Last month, I made arrangements with Paris Shuttle Service to take me from the 11th arrondissement to Charles de Gaulle airport. A friend had told me her friends used it and hadn't complained so it must be okay. Well, my experience with Paris Shuttle Service was not at all "okay". In fact, it was stressful, maddening, and extremely costly.
I contacted Paris Shuttle Service, made my arrangements for a 1:30 flight, and they gave me a spot on the 11am bus. Although PSS assured me that that was plenty of time to get there, I should have known otherwise. Anyway, I trusted their judgment, as this is their business. The web site request form asks for information from your flight number to your phone number to the time your flight leaves; thus they had all the information needed to contact me in the event there was a change in my reservation.
The morning before my flight, I had still not received a confirmation (as the web site indicates one will) that I was being picked up, so I quickly called them to confirm. The man on the phone told me, yes, he had me down for the 11:30 pick-up. I told him he had told me 11am the night before (it was the same man). He said it would be the 11:30 shuttle, and that was still enough time for my 1:30 flight. Ha. Hearing fear in my voice he told me it would be 11:15 or 11:30. Indeed it was nowhere near either of those times when the van finally arrived. My friend and I called incessantly after 11:30 asking where the shuttle was. The man would never give me an exact location; he would only tell me "il arrive, il arrive" (he’s on his way, he’s on his way”). He told me that every time I called (until he stopped answering, that is), and that I would still have enough time. The van arrived at 12:00 pm.
The driver was apologetic, and he too assured me I would get there in time. We jumped in the car very quickly and headed south. I immediately wondered what in the world he was doing going south. Being in the 11th, I had to be one of the last, if not the last, pick up. Soon after, I heard him tell someone he was headed to Place d'Italie. At that point, I just about died. If you're familiar with Paris, you know that from the 11th arrondissement, Place d'Italie is not at all in the right direction for CDG. We continued south to pick up not one but two more people. You’d think at this point having asked for our phone numbers with the initial request would come in handy. We went to one hotel… the person had left. We went to the second hotel… the person had left. And we had now just wasted at least 20 minutes crawling through traffic in the complete wrong direction. The driver maintained his delusional positive thinking: “on sera a l’heure, Mademoiselle” (we’ll be on time”).
I arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport at 1:00 for my 1:30 flight. I had missed my chance to check in for a U.S. flight (they forbid check-in past one hour before departure). The driver had told me in the car to run in and begin checking in, and he would follow with my two huge suitcases and carry-on. Indeed he ran in behind me, but he left immediately, just as the words “it’s too late” were coming out of the airline employee’s mouth. So, not only had they caused me to miss my flight, they had ditched me at the airport despite knowing we were cutting it extremely close.
In the end, I paid 130 euros to change my flight, 30 euros to store my luggage at the airport overnight, and 18 euros for a round-trip ticket on the RER B. That’s $275. Paris Shuttle Service refuses to respond to my emails and calls, and refuses to refund the money. That’s Paris Shuttle Service. That’s customer service in France. And they don’t care one bit. Don’t make the same mistake I did.
It's easy to get around the center of Paris and you're likely to do lots of your travel that way, but make time to do some of your travel through Paris by bus. Travel on Metro is underground so you don't see as much of the city; from busses, you get to see parts of Paris you might not otherwise visit and you generally don't do as much walking to switch lines as you must do on some of the Metro connections.
I'd encourage you to get on a bus once you've become comfortable with the city and have a bit of orientation. Be sure to have a route map and understand the timetables. Good places to head by bus are out to the Grand Arc, Montparnasse or to Sacre Couer.
if u want to have a cheap travel book earlier and check Bus travel so u can appreciate the places you will pass thru... and beware to some people who dont care in the Busses ... they will just keep pushing . so better take the train and be fast and active always when u ride if near the target location stay near the door .
Transport is more difficult in the evening, as the metro runs only until 1:00 and the buses until 21:00 hours. This is when the Noctabus system (after midnight- between 21:00 and 12:00 midnight forget it) comes to the rescue quite practical if you know your way around..
It is important to know the general direction as the end destination is written on the bus. Be careful not to go in the wrong direction although you might have the right number bus number. It can get very adventurous, particularly if the journey ends before the last station and the bus-driver decides suddenly to stop and throw out all passengers.
We had a visitors card for the 7 days we were there and travelling by bus was an ideal way to rub shoulders with the local people. Although the RER was faster, by taking the busses, we were really able to enjoy the street scenes in comfort and ventured out to the far lying districts discovering how the people lived and were able to visit several markets on a Saturday.
I used the bus system in Paris to get around and it wasn't bad, plus I think the price is fair.
But I got lost a couple of times because some of the routes just stop at certain places and then I had to board a second bus that will continue such route...It was confusing sometimes because the second bus was not always right there...Just make sure you know where you bus will take you and have plan B ready in case you get lost...Always mark your hotel or the place you are going on a map and carry it with you, so you can find out how to get there even if you don't speak the language. I found out that French people will not make an effort to try to understand you if you don't speak their language.
Another complex transportation network in Paris is the network of Busses. In the whole of the city there are more then 1300 busses, mostly painted in turqoise. The lines are numbered from 20 to 96 and are also indicated on the basic (free) tourist maps of Paris.
The busses connect anywhere to everywhere, as the big advantage is that you are able to have a look around while you are going from one place to another. The very big disadvantage though: the average speed of a bus in Paris is 13 kilometers an hour!
That is the reason why I have never used a bus yet in Paris. If I want speed I rather take the metro, and if I want to have a look around I rather go on foot.
I found it very easy to use the buses in Paris to find my way to the places I wanted to visit, even compared to using the ones in London where I live. The maps were clear and easy to follow and we had no trouble working out where to change for a different route, as indicators in the bus show the names of each stop as the bus approaches it.
Also, as so much of Paris is so lovely to look at, you can miss a lot if you travel only on the metro, rather than above ground. One afternoon a friend and I, wanting to rest our legs after a day looking round museums, just caught random buses around the city, getting down to look at anything that interested us. I couldn't say exactly what we saw but we found so many nice small squares and parks and beautiful churches, just by chance and enjoyed ourselves very much. We used our tourist travel pass, which we found good value for money and very convenient.
The website listed below has a useful map showing bus routes and connections with Metro stations.
I went to Paris last year with a group from school. It was a fantastic trip, and our professors taught us the basics of how to use the METRO system before we went, as we have poor public transportation in our home town. Evewryone seemed to catch on quickly, and things went quite smoothly for the most part. The one difference is was this: I have trouble walking up and down stairs, and for the life of me couldn't find an elevator that worked or an escalator most of the time, so it was a great hassle for me to get to the trains. So intstead, I took the bus. I had a GREAT time on the bus; the people seemed friendlier, I got to see more of the city as I went through it. I could see a neighborhood that looked interesting and get off at the next stop, come back to it and shop around a bit....all at my own pace. My experience of Paris ended up being far different from that of my classmates, and I firmly believe it is because of my explorations by bus instead of the METRO. Give it a try!
Speaking French is fun ("tant pis pour toi!") but sooner or later it's nice to move on to some place where people talk English. I thought about taking the Eurostar through the "Chunnel" but the ticket price goes through the roof if you don't book far enough in advance. That's why I used Eurolines for my Paris-London transfer by long distance deluxe coach.
The Jules Verne terminal at La Defense is where you can buy your ticket the day before departure (46 Euros) and board the Eurolines bus that crosses the English Channel by ferry via Calais. I took the 9:30 departure and arrived at Victoria Station on time at 17:45. There is a 40 minute lunch stop just before Calais at a cafeteria next to a gas station. This is where you will want to spend all of your remaining Euros because everything on board the ferry is priced in British pounds. (You will also get off the bus at Calais to go through customs.)
The ride is comfortable so show up early at Jules Verne terminal in order to get the best seat (front right window).
If you misses the last metro train, there is other options other than taxi. There are night buses running at the major streets in Paris. They all started with letter 'N'. They normally run between 12:30 a.m. to 5:30 a.m. when the metro stops running. It is always a good idea to check the schedule and where is the cloest Night bus stop to your hotel before your night out. Their schedule is either every half an hour or sometimes even an hour apart.
although the metro is by far the best way to get around paris, with a station on practically every corner, they do stop running the trains between about 1 and 5, which sucks if youre on a night out and dont want to wait until 5am to get home.
we found the night busses really useful. although not as frequent as the metro it did make us feel a lot safer and it was also a lot warmer. my friend who lives there told us about them, and if she hadnt i dont think i would have noticed the busses.
remember to stamp your purple metro ticket on the bus. dont stamp if you have an orange one becaus ei did that and it didnt work any more.
to be honest lots of people just got on and the driver didnt even bother to ask them for tickets, assuming they had orange cards.
A tip for those who do not want to climb the Montmartro: Take the Montmartro bus.
It's a minibus served by the RATP.