To and from the airports
Paris is about an hour away from either of the major airports that serve Paris. Charles de Gaulle is the one most used by North American travelers. Orly is more commonly used by travelers coming in from southern countries.
I have flown into both the airports. Many years ago, my husband and I flew into Orly Airport. It is smaller than CDG. But I have not been there lately as my flights always into Charles de Gaulle Airport.
No matter which Airport you flying into, you will still need to get into Paris. Once you've collected your luggage and stretched your back, it's time to get to Paris. Fortunately, there are many ways to do this.
*Note, most of my information is geared towards getting to Paris from CDG airport since most Americans will land there. For more specific information about transportation from Orly, see the link to the right and choose Orly. The options are similar.
HAVE CASH READY
If you haven't done it yet, get some money as you will need it to purchase the tickets with cash much of the time.
KNOW WHERE YOU'RE GOING IN PARIS
Knowing exactly where you need to go and mapping it out ahead of time is really helpful. You will be able to choose which transportation into Paris is best for you. And with maps available on-line, right down to "street level view", you can really visualize where you need to go.
THE AIRPORT SHUTTLE
There are several to choose from. From Orly airport, it is called the OrlyBus. And from Charles de Gaulle airport, it is called the RoissyBus (Roissy is the actual town where the airport is located and so the airport is sometimes referred to as Roissy airport.) See the link below for the prices, times, and location. BEWARE, don't get on the shuttle that takes you to the other airport!
I do like this way as it's inexpensive and gives you a nice view. If it's your first time in Europe, you may be surprised to see all the farm land - right there. The bus drops you near the Opera Garnier and will give you an amazing wow immediately.
However, study your Paris Map well before you get off because from here, you will most likely need to get to your apartment or hotel. And this is where traveling lite will be to your advantage.
LES CARS AIRFRANCE
This is a shuttle bus service run by AirFrance. Although it is a bit more expensive, you have more choices of where to land your feet in Paris:
The Paris city bus runs two lines from the city. Like Les Cars AirFrance, they will take you to different parts of the city:
The RER is part of the amazing metro transportation system Paris has. It is actually a train that has few stops and so is quite fast. RER B is available at CDG and will take you to:
Sometimes, it's just easier to let someone drive you door to door. It's much more expensive (50-80E instead of 10-18E). But when you're tired, disoriented, and not up for an adventure right off the bat, this is a great option. See Paris Taxi Services to get phone numbers and other useful information.
I really never imagined myself using this option. But last summer (2010), I arrived early in the morning with two kids about to hit the fatigue wall. I also was going to my Aunt's house in the suburb of St. Cloud, not easily nor quickly reached by public transportation. To be sure that no one hated anyone else before we got to nap, I hired a car service. It was AWESOME! I have to say, there was something very appealing about coming through customs and looking around for a driver holding a card with my name on it!
When you book a service, you pay up front based on where you're going, let them know your flight number and approximate time of arrival, and they verify it before waiting for you. You tell them how much luggage and they'll bring the correct vehicle.
There are a number of services you can choose from. You can find some on the left or do a search for "car service paris airport".
If you plan to rent a car while in Paris, you will get good directions directly from the rental agency. Frankly, the public transportation in Paris is so good and the driving in Paris so crazy, you should really think hard about this option.
In my opinion
I have used a few of these methods. Sometimes I know ahead of time which I will use, and other times I choose what ever seems to strike my fancy when I get through customs. I don't really suggest that unless you have been to Paris many times and feel comfortable with flying by the seat of your pants.
If you are inexperienced or want complete simplicity, study the choices and pick the best one based on the location of your accommodations, budget, amount of luggage, and size/mobility of your traveling party.