Public transport in Switzerland is famous for being efficient and comprehensive, and expats will find that getting around Geneva is simple, if rather expensive. Tickets are pricier than in most European cities, but for many residents, the high standards of service and facilities are worth it.
Walking and cycling are also popular and inexpensive, and it's possible to cross the city centre on foot in less than 30 minutes. The scenic surroundings make these pleasant ways to get around.
Expats who'd like to own a car should note that rush-hour traffic gets congested, local drivers can be aggressive, and parking is expensive.
Public transport in Geneva
Public transport in Geneva goes everywhere and is made up of buses, trams and boats, but there's no subway. Vehicles are almost always clean and on time, but the slight downside to this punctuality is that drivers wait for no one. Even if a passenger buys a ticket, they'll be left behind if they aren't onboard when their ride is ready to leave.
Expats can buy tickets at station ticket machines and vendors, and they're valid on all modes of transport. Available options include single tickets, off-peak day tickets, as well as weekly and monthly passes for regular commuters.
Buses and trams
Buses and trams are the most popular modes of transport in Geneva. Route maps are generally clear and displayed at every stop. Otherwise, a comprehensive description of routes can be picked up at TPG (Transports Publics Genevois) outlets.
Buses and trams run until about midnight during the week and later on the weekends, thanks to Noctambus night buses.
Trams make frequent stops, and if they don't go to a specific area, buses usually will. Trams are largely thought to be faster than buses, but are also more crowded.
Small taxi boats called mouettes are also part of the public system. They offer a scenic and relaxing option for commuting and are a faster way to cross the lake than buses.
Taxis in Geneva
Taxis in Geneva are expensive and typically can't be hailed on the street, so expats planning to use one will often have to call in advance. Ride-hailing apps such as Uber are also available in Geneva.
Driving in Geneva
Driving in Geneva remains popular, despite high parking costs and intense peak-hour traffic, but alternatives like ride-sharing are increasingly popular.
Expats who live further away from the city centre may find that driving is a fast and convenient way of getting around. However, new arrivals will have to take into account the parking costs associated with owning a car.
Available public parking bays can be expensive and difficult to find. Prices vary according to the parking spot's colour code and for how long the car is parked. There are time limits in some places, and the police are always on patrol to ensure drivers don't exceed them – ignoring the regulations will result in a hefty fine.
A more economical option would be to get a Park and Ride subscription with TPG, which allows drivers to park their cars at designated areas outside the city centre and take public transport for the rest of the trip. This saves on petrol costs and saves drivers from the stress of finding parking in the city centre.
Geneva's roads can be tricky to navigate, as one-way streets are common, roads are often narrow, and road signs are in French.
Bus and taxi lanes are out of bounds for regular cars. Drivers can be quite aggressive and won’t hesitate to honk if someone takes too long to pull off at traffic lights.
Speed cameras are widely used, so it's important to stick to the speed limit. Regular users of the motorway have to purchase an annual vignette from service stations, post offices or cantonal vehicle registration offices.
Cycling in Geneva
Cycling is one of the most popular, most affordable and fastest ways to travel around Geneva. It’s possible to rent a bike for free through GeneveRoule to get a feeling for how traffic works, but expats planning to cycle on a regular basis should consider getting one of their own.
Tips for cycling in Geneva
Always park bicycles at a bike rack, or else the police will remove them without warning.
Lock bicycles onto something solid and make sure the front wheel and the frame are secure, as thefts are common.
Ensure that your bike has lights and a bell. Cyclists without these will be fined.
Always wear a helmet.
►For more on getting around, see Transport and Driving in Switzerland
►Geneva Public Transport provides a guide to public transport in the city
"The public transport in Geneva is amazing. It's always on time and very clean. There are buses, trams and trains to get where you need to go. I don’t think it’s necessary to own a car, unless you want to go into the mountains or on weekend trips. But even then, you could always rent one or ride with friends."
For more about American expat Melissa's experiences in Geneva, read our interview with her.
Are you an expat living in Geneva?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Geneva. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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