If you’re like me it’s sometimes difficult to find my way around airports and train stations. Since I often take a train from Avignon to Charles de Gaulle in Paris, I jotted down directions and took a few photos to help me learn and remember where to go. This is a beginner’s level CDG train/airport guide that may help you navigate. As they say in France, “bonne chance.”
“Gare” = Train
The first thing for non-French speakers to know when looking for a train station is the word for “train station” in French. It’s “GARE. ” If you plant that into your brain, you can read the signs.
Next you should know that SNCF and TGV train lines run out of the same station at the CDG airport. They go from there to almost anywhere in Europe. Those acronyms should also go on file in your head because you need to watch for them on the signs along the way.
The most important thing for you to remember is that the train station (GARE) is in between Terminal 2 (A)(B)(C)(D) and Terminal 2 (E)(F)
Arriving Terminal 2 A-F
You have it made. Head for GARE on “Niveau 2”.
Arriving Terminal 1 or Terminal 3
If you arrive at Terminal 1 or Terminal 3, you have to take the shuttle from “Aeroport CDG 1” at Terminal 3 to “Aeroport CDG 2-TGV (see below)
From Terminal 3 this is one of the entrances to the shuttle. The sign is near a rack of baggage carts.
You have to go down an escalator here. (Hope you don’t have too many bags. I have no idea where there’s an elevator.)
After the Shuttle
When you exit the shuttle, signs for “Gare SNCF” will show you the way to the train station. This is a multi-level building. The station and trains are on the lower levels. See map of CDG Terminal 2 and SCNF/TGV above.
Take a left when you pass Paul’s
If you have plenty of time and you’re hungry, stop and eat. There aren’t many choices for food beyond here.
When you round the corner from Paul’s you’ll see this huge board. Never mind it. Look for the nearest “down” elevator.
Downstairs looks like this.
If you’ve made it here, you’re almost there!
Look for the Departure and Arrival signs that list destinations in France and Europe. (Trains leave this same station for destination inside Paris, so be certain you’re looking at the correct sign.)
Have a seat and wait for 20 minutes until it’s time for your train. That’s when they post the platform where you board. If you don’t see the name of your destination right away, don’t worry. The train must be within 20 minutes of so from the terminal to show up on the board.
If you miss your train, like I did, you’ll need to look for the SNCF information office. It’s on this floor and the entrance is well-marked. The information agents help with TGV, too. Be sure to grab a ticket when you walk in the door, or you’ll never be served. The line moves quicker than you think, so don’t take a ticket and walk out.
BUY INSURANCE – It’s really cheap to purchase trip insurance when you make your original purchase, especially when you’re coming in from an international flight.
If you miss your train, you’ll get a full refund deposited into your bank. Unless you have lots of time at the station, don’t worry about getting a refund on the spot. The attendant at the information office will help you buy a new ticket and you can get a refund for the missed train from the insurance company later. Ask for a duplicate of your new ticket so that you can send it to the insurance company if they request it. You have five business days to file for a refund.
How to find the right train car.
Since I make every mistake possible, I’m going to assume you’re as uninformed as I am about trains and how to board them.
On the ticket pictured below I’ve circled the train car number and the seat number. VOITURE = CAR # PLACE ASSISE = SEAT #
“Depart” and “Arriv” are self-explanatory — except remember you’re on a 24 hour clock!
All that’s left to know is the platform where you meet the train. You find that out from the board inside the terminal about 20 minutes before the train’s arrival. (See above.)
Assuming you’ve found the correct platform, you’ll find electronic displays on the platform indicating where each car of the train will be located for boarding. You can use this chart to find the mark on the platform corresponding to the car you would like to board. Don’t hesitate to ask another passenger or railway agent for help. Even if the person doesn’t speak English, you can show them the “car” and “seat” number on your ticket and they’ll point the way.
First class or second?
I like to pass on budget-conscious tips to others when I can. Having traveled in France by train, both first and second class, there are a few distinct differences: crowds, space, noise. Everytime I’ve traveled first class I’ve had a place that seats four all to myself. This time, on second class, all four seats were filled. There were also lots of children and babies.
If you can deal with these differences, the cost of second-class vs. first class is sometimes as much as half. They both arrived at the same place at the same time.
Hope this has been helpful.
For more information, this TGV post has more photos, videos and explanations.
Here’s a post with tips for safe traveling through CDG for 60+ travelers
Stay tuned for more adventures traveling in France!