Getting there from the U.S.: In planning the trip, I used the airline flight search engine ITASoftware, invented by some whizzes at MIT. It can show multi-city trips, trips where you arrive in one city but depart back to the US from another, and a 30-day calendar of airfares. You can’t book a ticket from this site. Once you decide on your flight, you either send the information to a travel agent or go to the airline’s own Web site, armed with this information, and book your ticket, choose your seat, etc. ITA also doen’t include budget airlines such as Southwest or those that buzz around Europe.
From the airport: once we landed in Paris, we took an “official” taxi directly to our apartment in St. Germaine. Cost for three with luggage and tip: about $80/ Euro 50. Usually in Europe you don’t tip as you do in the U.S., except for rounding up a few Euro. Here’s where the taxi stands are located at CHARLES DE GAULLE/ROISSY
Terminal 1 – Sortie 20 at the arrival level
Terminal 2A & 2C – Sortie 6
Terminal 2B & 2D – Sortie 7
Terminal 2E & 2F – Sortie 1
Within Paris, we walked, took the metro, the RER train, buses, and taxis. Below are the Web sites I used to find schedules, routes, and prices for taxis, trains, and buses.
Taxi: if you don’t speak French, get your hotel, restaurant maitre d’, etc. to summon a taxi for you and let him tell the driver where you are going, and understand the price. To get to the airport, phone the G7 taxi company. They have English (British) speaking operators. The phone number from Paris is 01.41.27.66.99 for the English speaking operator. Depending on your phone, you may need to add a (33) in front of the 01. We booked our return trip to the airport with G7. The taxi showed up promptly on a Sunday morning at 5:30 am, with a well-dressed, professional driver. Coming upon a road-clogging accident on the main freeway to Charles de Gaulle airport, he promptly switched to another route which required going the wrong way down an on-ramp (other drivers were doing this so perhaps it’s permitted in France.) A thrill, of sorts .Reserve several days in advance of your return flight if you are traveling on a Sunday or have an early morning flight–you’ll sleep better. The fare is fixed; the taxi is allowed to charge more for extra people and luggage. Credit cards accepted.
ParisByTrain . A wealth of information on how to get to many places important to travelers, including all Paris airports, Versailles,Fontainbleau, and Disneyland. It’s a guide to the Paris RER, Metro, train and TGV / Eurostar services in France. It explains the difference between the RER and the Metro, with RER train maps, schedules, and timetables, Metro maps, information on passes and tickets, and photos of the big Paris train stations to orient you. We did not buy a transportation pass as we walked most of the time. Note a ticket purchased for the Metro is good for transfer to the RER and vice-versa but not from the Metro/RER to the bus.
RATP . The official Paris Public Transportation Web site, with a special section for tourists. Has a good bus stop section and a route planner. To ride the bus: you can buy a bus ticket at a vending machine if they are working, or for a bit more, from the driver on-board. Paris buses are easy to ride, clean, and comfortable, plus you get to look out the window. Avoid rush-hour buses.
Walking: Paris, unlike San Francisco, has no hills and is therefore easy on the legs and feet. First up: take a cell phone photo of the street signs nearest where you are staying. If you’re staying in a hotel, take several of the hotel’s address cards. It’s easy to get turned around when you are walking; locals can more easily help you if you show them a written address or photo. There are various “Walks” of Paris listed in typical guidebooks such as Frommer, Rick Steves, etc. I also used “Walks Through Lost Paris” by Leonard Pitt, which takes you into the Parisian neighborhoods that were transformed by urban renewal of the 19th century from crowded districts with cow-path like streets (somewhat like today’s London) into a city with broad Boulevards. Pitt includes side-by-side photos of the old and the contemporary so you can see where the older buildings sat.