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Geneva

Europe > Switzerland > Geneva

See: Why rent a car in Geneva ? | Why not? | Ratings | Summary | Comments

(All of these pages will look a lot nicer when they are tidied up later in the spring)

Your key questions for any destination:

Do I need a car in Geneva?

Strictly speaking, there are very few travel destinations anywhere in the world where it's absolutely essential to rent a car in order to see the main points of interest.

That's why we give you loads of ratings scales from 1 to 10, rather than just yes or no answers!

  • The need question is generally answered by looking at public transport (transit) options. Is it good enough for visitors who are happy to consider using it?
  • How many public transport routes are there, and are they mainly rail or road (bus) based?
  • Is public transport fast, frequent, safe, reliable and cheap?
  • Does public transport actually take you to the places you'll probably want to see?

Is it worth hiring a car in Geneva?

This question is usually more about value for money. For this, we look at Geneva car hire options, and consider how rental costs compare with using transit.

How far are you likely to drive anyway, and how much might you expect to spend on fuel, road tolls, parking and any other charges. We compare Geneva with other destinations locally and around the world.

This is obviously much more of an issue if you are planning a longer road trip than it is on a small island.

Should I rent a car in Geneva? 

This is basically a merging of the two questions. Everything else might be about giving certain facts about the costs of car rental or using public transport in Geneva, but answering this question is very much a matter of opinion.

Switzerland has a reputation for outstanding public transport, and there are clearly innumerable fantastic train rides which can be taken out of Zürich. However, Geneva is surrounded on three sides by French territory, and is also the gateway for many French ski resorts. So, are the trains as good as they are further east, or are you better off with a hire car in Geneva?

Please note that Carornocar.com is currently being revised and updated in preparation for the Summer 2022 (northern hemisphere) tourist season. 

We do not intent to include detailed covid information, nor do we intend to suggest hiring a car, just because public transport might still have a mask requirement. Our advice will be based on the same criteria we've always used, ie whether or not you can get a better travel experience, or at least a better value one, by choosing not to hire a car.

Quick Ratings

Price band

Geneva is in car rental price band: 7/10 (1 = cheapest car rental location)

General comment - based on price alone, is it worth renting a car in Geneva? 

No. Car rental is expensive by global standards.

Volatility:

Can you expect big swings in car rental prices in Geneva between the peak and the off peak season?

5/10 (0 = stable prices)

Driving score: 6/10

Non car score:7/10

Balance: 6

(0 = car hire not advised / 10 = rental car essential)

General comment -

 

Why? Visiting Geneva using a hire car

Why do you need a car in Geneva ?


Why should I hire a car in Geneva?

  • French connection — Geneva is mostly surrounded by French territory, but there is only one main rail line heading out of Geneva’s Cornavin station into France, so you will find it much easier to get around in a hire car.Note — there is an additional line to Annemasse, but you will have to cross over to the Eaux-Vives station to use this (a project is under way to link the two stations).
  • Changes, changes — even if train services are available to a number of French ski resorts, you often have to transfer at least three times to get there. If you are carrying equipment, this is simply too much hassle.
  • Cost — it might be easier to find cheap flights to Geneva compared to Zürich, but Geneva is some distance away from many major Swiss ski resorts. This can make train transfers expensive if you don’t have a discounted ticket (see below). However, many coach transfers are also available, and these can be much more competitive when compared with the Geneva car hire option.
  • Walking — for walking holidays when resort transfer services are not so widely available, a car can often be a better option, although it is also just as easy to take a train, bus or cable car to the start of a walking route, and then to take similar public transport back from the end of your walk, allowing you to continue in one direction, rather than in a loop back to your car.

Why not? Visiting Geneva without a car

Why don't you need a car in Geneva ?


  • Value – with a Swiss Rail Pass, you don’t have to worry about your mileage, just sit back and enjoy the view. See our Zurich page for more advice on getting the best value out of Swiss trains.
  • Scenic routes — heading east out of Geneva, you can enjoy great views of Lake Geneva, all the way to Montreux. From here, you can continue across to Gstaad, and then on to either Bern or Interlaken, and the route is classed as scenic virtually all the way.
    Heading to any of the resorts above the Rhône valley, including Diablerets, Chamonix Mont Blanc, Verbier (bus from Martigny), and Crans-Montana, will also mean taking a scenic route virtually all the way.
  • Lowlands – even when out heading into the Alps, you can still take the scenic route to Basel via Neuchâtel (one of my personal favourite scenic spots).
  • Lake Geneva — if you have an unlimited rail pass, any of the ferries on Lake Geneva are also included in the price.
  • Direct trains — trains heading east to Lausanne and on to Bern and Zürich start at Geneva airport, so no change is needed. For other destinations, regular trains are available between Geneva airport and the main Cornavin station..
  • Scenic French routes — heading west from Geneva, venture south at Bellegarde for a range of scenic routes around Chambery. Even if you just want to get to the French ski resorts, the train will take you right up Val D’Isere to Bourg St Maurice for a mountain train transfer to Les Arcs.
  • Mont Blanc circuit — there are two ways of reaching Chamonix for Mont Blanc – or for just enjoying a superbly scenic train journey across two countries. The Swiss route runs clockwise around Lake Geneva before dropping south from Montreux to Martigny. From here, the Chamonix line climbs sharply up the valley before heading south west via Vallorcine.
    At Chamonix, you can take the mount on line to Montenvers. From Chamonix, head to La Roche sur Foron and change for a local train back to Geneva Eaux-Vives.
  • Resort shuttle transfers are also available as well is trains, and these will almost certainly work out better value compared to driving.

Ratings: How does Geneva compare?

Is it worth hiring a car in Geneva? TBC

This is based on a rough consideration of the costs of renting a car in Geneva, and how this compares with the costs of using public transport. The answer to this varies hugely from one destination to the next, based on a wide range of factors. It's based on renting a car at the airport (TBC), and driving for an average of 2-3 hours on open roads on most days.

How does this compare if:

You are travelling:

Solo / As couple / small family / larger family / senior couple etc

Does car rental make sense on different budgets?

 

 

Do you need to hire a car in Geneva? TBC

This is based strictly on whether or no we think it's possible to visit Geneva (and the surrounding area) without using a car. Of the three key questions, this one is the most likely to be a "no".

Should you rent a car in Geneva? TBC

This is a balance of all factors. Remember this is an answer to the question for people who are already asking it. That's why the answer might still be a "yes", even when public transport is good. 

See global comparisons

Hiring | Driving | Parking

Trains | Buses | Local travel

 

Car hire basics:

 

Public transportation basics:

 

Regular bus services: YES

Coach (inter-city): YES

Tram: NO

Metro: NO

Commuter Rail:

High Speed Rail:

Rail type (end stub / through / junction / hub):

 

As you start ....

Does Geneva airport have a direct rail link?

(Yes - within terminal / adjacent / short walk) (Yes - bus transfer / other) No

 

 

 

 


Changelog

Has our advice for Geneva car rental changed over time, or has it been pretty constant?

2017 - 4

2019 - 6

2021 - 6

Average score - 6

Notes:

Based on~~

 

Summary — there are plenty of excellent train journeys which can be taken from Geneva, although much of the best stuff is further east, as listed on our Bern, Basel and Zürich pages. Someone who spent a long weekend traversing the rail routes around Geneva might come back saying they saw some interesting things, but they are never going to reach for the same superlatives that a visitor doing the same thing around Zürich or south of Bern might say. Maybe we are simply too spoilt for choice around Zürich, and even more so around Bern.

So ultimately, when should you hire a car in Geneva? Here, we just revert back to the usual cliche that a hire car will give you more freedom and flexibility to enjoy the scenery at your own pace, and it may well be better value, especially if you are able to fill the car. So Geneva car hire is certainly well worth considering. Since the rail network from Geneva extends mainly to the south and east, there’s always a much stronger reason to want to pick up a rental car here, and drive it in to Alpine France. For this kind of journey, our advice tilts more strongly towards a “yes”.

Summary

Do you or don't you need a car in Geneva ?

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