When my best friend had her second child and decided to call her Orli, the first thing that came to mind was: Why would she name her little girl after France’s second-largest airport? Of course, she—like many Americans—didn’t know such an airport existed so it made no difference to her. (Plus, it does have a nice ring to it.)
But here’s the thing: Everyone should know about Orly (ORY). Depending on where you’re coming from (or going to), reaching this Parisian airport is often easier and cheaper than Roissy–Charles de Gaulle (CDG), France’s main hub and the second-biggest airport in all of Europe. And what about CDG’s and ORY’s far-flung stepsister Beauvais (which rhymes with mauvais, French for “bad” —which is perhaps apropos because it’s wayyyyyy out there)? Fear not on figuring it all out, wandering Francophiles, pas de problème! Here’s a primer on Paris’s three airports to make your planning simple.
Roissy–Charles de Gaulle (CDG)
Located about 20 miles northeast of Paris, Roissy–Charles de Gaulle serves 325 cities worldwide and is often the go-to choice for travelers because of the number of nonstop flights that arrive here. CDG is great if you’re staying on the Right Bank. However, if you’re staying all the way in, say, the 13th arrondissement or over to the west, near the Eiffel Tower, CDG can take ages to reach by train or cost you more to go by taxi or Uber. If that’s the case, you should consider Orly, which is to the south of the city.
Getting to the city by public transportation from CDG
To reach the city from Roissy–Charles de Gaulle Airport, your best bet is the RER B, a commuter train that makes stops at a few metro stations in the city center: Gare du Nord, Châtelet-Les-Halles, Saint-Michel-Notre-Dame, and Denfert-Rochereau. It costs €12.10 (US$13.50) and, depending on where you get off, can take anywhere from 25 to 40 minutes. Once in Paris proper, you can then take a metro to your destination (keeping in mind that many stations don’t have escalators or elevators, so consider the weight of your luggage) or pop outside for a cab (also keeping in mind you don’t flag down metered taxis from any old place in Paris, but rather find a designated taxi stand and wait).
Alternatively, you can take a bus—either RoissyBus or Le Bus Direct. Bus reservations are not required but you can buy your tickets ahead of time at the links provided.
- RoissyBus costs €11 and leaves roughly every 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the time of day, and drops you near the Opera Garnier in Paris’s ninth arrondissement, taking about an hour.
- Le Bus Direct might be worthwhile for those staying further west or south with two lines that leave every 20 minutes and stop at the Eiffel Tower, Trocadero, Etoile/Champs-Elysées, Porte Maillot, Gare de Lyon, and Gare Montparnasse. Rates start at €14.5 depending on where you’re getting off, and the journey takes a bit longer; figure about 45 to 60 minutes if you’re going to the Tower.
Tip: Apps such as CityMapper and Google Maps provide exact departure times of the RER B, metros, and buses, which may help cut your journey time.
Getting to the city by car from CDG
The difference between taking a registered “Taxi Parisien” versus an Uber is not only about price but also about comprehension and logistics. We’ve spelled out the pros and cons below.
- Pro: A predictable flat fee of €50 (US$56) to any Right Bank location or €55 to the Left Bank
- Pro: No Wi-Fi necessary
- Possible con: You should probably be able to properly explain where you’re going in French, though the driver may speak English
- Possible con: Most cabs are cash only so you should have euros on hand
- Pro: You’ll pay €45 or less if you take a shared Uber Pool
- Pro: If you can type, you don’t have to speak French. Simply input your destination’s address and follow the strict instructions on your phone about exactly what terminal door to exit in order to find your ride
- Pro: Pay in the app, so there’s no need to exchange dollars to euros at the airport
- Con: You’ll need Wi-Fi and data to fire up the app
Tip: Other French car service apps such as LeCab and Chauffeur Privé offer rates and wait times comparable to those of Uber.
Only eight miles south of Paris, Orly Airport serves some 156 cities globally. It’s a great option for those staying on the Left Bank or in Paris’s southeastern neighborhoods like Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Marais, and Bastille/Charonne.
Getting to the city by public transportation from ORY
There’s no fast commuter train to and from Orly (unless you’re going to CDG to connect to a flight, in which case you’d take a light-rail shuttle service called the Orlyval).
Rather, the airport is reachable by either one of two buses:
- OrlyBus leaves every 15 minutes or so and takes about 30 minutes to/from the Denfert-Rochereau metro station in the 14th arrondissement (near the Catacombs). It costs €8.30 (US$9).
- Le Bus Direct leaves every 20 minutes and makes stops at Etoile/Champs-Elysées, Eiffel Tower, Trocadero, and Gare Montparnasse. It costs €12 and can take as little as a half hour to Gare Montparnasse or as much as an hour to Etoile/Champs-Elysées.
Getting to the city by car from ORY
The same rules for taxis and Ubers spelled out above for CDG apply to Orly, too, though Taxi Parisien flat rates are actually cheaper to and from Orly: €30 (US$33) to Left Bank locations and €35 to ones on the Right Bank.
Located a whopping 52 miles outside of Paris, Beauvais Airport mostly services low-cost carriers for short-haul flights around Europe and North Africa. For travelers looking to country-hop to and from France, the cheap fares promised by discount airlines such as Ryanair and Wizz Air may seem appealing—until you realize they sometimes arrive or depart at 6 a.m. and it can take you two hours to get to (or from) the airport. What’s more, the public transport options aren’t convenient—and it ain’t cheap by taxi or Uber. In short, BVA is hardly ever a good idea.
Getting to the city by public transportation from BVA
For €15.40, there’s a regional train (the TER Line 19, leaving once an hour) connecting to Paris’s Gare du Nord, but you have to transfer between the airport and the Beauvais station by a shuttle or taxi.
Alternatively, there is one option by bus:
- For €17, you can take a shuttle bus that runs between BVA and the Porte Maillot metro station (which itself is practically outside Paris, all the way northwest of the Tower), but the shuttle takes 90 minutes. When traveling to the airport, you will be asked for your flight reservation to make sure you’ve left three hours prior to departure.
Getting to the city by car from BVA
The cost of getting a taxi or rideshare can be more than the flight itself unless you’re traveling in a group and splitting it several ways. For instance, the flat rate for a taxi from Beauvais to central Paris runs €170 (US$189) for daytime travel and €210 between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. (though an Uber will cost you slightly less than that).
>> Next: Plan Your Visit With AFAR’s Travel Guide to Paris