I have always considered myself more of a sea than a mountain person. Still when looking for my latest WorkAway I opted for a small village, a stone’s throw from one of the oldest ski resorts in the French Alps. Just how do I get there?
Having done some heavy research, comparing busses, trains and flights with stopovers in Munich and Switzerland I concluded that taking the train to Geneva was after all the cheapest option — both, in terms of money and nerves.
Via the DB website I was able to book the whole journey, including a berth in 6-bed-sleeper compartment, for €130.
Yes, there is a bus running directly from Berlin to Geneva. However, it is still about €100 (unless you get a lucky deal) and it doesn’t run daily. Since I was committed to a certain arrival date in the Alps it was not a good fit.
Another option is going via Prag, which in my research was cheap (as cheap as €20) but requires two different bus companies, which can be a hassle, and has a total travel time of at least 20 hours. On the bus. I was not in the mood.
I got on my train, leaving from Berlin Hauptbahnhof, at shortly after ten in the evening. The compartment was full. Not only fully booked but also overflowing of our collective luggage. Even though everyone had just one large suitcase/backpack and one carry-on sized bit of luggage.
Finally we managed to store everything — under the beds, behind the slim ladder going up to the upper bunks, between the beds.
The berths did not offer enough head space to sit. So I went to bed right away.
An hour and three stops later the conductor made his rounds checking our tickets.
When I could have finally found some rest a lady in the upper bunks beat me to it. She was snoring away like she was trying to fell every single tree we passed. I had no sleep that night and wondered whether I should have just saved those €30 and stayed in a seat. I probably would not have got less sleep.
I almost got off at the wrong stop. Luckily as I was waiting by the door a fellow passenger informed me that there were in fact 2 Basel stops: Basel-Bad is the last stop on the German side. But Basel SBB is where I needed to go.
I had never been to Switzerland. So I enjoyed my one hour layover, sitting sleep-deprived at the side of the main passage across Basel station, watching the morning rush hour crowds zoom by. Not having Swiss Francs quenched my temptation to stroll over to one of the coffee shops for some hot caffeine and a sweet doughy think.
The 2 hour, 40 minutes train ride went as smoothly as, well, a Swiss watch. I dozed off a couple of times while I watch the advertising on the train stations change from German to French to German back to French. Switzerland is quite astonishing.
The Geneva central bus station (gare routière) is located a 5 to 10 minute walk from the main train station. Leave the train station to the left, turn at the light right onto Rue des Alpes (towards Quai du Mont Blanc an the lake). After a few minutes the bus station will pop up on the right hand side.
Efficiency is what I’d expect from the Swiss. Therefore finding a timetable posted openly visible in the bus station’s waiting area came as no surprise.
I was then able to buy my ticket at the counter, the nice lady on the other side warning me that using my credit card would incur an additional fee of €2.50 but also offering me to pay in Euros when I said I didn’t have Swiss Francs.
The T72/T73 bus between Geneva and Annecy also stops near the airport. Check the Geneva Airport website for details.
You can find the times for the Geneva – Annecy bus (T72/T73) as well as Annecy busses to/from Saint-Jean-de-Sixt and its neighboring villages (62 & 63) on the official Haute Savoie website.
After about one and a half hour I arrived in Annecy in heavy rain. Tired and wet I was glad to be picked up by one of my hosts in Saint-Jean-de-Sixt.
However, I did visit the city later during my stay using public transport. The 62/63 bus runs almost every hour and takes 60 minutes to Annecy central station, right next to the Annecy gare routière. The ticket costs €6 one way and takes you past some spectacular mountain views.