going > day trip from london to paris

To make the most of our time in Europe I decided to take my parents to Paris on a quick day trip while we were in London. Since I had never taken the train to Paris before, I opted to sign up for this tour on Viator thinking this would deal with any details my noobness would miss.

I’ve taken a few other tours from Viator and have had positive experiences. This was the first time I thought it was a waste of money and wish I had done more homework and sorted it out myself.

tl;dr: Don’t book this tour. 

viatorparis3

A snapshot of our hop on/hop off route and some Parisian grafitti.

Let’s talk about money. The cost varies but hovers around USD250 for the cheapest version of the tour: unescorted, standard train fare. It starts at St Pancras Station around 6am and you get back around 10pm.

Breaking down the trip: you can get a return ticket Paris to London on Eurostar yourself for as low as GBP72 (that’s USD110 or so right now). The unescorted tour uses the Big Bus Hop On/Hop Off which you can separately book for EUR30 in Paris or USD32 via Viator.

We’re at $140. That extra $110 pays for… basically nothing. Someone meets you at St Pancras to give you tickets. While this lady was really nice she almost screwed it all up because she couldn’t find our reservations for a good 20 minutes. Turns out they were in her bag.

In Paris you are met by a stereotype-filling tour guide who looks like he’d rather be anywhere else but meeting you. (Seriously, you’d think the first words out of a tour guide’s mouth would be: “Welcome to Paris!” but nada he just sort of looks at you and barely acknowledges that you made it to the right meeting point.) He walks you to an empty bus that drives you to the nearest stop on the Hop Off/Hop On tour and tells you when/where to meet him to head home.

You do your own thing blah blah blah.

The main event: the Eiffel Tower

The main event: the Eiffel Tower

The Arc d' Triomphe

The Arc d’ Triomphe

At the appointed time you meet him and he takes you to another bus that drives you back to Gare du Nord to get on your train. This whole part was messed up too since there was no bus to take us to Gare du Nord. We waited probably half an hour and then had to rush through security to make the train.

Basically the only thing you get for $110 is a ride to and from Gare du Nord and Galeries Lafayette (the closest stop). I’m pretty sure you can grab a taxi (or 10) yourself for that amount of cash.

You can take the escorted version of this tour for USD350 which seems exorbitant to me too. What’s more confusing is that Viator puts the reviews for both the escorted and unescorted versions of this tour together even though I’m sure the experiences are super different.

I’m glad I took my parents on this trip because they had a good time but I wish we had done it without Viator. Lesson learned (and shared).

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