I still remember my first bad taxi ride from Charles de Gaulle Airport. I was returning home from a visit with family in California, lugging around suitcases so heavy I thought I might give a Paris airport taxi a try. In the past, I’d simply taken the RER B commuter-line train from the airport to Gare du Nord– an hourlong ride that was sometimes a bit tedious, but perfectly fine.
I somehow managed to miss the official taxi queue outside the arrivals gate at my terminal (full disclosure: this was somewhere around 2004, when the airport signs were not quite as clearly marked). Blame it on jetlag, naiveté– or both. I ended up climbing into a taxi after two guys vigorously waved in my direction, ushering me inside their cab.
At only 23 or 24, I had little experience with this sort of thing– and assumed the taxi would be equipped with a meter to accurately and fairly calculate my fare. From my recollection, there was no illuminated “taxi” sign on the car’s rooftop. Hmm….can you imagine how this all turned out?
My Cautionary Tale
My trust was entirely unwarranted. About 15 minutes into the trip, I asked how much it would likely be so I could prepare my cash. I presumed it would be something in the range of 35 or 40 Euros (remember, this was the early 2000s.)
The driver tersely responded. “Tout dépend du trafic!” (It all depends on the traffic!) “Oui, bien sur”, I answered, still calm, “but can you at least give me an estimate?”
“Oh, probablement 50, 60 Euros. On verra!” (Oh, probably 50 or 60 Euros. We’ll see!”
Guess what? I only had a 50 Euro bill in my wallet. I started to panic a bit. After asking why there was no meter, the driver told me (again, in clipped and annoyed tones) that they weren’t “that sort of company.”
In other words? They weren’t a legitimate taxi company— and I’d been scammed. A legitimate, non-metered taxi or shuttle would have given me a fixed-price fare before the ride, and asked me to agree to it or pay it in advance. And even then, that quoted fare should correspond to going rates– not exceed them.
Read related: How to Avoid Typical Tourist Traps & Scams in Paris
Luckily, I managed to scrape together a few coins at the bottom of my bag, and paid the vastly inflated fare. I told the driver that I was unhappy, and obviously gave him no tip.
Of course, he didn’t care: other unsuspecting tourists at the airport would likely climb in the cab as naively as I had. He and his colleagues would reap the rewards of ripping off people who had no idea they might be taken advantage of in a place like Paris.
How to Recognize Legit Airport Taxis in Paris (& Avoid Repeating my Mistakes)
I offer this cautionary tale to help you avoid repeating my mistakes when taking airport taxis in Paris (and around France, more generally). You probably already understand that to avoid getting overcharged and taken advantage of by unscrupulous “taxi” drivers, you should do exactly the opposite of what I did. Still, let’s spell out some basic principles and tips so you make sure to get in the right cab. Of course, these apply to taking shorter rides around the city, too.
Read related: Yes, It’s Still Safe to Travel to Paris– Read These Tips
1. Get in an official taxi queue.
This is the first, and probably most essential, step when choosing a taxi for a ride to or from the airport. If you haven’t pre-booked a cab, make sure you only accept rides from taxis in the official queues outside your terminal (or around the city, if you’re headed to the airport).
At Charles de Gaulle Airport, official and licensed “Taxis Parisiens” (Parisian taxis) park in queues outside the baggage claim areas of each terminal. Follow the signs inside, and look for taxi queue signs outside your terminal, at streetside. At Orly Airport, follow signs in the arrivals area to the taxi queues.
2. Only get in a taxi with an illuminated rooftop sign and a meter.
Unless you pre-order a ride from a reputable taxi or shuttle service, make sure you only get in to taxis that both have illuminated rooftop signs reading “TAXI Parisien” and are equipped inside with a meter. If you get in and notice there isn’t one, you can tell the driver you don’t wish to continue with the ride. He or she may protest. No matter.
3. Know the going rates.
According to the Parisian Airports Authority (ADP), going rates for taxi fares to and from Charles de Gaulle to the city center currently range from around 50 to 55 Euros each way. From Orly airport, which is much closer to the city, your fare should cost between 30 to 35 Euros, depending on whether you’re going to the left bank or the right bank, respectively. These standard fares are accurate as of early 2019. You can see updated information on using taxis from Parisian airports at this page from ADP.
If you arrive at your destination and the fares are much outside these ranges, even on a meter, contest it and refer to the going rates quoted above. This is unlikely to happen– but be prepared to cite your rights just in case.
4. Don’t accept rides from anyone urging you to use their service.
Remember the mistake I made all those years ago? Reputable taxi and shuttle companies don’t hang out in baggage claim or arrivals areas and urge travelers to use their service. Nor do they lurk outside on the sidewalks. Ignore their entreaties or promises of special rates, and find the official queue. Alternatively, call a trusted taxi company (see my next tip.)
5. Reduce stress by pre-booking a ride with a reputable company.
If you’d prefer to pre-order a taxi to or from Charles de Gaulle, Orly or other airports around Paris, make sure you choose a trustworthy and highly-rated company.
G7 has a fleet of over 7,500 taxis in the Paris region, and the Paris Airport Authority recommends them. You can easily book online and lock into fixed-price fares. I also highly recommend booking a ride with Taxi2Airport, a company that works directly with trusted local taxi and shuttle companies and currently has a nearly-perfect Trustpilot rating. Book a ride online using this link, and get 5% off your first ride.
What About Uber?
Some may prefer to use Uber, but I personally wouldn’t recommend it for a ride as long as the one from Charles de Gaulle. If you do choose to book a ride with Uber, pay attention to user reviews and don’t get in a car with a poorly-rated driver.
Always share your ride with someone close for added security. I also advise women and unaccompanied minors to avoid Uber. There have been scattered reports of harassment and even assault. Even if these are rare, why take the risk?
How long does it take to get between Paris and the airport?
This will depend largely on traffic conditions and your final destination, but on average, the ride should take 35 to 60 minutes from Charles de Gaulle to the city center, and 15 to 40 minutes from Orly.
Do I even need to take a taxi from the airport?
In two words– absolutely not. There are many options that are far less expensive. Most people will be just fine taking public transportation such as the REB B commuter train, which gets you to central Paris at Gare du Nord (you may also get off close to the Latin Quarter, at Luxembourg).
Others may prefer the Roissybus, a regular and inexpensive city bus service that drops off and picks up passengers nearby the Opera Garnier. There are also fancier coach services from the airport, for those who prefer perks like free wifi, increased luggage storage, strong air conditioning and more comfortable seats.
Visitors with limited mobility, young children, or many heavy bags may end up deciding that taking a taxi is the best and most convenient option. Even having a monstrous case of jetlag or needing to get to the city more quickly are perfectly good reasons to opt for a taxi.
My bottom line? It’s a personal choice. But if you do decide to hop in a cab, make sure you don’t fall victim to the scammers lurking at the arrivals gate and outside the terminal.
For more information on avoiding taxi scams in Paris (around the airport and elsewhere in the capital), see this excellent piece.