, my last 2 CDG experiences have been poor. There are many options closed and the Paul I usually go to in the Air France Terminal has a queue that extends all the way to duty free. So i've been stuck with Relay sandwiches.

Posted by
12 posts

@balso and @Pam, thanks for the replies. We thought about taking the TGV from Paris to Bordeaux. But Bordeaux is not our destination for that day - we will be renting a car and immediately driving to San Sebastian. If we arrive at Bordeaux via TGV, we would need to drive out of the city center, and that would probably take longer than starting from the airport. Also, the rental car locations at the airport are likely to have a larger selection of cars. I realize that getting to Gare Montparnasse and boarding the TGV is less of a hassle than dealing with CDG. We may still change our plan.

Posted by
7006 posts

It is quick to drive out of Bordeaux Saint Jean station towards the south, and I don't see why the airport would have more cars - it could even be the opposite; it is not a big airport.
However, since your final destination is San Sebastián, have you looked into flying to Biarritz (from Orly if possible) and renting a car there?
It would avoid the very, very monotonous drive from Bordeaux to Bayonne (pine trees, pine trees, pine trees, dead straight).

Posted by
12 posts

@balso, Thanks again for the ideas. Flights from Orly to Biarritz are at times that don't work for us. CDG to Biarritz would work, and that would save some drive time. We will check out that option.

Posted by
46 posts

Alexander,

You mentioned that many food places were closed, and you were "stuck" with Relay sandwiches. They sound like the dreaded Subways here in the US (Yikes!). Is it be possible/acceptable to take une pique-nique into the airport, as we can do for domestic flights here?

Posted by
14166 posts

Relay sandwiches are more like prepared sandwiches in cellophane in a cooler. Not Subway...more like Convenience store. The plus is that there is a lot of turnover so they are probably fresher than your local gas station.

You can take food thru as long as it meets the "no-liquid" requirement for coming thru security. But yes, you can pick up a sandwich from a boulangerie near your hotel and bring it with you. I'd want some ziplock bags to put it in so it stays fresh and clean. You can fill a water bottle on the far side of security.

Posted by
40 posts

From hotel Londres Eiffel my app recommends Ecole Militaire to Invalides (Line 8), then RER C to Saint-MIchel-Notre-Dame. From there take the RER_B to CDG.

Posted by
24 posts

Hi, We just returned from a trip to Normandy and Paris. Our flight was to depart CDG at 2:10 pm and we figured we would get to the airport by 10:45 or 11 am since everyone recommends 3 to 4 hours. Anyhow, we ended up leaving at 9:50 am (by Uber from Airbnb right by Notre-Dame) and got to the airport by 10:30 am (no traffic on Sunday) only to realize that 1. for flight connecting to London Heathrow (or other EU destinations), check in counters don't open till about two hours before departure. So we spent 1.5 hours waiting with our luggage in front of counters that were closed and not lit (instead of strolling along the Seine). Lots of other people joined us in the queue by 11 am - they too took the prudent approach of showing up at the airport early. The counter opened at noon and we were first to check in. Things went pretty smoothly after and we were waiting in front of the boarding gates by 12:40 pm. Interestingly enough, our flight connecting through London Heathrow had a 3.5 hours layover and we had just enough time to make the connecting flight because we needed to reprint the boarding pass (BA coach share with AA couldn't do it in CDG) and it was a huge mess in Heathrow. In short, I think three hours is enough, which means you should be good if you arrive by 12:30 pm. Also, we used Uber because we are four and most taxis don't take more than three these days. We didn't end up taking the Metro because one of our luggages were big. Lastly, check ahead for transit strikes or slow down if you want to take the trains.

Posted by
46 posts

Wow, Jaczxy. Really helpful information, and I am grateful that you took the time to respond! I will definitely check to see what time the Delta counter opens. So sorry that you and yours had to wait so long at CDG. I am really looking forward to that last, leisurely bowl of cafe au lait avec croissant. Thank you!

Lydia

P.S., I'm not sure that leaving on May Day is such a great idea, Hopefully, Parisians will be celebrating at home and NOT traveling (-; On the other hand, there may be some wonderful celebrations I'll be missing. Time will tell. C'est la vie!

Posted by
8536 posts

I wanted to mention that your tour guide will check with the members on your tour to see if others need to get to the airport around the same time that you do. I shared a cab with 3 other members of the tour and it was not only the most convenient, but ended up being the most inexpensive as we shared the cost.

Posted by
381 posts

Re: rental car pickup in Bordeaux - we reserved a car with automatic transmission to pick up at the train station after our stay in Bordeaux a couple of years ago. No issues whatsoever. I think we had a nice BMW sedan on that trip. It was one size up from the smallest available.

Posted by
7006 posts

It will be the middle of Paris school holidays so Parisians will be travelling. So, the recommendation to be at the airport closer to 4 hours early than to 3 is a good one.
And traffic will be very light so a cab will be very quick! Book it the day before, your hotel can help. An 11AM departure will do.

Posted by
1340 posts

I flew back from CDG on Sunday and it appears a lot more of the restaurants are opened. Nothing is that exciting, and I ended up getting a poulet tandoori sandwich from Relay. Actually wasn't awful.

Posted by
4554 posts

I guess I feel guilty, I flew out of CDG on Delta in December with no problem. I stayed the night before at the airport hilton and took the shuttle train straight to my terminal. As others have noted, make sure you spend the night before departure uploading and verifying all the documents your airline requires, which means you need a comfortable room with strong internet.