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Living in Geneva

Are you considering living in Geneva? International and welcoming, this city has a lot to offer both in terms of facilities and infrastructure. With this InterNations Guide, you will find an overview of the key aspects of expat life, including education and transportation.

At a Glance:

  • Geneva has excellent transport links, with an international airport situated just four kilometers from the city center. There are also a number of high speed rail connections to many French cities.
  • In terms of public transportation within the city, a single tariff applies to the whole of the city area. Weekly, monthly, and annual tickets are available. Taxis and boats are also a common means of transportation, although the former tend to be fairly expensive.
  • You can import your car to Switzerland tax free for a maximum period of two years. If you are planning on driving on Swiss motorways you will need to purchase a vignette.
  • Geneva is a very eco-friendly city, so don’t be surprised if drivers switch off their engines when waiting at traffic lights and be prepared to become an expert at recycling.
  • The school system in Geneva is made up of four compulsory stages: kindergarten or nursery, cycle primaire, cycle moyen, and cycle d’orientation. At the age of 15, students move on to college, a vocational school, or a school for general education.

An International Hub

Living in Geneva can be considered a luxury in every sense of the word. While its quality of life is one of the best in Europe, the cost of living is particularly high, too. Switzerland is generally expensive for expats, but Geneva is pricey even by Swiss standards.

The high cost of living has not however discouraged expats from moving to the city — around 40 percent of all residents in Geneva do not have a Swiss passport, making Geneva one of the most international cities in the world. Many people work for one of the numerous international organizations headquartered in the city.

Geneva has an incredibly rich history and a historical outlook which has been present in the city’s culture for many centuries. Over the years a number of highly influential Swiss and foreign nationals have lived in Geneva, including Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Madame de Staël, and Jean Henri Dunant, to name but a few.

The city was also the birth place of Calvinism. Jean Calvin spent nearly 30 years of his life in Geneva, and founded the University of Geneva in 1559. It regularly ranks among the top universities in the world.

International Transport to and from Geneva

People living in Geneva benefit from very good transport links to the rest of Europe and the whole world. Geneva International Airport is situated just four kilometers from the city center and lies within easy reach. Trains run every twelve minutes at rush hours and every 20 minutes otherwise. A journey to the airport doesn’t take more than six minutes from Geneva’s city center.

The buses with the numbers 5, 10, 23, 28, and 57 serve the city center and depart from the airport check-in area every 8 to 15 minutes. In addition, there are various direct train and bus connections for those living in Geneva’s suburbs. Best of all, ticket machines at the airport dispense free public transport tickets valid for a journey lasting up to 80 minutes!

Both the city center and the airport are also served by the French rail network SNCF, so expats living in Geneva enjoy direct high-speed rail connections to major French cities such as Paris, Lyon, Marseilles, and Montpellier. Motorists have easy access to the motorways of both Switzerland and France. However, foreigners living in Geneva should be aware that both countries operate a motorway toll system.

Traveling through Geneva by Public Transportation

In 2017, more than 213 million passengers used the buses and trams of the Transports Publics Genevois. A system of trams has been in operation since the late 19th century and more than 100 years later, everyday life in Geneva is, to a large extent, dependent on a well-functioning public transport system.

A single tariff applies to all means of transport in the city of Geneva. You can buy daily, weekly, monthly, and annual tickets, as well as single fares. Please consult the website of the Transports Publics Genevois for detailed information on fares, routes, and timetables. A special scheme is available for companies, which enables them to offer annual tickets at reduced rates to all their employees living in Geneva.

You can find out more about Switzerland's public transportation system, as well as the experience of driving in the country, from our comprehensive guide on Transport and Driving in Switzerland.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete.

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