We hope you enjoyed this bus tour of Charles de Gaulle International Airport

My trip to Lisbon entailed a connection in Paris at Charles de Gaulle International Airport. So now, I've technically been to France, but since I never left the airport, I don't think it really counts.

(When I mentioned to one of my colleagues that I paid a brief visit to his native country, he replied, "I hope it went okay." Off my confused expression, he continued: "I try to avoid changing planes in Paris. There is about a 30% chance that somebody will be on strike.")

When our flight landed, a series of buses arrived to take the passengers to the terminal. Or at least, that's what we thought the bus was going to do. In fact, the bus took us on what appeared to be a grand tour of all the service areas of the airport. Look, the baggage sorting machine. Here's a building shaped like a wheel of cheese. Over there, the food service trucks. Hey, didn't we pass this building already?

After a three-hour tour of the facilities, we finally stopped in front of the terminal. I was expecting an announcement over the speaker: "We hope you enjoyed this bus tour of Charles de Gaulle International Airport."

Comments (20)
  1. mvadu says:

    Are you kidding.. from plane to terminal, they took 3 hours.. it takes 7 hours to reach from Paris to NY :)

  2. Stuart says:

    Actually, unless you left the international portion of the airport, you technically still haven’t been to France.  The international portion of the airport in most places is not considered to be part of the host country, but rather a ‘no-man’s land’.  It is the airport who provides primary jurisdiction over the property.  This is why shops get away with Duty-Free and other such money saving measures in the international portion of the airport.

  3. Using a picture of DUTCH cheese to illustrate a FRENCH building!?

    Raymond, let’s hope the Frenches don’t notice or they’ll throw soft figs at you until you die, which according to some is an extremely slow hence cruel way to pass away.

  4. Vitor says:

    Just hope, after all that in Paris, you enjoy your stay in Lisbon.

    I now live in Amsterdam but Lisbon will always be my hometown! Don’t forget to try one "Pastel de nata" at some cafe or bakery shop. :-)

  5. JS Bangs says:

    De Gaulle is widely regarded as one of the worst airports in the world, and it deserves every bit of that reputation

  6. poochner says:

    @Vitor: "Pastel de nata"

    Crayon of cream?

  7. Matthew says:

    On a recent stopover in Singapore, I took the free bus tour of the City. You board a bus, they drive into the city, with a commentary explaining various sites. You then board a boat for a river trip (There was a second tour option that did not involve this), after which you re-board the bus and go back to the airport.

    All without clearing immigration I might add. It probably didn’t tale as long as three hours though.

    I have been to Singapore on several other occasions, but with several hours free, after partaking of the free chilli crab promotion, thought I would try one of the services that makes Changi such a world-renowned airport.

  8. Chuck McKinnon says:

    If you stay in a hotel near the airport, there are free shuttle buses that take you to and from the terminals. The last time I used them, the ones going to the airport were quick enough — about twenty minutes from our hotel to the terminal, including stops at other hotels along the way.

    On the way back, however, we never figured out the rhyme or reason of the routing. It could take up to an hour and fifteen minutes for the return trip to our hotel, and most of that was (as you point out, Raymond) spent looping around the terminals. I am not exaggerating when I say we never, in six days, took the same route twice. One of my colleagues (an engineer) and I actually tried mapping the routes from day three onwards, but could never identify any pattern to them.

    I love France, and love visiting there, but I agree with the others who’ve said that that CDG airport deserves its bad reputation. And this is, of course, without even speaking of the spanking new terminal there that collapsed on travellers a couple of years ago.

  9. Michael says:

    30%? Seems like a very optimistic guess. I’m living in Paris since 3 years now, and there is basically 1 strike per months, except in the months with more than 1 strike.

  10. Dennis says:

    What constitutes a visit was recently discussed on Salon.com by Patrick Smith (As a Pilot):

    If I’ve flown into the Port-au-Prince airport, does that mean I’ve been to Haiti? What, exactly, constitutes a trip to another country?


    And the ultimate no visits trip:

    You call this traveling? Twenty-one days, 15 countries, 45,000 miles — without setting foot outdoors.


  11. Dmitry Kolosov says:

    I changed planes in CDG. We arrived at Terminal B, and the other plane left (in an hour) from Terminal A. A uniformed guy told me the walk from B to A was too long, and suggested I took a bus instead. The damned bus went around the airport, literally as you walk through a labyrinth – along the wall, stopping at every exit, terminals D, F, C, looking into every nook, as if it was looking for something.

    Almost missed my plane.

  12. James Goodwin says:

    Recently went to Frankfurt airport, where the bus driver taking us from plane to terminal seemed to get lost and ended up dropping us off at a different terminal to where our bags were delivered. Cue much concern from an entire plane’s worth of passengers when their bags don’t turn up, then get told to leave by the German Airport staff (who were trying to get us to go to another terminal).

  13. SvenGroot says:

    The longest bus tour I’ve ever had on an airport was at Heathrow, but it wasn’t anywhere near three hours.

    The shortest was just a few weeks ago on Ishigaki (one of the islands of Okinawa, Japan), where the bus from the plane to the terminal drove all of 20 metres. Ok, safety regulations I guess, but letting us walk that would definitely’ve been faster.

  14. peterchen says:

    @poochner  –

    @Vitor: "Pastel de nata"

    Crayon of cream?

    Yes, And they should only be handled by cream crayon professionals. Like me! :D

  15. Name required says:

    That is clearly not a building shaped like a cheese, it is a recently landed UFO. Do you know nothing?!?

  16. Ulric says:

    I think he was being sarcastic about the 3 hour tour,.. the 3 hour tour..

  17. Patrick says:

    Oh boy. CDG is a nightmare. I’ve been on the tour bus before, back when their international terminal *collapsed* and they were short a whole bunch of gates.

    The last few times I’ve made connections there, *every time*, I ended up outside the security zone and had to re-enter in the departing terminal. Since this has happened before, I’ve been very careful to follow the signs. It’s never done me any good. I really have no idea how they managed to get things so horribly wrong, every other airport in the world seems to be able to direct passengers in a sensible manner.

    The last time I was there there were two lines right when leaving the airplane. I followed the signs to my terminal, which happened to direct me to the rail-bus-train they have going between terminals. There’s only two stations, and on the other end I realize I’m nowhere near  what the signs said. Great. Once again I opt for walking to the gate.

    Oh. CDG is also the _only_ airport where I’ve ever missed a connecting flight.

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