With everyone planning their vacations (or almost, we are having a hard time deciding where to go this year....on a budget), how about some good info from the
Secrets of Paris
Low-Cost TGV Trains to Southern France
They’re fast, they’re cheap, they’re hot pink and baby blue, and they’re called OUIGO (pronounced “we go”). What’s NOT to love about this new low-cost TGV train service? Some people consider it an inconvenience, the trains don’t actually leave from Paris, but from the Marne La Vallée TGV station 45 minutes from Paris on the RER. So you can hang at Disneyland Paris before or after your trip south to Marseille, Montpellier, Lyon, Avignon, Nîmes, Aix-en-Provence and Valence. This new service starts on April 1st with promotional fares starting at €10 (€5 for kids). Again, what’s not to love?! Okay, there’s a catch: one “carry-on” size baggage and handbag are free. Actual suitcases are €5 each if you pay when you get your ticket. If you just show up with it the cost is €40 on the train. If you want your own electric socket, it’s €2. http://ouigo.voyages-sncf.com
Spotting Fake Taxis
Aside from trying to maintain order on the streets and sidewalks of the most famous avenue in the world, the Prefecture de Police de Paris is also trying to help tourists avoid getting ripped off by fake taxis. They’re usually hovering around airports and train stations, but I’ve had clients taken for a ride by a fake one outside the Eiffel Tower (in the taxi stand!). There are two big tip-offs: real taxi drivers don’t walk up to you asking if you need a taxi (quite the opposite, hardy har har), and there is ALWAYS a meter in legitimate taxis (usually in the spot low on the dashboard below the radio). Of course, there should also be a little TAXI sign on the roof and the meter should be ON (unless you called a taxi to come get you, it should have €2.50 on the display when you get in). There will be a sticker on the passenger window with the driver’s permit number, handy to write down in case you have any problems (or accidentally leave something in the car). The minimum rate is €6.60, even if the meter shows less, and if you have a fourth passenger or more than one suitcase they will add €3 and €1 per bag, respectively, to the final price. You can read more about taxis on Secrets of Paris.
Private Car Service
How about Club Chauffeur (iPhone only); a very nice little ride across town last week in a spacious minivan with bottled water, magazines, and a driver who already knows where you are going. These services require you to sign up with your credit card and then when you order the car with your smartphone you’re given a rate and it’s already pre-paid when the car arrives (and in Paris the taxis still don’ take credit cards, so this is nice). Bonus: they text you on arrival so you don’t have to stand on the street waiting. Note that there’s a minimum of €15-€20 depending on time of day/night, so you may want to only use this for longer trips across town.
Another option is to drive yourself to where you need to be with AutoLib’, the city’s car-sharing service (like the Vélib’, without messing up your hair). There are a few thousand of the electric (and automatic) Blue Cars around Paris and the immediate suburbs that can be accessed with daily, weekly, monthly or annual passes. Read about my own experience on the Secrets of Paris.
Have a great day!