Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Shuttle service, VAT Refund/Tax Refund and departure from CDG Airport

Before continuing my daily travel experience in Paris, I am posting here my personal experience on the Shuttle service, the VAT or tax refund and departure from CDG Airport (Terminal 1) since these are popular topics being raised very often in Tripadvisor. Hope this will be of help to other travellers leaving Paris.

Shuttle Service.
Here I am referring to the shared Shuttle Service where 1 to 6 people will share a van from or going to the CDG Airport. There have been many adverse feedback on the use of shuttle service and I have used this both during my arrival and departure at the CDG Airport. I have posted earlier on my experience during my arrival which I am reproducing it below for convenience.

"We have booked and paid for a shuttle service online from the airport to our hotel despite reading a lot of negative remarks in Tripadvisor since I figured that it would be easier than taking a bus or the RER with our big luggage (2 x 20kg) and cheaper than getting a taxi. We used Parishuttle (the one with one s) and it cost 38E for the two of us against maybe 50E or more by taxi. Actually the main reason was that this particular shuttle service is bilingual (they speak English) and somewhat I have French language phobia after all the usual remarks about the French. 

I was given a number earlier to call the shuttle service after picking the luggage that is free from any public phone and after some difficulty of finding one, I was relived that I got through and was told to wait at Departure level exit door #2, in English! This was one level down from the Arrival level. I saw many Parishuttle vehicles came and gone and was told that I was not on their list every time I enquired, I was very worried that my shuttle have left without us since it was already more than an hour after our arrival and saw many other passengers getting onto theirs. Imagine my relief when the next driver I asked said I was in his list, whew! So the shuttle service works but don't expect to see your names on placards waiting for your arrival."

Actually, I chatted with the lady who was sharing the shuttle and found out that she had used the shuttle service on several occasions and had no problem. I would say that the shuttle is a viable option if
*you have heavy luggage that makes it difficult to use the metro.
*one or 2 persons are travelling together as it would be cheaper than a taxi; for 3 it would be nearly the same depending on the actual destination and for 4, a taxi will be cheaper.
*arrival is in the morning or day time as it seems they just use the same shuttle after they have delivered the people departing at the airport and since there are many shuttles, one would pick you up pretty soon after you have confirmed your arrival. It may be more difficult at night with less departure traffic.

So that was my experience with Parishuttle, so not sure about the other companies since there are many other shuttle companies but I should think it would be similar.

For my departure, I booked a shuttle through my hotel for pick-up at 8am, my flight was at 12 noon from CDG Terminal 1. The shuttle arrived only at 8.10 and the hotel told me that it was normal for the 10 minutes difference because of the traffic. BTW, there was no name on the van itself in this instance, not that it matters. Since this is a shared shuttle, they could be spending time picking someone before or after you, depending on the location of your hotel. In my case there was only one other passenger that was already inside so we went straight to the CDG Airport. However, the problem was that the passenger was dropped off first at Terminal 2 before dropping us at Terminal 1. So we lost another 5-10 minutes.

The advantage of using a shuttle is that the price is fixed and no chance of you being ripped off and the disadvantage is the extra time needed as pointed out above. If you want to use a taxi from you hotel, it may or may not be easy to flag one depending on the location of the hotel and the time of day. I had two instances of using the taxi from a hotel. First was from Hotel Lyon Mulhouse to Hotel Kyriad to join the Cosmos Tour and getting a taxi was very fast since the hotel was at a main street with many passing taxis. The second case was getting one from Hotel Mecure Porte St.Cloud, the ending hotel of the Cosmos Tour. Since this was located way off the main streets, very few taxis pass by the hotel and in the end I had to ask the hotel to call one for me. And that took about 40 minutes before it came. So if you need to call a taxi, you should arrange with the hotel way ahead to avoid any last-minute delay. BTW, It will cost a bit more since the charging will start when the taxi depart to the hotel for the pick-up.

VAT/Tax Refund

Man, this is Paris - a ladies' shopping paradise, home to Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Longchamps and many other brands that bring tears to many husbands' and boyfriends' eyes so it is inevitable that many Madame and Mademoiselle will be collecting their tax refund forms to lessen the pain. 

But please note:
*You can only enjoy tax refund if your purchase is above 175E from the same shop.  
*You must have your passport for verification and to provide details for the refund forms.
*You can opt for either cash refund or through your credit card regardless of your mode of payment by cash or credit card.
*You can only claim your refund at the last point of departure from the European Union.

Here is my experience for my tax refund at CDG Airport Terminal 1.
There is a large sign that says "Tax Refund" the moment you enter the departure hall, pointing to a long line of queuing ladies (and some gentlemen) that you cannot miss. Actually there are two queues, the much longer one will be the first one to get your refund documents stamp by the (custom?) officer. You forms should have been properly filled and you must show your boarding pass and passport for the processing. This means that either you must have checked in your luggage (to get the boarding pass) or have one printed from web check-in.
(I am not too sure about this point and others may want to clarify on this since you are suppose to show your goods when requested so how to show your goods if they are already checked in? Maybe they just need your flight ticket but my wife used her boarding pass. Anyway, I seldom see the officer inspecting the goods.)
Added later: You also need to show the ORIGINAL receipt from the store.

After getting the documents stamped, you will drop the documents into a box provided there if you opt for refund into your credit card or you need to join another queue at a different counter to get you cash refund. The queue here is shorter but it seems to move slower so heaven help you if you are standing behind a lady with stacks of refund forms. In our case, the tax refund process took about 1 and a half hour that seemed like an eternity. 

The VAT in France is almost 20% but the refund is only 12% and there is a 3E charge for commission (for every claim) by the cash refund counter at the airport.

Departure at CDG T1
After getting the cash tax refund, we moved into the walkway marked Boarding where our boarding passes were scanned and then we reached the immigration check-point. After clearing immigration (quite fast as no questions asked, just like during entry) we reached the security check. This was not particularly strict and no long queue as most people probably had cleared earlier. They just asked if you carried any liquid and bags and jackets were scanned the usual way.

Points to note
* the security checked is grouped by departure gate numbers so the strictness of checking may differ. Probably those leaving for USA may be more stringent and take a longer time. In my case, it was gates 40-48 for South East Asia and subsequently to Australia/New Zealand presumably.
* I did web check-in and the printed boarding pass (on plain paper) was not replaced with a normal boarding pass (on thick paper) and it was scanned many times throughout the departing process. So make sure it is printed clearly or you may run into problem during scanning. In my case, I used MAS (Malaysian Airlines) so I am not sure if it is the same for other airlines.
*The MAS check-in counter was at Hall 5 at that time, one level BELOW the normal departure floor but check with information. 
*There was a long queue for normal check-in so definitely it is much faster with web check-in.
*Did not see any toilets at the departure level but found them one level down, same as MAS check-in level. And good news, toilets are also available at the waiting area for final boarding.

Based on my experience, allocating at least 4 hours from pick-up from hotel to departure time would be sufficient to avoid any anxiety. It would be better to wait leisurely at the airport than rushing to catch your flight. You can even enjoy you final tiny cup of Parisian coffee before flying home.

Ronald Kwok

1 comment:

  1. There have been many adverse feedback on the use of shuttle service and I have used this both during my arrival and departure at the CDG Airport. I have posted earlier on my experience during my arrival which I am reproducing it below for convenience. Folsom shuttle