the commuter's eye

how to get in and around paris the economic way

Posted in cityscapes, how tos, trips by martzipan on July 15, 2011

a quick guide to travelling fast and cheap

as three of my friends asked me in less than two days how could they get to paris fast and cheap, i thought that it would be a good idea to post something about it for further reference for anyone who might ask.

first of all, it depends on where you come from. second, it matters a lot if you can fly or not.

if you do come from the western side of the europe, it could be much easier to get in paris by train. from london, amsterdam, brussels, cologne and other cities you can get to paris by high speed trains in less than three and a half hours. booking in advance on can save you a great deal of money (sometimes you get to pay less than you would normally do for a plane ticket) and time (no 3-hrs before flight check-in and stuff). to give you an example, for one-way ticket to amsterdam, booked a month in advance, i paid about 50 EUR (the trip took 3:20 hrs, from paris nord station to amsterdam centraal).

however, if you plan your trip from the central and eastern side of the old continent, then you should probably check the low cost air operators, as this is the fastest and cheapest way to get in paris. they run pretty much the same type of planes as major carriers (i.e. airbus a318, 319, 320 or boeings – at least the two companies i frequently fly with from bucharest to paris and vicevera), they ask you to print your own ticket and they let you carry as many pieces of 32-kilos of checked-in luggage as you want, if you pay 15-20 EUR/bag. they don’t give you taste-like-plastic-food or any beverage for free, but you can buy stuff to eat or drink while on board (a bit expensive, true, but you can get a workaround by making your own toast sandwich at home or bringing a few packs of crackers). as always, as usual, booking in advance is crucial, so you may want to check their web sites at least a month before your trip, although the prices you get for last minute bookings are substantially below those of large carriers. my favorite is wizzair ( ) – i’ve flown with them ever since they entered the romanian market, in 2006 or 2007, and i’m still a very big fan – although i’ve heard all sort of stories (same kind of complaints and rubbish you can hear about bigger names in the industry) and people are criticizing them for the peculiar color scheme they’ve painted they jets. second choice is blue air ( ) – i traveled with them occasionally, mostly because it happened to have cheaper tickets. there are probably some other companies, depending on your origin country, and, by now, you probably know them better than i do.

these two fly regularly from bucharest to paris and back. they don’t actually land on paris – this doesn’t happen with the big companies either, as they go on charles de gaulle (25 km away from the french capital) or orly (13 km away from paris). wizz and blue land on and take off from beauvais-tillé airport (which is about 80 km north of paris). here’s its web site:

although located way far than the others, it takes about the same amount of time to get in the city, which is around 45-50 minutes, by bus. as you exit the airport, on your right hand, there’s a bus/shuttle station from beauvais to porte maillot (palais des congres), which costs 15 EUR/ride/person. don’t worry, they’re set up according to the planes’ schedule, so you can’t miss your buss (you can check their service here: which is useful especially for your trip back, when they normally leave three hours before your planes takes off). just follow the crowd and the ticket line, as you exit the airport, on your right hand.

as a piece of advice, beware of taxis in the airport area – as we do talk about 80 and some km, chances are for you to end up by paying a small fortune of few hundred euros, so stick to the buss.

there is another convenient option, especially if you have plenty of luggage or if you have to get back to the airport very early am and the public transportation service is not operating (getting a cab + 15 EUR more can actually be more expensive). it is a minivan shuttle service, that can take you from the airport and actually drop you everywhere you want (it goes the same for the other way around – it picks you up from your hotel or whatever address and it drops you in front of the airport). the price is double – around 32 EUR/person/trip, but, again, it could be more convenient if you have a lot of bags or have to leave early in the morning. here’s their website:

as for the regular buss shuttle, after the about-an-hour-or-so trip – which is very comfortable and calming, as you get to see some beautiful pastures and a panorama of the north of paris – its terminus at porte maillot is only three to five minutes’ walk away from the subway station with the same name on the yellow line 1. from here, you can get in (almost) a blink of an eye to anywhere in paris, as it connects you with the main sightseeings and other important transportation services. you can check/plan your itinerary here, on the transportation authority website: by the way, from their web site you can download maps free of charge and also mobile phone apps (but i guess the latter aren’t quite for free).

as you won’t probably be the only traveler, be advised that chances are for you to wait in line for buying subway tickets from desk or distributors. i strongly advise you to get some change and head to the distributors, as you can spare a lot of time. currently, one fare is 1.70 EUR. if you plan to stay for two or three days, you should consider getting a ‘paris visite’ travel card instead, as it’s much cheaper – details here . however, if you plan staying for a week or two, as well as if you think you will return frequently, then it would probably be better to sign up for a ‘navigo decouverte’ card, for which you will need a standard photo and 5 EUR for the plastic badge (details in french here – section ‘passe navigo decouverte’, in the lower side of the page). you can then charge your navigo with subscription for a week (starting monday morning and ending sunday night – you can’t get a week pass from wed to tue, for instance, only from mon to sun), which costs 18.85 EUR for zones 1-2 (this covers all transportation services, such as subway, bus, tramway and partially rer from center paris up to the city outskirts, with unlimited number of fares between mon to sun). you can download the list of agencies selling the badges from here:

this being said, soyez les bienvenus et bonne visite!