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Taking the chunnel vs Flying into London? Please advise


I will be traveling to Europe March 2-10, with a roundtrip to CDG in Paris as this is the only nonstop European destination from my hometown in the US. However, my intention is to visit London and then Budapest rather than France itself, since I've been to France multiple times in the past. I will be landing in CDG at about 8:25am on Saturday March 2 and my plan is to immediately go to London. My options are catching another flight from CDG or taking the train from Gare du Nord to St Pancreas. Here is where I would like some advice:

If I book a one-way to London how much time do you think I should give myself for the transfer process? Like 2 hours? 3 hours? I'm not sure if I land on Terminal 1 or Terminal 2. Similarly I don't know what terminal do flights to London take off from. If they are on the same terminal I would imagine I can skip customs and just transfer fairly quickly, right? if not then I would have to do customs and switch terminals plus go through security which takes time.

If I take the train, do you necessarily have to purchase your ticket in advance or can you purchase at the train station? I read somewhere that if you miss your train you can't just hop on the next one. I know I have to factor the time it takes to do customs at CDG, take the train to Paris, then do the check in and then take the London bound train. How many hours would be safe to allocate for this option?

I would appreciate your responses, and like I said I've been to Paris several times so I'm not worried about sightseeing there, I'm already spending 1 night at the end of the trip.

Posted by
7262 posts

You can purchase a train ticket the day of and of course it will be the maximum price.

If you book the one way train or plane in advance like today give yourself 4 or more hours to make it

Posted by
1075 posts

I posted a question recently related to transferring to a separate flight at CDG. The consensus was to allow four hours between flights.

Posted by
8889 posts

If I book a one-way to London how much time do you think I should give myself for the transfer process? Like 2 hours? 3 hours? I'm not sure if I land on Terminal 1 or Terminal 2. Similarly I don't know what terminal do flights to London take off from. If they are on the same terminal I would imagine I can skip customs and just transfer fairly quickly, right?

A slight misunderstanding of the process. What you need to do is book a flight to London as part of your booking to Paris. You need to consult your airline.
In this case your connection would be guaranteed, if your incoming flight is late you would be put on a later flight to London. You would not see your bags until London, so no customs, and you would stay "airside", and not go through immigration in Paris either.
If you book it as 2 separate tickets, allow at least 4 hours:
Taxiing, disembark, walk to check-in = 30 minutes +
Immigration (passport control) = 30-60 minutes, sometimes longer
Pick up bags: 10 minutes (you have been so long in immigration, bags are waiting for you)
Customs: zero
Change terminals: 30-60 minutes
Check in for flight to London, hand over bags: min 60 minutes before departure.
Total: 3 to 3½ hours. But, the big risk, incoming transatlantic flights could be 1 hour late if wind in wrong direction.

Similar arithmetic applies if getting a Eurostar train:
Taxiing, disembark, walk, Immigration, Pick up bags = 1-1½ hours
Train to Gare du Nord: 1 hour
Go through immigration etc at Gare du Nord = minimum 45 minutes.
So, with contingency for a late arriving flight your train departure should still be at least 4 after landing.
Plus point: Eurostar gets you straight to central London, therefore saves ~1 hour on flying.

I still think:
1) Best option: an "add on" connecting flight.
2) A night in Paris.

P.S. It's "St Pancras", no 'e'. Blame your spell-checker.
P.P.S. London has SIX airports, any will do: Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, City, Luton, Southend.

Posted by
3353 posts

Are the tickets to Paris booked and you are looking at self connecting to London? Normally the Eurostar is the best way to travel between Paris and London but if it was me, I would try to book a flight to London with a connection in Paris.

If you can hop on the next train or not depends on what kind of ticket you have, a cheap ticket (standard) will not allow that, but with an expensive (business premier) that should be possible, but you probably have to exchange your ticket for a new one.

Btw, the station in London named after Pancras of Rome, not the organ.

Posted by
8847 posts

Btw, the station in London named after Pancras of Rome, not the organ.

Probably a victim of spell check.

Like the idea mentioned above, if ticket not yet booked, to use the 'multi city' search function of the airline that does the non-stop from your origin to CDG and add London as the '2nd' destination; (i.e. Origin-CDG, CDG-London) and thus have the protection of a single ticket/booking.

Otherwise add me to the 'not less than 4 hours' voting bloc

Posted by
5756 posts

And nobody has referred to it as "the chunnel" for about a generation.

Posted by
28119 posts

But if you haven't bought your transatlantic tickets yet, now is the time to get on the stick. And now is the time to get the tickets for London and Budapest.

Eurostar tickets go on sale 6 months in advance and with only 2 months away now, the best fares will be long gone.

You haven't said if you find that money is more important to you than convenience. If convenience is more important, yes you can get both walk up plane tickets and Eurostar tickets. In addition to the various levels of discount (and cheap = lots of restrictions, full whack = changeable) there are three classes on those trains - standard, standard premier (basically first lite), and business premier (super duper top cabin).

Posted by
8507 posts

You might want to check the price of the tix as a multiple destination itinerary, ie--this departure city to London and return Budapest to your home airport. I found it cheaper than the round trip and fiddling with the internal flight or train.
I'll send you a private message with more information. I think we may be flying from the same departure airport.

BTW, I noticed that tickets are down about $200 today from my departure airport.

Posted by
12990 posts

I would take the EuroStar, book those tickets as early as possible.

Posted by
4698 posts

I really don’t understand why you don’t book open jaw to London and then back from Budapest. You are making this way too hard. Why is a direct flight to Paris so important? Travel to NYC or another major hub in the US and than direct to London. Use kayak.comto figure this out.

Posted by
3 posts

Appreciate it the feedback thus far. I'm leaning towards the flight from CDG to Heathrow option at this time since the time it takes to do both is similar. I'll just have to get a flight that gives me enough time. I am only staying for 9 days so no need to check bags, my carry on will suffice.

My roundtrip to Paris is already booked. Why stress the nonstop to Paris? Because traveling from my city is fairly expensive for whatever reason. This nonstop was on a flash sale and it cost me just $475 (I've taken the same flight before and it was about $1100+ for similar dates) and the departure time allows me to work a full day and go to the airport right after thus reducing my time off work and eliminating layovers in the states during a time where there is a chance for bad weather (connections in Chicago and NYC always get snow around that time). The internal flights in Europe will cost me 50-70 USD each. So not a huge deal, I just need to get to Europe.... and this flight involves just a 7 hour plane ride that starts 20 minutes away from home. To me its very practical, gets me to Europe a lot quicker than my other options.

Didn't realize the train station was spelled differently, but thanks pointing that out to the various people who did. Not too worried about the name chunnel not being used, but thanks for that too (I guess).

I was able to look up terminals, it seems the Delta flight from the US and the Air France flights to London arrive/depart from Terminal 2E. If I'm coming from the US and I'm connecting to a non Schengen country (the UK) on different tickets, do I still need to go through passport control/Immigration?

Posted by
8889 posts

If I'm coming from the US and I'm connecting to a non Schengen country (the UK) on different tickets, do I still need to go through passport control/Immigration?

Yes, this is the same point as at the beginning.
1) If you had managed to do this as one through booking, you would have stayed "airside", not have had to go through immigration in Paris, and your bags would have been sent direct to you final airport. You would only need to go through security.

2) But, if you are doing this as a separate booking you will need to check in for the second flight at the public check in desks:
a) Go through immigration into the Schengen Area (big wait)
b) Pick up bags (if any) and go through customs
c) You are now in the public area, change terminals.
d) Check in for your flight to London at the normal check-in desks, hand over your bags (if any)
e) Go through security
f) Go through immigration to exit the Schengen Area.
g) Get on your plane
As you can see, this will take a lot longer.

You may (and I say may) be able to shortcut this process, if you have no bags, AND you check in online and print your boarding pass for the London flight before you leave home, then you can stay airside.

Posted by
12990 posts

Expect to go through Border Control upon entering the UK regardless of being checked anywhere else.

Posted by
28119 posts

Whereas if you take the train (yes, it does matter what you call it if only because either some people you run across in your travels will not have heard that expression and be confused or may have heard of it and snicker behind your back - and you probably don't really want either, and really just calling it by its real name of Eurostar or taking the train through the Channel Tunnel or Tunnel sous la Manche in French, really isn't that hard and people will think you know what you are talking about) you need to go through the steps 2a and 2b above and then take you and any luggage or none and board the RER train to Gare du Nord - very simple.

At Gare du Nord go upstairs to the Eurostar check in where you will be security checked and both French exit Border Control and UK immigration Border Control before you board the train. When you leave the train at St Pancras in London there are no further formalities for 99.99% of all passengers. As you walk down to street level you will pass through a hallway of one-way glass which has officials behind who may be looking for specific individuals or individuals with suspicious luggage, very few people are intercepted. You walk out and are in the centre of London.

If you fly from CdG into one of the London airports you will have queues at immigration (not a dead cert but pretty much one) and then have to travel from whichever airport into town - 90 minutes or so at Border Control and maybe 30-90 minutes into London depending.

Even if you start at the airport I'm not completely certain that you will beat the train with the plane.

Posted by
13211 posts

Read Chris F's detailed post carefully, and then try and find out if you can stay airside at CDG to move between flights. At a minimum it requires carry-on luggage only, no checked bags. But it still may not be possible, so look carefully at the details, maybe on the CDG website. We have never used that airport, so cannot help there.

If you determine that you cannot transfer airside, then look at Nigel's analysis. As he demonstrates, it will be faster to take the Eurostar. You go through immigration at the Gare du Nord ( took us 15 minutes when we did it) and then you go directly to central London.

Posted by
16883 posts

Most of us here also prefer to connect in a European airport than in Chicago or New York. But Delta/Air France rarely charge much more for a multi-city flight plan, that would include your intra-European connections, than they do for a simple roundtrip. (I don't know the details of the particular flash sale you were able to grab.)

Standard-class Eurostar tickets can costs as much as $300 for full-fare, if discounted rates sell out before you're ready to purchase (e.g. on the day of travel), and fancier classes up to $365 and $420, respectively. Budget airline tickets can also be more expensive on short notice (e.g. if you miss the scheduled flight) than they are in advance.

Posted by
2829 posts

Since much can go wrong with an international flight, I'd book one night in Paris, near the Gare du Nord (the station where trains depart to London).

My reasoning: a comfortable enough 'buffer' of 6 hours would still be a lot of time if everything goes according to plan. But if there is a long delay etc., then any last-minute fare, train or plane, will be rather expensive.

So I'd go to Gare du Nord (which I could do regardless of arrival time at CDG, with many trains per hour), pick a hotel for the night, and take the first Eurostar the next day, which will arrive in central London before 9:00, I believe.

Posted by
2927 posts

I agree with Andre. Besides the train is so much more pleasant than flying.

Posted by
28119 posts

For Andre L.'s plan - March 3 (the morning after the 2nd, if that is what iluvatar010 means for arrival) is a Sunday, first Eurostar to London is at 8:13 CET (check in at least 45++ before) and arrives nonstop at 9:30 GMT. The next is at 9:13 and with a stop at Ebbsfleet International arrives at 10:39.

Posted by
2046 posts

I do this all the time, I generally do it because I got a much better flight deal to someplace then the city I want to be in. So All the advice about booking open jaw and doing all these other things doesn’t work because it would cost me a lot more money or miles

So here are my rules to live by.

One. 4 hours minimum between any flights flights and trains etc. remember that this is a non-protected connection, if your flight to Paris is late the airlines and train people have nothing to do with getting you to your destination you will be on your own which brings me to a point 2.

Two. be sure you know what your back up plan is should plan a fail. For example I’m doing this in March. If I miss the train I booked between Paris and London I’m prepared to pay full price for a walk up ticket. Which brings me to 3

Three. For your flight back home, do not cut it close. I would arrive in Paris the night before the flight. If you miss that flight from Paris to your hometown, the back up plan is a walk- up full fare ticket from Paris to your hometown, you probably don’t want to know what that’s going to cost.

Posted by
7701 posts

The train is usually much more pleasant than flying, but the OP will be out st CDG, not in Paris. Which adds the pain of getting into Paris to the “ease” of the train.

I really don't see how he can avoid going outside security upon arrival in Paris, either. To the French authorities, he will be arriving inFrance, punto. They won't care that he has an onward ticket to London.