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Trying to avoid driving into the center of Paris

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Trying to avoid driving into the center of Paris

My husband and I are staying in Reims the first week in December. We will have a car and have driven extensively in Europe. We want to go into Paris for a day and looked into taking the train. $220 roundtrip for 2 people! We have heard horror stories about driving in central Paris so we are looking for information on possibly driving to the outskirts and taking the train or metro in. Or is there major parking areas close to the Center that we can leave the car and either walk or take the Metro from?

Appreciate the help.

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1. Re: Trying to avoid driving into the center of Paris

You are looking in the wrong place for train prices. If you are getting prices in US dollars, you are probably looking at RailEurope, which is notorious for having high prices.

If you book direct with the train operator, you will get the proper prices. Right now, looking at 3 December as an example, I can see trains from Reims to Paris for €15 per person each way, so a total price for two return tickets of €60 or about $81 US.

For the best prices on train travel, book direct with the operator now. Tickets go on sale 3 months before travel, and the cheapest tickets often sell out quickly. Discounted ticket prices keep going up as the travel date gets closer.

You can get train times and costs, and make bookings, at en.voyages-sncf.com/en but use Antarctic at the "Ticket collection country" to avoid being transferred to RailEurope USA, which has higher prices and does not list all the trains.

If you have trouble with voyages-sncf, www.capitainetrain.com is a private website which links directly to the SNCF ticketing system.

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2. Re: Trying to avoid driving into the center of Paris

<<We have heard horror stories about driving in central Paris>>

You did not hear this from anyone who knows what they are talking about. Driving in central Paris is ill advised because parking can be difficult to find, not that driving itself is difficult. Find a parking lot, most are underground, near to the périphérique where you will be entering Paris and leave you car there. These are monitored and generally quite safe:

http://www.vincipark.com/

http://www.parking-public.fr/

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3. Re: Trying to avoid driving into the center of Paris

Since you are coming from the east just park the car in the Bois de Vincennes, it's free and you can walk to the métro. Driving into Paris is very easy so I don't know what horror stories you heard but a traffic jam is a traffic jam anywhere and they are no worse in Paris than on the outskirts. The main problem in Paris is finding a parking space and when you do it is limited to 2 hours. Otherwise you need to pay a lot for an underground parking garage.

So in the Bois de Vincennes you can park at either of the following places:

- Route de Ceinture du Lac Daumesnil (nearest métro is Porte Dorée)

- On the Parc Floral parking lot on avenue de la Pyramide as long as it's not a Wednesday or weekend as it's hard to find a parking space then (nearest métro is Château de Vincennes)

- Along avenue de Nogent (métro Château de Vincennes)

Edited: 07 November 2013, 00:03
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4. Re: Trying to avoid driving into the center of Paris

Thank you all for your help! I appreciate the train information and will try those websites. As to the "horror" stories, mainly about finding a parking spot and traffc. Of course, I am a New Yorker and think nothing of driving in the city so it is probably very similiar but in French!:)

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5. Re: Trying to avoid driving into the center of Paris

Are you using the RailEurope website? Using the SNCF website I picked the random mid-December date of the 17th and see one way fares ranging from a high of 43€ before 10:00 to a fare of 18€ for the 11:43 train. Here are some tips to check train schedules and prices, keeping in mind that fares will be cheapest if bought ASAP and will become more expensive as your travel date approaches.

Use the website http://en.voyages-sncf.com/en/. When entering Paris as your arrival or departure point you will notice a drop down menu appears when you start to type the word ''paris''. Select ''Paris (all stations – FR)'' and this will automatically bring up the correct train station in Paris for your journey. Be sure to uncheck the box marked ''Direct Trains'' to see all options.

If you are redirected to the RailEurope then try again and select ''Antarctic'' as your ticket collection country to avoid being redirected to the RailEurope website. The RailEurope website usually doesn't show all the trains and shows higher ticket prices. Be sure to also look at other ticket purchase options. If you are having troubles with the SNCF website you try using a new ticket selling website called www.capitainetrain.com. You can also use the German rail site www.bahn.de for schedules but it will not give train ticket prices.

However, it may turn out that the train is still more expensive than driving but you'll be in Paris in under an hour with the TGV from Reims. But if the driving can significantly reduce the costs it might be worth it to drive. If you don't want to drive into Paris you can take the A4 from Reims almost all the way to a small town just east of Meaux called Trilport. From Trilport you can get to Paris in 31 minutes by train. Each of you should buy a Mobilis Pass for zones 1-5 for 15.65€ each. This will cover your round trip fare from/to Trilport and all your métro/bus/RER travel in Paris for the day. It takes one hour to drive from Reims to Trilport and the toll and fuel costs will be about 40€.

Use the website www.transilien.com for info on train times. The only thing I'll mention is that Trilport is a small town and there may or may not be someone at the station to sell you tickets/Mobilis Pass. They have machines that sell them but you'd likely need a Chip and PIN credit Card to use the machines. If you think this might be an issue you could drive a bit further to Meaux where the ticket booth will certainly be manned. I don't know the exact price of parking in Meaux but 24 hours there costs just over 7€ so for a day trip to Paris less than that. I don't know if there's a way to tell if Trilport has a manned ticket booth and what the hours may be but maybe someone else might have that info.

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6. Re: Trying to avoid driving into the center of Paris

I think my own daily drive is horrible, and that New York and Paris are worse. I love big open roads, not city driving. The hard part about driving in Paris (I am imagining now) is paying attention to navigation and signs in French. There are lots of streets in Paris. I dislike parking garages (especially underground ones). I'd park at Bois de Vincennes, for sure. (We've driven in France, just not right in Paris). To me, it's not a vacation if I have to drive...but there are times when an expedition is in order.

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7. Re: Trying to avoid driving into the center of Paris

I drove in Paris with no problem. Parking was a pain, but so is parking in any big city. I honestly didn't think it was a big deal at all. Atlanta driving is WAY worse than Paris driving. I've driven in NYC, Boston, DC, LA, San Fran, etc and Paris was a cake walk comparatively. The only weird thing was getting used to the turnabouts in place of intersections, esp outside the city where they crop up more.

One quick thought: if you have a car rental, perhaps the rental company will let you park it at their lot. There are car rental places all over central Paris (I recently rented from Avis under St Sulpice!). I have no idea if this is reasonable advice, but maybe worth a shot.

Edited: 07 November 2013, 03:31
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8. Re: Trying to avoid driving into the center of Paris

I'll just mention one other thing in regards to taking the train from Trilport (or Meaux). It will take about 45 minutes to drive from Trilport (right next to the A4 autoroute to Paris) to where you'd park in Vincennes, if there's no traffic. So the train is faster into Paris from Trilport than driving that distance. It will also cost you about 16€ in fuel and tolls (round trip) to drive this distance. Further, you'll be here in mid-December when daylight hours are short so I'll assume you may want to arrive early in Paris, which means possible rush hour traffic. And when you leave Paris you'll be facing rush hour traffic heading out of Paris, unless you leave later in the evening. Being parked at Trilport (or Meaux) will eliminate this possibility.

Of course, you haven't mentioned your exact travel date so your first option should be to look at the SNCF site for your date and see if the train price is within your budget.

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9. Re: Trying to avoid driving into the center of Paris

when we needed to drive from Burgundy back to Paris to meet relatives for a day, we looked up Vinci parking garages on the end of town we approached and parked near Port Italie and then took the metro into the center to meet them. the one concern would be that heavy traffic can make this much slower going than you hope and in that sense, getting the train makes sense.

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10. Re: Trying to avoid driving into the center of Paris

I drive around Paris and the suburbs a lot and so it's just normal for me and don't think anything of it. The two big worries are traffic jams and cost of parking. You're looking at around 26€ for a day's parking, but the even bigger negative will be the traffic as I assume you'll want to arrive not too late in the morning to make the most of your day. The trip could easily take you 2&1/2 hours from Reims to a central Paris carpark if you hit the rush hour. I'd strongly urge you to seek out a cheaper train ticket as the journey to Gare de l'Est is around 50 minutes via TGV. The last train back is around 9.30pm, so you could even have dinner in Paris, no problem.

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