By Maggie LaCoste
Taking a TGV direct from Charles DeGaulle Airport to the starting point of your bicycling vacation is a perfect way to start your trip. It is so much easier than going into Paris that I often choose starting locations based on train availability direct from the airport. Of course this doesn’t work for every bike trip, but if you are not planning on visiting Paris, and you are heading for locations such as Lille, Dijon, Macon, Lyon, Marseille, Montpellier, Le Mans, Tours, Rennes or Bordeaux, you can access a train direct from and/or to the airport.
Making the connection to the TGV at the airport the first time can be a little daunting, so I hope these tips will help you make this connection easier the first time. If you are arriving from the United States, unless you are traveling on Air France, you will probably arrive at Terminal 1. After collecting your bags, which can take up from 30-60 minutes, depending on the day of the week, you will pass through the last customs control point, and enter the arrivals hall. Assuming that we have time, this is when I get a good strong expresso and we exchange some money. Then you need to look for the signs pointing to CDGVAL, the airport shuttle system.
You’ll take an elevator to the shuttle, and then you will take the shuttle to Terminal 2. When you get to Terminal 2, look for the signs that say Gare SNCF Rail Station. The rail station is sandwiched between the two wings of Terminal 2, downstairs from the Sheraton at CDG.
If you are hungry or want a snack for the train, there is a Paul located where you exit from the CDGVAL. It has the best of the airport food choices!
Of course there are also several other food choices, including a couple of fast food options on the same level as the TGV tracks. There is a SCNF travel center at the airport should you need any kind of special assistance, but, depending on the day of the week, it can be very crowded. While there are plenty of machines for ticket retrieval, they all require a credit card with a chip, which we don’t have in the US yet. This means that if you need to change your ticket, or retrieve your ticket at the station, you have no choice but to use the SCNF office. I actually have found that it is much easier to print my tickets at home before I go, or, if you are using Rail Europe for your tickets, they are normally sent to you in advance of your trip.
Keep a watch out on the big board for your track number. They are normally posted 10-15 minutes before the train is due to depart. When you get to your track, look for the sign that has the composition of the train. This will tell you where on the platform your car will be. Your car number will be listed on your ticket.
After this, all you need to do is find your seat, relax and look forward to the biking adventure ahead of you! For those of you who may be interested, here is a link to the map of Charles de Gaulle airport so that you have a better understanding of the route to the train station: