Saturday, December 19, 2009

Lesson Learned: Bring Some Euros (the coin variety ) with you

The best way to get euros for your trip to Paris is just to use an ATM when you get there. They're everywhere. I've never had any problems, but check with your bank before you go to ensure your card will work in an overseas ATM. Your withdrawals may take a while to show up on your statement, and there are handling fees, but I far prefer doing this than using my credit card or travelers' checks or standing in line at the bank or a currency exchange place.

That said, if possible, bring along about 10 euros -- in coins (this is important) with you on your trip.

Here's my lesson learned.

If you're coming in on an international flight, you are going to fly into Charles de Gaulle.

The airport is located on the outer fringes of town . The good news is there are kiosks all over the airport where you can buy an RER ticket into the city. The bad news for you, my fellow Americans, is that you will have a hell of a time buying one.

The kiosks take European -- but not American -- credit cards. Something about a microchip vice a mangetic strip. Why this is in the days of a global marketplace eludes me.

Now, if you've followed my advice above, you now have a handful of crisp euros fresh from airport's ATM. These are useless at present because THE TICKET KIOSKS DON'T ACCEPT BILLS, JUST COINS. The ticket kiosks at Paris' other airport, Orly, accept bills as well as coins. I don't quite understand this discrepancy. It's a French thing.

There aren't any change machines at de Gaulle either.

Your only recourses at this point are to stand in the loooooonnnngggg line with all the other confused American tourists to buy one at the understaffed RER ticket counter or buy all kinds of stuff you don't want or need at the aiport sundries store until you have enough change to buy a ticket from the machine.

This will put you in a very bad mood and start your Paris vacation off on the wrong foot.

Far better to just walk up to the RER ticket kiosk, drop in the coins you have brought with you for this purpose and be on your merry way. That's what I did this time and got out of the airport in record time.

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