Testing out the Charles De Gaulle (CDG) Arrival Experience - Terminals 2E and 2F

I wouldn’t be much of a CEO if I didn’t personally visit the cities that Attaché supports and see for myself the exact pain points that people face when arriving or transferring. So, I booked a 23 hour layover to test out how easy it is to get currency, SIM cards, train tickets and the like and talked with a few passengers about their experiences in the terminal.

Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport (CDG) - Terminal 2E


First, a vast majority of flights are finally going through terminals 2E (non-Schengen zone departures) and 2F (Schengen zone departures).

Built a few years ago, they offer some absolutely stunning architecture and a clean open layout, though for the life of me I can never understand why airport designers ever allow carpet. Serving mostly Air France and it’s partners, it is a dramatic improvement over the circular, hamster maze Terminal 1 that precluded them.

When you arrive in either, you’ll be shepherded to the arrivals level to clear immigration (for 2E) or to the baggage claim area (2F).

In 2F, it was pretty easy to find the escalator back up the departures level, though the design subtly encourages people to not transfer between the two floors. The bathrooms were also not easy to find (elevator to a sub-level) so you may be better off waiting until the baggage claim area.

Transferring between 2E and 2F requires exiting the secure area, walking through a long tunnel underground connecting the terminals and coming back up on the other side.

I would budget at least 30 minutes to do this.

Paris Charles De Gaulle (CDG) Terminal 2F Arrival Hall


Getting cash was relatively straightforward and there were a number of ATMs spaced throughout the arrival floor, though as both terminals are quite large, it may be a bit of a hike to find your bank’s partner (if you’re not buying an arrival kit from us!).

I did notice a relative dearth of money exchangers, and there were a few hiding on the departures level, particularly in 2E. The rates weren’t fantastic, but not outrageous. However, they do not give coins, making the train problematic (see below)

Strangely, there were more ATMs in terminal 2F than in 2E, even though the Schengen and Euro zones have far more overlap. If you’re coming from the US or UK (or beyond), the comparative level of amenities and services in the arrival hall of 2E pales to what’s offered in 2F, likely due to the extra space needed for immigration and customs.

SIM cards were much more scarce. I visited every RELAY magazine shop in both terminals and none carry any nano sized SIM cards, so if you have an iPhone 5, 5s, 5c, 6 or 6plus, you are out of luck.

There were micro-SIM cards available for about 20 euro, but the level of proficiency amongst the clerks on activating and topping up seemed to vary quite a bit. There were no retail outlets for any of the major telecom companies in France (O2, Orange and Vodafone).

On the bright side, the airport does have free Wi-Fi, but only for 30 minutes, so make sure you confirm any details or contacts quickly. After that it is quite expensive to continue to use, similar to Boingo prices around Europe.

There is a left luggage facility, but at 20 euro for the first 24 hours, it is hardly a good deal. Air France will not let you check your bag the previous day before your connecting flight, for anyone considering a 23 hour layover.

This is the ticket machine you want to use - Ile De France = Paris


Note that the machine only takes coins or chip-enabled credit cards. Most US-issued cards won’t work!



Getting into the city was a mixed bag. The trains station for the combined terminal 2 complex was very well labeled, but it is a hike, literally to the end of 2E/2F where they connect.

You are looking for the blue machines marked “Ile de France” a colloquial term for “Greater Paris.”

It’s very important to note that the ticket machines only take credit cards with a chip, no swipe cards allowed. They also don’t take Euro notes, only coins. At 9.75 euro each way, this is quite problematic and the line at the ticket counter was pretty long as a number of European tourists were facing the same issue of not carrying 10 euro in change.

The trains themselves are in the middle of the pack quality wise and weren’t the cleanest, but the trip was very efficient (I clocked it at 35 minutes) and expressed all the way to Gare Du Nord in the 10th arrondissement, a pretty convenient and central location within Paris.

I much prefer airport express trains to commuter rail because it reduces the likelihood of pickpocketing, extremely crowded trains or getting lost/taking the wrong spur.

Once at Gare Du Nord, there are several subway/metro line connections, but over the past few years Paris has installed very large full length gates on most of the turnstiles to prevent people from dodging fares.

Ironically, I still saw people holding the exit doors open for each other, so they haven’t been much of a deterrent, but these gates could make traveling the metro with luggage extremely difficult, as bags may not fit or have to be dragged through with great effort.

Due to the time the metro was built there are also many locations within the system where only stairs exist, so if you have a heavy bag, a cab from Gare Du Nord is recommended.

On the way out, I met a woman who was connecting in Paris from Osaka to London. She had traveled around Europe but found the connection process at CDG very confusing, particularly finding the right gate to be at.

I agree with this assessment, given my last time connecting through the terminal to Marseilles (I wasn’t really sure I was at the right gate either) and given the terminal design, there are many stores cluttering the middle, with the ceilings so vaulted that signs and gate numbers are often obscured.

They are really pretty terminals, but the store layouts make navigation a bit of a chore. The stores were also mostly luxury/high end boutiques, so finding budget food and souvenir shopping will be tougher.

The wine though was reasonably priced!

Pretty terminal, but there seemed to be a lot of clutter with luxury shops blocking the view of gate numbers. This is one of the few clear shots I could get.

Overall, Paris has a decent arrival experience and Terminals 2E and 2F are a considerable improvement over the previous terminals, but it still requires quite a bit of walking, a chip-enabled credit card and Android unlocked phone to be anywhere near efficient. Rating: 5/10

What’s your experience with CDG? Feel free to comment below and offer tips/corrections!


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