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   Paris

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Paris, the cosmopolitan capital of France, is, with 2.2 million people living in the dense, central city and almost 12 million people living in the whole metropolitan area, one of the largest agglomerations in Europe. Located in the north of France on the river Seine, Paris has the reputation of being the most beautiful and romantic of all cities, brimming with historic associations and remaining vastly influential in the realms of culture, art, fashion, food and design. Dubbed the City of Light (la Ville Lumière) and Capital of Fashion, it is home to the world’s finest and most luxurious fashion designers and cosmetics, such as Chanel, Dior, Yves Saint-Laurent, Guerlain, Lancôme, L’Oréal, Clarins, etc. A large part of the city, including the River Seine, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city has the second highest number of Michelin-restaurants in the world (after Tokyo) and contains numerous iconic landmarks, such as the world’s most visited tourist site the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the Notre-Dame Cathedral, the Louvre Museum, Moulin Rouge, Lido etc, making it the most popular tourist destination in the world with 45 million tourists annually.

Paris is served by three international airports – for more information, including arrival/departure times, check the official sites.

  Charles de Gaulle International Airport (Roissy)

IATA: CDG. The major hub airport to the north-east of the city. It’s notoriously confusing, so allow plenty of time for transfers. There are three terminals: Terminal 1, Terminal 2 (which is huge and subdivided into 2A through 2G), and Terminal 3 (formerly T9). The newest exception is terminal 2G which is a separate building and is only reachable via navette/bus in 10-15 min (bus leaves every 20min) so allow extra time. The free CDGVAL shuttle train connects the terminals together. Everything at this airport is very expensive, especially food. If you’re travelling from Terminal 1 it’s also worth noting that the food court is located at the CDGVAL floor, before the security check. There are hardly any benches around. There are no public shower facilities in the airport. Air France lounges have such facilities, and the departure lounges have showers. Lounge access is included for Air France business and first class travellers. The members of the Air France and cooperating frequent flyer programs may gain access with sufficient status. There is a possibility that some lounges may grant access to travellers on their flights for a fee. If you consider paying for access to the lounge, inquire when checking in for your departure. If you must have a shower and your frequent flyer status (and charm) are insufficient to gain entry to a lounge, the airport hotels generally have rooms available (in Sep 2009, the Sheraton in Terminal 2 at the train station charged €155). When you arrive at CDG, you should note what terminal you arrived at (2A, 2D, etc.), because when you come back to the airport to depart at the end of your trip, the RER subway train makes two stops at CDG to cover the three terminals, but there are few indications of which airlines are at which terminals. Have a close look at your air ticket to figure out which terminal you are departing from. Air France and associates leave from Terminal 2. The RER B has the airlines serviced by each terminal on a not so obvious chart posted by the door of the train.

  Terminal 1
There are quite a few points with power outlets specifically for charging passengers’ laptops/mobiles, both down by the food court and by some of the gates.

  Terminal 2E
VAT Tax refund: First, have your tax refund papers stamped at the tax refund counter in the main terminal area, before you check in with your airline. Although displaying purchase is officially mandatory, it’s usually only required for high priced items.
To locate the tax refund counter in the terminal, look for the signs or ask any airline employee for directions. Don’t be confused by a single queue splitting between currency exchange and tax refund office: choose tax refund if you prefer euros–while currency exchange refunds only in USD or your national currency, both buy at a robbery rate (and with no rollback to the refund window after you realize the rate).
The line can take a long time, expect several minutes per customer. At either office, you can also receive refund for your spouse if you have their passport and refund forms.

Duty-free shopping: There are no shops before security check zone. When you shop in post-security check zone, it’s not genuinely taxfree, as you can receive a tax refund for those purchases as well.

Contrary to what one may expect, there is no L’Occitane; cheese is limited to soft sorts (and there are no ripe varietes); wines starts at €11 and some popular sorts like Chinin can’t be found; selection of sausages is extremely limited.

There are no mid-range clothes or shoes stores, only luxury brands.


  Airport transfers

For getting to or from Paris, the RER commuter train, line B, has stations in T3 (from where you can take the free CDGVAL shuttle train to T1) and T2. Trains to Paris leave every 7-8 minutes and stop at Gare du Nord, Châtelet-Les Halles, Saint-Michel Notre-Dame, Luxembourg, Port-Royal, Denfert-Rochereau and Cité Universitaire. Adult tickets cost €9.75 (June 2014), and for children between 4-10 the fare is €6.65 each; unusually, day tickets are normally not valid for travel to and from the airport. The train takes around 35 minutes to Gare du Nord and 45min to Denfert-Rochereau, making this the fastest way to get to the city. Tickets can be purchased either through green (sometimes blue) automated ticket vending machines (“Billetterie Ile-de-France”) or through the ticket office serviced by transport authority personnel. Engineering works near CDG Terminal-1 and Aulnay-Sois-Bois stations are conducted between 23:00 and 01:00 every day, so you must take a coach (bus) from Terminal 3 to the station where you can take the RER B train to Paris. The fare is included in the train ticket you purchase.

The automated ticket machines accept Euro coins of €2, €1 and 50, 20, 10 cent denominations and give change…Euro notes not accepted. Credit card payment is OK on this machines though. There is one separate automated machine which changes €20, €10 and €5 notes to €2 and €1 coins. However, due to the high demand, the machine frequently runs out of coins. There are currency exchange centres, but they explicitly state notes will not be changed for coins. Alternatively, except for some non-European credit cards, many smart-chip credit cards can be used on the ticket machines. Because of these limitations, purchasing tickets from the ticket office may seem to be an attractive method. Although there are many counters, the queues can be very long. On Sunday at “lesser” stations, don’t count on its ticket office being open. Although it is a nuisance, the fastest way to get some tickets is to take a lot of Euro coins with you. It is also possible to explain the situation to a European buying a ticket with a working credit card, and ask them to buy one for you in exchange for a paper note.

Trains for Paris usually leave from platforms 11 and 12. Look for signs saying “RER B” or “All trains go to Paris”. When using the ticket from and to the airport (as with tickets for the RER commuter trains in general) you have to use it to enter and to exit the train. Always keep the ticket handy as the SNCF officials sometimes check for tickets, and if you are without one you may be fined €40. This means that after you put the ticket into the entry gate and are cleared to pass, you must retrieve the ticket from the machine and keep it with you until you leave the train system including any connections.

Alternatively, the Roissybus service (€10) connects all terminals directly to Opéra Garnier in central Paris, but it’s subject to traffic jams and rush hour, so it averages 60-90 min even on a good day. You could take bus number 350 and 351 to the city and it requires three tickets t+ per person (about €5.10, or €5.70 if the tickets are purchased on the bus), making this the cheapest option to go to and from Paris. The tickets can be purchased at newspaper stands, at ticket machines, or, for a higher price, inside the bus from the driver and they need to be validated with a device lying next to the driver’s seat.

Air France buses offer two stops in Paris (Porte Maillot, Montparnasse) from CDG with a 50min ride. To reach a specific address into the city, this shared shuttle service costs €19 per person.

  Non-shared (limo service) transfer is also available and can be booked on-line:
LeCab offers a sedan to and from CDG for up to 4 people for 48€, and to and from Orly for up to 4 people for 37€
Cab Service Prestige offers a Mercedes E transfer for up to 4 people for €150 from CDG to the city
Easy Private Taxi offers a sedan from CDG to the city up to 2 people for €60, up 4 people for €70 and up to 8 people for €90
Private Car Service Paris offers luxury Mercedes Class E and S airport pickups from CDG and Orly to the city or Hotel for €120 and private chauffeur services for €70.

There is also a TGV station in T2 for high-speed connections, mostly towards Lille and Brussels, but there are also some trains that head south to eg. Rennes and Nantes, bypassing Paris.

BE CAREFUL when using buses to get to CDG. There are frequent traffic jams on the motorways leading to the airport – the Air France bus normally may need 50 minutes to get to CDG, but it may take 1½ hours as well… your best bet for arriving on time with the buses is to take them very early in the morning or during times otherwise when there isn’t much traffic.

  Contact
A Post office only exists in B and D terminals. However, you can send postcards buying post stamps in a newspaper stand, and dropping them into a postbox (both exist in every terminal).

  Orly International Airport
IATA: ORY. This airport is southwest of the city, and served by a southern branch of the RER-B line that heads in the direction of Saint-Rémy-les-Chevreuse (not Robinson). This older international airport is used mainly by Air France for domestic departures, and international departures by European carriers. Orly is roughly 30 min from Paris via the OrlyBus, which departs from Métro Denfert-Rochereau (ligne 4,6); the price is €7.20. There are buses every 10 minutes from the Orly Sud (Platform 4) and it stops at Orly Ouest on its way to the city. Tickets can be bought at a counter near the baggage claim area or directly at the counter in Platform 4. The tickets need to be validated once on the bus. Another option is to take Metro 7 to Villejuif-Louis Aragon then Tram T7 (bound for Athis-Mons, Porte de l’Essonne) to Aéroport d’Orly (not Cœur d’Orly); you need 2 tickets as there is no free transfer between the Metro and the tram, but it is considerably less expensive than the RER B and Orlyval. The tram is slow but nice, opened in 2013.

The Orlyval light rail connects the two terminals to each other and to the RER B line at Antony. It runs every 4-7 min and cost €10.75 for transfer to Paris, including connections to central area metro stations. The RER B from Antony runs through Paris to Aéroport Charles de Gaulle.

  Beauvais (Aéroport de Beauvais Tillé)
IATA: BVA. This airport, a distance north of the city, is a smaller regional airport that is used by some low-cost carriers such as Ryanair and WizzAir. Like many small airports there is a cartel in operation in the form of the airport operated shuttle service connecting with the Métro at Porte Maillot station. Buses run even during the small hours of the morning (06:00). Buses leave 20min after each flight arrives, and a few hours before each flight departs. Exact times can be found on the Beauvais Airport website. The journey will take about an hour in good traffic conditions, and costs €17 each way, there is no reduced price for children over the age of 2 years. Unless you hire a car this is the most realistic way to head toward Paris, hence why the airport charge the price they do.

  Airline Shuttles
In addition to public transport, Air France operates shuttles between Charles de Gaulle and Paris (€17), Orly and Paris (€12) and between the two airports (€20). Discounts apply for young/group travellers and online booking. Note that if you have connecting Air France flights that land and depart from different airports, you would still generally need to collect your luggage after landing, catch either the Air France shuttle or a taxi (readily available at all airports) to the other airport and check-in again. This altogether could take up to 2 hours particularly if traffic is at its worst. It is also common to lose time during disembarking, as passengers often need to get off at the tarmac and get on buses which will bring them to the terminal building. Be sure to have sufficient time between flights to catch your connection. Note that check-in desks usually close 30min before the flight departs, longer if flights are international carriers.

If you want to take RER B and catch an early flight, make sure you bring enough change, because you can only buy tickets at the coins-only machines before the counter opens.

If you arrive to CDG Airport at night you’ll need a Noctilien bus to get to the city centre. The bus stops in all three terminals (in terminal 2F it will be the second level in departure section – it is very difficult to find, but it really exists). The bus leaves every 30min after 12:30 (see timetable). The buses you’ll need are N121 and N120; the price is €7.

  More Info: Paris