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To buy or not to buy.....

We will be in arriving at Charles deGaulle airport at 1055am & staying along the Rue Saint Honoré in Paris from May 13-May16, travelling to Strasbourg on May 16, staying there along the rue du Fossé des Tanneurs until the 18th (our son will be our tour guide here!) then travelling to a hotel near the Stuttgart Airport for an early morning flight home.

I am wondering what items I MUST buy from home & what items can wait until I am in Paris. (I am awaiting my RS travel guides, map, etc for France to arrive) Specifically, I am thinking ground transportation-wise & monuments/attractions. What do I NEED to purchase from home for ground transportation? And do I just bring along printed vouchers or how does that work?

As for monuments & such, We definitely want to see the following:

  • Eiffel Tower (looking to book the behind the scenes tour from only available on 13th at 430pm...also contemplating a 15 minute photo session at the Eiffel Tower for 15euro-anyone have feedback?)
  • Les Invalides, Deportation Monument & another museum which house a memorial to the LIberation of Paris (these are for my husband ;) and I do have the name of the 3rd stop...just can't find it at the moment!)-we definitely will want to tour these.
  • Arc d'Triomphe-I would like to see the city from the top here as well :)
  • Notre Dame, The Louvre & Sacre Couer (do not HAVE to tour)

Do you recommend purchasing these ahead as well? If so, which ones & again, do I just print out all of our vouchers before hand?

(this is our first trip to Paris-& overseas that we are planning ourselves,we have travelled abroad just didn't need to plan-so any & all help is appreciated! Can't wait for my RS stuff to arrive!)

Posted by
11507 posts

If you don't want to wait in lines at Eiffel Tower buy the tour ahead of time.

Les Invalides.. do not bother.. been several times in summer , never long lines.. ever, and its a great museum btw.
Deportation monument is free so no tickets to pre purchase.. no lines anyways
Arc. well there may be a line, but what you can't wait 20 minutes.. lol
Notre Dame.. the line in front of the church will look terribly long... DO NOT panic.. the church is free so no way to skip .ine. and no big deal.. its just a bottleneck at door so line will move along quickly enough..
Louvre... learn to use the alternate entrance( Caroseul mall, and buy tickets from machine inside mall ) Lines for security are unavoidable and unskippable no matter what pass you have.. so lines for security are the worst at main entrance ( Pyramid) enter via mall.
Sacre Coeur.. no lines of consequence.. and church itself is free. The tower at Sacre Coeur is worth the climb for the view and no lines there even in summer..

Posted by
5687 posts

Assuming you are taking public transportation and not driving: you'll probably be taking the TGV train from Paris to Strasbourg. The sooner you book that the better; I'd guess that by now the cheapest "PREM" fares are already booked. If you wait til the last minute, it could be very expensive.

You can book a TGV ticket via the website and just print them out. But sometimes Americans have trouble with their credit cards on that site. One trick is to choose "France" as the country in which you will pick up your tickets - but then you really just print out your tickets, anyway. (No need to use "Rail Europe" the US-based site; you'll probably wind up paying more.) I just booked a TGV from Paris to Strasbourg a month ago and took the trip itself a few weeks ago, and the first credit card I picked was declined; the second one worked. I printed out my ticket and took it with me - no problems at all. You may want to inform your credit card company that you are doing this, and note that you may pay a currency conversion fee when purchasing the tickets.

Getting from CDG airport into central Paris: you can just buy tickets from the Airport RER station and take the RER train in when you arrive. You may need to take the CDGVAL shuttle train (depending on which terminal you arrive in) to the RER station at the airport. In the past I used my chip credit card in the RER machines to buy tickets; if you have an old-style magnetic strip credit card it probably won't work in the machines. At worst go to the ATM as soon as you arrive and get Euros out and then go to the ticket counter and buy your RER tickets from a person, if need be.

I can't speak to purchasing advanced tickets to the sites; other than the Eiffel Tower (which can sell out advanced tickets long in advance), I doubt you have to worry about buying the others ahead of time.

Posted by
7888 posts

a Museum Pass purchased when you get there would make visits to museums and monuments more convenient; you do need a ticket for d'Orsay as that has reliably long lines and a special security line for those with tickets or passes. The Louvre is not a problem because that long long line at the Pyramid is a security line not a ticket line; use a different entrance to avoid this; tickets are available from numerous clerks and machines once you are inside. Of course with a museum pass this is irrelevant. All of these places are easily visited and toured on your own.

The Eiffel Tower needs to be booked ahead or as you plan with a tour if you miss the window to get on line tickets.

For transportation, buy a carnet of 10 ordinary metro/bus tickets which you share and then buy another when you run out. They cost 13.70 for ten. Any passes you can buy on line ahead are tourist rip offs. There is no pass that would be a good deal for a trip this long.

Posted by
4684 posts

It's also possible, depending on what your departure time is, that you might be able to get a discount on your train from Strasbourg to Stuttgart Airport. Book on and look for tickets from Strasbourg (Frankreich) to Flughafen/Messe Stuttgart.

Posted by
7888 posts

with American credit cards you will have to go to the manned window to buy tickets into Paris -- the machines take only chipped cards or coins. the manned window takes US credit cards just fine (but be sure you have alerted your bank) the ticket into Paris is 9.75. or take a taxi from the official queue which will run about 50 Euro give or take depending on where in Paris you are going and traffic at that time of day

Posted by
2081 posts


the only thing i brought from home on your list was a "print @ home pass" for the Eiffel Tower.

as far as the other stuff, i bought the Paris Museum Pass since it penciled out for me and what i wanted to do.

you can buy the carnets if thats what you will use there, no need to buy earlier. Of course if it gives you the warm and fuzzy feeling, go for it.

by the way, i went in March and so most of the places didnt have long lines, or i had planned my time to be there first thing.

happy trails.

Posted by
5687 posts

More and more "American Credit Cards" have chips not just magnetic strips. I was certainly able to buy train and RER tickets in France at the machines with my credit union's chip-and-PIN Visa card. Granted, most of the new chip cards issues by American banks are "chip-and-signature" which may or may not work in the machines, but it's worth a try. I'm sure you can look on the threads about chip-and-signature cards on FlyerTalk and find out which cards people have successfully used at the ticket machines in Paris.

Posted by
16 posts

Thank you all! This has helped me pate down my buy ahead list and know that I can relax & just go as we want for the most part!

Will be purchasing my train tickets later today, so I can rest assured that we won't pay an arm & a leg.

Follow up train question: for someone slightly unfamiliar with train & metro soon should we plan to arrive at the CHARLES deGaulle train depot to be certain we arrive in ample time? the train recommended (TVR, I think) thats not the superfast one is it? We'd like to enjoy the countryside from the train window as much as possible. .

Posted by
16893 posts

I'm looking at your latest question above. I assume you would choose a TGV departure that is direct from Paris Est station to Strasbourg, without necessitating a connection at CDG airport. Est is one of Paris' more simply arranged stations (see also description in Rick's books), but you'll probably still want to be there a half-hour in advance of the departure time, or more if your ticket requires pick up in France. It's important not to miss that train, if you paid a discount rate. You can usually see the scenery fine from the fast train, if it's not blocked by a hedge, especially if you can focus your gaze on a point in the distance.