Travel Tips: Switzerland
To & From Geneva Cointrin Airport (GVA)
|If you fly into...||and you are going to...||the easiest option is :|
|Geneva (GVA)||Annecy||Frossard bus direct from airport [download PDF schedule]|
|Geneva (GVA)||Chambéry / Grenoble||CHEAP: Any Swiss train from airport to Cornavin station, then SNCF train into France [search from "Gare de Genève" on SNCF's TER site]
EXPENSIVE: Aerocar bus direct from airport [view timetable]
TRAINS: Currently, Geneva airport offers a free ticket for the public transportation system, valid for 80 minutes. The machines are located at the end of the baggage carousels as you exit, so just push the button to get your ticket and show it with your boarding card on the train if there is a contrôleur. When you exit the airport, follow the signs to the left for the taxi-bus-trains and hop on any train at the Genève-aéroport station. Every train stops at Genève (Cornavin) station, where you will need to get off in order to take a bus or train into France. If the airport is no longer offering free tickets for the Swiss train to Gare Cornavin, then you will have to pay 3 francs for it, either at the ticket machines (they only take coins or European cards with the chip; choose "Tout Genéve") or at the counters.
Once you arrive at Gare Cornavin, there are luggage lockers available if you'd like to explore Geneva for a few hours before getting on a train or bus to head somewhere else. Free maps of Geneva can normally be found throughout the train station.
BUSES: When you exit the airport, just follow the sign for the Coach Station (it's straight across from the exit on the left). These are the buses that serve Annecy (Frossard), Chambéry and Grenoble (Aerocar). I don't remember if the Frossard takes Swiss francs, but I know for certain that the Aerocar bus does NOT take Swiss francs. Make sure you have enough cash in euros or you won't be able to buy the ticket (when you get on the bus). The ATMs at Geneva airport will only give you Swiss francs, and if you arrive at a time when the bank/exchange counters are closed, then you will not be able to get any euros. There is a change machine at the Cornavin train station where you can simply put bills into the machine and get different currency, but I haven't yet seen a similar machine at the airport. Another problem with these buses is that they are rarely on time because of traffic and the customs at the border. Remember that you will cross the border between France and Switzerland and both countries have the right to check passports and search the bus, so make sure you have your passport on you and not in your luggage underneath.
ANNECY: I do not recommend taking a train from Geneva to Annecy because these trains leave from Eaux-Vives station, which is on the eastern side of Geneva and not connected to the Cornavin station. You would have to take a train from the airport to Cornavin rail station, then take tram 16 over to Eaux-Vives rail station (stop: Amandolier SNCF) and get on your train there. It's not very easy to do if you have lots of luggage! If you are planning on doing this, however, you should know that the ticket you buy for the airport-Cornavin train is also valid for the tram as long as you use it within 80 minutes. For more information on the public transportation system in Geneva, go to the official site of Transports publics genevois.
It is also possible to take a train from the airport to Cornavin station, and then get on the Frossard bus to Annecy from downtown Geneva if you arrive at a time when the buses don't serve the airport and don't feel like waiting around. You can buy a "Tout Genève" ticket from the automated machines at the airport (trains to Cornavin run about every 10 minutes), and then when you arrive at Cornavin, you can get on the Frossard bus there or you can walk down Rue des Alpes (to your left and cross the street when you exit the station) about 800 meters to reach the Gare Routière on your right. Alternatively, you can take bus 10 (runs every 10 minutes) from the Geneva airport to the Dorcière station, which is about 200 meters from the Gare Routière.
BEST OPTION: The Frossard bus is the cheapest and most direct option to get between Annecy and Geneva. Tickets are only valid the day that you buy them, so don't get a round-trip ticket unless you really are just going to the airport for the day to pick someone up. Each one-way ticket costs 10.50€, so it will be a total of 21€. If you prefer to take the train from Eaux-Vives station (but remember you need to take a train to Cornavin station first, then a tram to Eaux-Vives station - but it will be free if you take the public transportation ticket at the airport), a round-trip ticket is 22.40€.
CHAMBERY: Taking the train from Geneva to Chambéry is quite easy since the trains leave directly from Gare Cornavin. You will need to take a Swiss train from the airport to Gare Cornavin as described above, then change to the TER train heading into France (either track 7 or 8). The problem is that there are no SNCF counters or ticket machines at Gare Cornavin, so I would advise buying your ticket online and printing it. If you choose to pick up the ticket at the station, you will have to go next door to the RailEurope office, wait in line and pay an extra free to get it from them. The only other option is to wait in line at the counters in Gare Cornavin and buy it there, which can take some time if the lines are long.
BEST OPTION: The train is the cheapest option to get between Chambéry and Geneva. A round-trip TER ticket is 31.60€, and then you only need to spend 3 Swiss francs on the Swiss train to the airport since the train going back to Cornavin will be free (as long as you remember to get your free public transportation ticket after the baggage carousels). If you prefer to take the Aerocar bus, which is more direct, a one-way ticket costs 35€ and a round-trip costs 47€.
Driving to/from Geneva airport isn't all that difficult since it's right on the border with France. One important thing to keep in mind is that all cars that use the highway in Switzerland must buy a vignette sticker for 30€ so if you do not want to buy this vignette, make sure to stay off the highways. Highway signs are green and regular roads are blue in Switzerland, which is the opposite from France. When driving to the airport from Annecy or Chambéry, make sure to exit the A41 at St. Julien-en-Genevois, take the N201 into Switzerland at Perly, and then just follow the blue signs to the airport. Otherwise, the A41 French highway turns into the A1 Swiss highway that leads directly to the airport, but you must pass the customs officials at the border who will verify that you have the vignette on your car, or you can buy the vignette from them. Use viamichelin.fr to map the route, and choose Eviter les vignettes under Plus d'options for the driving route if you do not want to use the highways/buy the vignette. You will still have to pay for tolls on the French highway (9.90€ from Chambéry; 6.10€ from Annecy) if you don't want to take the longer country roads north to Switzerland. Taking the highway in France but regular roads in Switzerland will take about 70-80 minutes from Chambéry (90 km) or 50-60 minutes from Annecy (50 km).
Smaller airports: Grenoble is actually a quite small airport, and mostly serves flights to and from the British Isles. You will have to take a bus from the airport to the rail station in Grenoble proper. The Chambéry airport also mostly serves the British Isles, but there is no public transportation from the airport to the rail station. You will have to take a taxi to the train station. Alternatively, Annecy has a small airport as well, which only serves Paris Orly, and there is a bus connecting the airport to the rail station in downtown Annecy.
My Map of Geneva:
View Geneva, Switzerland in a larger map