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‘Gare du Nord’ Train Station

Paris Gare du Nord train station connects Paris to CDG Airport via RER B train line.  In addition Gare du Nord has TGV, Thalys, ICE, Ter, Transilien trains connecting Paris to London, cities in northern France (Lille, Calais, Dunkerque) Brussels, Amsterdam, Cologne, Berlin and many more.

Here’s a panoramic photo of the western half of Gare du Nord showing the main train lines connecting Gare du Nord to other cities around Europe.

Gare du Nord main train lines

Gare du Nord main train lines

Above is a photo of the entrance to the Eurostar platform within Gare du Nord station in Paris, located up the stairs/escalators on Level 1 (Niveau 1). The Eurostar platform and trains are separated from other trains due to the need to screen passenger passports for the voyage to London. (The UK is not a Schengen zone country).

Eurostar check-in at Gare du Nord

Climbing the stairs in the last photo we arrive at the Eurostar check-in level. Visible on the left are e-ticket machines where one can collect Eurostar tickets purchased online at Eurostar.com.  The Eurostar ticket office (not visible) is located just left of the ticket machines.  If you don’t have a smart-chip pin protected credit card, these machines which will most likely not work for you.  Instead, enter the ticket office and collect the tickets in-person.  Have a print-out of your ticket confirmation email (with the ticket reference number) plus a passport to retrieve your tickets in-person.  At the end of this walkway is the Eurostar entrance. Non-EU citizens will need to fill out a declaration card for UK Immigration before you enter. Cards are available near the blue information kiosk visible in the centre of this photo.

Eurostar arrival at Paris Gare du Nord

The above photo is the scene at Gare du Nord upon arrival from the London to Paris Eurostar train. This is facing south east towards the front entrance of Gare du Nord on rue de Dunkerque. Centre middle is an overhead blue sign pointing left towards the Metro and RER trains located two levels down from street level (picture here).  There will be two sets of stairs leading one level down just left of this scene.  At the bottom of the first set of stairs will be two green Billetterie Ile-de-France ticket vending machines where you can buy Metro, RER and Transilien commuter train tickets.

Metro RER Ticket Machine Hall Gare du Nord Niveau -1

Continuing further down the hall you’ll see plenty of yellow TGV ticket machines where one can collect, change, cancel their Grandes Lignes tickets (TGV, Ter, etc.).  Visible is another overhead sign pointing towards Metro and RER trains with an airport symbol signifying the RER B train service from Paris to CDG Airport as well as Orly Airport to the south.

Billetterie Hall Gare du Nord

Here’s another photo of the same hall, opposite side.  In the distance you can see several green Billetterie Ile-de-France green ticket vending machines.  These sell both RER and Metro tickets trains (Billet Ile-de-France, Paris Metro Ticket t+) including carnets and can recharge Pass Navigo / Découverte with Carte Orange (although they do not sell new cards). Continuing down this hall leads towards Metro lines 4 & 5 and RER B, D, and E.

The above is a photo of the western half of Gare du Nord station from the Eurostar level overlooking train lanes/platforms 1-13 (voie in French) for Eurostar and Thalys trains arriving from London (Londres), Brussels (Bruxelles) and German cities. Near the center of the photo is a sign reading Reseau Ile-de-France RER with an arrow pointing to the east side of Gare du Nord station. This is the direction of the RER B, RER D, RER E platforms underneath Gare du Nord, at sublevel 2.

Near the middle of the photo below of Gare du Nord main train lines atrium you can see a blue rectangular sign reading “Metro” with RER and Metro symbols.  Follow those signs to get to the RER B, D and E train lines as well as Metro 4, 5.

Gare du Nord atrium looking east

Gare du Nord atrium looking east

Photo of the eastern half of the Gare du Nord station facing north, showing the departures board on the left, train lanes (voies) 14 and up, used for TGV trains and Ter (Ile-de-France) trains. At bottom right is an information booth with an ACCUEIL (Welcome) sign along the top. Beyond the Departures Board, on the other side, are more train lanes for Thalys (high speed trains from Paris to Brussels, Belgium, to the Netherlands and Germany) and Eurostar (high speed trains from Paris to London).

photo of atrium

Gare du Nord RER Metro Signs

Gare du Nord RER Metro Signs

 

Gare du Nord RER Metro Floor Sign

Gare du Nord RER Metro Floor Sign

East (looking right) of this position is the large open atrium leading to the RER B, D, E lines and Metro line 4 and 5 on sublevels 2 and 1.

This is a photo of the eastern atrium at Gare du Nord with a Transilien (Ile-de-France) ticket window selling tickets for Ter and Transilien trains traveling outside of Paris, but within the Ile-de-France. Further east (looking right) is the RER/Metro portion of Gare du Nord.

Photo from just above and west of the RER/Metro lines at Gare du Nord along the Eastern edge of the station. Here you can see a sign for RER lines B, D, and E plus Metro lines 4 and 5.

Photo of Gare du Nord’s RER/Metro station entrance section, full of turnstiles, leading to train platforms serving RER B, RER D and RER E and Metro Line 4 and Metro Line 5. RER B trains connect Paris to Aeroport Charles de Gaulle (CDG), taking roughly 25 minutes from Gare du Nord. RER B also connects central Paris/Gare du Nord to Paris-Orly Airport to the south requiring a train change at Antony Station with the final connecting train being Orlyval which stops at both Orly West (Ouest) and Orly South (Sud) terminals. RER D runs north-south, connecting Gare du Nord to Gare de Lyon station in direction of Melun or Malesherbes. RER E runs east-west connecting Gare du Nord to Gare St-Lazare on the western side of central Paris.

A photo of ticket vending machines at Gare du Nord within the RER/Metro section of the station. These machines are used for buying individual Metro/RER/Bus/tramway tickets (Ticket t+), carnets (books of ten or twenty Ticket t), and also tickets for train destinations within Ile-de-France on Transilien or Ter trains. Remember that most non-smart-chip credit cards will not work with these machines, so use Euro coins if you have them. These machines can also charge up Pass Navigo / Navigo Découverte cards with Carte Orange week or month “subscriptions” (abonnements) using the Navigo slot.

Safety Security at Gare du Nord

Read about staying safe in Gare du Nord train station.

Other Resources

Simple Gare du Nord map showing the main train platforms (“Grandes Lignes”).

Gare du Nord Map

(Map courtesy of Railteam.eu)

Paris Security Safety Tips

By | February 3, 2013 | in Airport Metro RER Tickets

Travel in Paris safely & securely by being aware of common scams run on tourists & travelers. This Paris safety & security guide focuses on scams run by pickpockets and thieves in and around Paris Metro (subway), Paris RER, and intercity trains and Paris train stations.

If you have a story you’d like to share to help others avoid the same scam, please contact ben@parisbytrain.com.

Paris RER Metro Train Ticket Vending Machine

Scam: Ticket purchase help

Where: At Metro / RER ticket vending machines, especially at Gare du Nord train station

How: Scam artist offers to help you purchase tickets using his bank card/credit card claiming that foreign cards do not work (true in some cases). After purchasing the tickets he asks you to pay him in cash for the tickets, but at an amount demanded is much higher than face value. Variations include purchasing a carnet (booklet of 10) of single use Metro or RER tickets and offering you only 1-2 tickets for the price of an entire booklet, claiming they are good for multiple use or something similar.  Scam is commonly run at Gare du Nord due to high tourist traffic coming from RER B trains from CDG Airport and Eurostar London – Paris trains, with plenty of first-time travelers to Paris.

Avoidance:

  • buy tickets from a ticket window
  • buy Metro/RER train tickets from ticket machines using your own bank/credit card/coins
    • bank & credit cards with a chip, taking 4 digit PIN numbers from most countries will work fine
  • politely refuse help from apparently good samaritan locals
  • never offer cash for tickets to anyone not behind a ticket counter, regardless of uniform

Scam: Distraction + Bag Snatch from Seat

Where: Inside Metro / RER trains with bag placed beside or above you (i.e. not wearing it)

How: If you’re not physically holding or wearing your bag (backpack/purse/anything easy to carry) you’re a target for a distraction + bag snatch followed by escape out closing train doors.  The distraction comes from one partner, a few moments before train car doors close.  While you’re not looking at your bag, the other partner grabs your bag and escapes out the closing doors while you’re stuck on train as it leaves the station.

Distractions include:

  • Dropping coins/phone/anything making noise & movement on train car floor, causing you to momentary look at the noise
  • Knocking on train car window where you’re seated causing you to look outside.  Can be someone pointing at their wrist asking for the time, someone saying “hi” or making a face, anything to get you to look out the window for 2-3 seconds.

Avoidance:

  • Hold your bag, tightly while the train is stopped at a station.  While in motion, you can relax a bit, but never stop holding your bag when train is stopped.  Heavy suitcases are usually safe as they’re too bulky/cumbersome to move quickly out of a train.  But backpacks, purses, etc. are a perfect target.
  • Put your backpack/bag between your feet, not on either seat beside you, regardless of aisle or window seat.  A bag on a window seat is easily stolen from the row of seats behind you. Especially if you’re sitting next to the doors. The thief will simply reach over the back of the seat and grab your window-seated bag while you’re not looking.

Scam: Pick pocket teams

Where: Train car doors and anywhere a small bag is placed (open seats, overhead storage, at your feet)

How: Distraction / diversion / attention-getting + snatching wallet/bag.

Example: Helping pick up coins or something dropped in several pieces. Usually two-person team. One is a decoy attempting to distract you & expose your wallet or divert attention away from your bag.  He often stays on train.  Partner picks pocket/grabs bag & gets off train as doors close.  I had this attempted on me on the Barcelona Metro, but the method works anywhere.  One member waits to get on train at a 45º angle in front of you (keeping you in his peripheral view).  When the train arrives and doors open, passengers exit train, then you and pickpocket move towards door.  He enters just ahead of you and drops something on the floor of train.  A mobile phone in pieces, coins, etc.  The point is to get your help to bend over and pick up the pieces with him, exposing your back pocket & your wallet.  His partner then picks your pocket while leaving train and walks off.  After picking up pieces, the original pickpocket stays on train and plays innocent, offering himself to be searched for your wallet.

Metro Station train platform - Gare de Lyon - Line 14

Avoidance:

  • Don’t help to pick up items dropped.
  • Keep your wallet in front pants pocket.

Scam: Unregistered Taxi / Limousine Rides

Where: Near train station & airport passenger pickup stands for taxis, limousines, etc.

How: Illegal taxi or limousine offers you a ride to destination of your choice at discount or flat rate because their reserved passenger has been delayed.  After driving begins the car takes you to an unsafe neighbourhood and demands extra fee or they will eject you into the unsafe area.

Avoidance:

  • Take taxis from designated taxi stand areas at train stations and airports.
  • Take taxis that have an illuminated roof sign (green light) and a meter on the dash (that works)
  • Only take taxis from reputable/recommended companies which includes:
    • Taxi G7
    • G7 Horizon
    • Alpha Taxis
    • Les Taxis Bleus
    • ABC Taxis 93

Scam: Bag Placement & Pickup

Where: Anywhere you put your hand bag down

How: When you put your handbag on floor at your feet, thief puts their bag down beside yours, stops, bends over and ties her shoes.  When done, she picks up her bag and yours and walks off.

Avoidance: when you put your purse down, put bag between your feet, not on your left or right sides of your feet.

Scam: Mobile phone theft with closing doors

Where: near train doors as they’re closing

How: As you talk or text on your mobile phone, holding it up near your face in plain view with a weak grip, the thief will wait until train is about to depart and doors are about to close.  He will grab your mobile phone from your hands and escape through the closing doors and run out of the station.

Avoidance:

  • Use your mobile phone after the train doors are closed and train car is in motion (no escape route).
  • Don’t text or talk on phone when the train doors are about to open or close.
  • Don’t sit immediately in front of doors (minimizes distance to escape route).
  • Hold onto your mobile phone like an orange (hand wrapped around it), not like a Christmas card (holding bottom edges, exposing phone, easy to grab).

Scam: Asking you to take photo of them using their camera/phone

Where: train platforms, near columns, in dark areas

How: The team (working in two or more) will target single/lone travelers, usually with baggage, that they can move into darker areas, close to columns. They will have one person ask you to take a photo of them using their camera or phone. They will ask you to take pictures of them in poorly lit areas, usually around poles or columns on the train platform. From this area they will try to position you for a bump/pickpocket from their team member or to separate you and your luggage using the column, where the second team member will make off with a light bag or backpack or purse that’s on your suitcase.

Avoidance:

  • Politely refuse taking photos of locals using their phone. (Say your a terrible photographer / have shaky hands, etc.)
  • Do not separate yourself from your baggage.
  • Stay out of poorly lit areas where security cameras cannot see well.

Final Thoughts

To reiterate, Gare du Nord train station is the most likely place for thieves to operate.  Stay alert while in this Paris station.
  • Keep your eyes on your bags.
  • Wear your backpack on your front, not on your back.
  • Keep your wallet in your front pants pocket, not your back pocket.
  • Don’t be distracted by others in this station either to be helped or being requested to help others.

Simply go about your business of arriving and leaving this station in an efficient manner and you’ll be fine.

Enjoy your trip and stay safe!

(If you have a story you’d like to share to help others avoid the same scam, please contact ben@parisbytrain.com).