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Getting Around Geneva

The best ways to get around Geneva are on foot and by tram – the city is a small 6 square miles and is easily navigated. In addition to covering tram services, the city's free Geneva Transport Card for tourists can also be used on water taxis, trains and buses, but these services are often slower or less convenient than walking or taking the tram. Taxis can be hailed as well, though you'll pay a premium to use them. Driving in the city center is not necessary and will generally be more of a nuisance than a convenience due to limited parking and rush hour traffic.

If you're getting to Geneva via Genève Aéroport (GVA), plan on grabbing a free 80-minute train ticket from baggage claim's Transports publics genevois (TPG) vending machine. The journey to downtown's Genève train station will take you approximately 10 minutes.

On Foot Geneva is very pedestrian-friendly. When you take into account the beautiful scenery, the cost (free!) and all the exercise you'll get, it really is the best way to get around. Keep in mind, though, that traveling across the Rhône River to reach attractions not near your hotel will require using public transportation or another mode of transportation.
Tram

Transports publics genevois, Geneva's public transportation provider, offers multiple tram lines that run throughout the city. Popular routes include No. 15 (which stops by the Palace of Nations, the Pâquis Baths and the Conservatory and Botanical Garden Geneva on the Rive Droite) and the No. 12 (which is convenient for reaching Rive Gauche sights like the Museum of Natural History and St-Pierre Cathedral Geneva). Fares start at 2 Swiss francs (about $2) per person, but if you stay at a hotel, hostel or campsite in Geneva, you will be given a Geneva Transport Card at check-in. These free cards are valid for unlimited rides on all forms of public transportation (within zone 10) every day of your stay.

Train

Though TPG's trains don't make as many stops in the city center as trams, they are the best way to get to and from the airport. Free tickets, valid for up to 80 minutes, are available at the airport's baggage claim; train rides within zone 10 are also complimentary when you present a Geneva Transport Card. To take the train more than two zones to Geneva's suburbs and nearby cities like Lausanne and Annecy, you will be charged at least 4.80 Swiss francs ($5) per person. Tickets can be purchased at any train station.

Water Taxi

Les Mouettes – which means "seagulls" in French – are yellow water taxis that scuttle across Lake Geneva, from the Rive Droite to the Rive Gauche. Operated by Mouettes genevoises, these boats depart every 10 minutes and are available for four routes; water taxi terminals tourists would most likely use include Genève-Jardin-Anglais (which sits near Old Town and the Jet d'Eau) and Genève-Eaux-Vives (which is across the street from The Grange Park). One-way trips cost 2 Swiss francs ($2) per person, while rides lasting up to 60 minutes cost 3 Swiss francs ($3) per person. Tickets can be purchased from machines stationed by the boat bays. For travelers with Geneva Transport Cards, all water taxi transfers between downtown terminals are free.

Bus

Multiple buses are available in the city center, but Geneva's congested roads during rush hour make using them more of a headache than a convenience. Plus, many share routes with trams, which are a faster way of getting around. If you do decide to use the bus system, you can show your Geneva Transport Card to qualify for free rides. Travelers without these cards will be charged at least 2 Swiss francs ($2) per ride.

Taxi

The drivers are polite and keep their vehicles clean, but the prices are exorbitant. Cab meters start at 6.30 Swiss francs (or less than $7), with an additional 7.40 Swiss francs charged for every kilometer (or about $12 per mile) traveled. For rides between midnight and 6 a.m., expect to pay roughly $0.60 Swiss francs (70 cents) more for each kilometer. Extra charges apply for pieces of luggage. Keep in mind that rates are often rounded up to the nearest franc. Reserving a taxi can be done by phone or by hailing one at a taxi stand. The Uber ride-hailing service is also available in Geneva.

Car

Driving in Geneva is not recommended due to the city's limited parking and rush hour congestion. However, if you wish to visit the area's ski slopes in the winter, having a car may be worthwhile. An international driving permit is not required if you have a valid U.S. driver's license, but drivers must be at least 21 years old to rent a car here. And remember, distances are calculated in kilometers and gas is sold by the liter.

Keep in mind that part of Genève Aéroport is located in France, so you'll need to know what side you're flying into to determine which car rental booths you can hire from; you will also be required to return the vehicle to the country where it was picked up. Additional toll charges will apply if you rent a car from a company in the French side of the airport and decide to drive on Swiss highways. Daily rental fees will vary by company, vehicle model and vendor location, but expect to pay approximately $33 to $70 per day.

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