Those who know me know that I did a TON of research for our trip to Paris! This post will focus on getting to and getting around Paris France. I wanted it to go well and it did…minus Mr. B getting sick, but hey we’re used to rolling with the punches thanks to the military lifestyle 😉 We had 2 days in Paris and the third day was spent at Versailles. I wanted to make sure we could get as much in as possible since I don’t plan on going back…we have way too many places to see to visit more than once 😉 I do take notes on our trips so that I can share my info with my awesome readers.
Geting to Paris
We chose to drive to Paris, for our family of 5 it was cheaper than trying to take the train. Plus we were able to stop in Metz, France on the way there and drive to Versailles on the way home. Yes, there are tolls, that is the #1 thing I see people comment about when people ask about driving. From Spangdahlem to Paris the tolls are €50 ($70) round trip! We filled up on base before we left ($60) and had to get gas once on the way to Versailles, it was €92 ($128) for 45 liters. All of that was still cheaper than the 5 of us taking the train to and from Paris, plus it allowed us to take food with us and stop at extra locations.
We stayed outside Paris near Disney, I would only recommend this IF you were like us and were trying to book 6 weeks out or less and found that all the good (reasonably priced) apartments were taken and the hotels for 5 people were outrageous. Or if you are planning on going to Disney and only taking the train into Paris for 1 day.
The reason I wouldn’t recommend staying out near Disney is because of the cost to take the train into Paris each day. This was information that was super hard to find ahead of time. People told me ‘it wasn’t much’ etc. but I guess they didn’t realize we had a family of 5 to get to Paris and back for 2 days. Now while it was expensive it was still cheaper than staying in Paris because I’d waited too long to book there, so I did kick myself a few times for that. Know that if you want to stay IN Paris you should book at least 2 months or more out.
The first part is getting from your hotel to the train station at Disney. Some hotels have a free shuttle, or a paid shuttle, ours had neither. We were able to take the local bus but it cost us €10 each way per day, so €20 just to get to/from the station daily. As for the bus the bus driver spoke no English and all of us had gotten on the bus the first day except Bub, and the driver shut the door! I had to tell him to open it back up so Bub could get on the bus! You snooze you lose around there! He also took off driving while Mr. B was up there trying to pay, guess they don’t get behind schedule here, yikes. Also make sure you have a schedule with you so you know when the buses will be at the station for when you return. During the day they run close but in the evening they go down to once an hour, which can be a long wait.
Then to get from Disney (Marne-la-Vallee) to Paris it was €60 each day round trip. This was cheaper than ‘normal’ because we bought a carnet which is a packet of 10 tickets, which worked great for us because we needed 10 tickets each day. 1 ticket gets you there, and the other gets you back. It’s kinda confusing but I found 2 sites that were super helpful before we headed out: DLRP Magic and Paris by Train so make sure you check them out if your as confused as I was 😉 So to sum it all up each day it cost us €80 ($111) to get to Paris and back. Well except on Wed when Mr. B was so sick we couldn’t wait 40 mins for the next bus so we shelled out €17 to use a taxi to get back to the hotel…that day it cost us €88!
When you get to the Marne-la-Vallee train station walk inside and look for the yellow information booth. The folks in there are super friendly and will write down the tickets you need on a sheet of paper to take to the ticket window. I had to ask about the carnet and I’m glad I did because it saved us €15 each day! So if you plan on using that make sure you ask.
After you buy your tickets at the ticket window you take the escalators downstairs to the trains. The RER ticket will get you to your final destination even if you have to change trains, but once you leave the train stations it’s no longer active. On the first day we rode into Paris and changed to the B line to get to St. Michael for Notre Dame, we also did the same coming back on the 2nd day we got on the metro near Notre Dame and changed to the RER A line to get back to Disney (Marne-la-Vallee) at not extra cost.
Also it’s a bit time consuming to get from Disney to Paris. The bus ride was 20 minutes and the train from Disney to Paris was 60 minutes or longer depending on what stop you got off at. Our trips were 90 minutes each way! In the morning it wasn’t so bad but going back in the evening was crazy since it was rush hour and getting seats was hard. Not to mention Mr. B was not feeling well so the 90 minutes back to the hotel wasn’t really ‘fun.’ Also there were some ‘technical difficulties’ during our travels on the trains, I know, I know…it always happens to us 😉 We got on the RER headed to Disney and just got seats and then at the Noisy Le Grand stop the train stopped moving, not sure why. A recording in French came on and some people got off, some stayed on so we stayed on. Then 20 mins later the recording came on again and everyone go off so we got off as well but didn’t know where to go. So we went upstairs to ask and the subway lady told us to go back downstairs and get back on the train…um it was broke that’s why we got off…but we did as we were told. There were people on there so we got back on. Again a recording came on, some people got off. 10 minutes later it went off again, and everyone got off and went to the train across from us. I wasn’t sure if we should get on it because we didn’t know where it was going, Mr. B asked if it was going to Disney and a lady told him yes so Mr. B, Boo, & Bea jumped on. I was trying to get on and the doors started shutting and Bub was still on the platform! I reached out with supermom strength and threw him into the train to the gasps and ahhhs of the Parisan crowd, just in time to have my backpack shut in the doors! I was starting to have flashbacks from our Tokyo train trip with Poppie & Omah! This was a good 40 minute ride from Disney and we had to stand like sardines the whole way, not fun. Poor Mr. B was going downhill and ended up sitting on the stairs for part of the ride. Then we got deleted at another stop, the whole thing added a good HOUR and 20 mins to our 90 minute trip back!
Also make sure you know the train schedule as it does stop at a certain time each night and then you have to take a bus back to Disney which I think is a bit expensive.
Getting Around Paris
We chose not to use the metro/subway because several people had told me that they felt like they missed out being underground, and since we only planned to visit once I had to agree. I was torn between the Batobus and the Big Bus Hop On Hop Off. Ultimately after some research on the locations of the stops and knowing that Trocadero was a must visit for us I decided on the Big Bus. Plus I figured if we got tired we could just ride the bus around and see the city, little did I know Mr. B would end up being sick. It was €133 for all 5 of us because the boys were considered adults. Had I known that if you get on after 4 pm it’s free or that the ticket doesn’t start until the next day I would’ve gotten 1 day passes, but we also modified some of the plans because Mr. B was sick so I couldn’t predict that either. I do have to say that the bus was SO nice after walking all day! We climbed to the top and rode in the open air part, it was great weather and a great view. We rode it from the Louvre to the Arch De Triumph to catch the RER to Disney. The 2nd day was a bit more interesting and we rode the bus more. During our final leg we got on it at the Grand Palace to ride it to Notre Dame but I noticed that the bus driver skipped Trocadero and did some crazy U turn in the middle of the street to park in front of the Eiffel Tower. He then proceeded to tell us that he was done driving and we all had to get off. The ‘mangers’ I guess were at the Eiffel Tower and told us the next bus would be there in 15 minutes, however it was at least a good 30 minutes before it showed up. Then the bus we got on kept turning off at the lights and then he driver pulled over near Champs De Mars and said the bus was broke and called someone to come look at it. Yet he managed to successfully drive it to Notre Dame where he kicked everyone off, luckily of us it was our last stop of the day. I’m not sure what was going on but it seemed more like an organized thing than the buses just quitting. So when the buses were ‘working’ and all was running well it worked great, but not so much when things were crazy. I did like that we could get on and off as we pleased. I much preferred riding up top than riding below in the bus as well.
We also did a good bit of walking and followed some of Rick Steves’ walking tours, but more about that in an upcoming post.
My friend went the following Saturday and used the Batobus and she said it was great. I’m now kicking myself for not tying it! For a 2 day pass it would’ve cost us €72, if we do go back (not that I plan on it!) we’ll try that for sure. The Batobus was enclosed to it’s good even in inclement weather but I have heard it’s a bit hot during the summer. There is a small area where you can stand outside either on the front, but you may get wet, or on the back. There is a vending machine on the boat but no bathrooms.
Also I know someone who went to Paris and they used the metro it was €32 each for 2 days for Zones 1-5 and they used the Paris Metro app to find out what stations/lines they need to use to get to a location and the time. For the 5 of us to have used the Metro it would’ve been €64 for 2 days for Zones 1 & 2, but I’m not a fan of the subway systems and I really wanted to get the most of the experience by seeing it all.
The Panther Paws also has a list of metro stops in it for the major attractions.
I hope this info is helpful in helping you plan to go to Paris and or get around the city!
Know Before You Go:
Where: Paris, France
From Spangdahlem: Driving is approx. 4 hours depending on where your staying.
From Disney (outside Paris) to Paris: Approx. 60 minute train ride each way plus time to get to and from train station. It was a 90 minute trip each way for us.
Been to Paris? How did you get there and get around?
What: MANY things to see & do in the area such as the infamous Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and many, many more!
Where to find info: Online, above links
Rick Steves’ Paris – this book was AMAZING for our trip
Panther Paws – a little info, wasn’t really helpful to me, but does have the Metro stops in it for the major sites.
AWAG Your Travel Guide to Europe – little info, wasn’t really helpful to me