How to get from Geneva to Chamonix
How to get from Geneva to Chamonix? This can seem like a daunting mission. Is it best to take a train? A bus? Can you just show up and buy a ticket? What if your flight is delayed? And even if you’ve done the journey before, the transport companies change so frequently, it’s hard to keep up!
Well, we’re in a good position to help you! At Happy Tracks, a lot of us have worked for local Geneva – Chamonix transport companies. A lot of us still work for these companies in the winter months. It’s kind of a rite of passage! In addition, because we all live in the Chamonix valley, we’re familiar with the journey from Geneva to Chamonix… we know how to get from Geneva to Chamonix, even in the “inter-season”! So, we thought it was about time that we share some of our insider-knowledge with you. We’ll try to cover all the basics, and answer the most frequently asked questions.
Geneva Airport to Chamonix
Most people travelling from Geneva to Chamonix start in Geneva Airport (GVA). Geneva Airport is small and not too complicated to navigate, but one thing to note is that there are two sides : there’s both a “French side” and a “Swiss side”. If you’re flying in, you’ll normally land on the Swiss side, in Terminal 1. Once you’ve got your bags, go through customs and you’ll come out into the busy arrivals hall. If you do land on the French side, or if you land in Terminal 2, you just need to follow the signs to the Swiss side, Terminal 1. The airport staff speak very good English, and are happy to help.
How long does it take to get through the airport?
Good question! It really depends on the time of year, but during peak-season, it could take over an hour. Since Brexit, there have been larger queues at passport control, so this can take some time. Additionally, there is sometimes a hold-up with luggage. The busy periods in Geneva Airport are during the school holidays.
Buses from Geneva to Chamonix
So, you’ve reached the arrivals hall in Geneva airport! What should you do next? Can you jump on a bus, and buy a ticket there and then? The short answer is no, we wouldn’t advise it. Often the companies are completely full, so you’ll end up waiting for hours until a seat frees up. It’s much better to book in advance, and it’s usually cheaper, too. However, if you do want to take your chances, go to the big yellow desk in the arrivals hall and inquire there.
There are a number of different bus companies that run on fixed schedules from Geneva to Chamonix. Here are their various “pros” and “cons”…
- Cheap! If you’re travelling during the day, tickets are around €10 to €25.
- Fast! They have fixed times, and leave on the dot. Consequently, there’s no hanging around in the airport, waiting for other passengers. Likewise, it’s a direct line to Chamonix, so there are no tedious detours.
- Not door-to-door. The buses will take you to and from the bus station in downtown Chamonix. This is inconvenient if you have a lot of luggage, or if you’re staying elsewhere in the Chamonix valley. For example, if you’re staying in Les Houches or Argentière, you’ll need to take a public bus from Chamonix. This is especially problematic if you’re travelling early in the morning, as the valley bus service doesn’t start until around 7am. If this is the case, using a bus will not be an option for you.
- Fixed times. The downside of having a fixed schedule is that if you miss your bus, you will normally have to buy a new ticket. This therefore makes it difficult to choose a bus time… do you choose a later bus, to factor in the possibility of flight delays / lost luggage? Or do you risk getting an earlier bus?
- No late night / early buses. Generally, the buses only run during “core-hours”.
How to book a bus?
If you think the pros outweigh the cons, we hear you! We often use the bus companies ourselves… they are fast, cheap and efficient. But there are many different companies to choose from, e.g. Flixbus, Swiss Tours, or BlaBlaCars. In our experience, they all offer a similar level of service, and so it’s best to just compare their different times and choose the one that suits your arrival time. We recommend using the Omio website, where you can compare schedules and prices, and buy the bus tickets directly. Just make sure that you select Geneva Airport as your departure point, rather than Geneva Centre!
Where do the buses go from?
The Geneva Airport – Chamonix buses usually go from outside airport, on the check-in level. This is easy to find : from the arrivals hall, go up the stairs / elevator, exit the building, and go past the taxi lane and to the bus lane (see a map here). That said, check your confirmation to be sure, as sometimes they go from the bus station.
How long does it take?
In general, the journey from Geneva Airport to Chamonix on a bus takes around 1 hour 45 minutes, so a little longer than an airport transfer. This is simply because the buses are speed-limited, so can’t travel as fast as the smaller vehicles. If you’re travelling during rush-hour (i.e. between 4 – 5 pm), the journey could take longer. Likewise, if you’re travelling during the winter, a heavy dump of snow could affect the travel time significantly.
Transfers from Geneva to Chamonix
Another option when deciding how to get from Geneva to Chamonix is to use an airport transfer. These are normally done in small, 8-people vans. Again, there are lots of companies to choose from, but this time there is quite a difference in service. We recommend checking reviews on Trip Adviser / Google before booking your airport transfer. Our number one choice is Mountain Drop-Offs, because they are reliable and they have a larger number of drivers and vehicles. This means they are more flexible when it comes to departure times, and there is generally less of a wait time in the airport. Other companies include Chamonix Valley Transfers (CVT) and Alpy Bus. Here are the pros and cons to booking an airport transfer from Geneva to Chamonix…
- Door-to-door. Most Geneva – Chamonix transfer companies provide a door-to-door service. This is handy if you have a lot of luggage, or if you’re staying elsewhere in the Chamonix valley (e.g. if you’re staying in Argentière or Les Houches). If you’re travelling late at night, or early in the morning, taking an airport transfer might be your only option. Check with the company to ensure they offer this service.
- Flexible. If your flight is delayed, or if you’re held up for some other reason, most companies will just move you onto the next available transfer, free of charge. Again, check with the company to ensure they offer this service (details can normally be found in their Ts&Cs).
- Out-of-hours. If you’re travelling late at night or early in the morning, taking an airport transfer will normally be possible. Just make sure to book in advance, and you might have to book a private transfer.
- Expensive. Airport transfers from Geneva to Chamonix are generally more expensive than buses. You’re looking at paying somewhere between €45 – €60 per person.
- Wait time. There’s sometimes a bit of a wait with transfer companies, as the vans do not have a fixed departure time. Instead, they group together people with similar arrival times, so if one person is delayed, the whole group may end up waiting. Typically, you shouldn’t expect to wait over an hour and a half, but check the Ts&Cs carefully.
Where do the transfers go from?
The Geneva airport transfers usually go from the airport parking, and you’ll meet your driver in the arrivals hall. Turn left out of baggage reclaim, and you’ll see a series of kiosks just past the tea shop, opposite a florist and a UBS bank (see a map here). That said, check your confirmation to be sure, as sometimes they meet elsewhere, or they’ll write your name on a sign.
If there’s a large group of you (i.e. over 4 people), it’s often more economical to go ahead and book a private transfer. This is also a nice option if you want to reduce your airport wait-time. In general, most companies offer private transfers at around €255.
If you’ve booked your holiday with a company, you might find that they have a relationship with one of the transfer companies and can offer you a discount code. Likewise, if you’re staying in a Chamonix hotel, they might be able to help with this. At Happy Tracks, we work mostly with Mountain Drop-Offs because they tend to offer the most reliable service and, when possible, they prioritise our clients. Additionally, Mountain Drop-Offs really try to minimise the airport wait time, and have more flexibility to move delayed passengers onto later transfers (at no extra cost). If you’re doing a hiking tour with us, we’ll organise your transfer for you (upon request), or we’ll simply give you a discount code to use.
How long does it take?
In general, the journey from Geneva Airport to Chamonix in an airport transfer takes around 1 hour 15 – 1 hour 30 minutes, so a little faster than a bus. If you’re travelling during rush-hour (i.e. between 4 – 5 pm), the journey could take longer. Likewise, if you’re travelling during the winter, a heavy snow dump could affect the travel time.
Geneva Centre to Chamonix
If you’re arriving into Geneva by train, you’ll probably arrive at Geneva Cornavin station in the centre of town. From there, the quickest way to get to Chamonix is to travel to the airport, then take a bus or transfer to Chamonix. Alternatively, you could take a train to Chamonix… we’ll go through these two options below.
Getting to the airport
From Cornavin, there is a regular train to the airport. The journey takes around 7 minutes, and there are lots of trains every hour. The current price is around 3 Swiss Francs (CHF). Visit this page to book your train. Alternatively, you could flag a taxi from outside the station, but these are very expensive, and the journey would take longer!
Taking a train to Chamonix
How to get from Geneva to Chamonix via train? Well, honestly, we wouldn’t generally recommend it! There are no direct trains from Geneva to Chamonix. You’ll need to buy a ticket to Saint-Gervais-Les-Bains-Le Fayet, and then buy another ticket to Chamonix. The journey normally involves two changes (first at Annemasse, and then again at Saint-Gervais-Les-Bains-Le Fayet). The total journey takes between 2 to 3 hours, and the trains are more expensive than buses or transfers.
But I really want to travel by train!
We get it! Travelling by train can be a nice alternative for many reasons. You’ll have more space to spread out, and the journey is a lot more scenic. Plus, travelling from Geneva to Chamonix by train is probably a greener alternative… in fact, if more of us committed to travelling by train, the service might become more efficient! We congratulate you for choosing this option!
Here are the current train prices, based on a journey from Geneva to Saint-Gervais-Les-Bains-Le Fayet (more info here) :
You can look at the Lémon Express timetable here. From Saint-Gervais-Les-Bains-Le Fayet, you will need to take the Mont Blanc Express train to Chamonix. You can buy tickets on the train, or book them in advance (which is cheaper) by visiting their website. There are normally two trains an hour, and tickets should cost no more than €10, depending on where you are going to in the valley. The train line covers the full Chamonix valley (i.e. from Les Houches to Le Tour).
In summary, how to get from Geneva to Chamonix will depend on your own personal preferences. Thankfully, there are many options, and these tend to cater for all budgets. The cheapest option is to take a bus from Geneva Airport, but this come with complications. Taking an airport transfer from Geneva to Chamonix is convenient, but more expensive. The greenest option is to take the train, but this is lengthy and time-consuming!
If you’ve found this post useful, or if you have more questions, we’d love to hear from you in a comment below.