Travelling to France from Melbourne 2005 - some of my
Flight to Paris:
- travelled with Singapore Airlines - highly recommended!
- registered on their internet site for KrisFlyer membership (free) to
enable reward points for flight - just print out membership card and
laminate it to take with you.
- check in and confirmation of flight via their internet site the previous
day very easy EXCEPT:
- it gave an option to change your allocated seat which I did for my
wife but internet site did not display the new seat, and worse, when I
went back in to mine to change my seat to match, the site refused as
"I had already checked in" - thankfully, at the airport this
dilemma was easily resolved - although perhaps only easy by checking in
to airport early.
- although the site enabled linking your KrisFlyer membership number to
the flight, on checking in at the airport this was not linked and thus
had to be re-linked - pays to double-check everything.
- leaving Australia, one needs to fill in a customs form to declare
expensive items such as laptops & cameras that you will take with you
and bring back - failure to do so may mean that you have to pay duty on
return to Australia as customs would assume you bought it overseas. You can
download the form from the Australian Customs website and complete it before
leaving - you need to give the serial numbers of the items. At customs at
the airport, you will need to physically show the items and their serial
- flight from Melbourne to Singapore:
- this is a boring flight so thankfully each passenger has their own LCD
screen and headphones so can choose from a fairly wide range of current
movies, audio CDs, TV programmes and interactive games.
- but there is a limit to how much one can watch, so try to get some
- Singapore is 2 hours behind Melbourne.
- changed flights at Singapore's massive Changi airport where we had to wait
some 7hours for our next flight, there are several possibilities on how to
spend this time:
- browse the multitude of "duty free" shops - but be aware
they have a limited range, their prices on goods imported to Singapore
such as cameras may well be more expensive than retail in your own
country, may not have correct power cords or warranty options for your
country. Personally I found it non-productive and disappointing as I had
hoped to buy a new camera for my wife, but ended up having to pay
approx. 15% more for it than I could have bought at discounted retail in
Melbourne and not getting the correct power cord or able to buy
accessories for it, while memory cards were similar to retail in
Melbourne and almost twice the price on EBay.
- have a massage or exercise in a gym
- check in to a transit hotel bedroom suite for approx. $SG65 for a 6
hour block - this may be the best option
- try to catch some sleep in the lounge chairs in between shopping,
snacks and getting some walking exercise to help you sleep on the next
- if your flight arrives in early in the day, consider leaving the
airport for a day tour of Singapore - no transit visa needed (but check
this in case it changes) as long as you have your passport and boarding
- flight from Singapore to Paris takes ~12.5hours:
- if your flight is overnight, then you really should aim to get some
sleep as soon as supper has been finished (~1 hour after take-off) - you
may consider buying some melatonin tablets from the airport pharmacy to
help you get to sleep and prevent jet lag.
- it certainly is not easy to get good sleep - bring your eye mask,
inflatable pillow and make sure you exercise your legs to prevent DVT.
- I awoke with some 3-4 hours to go and found myself flying over
Instanbul to my right which was easy to make out with its lights, and
was really the only major city that I saw as the cabin lights come back
on some 2 hours before the end of the flight when breakfast is served.
- if you wish to see Paris from the air, ensure you get seats on the
- Paris is 6 hours behind Singapore and 8 hours behind Melbourne (AEST -
not daylight saving time).
- Paris airport to Paris hotel:
- due to renovations at Charles de Gaulle airport, the baggage
collection area gets very congested, but just follow the signs to exit (Sortir)
once baggage is collected and then check for signs for departure points
(departure is one level below the arrivals).
- we found the lift down to the departure area for the free shuttle bus
to the RER train station where we purchased a ticket to Paris zone 1 for
8.50 Euro each (unfortunately, the ticket office was not aware of the
bonus trip offered by Eurail pass)
- validate the ticket as in Melbourne and catch the train to Gare du
Nord or which-ever station you need to change trains for the Metro
underground service. Coming into Gare-du-nord station was very much like
coming into Nth Melbourne station in Melbourne, exactly the same
ambience albeit the different language on the train.
- Gare-du-nord station is BIG, carry your bags up and down the several
stairs needed to find the Metro platforms (usually to the south) and
work your way through the maze until you finally find tour train
(research which train you need before going - check the internet and
- Paris prides itself on the fact that no destination in Paris is more
than 500m from a Metro and the trains are frequent & reliable.
Getting to know Paris:
- Paris in summer is full of tourists - 9 million came in August 2005, and
it can be over-whelming for the first time visitor, although the Parisians
are generally very friendly and helpful as long as you behave nicely to
them, and especially if you at least try a few French words such as bonjour,
merci, au revoir. A few will take advantage of your poor French and ensure
you end up paying more than you wanted to, but that's life in the big city
- highly recommend you orientate yourself by going on the L'Open Tours buses
which provide a commentary via headphones and you can choose to sit on the
top, open deck where you can take photos.
- getting around Paris:
- for the most part, the best way is on foot so you get to see more, but
Paris tourist centre is BIG and you may find you walk more than 20km in
a day, not to mention the many steps up and down staircases as the Arc
de Triomphe and the Tours de Notre Dame. Furthermore, there is
significant risk of traffic injury as you must remember to look left
FIRST before crossing the road and check the pedestrian lights -
although most pedestrians and cars do not always obey these!
- the Metro:
- fantastic underground railway system that has very frequent trains
and a stop within 500m of anywhere in Ile de France.
- consider buying a 3 day pass - tickets are validated by inserting
into a machine at entrances.
- can get very hot, stuffy and malodorous in warm weather if
- underground stations are a bit of a maze but usually well
sign-posted - just look for your line number and direction you want
to go, or else look for the "Sortie" signs to exit the
station. There is not one central station where all lines pass so
you need to check which station has the lines you need if needing
more than one train to get to your destination.
- many stairs up & down and turnstiles are narrow so avoid
large, heavy luggage if possible.
- the TGV trains to other cities leave from a designated main
station and the platform area for these are marked as "Grand
Lignes" - these must usually be booked in advance - consider
buying a discounted Eurail pass BEFORE entering Europe.
- eating in Paris:
- generally expensive, the more so in the tourist areas, make sure you
check how much a meal or drink will cost before going in - 2 glasses of
fresh orange juice and 2 slices of apple tart set me back 48 Euro
(that's about $A85!!) in one cafe near l'Opera. In general Paris itself
is expensive with drinks costing 4-8 Euro and main meals start at 10-14
Euro while deserts start at 6-8 Euro.
- just get used to paying double what you normally pay and enjoy the
great quality food and usually very rapid service and drink lots of
water, although this will still cost you 3-4 Euro usually so take as
much water as you need for each outing.
- note that you no longer need to tip waiters in Paris (but perhaps do
in small towns) as tipping charge is now included in the bill!
- look for the rare supermarket (eg. one on rue de Babylon) to help cut
your food bills.
- monuments and museums:
- there are many, s consider purchasing a Paris Visite 3 day pass to
most of the main ones.
- in addition to the multitude of small art museums, there are 3 main
ones which you really should consider:
- the Louvre - older art - can take photos with flash (but don't use
flash except as last resort as will get poor results usually from
- Musee d'Orsay - 19th century and impressionist era art - can take
photos but no flash
- Pompidou Centre - modern art (20th century) - can take photos
- the Eiffel Tower - elevator to the top costs ~11 Euro and there is
usually about a 30min wait in the queue to purchase ticket then another
30-45min wait in a queue in the open air for the 2nd elevator on the 2nd
deck. Bring warm clothes if windy and cold! Don't bother with a tripod
as too crowded at the top but you will need a small stabiliser device
for night time photos.
- the Arc de Triomphe - can climb the 280 steps or so (50m) (free if
Visite card) for a good view from the top as well as a small museum. No
- Napoleon's tomb at the Dome Church in Les Invalides where there is
also a military museum.
- the many churches - usually free entry and can usually take photos -
try for ambient light photos by steadying camera against a pillar:
- Notre Dame - optional entry to see treasury artefacts at ~2 Euro;
can climb the 70m up the towers for some great pics of Paris (free
with Visite card)
- St Chapelle - great stained glass windows
- St Sulpice
- St Germaine-de-Pres - the oldest church in Paris - originally was
in a fortified abbey outside the walls of Paris.
- Sacre Couer in Mont Martre