Public transport in Switzerland is famous for being well organised, and expats will find that getting around Geneva is easy but 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 transportation 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 downside to this pious punctuality is that drivers wait for no one. Even if a passenger is buying a ticket, they'll be left behind if they aren't on board 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 generally 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 generally can't be hailed on the street, so expats planning to use one will often have to call in advance.
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 sometimes 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 how long the car is parked for. 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 but also 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 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
It's compulsory for bikes to have lights and a bell. Cyclists caught without these will be fined.
Always wear a helmet
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.
Expat Health Insurance
With 86 million customer relationships in over 200 countries, Cigna Global has unrivalled experience in dealing with varied and unique medical situations and delivering high standards of service wherever you live in the world.
Sirelo has a network of more than 500 international removal companies that can move your furniture and possessions to your new home. By filling in a form, you’ll get up to 5 quotes from recommended movers. This service is free of charge and will help you select an international moving company that suits your needs and budget.