One of Chamonix’s many attractions is how easy it is to reach: you can wake up in London and be on the slopes of Le Brèvent by lunchtime. Below are details of the various ways of getting yourself to the mountains.
Overland to Chamonix
The most common starting place for any journey by car to the Alps is Calais. You can reach Calais from the UK by the Eurotunnel or ferry. It is then just under 600 miles (a little over 900km) from Calais to Chamonix, and the journey can be done in 10 hours or less. The journey from Calais takes you east of Paris, through Reims to the mustard town of Dijon (about two-thirds of the way if you want to make an overnight stop along the way).
The final stretch of the journey takes you past the south tip of Lake Geneva (though you never enter Switzerland) on is two-lane motorway (known as the Autroute Blanche). If you are travelling on a Saturday you can expect traffic and delays on this part of the journey. Chamonix Mont-Blanc is clearly signed and you barely need to make a turn, so it is very difficult to go wrong.
There are four péage (toll) stops on the on the route south through France, for which you collect a ticket as you enter the motorway and hand it in as you leave. You can pay with cash or by credit card.
If the scenery around Lake Geneva tempts you into taking a detour through Switzerland, you will have to buy a vignette, a windscreen sticker which acts like a motorway pass (the equivalent of the French péage). It costs around CHF40, and is good for the duration of the year in which you buy it. If you haven’t got one before you get there, you can buy one at the border control.
There are two alternatives to the standard ferry crossing to Calais. The first is with Norfolkline to Dunkerque – often quieter (and less prone to lorry strikes!) than the Calais services. The second is SpeedFerries.com – a new fast ferry service to Boulogne. SpeedFerries sells tickets on a similar basis to the budget airlines – the earlier you buy, the less you pay. Eurolines run a direct coach service between London and Chamonix 3 times a week in each direction. The journey takes about 19 hours and you travel overnight.
The classic way to reach the Alps from the UK by train is on the snowtrain or the Eurostar overnight service. In theory travelling this way gives you more time in resort – 8 days instead of the usual 6. It’s an excellent service if you live in London and are skiing in the 3 Vallées or the Espace Killy, but it doesn’t work out so well for a skiing holiday in Chamonix. For both these services the only stops in the Alps are Moutiers and Bourg-St. Maurice – both some distance from Chamonix.
There isn’t a direct train service to Chamonix from either of these stations, so you have to complete your journey is by car, which takes at least 2 hours. If you are still undeterred, be sure to book well ahead, as the services become full months in advance. If you’re intent on travelling by train, the TGV (the French intercity service) takes you more directly to Chamonix – or at least to Annecy, from where you take a SNCF train on the Saint Gervais/Le Fayet-Vallorcine line, which stops in Chamonix. There is a direct service for Annecy from the Gare de Lyon in Paris. The total journey from Paris to Annecy takes approximately 5 hours. To get to Paris, you can either fly or take the Eurostar.
The nearest airport to Chamonix is Geneva. You can fly to Geneva from any major airport in England. Check out flights to Geneva at Skyscanner.
Once you have safely landed in Geneva, you can get to Chamonix in one of five ways. As Chamonix is only 60 miles (90kms) from Geneva, getting there by car is a real option. You can hire a car at Geneva airport by booking over the phone, on the internet, or when you arrive at the airport. Your car will have the necessary equipment required to legally travel on French roads such as an emergency triangle but you will need to specifically request snow chains and a roof box if you want them.
From the airport follow the green signs to France – you will reach customs within about 15 minutes. Once you are in France, join the A40 heading south-east and follow signs to Chamonix Mont-Blanc. The two péage stops on the motorway (the Autoroute Blanche) cost about 3 euros each.
Public buses run every day between Geneva airport and the train station in Chamonix. There are 4 services each way on weekdays and 5 each way at weekends. The service is much like the National Express, and the journey takes just over 2 hours.
You could also arrange a transfer – there are now several companies operating this route during high season.