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easiest way to get from Annecy to Chamonix and back

Does anyone have any suggestions on the easiest way to get from Annecy to Chamonix and back? I've been trying to research this online and have been going to down rabbit holes. I can't seem to find out an exact bus schedule and am not sure whether we have to purchase tickets online first or just show up at a bus station.

At this point, I'm wondering whether the easiest thing might be just to rent a car on our last day in Annecy to drive to Chamonix, spend three days in Chamonix and then drive back to Paris (instead of taking the TGV as we had originally planned). If so, does anyone have experience dealing with how to rent a car in France? And, if so, which car companies would you recommend. I was reading that drop-off times can be tricky depending on the day. Rick also mentioned something about mandatory insurance policies? I assume that's something you have to get as a foreigner driving in France even though you already have auto insurance from a U.S. company?

Thanks so much!

Posted by
538 posts

Renting a car in France is very easy. We’ve used AutoEurope, which will give you quotes from multiple agencies. You go with the one that works best for you. You do have to look at the operating hours, because some locations have limited hours especially on the weekends. You also want to make sure you select automatic transmission if you don’t want a stick shift.

Your US auto insurance typically does not cover you in foreign countries. Many credit cards include auto insurance for rental cars. You would need to ask your credit card if you have that coverage, and you would need to use that card to reserve the rental. Then at the rental counter you decline all insurance offered by the rental company. Some rental companies require a letter from your credit card company indicating that your credit card includes insurance coverage if you decline the insurance. You need to request this letter in advance if you choose this path. If you have an accident or your vehicle is damaged, the credit card company covers it. Thankfully I’ve never experienced this.

To make the car rental process worry-free, you can select a “zero deductible” insurance coverage thru the rental company. The rental price will be higher, but if the vehicle is damaged, you return it and walk away.

Posted by
28 posts

I went from Annecy to Chamonix by SNCF train last month. It was kind of slow (2.5 hours) but worked out fine and there was some pretty scenery. I also checked Flixbus but they didn’t have a bus running the day I was traveling, but generally it’s faster and cheaper between Annecy and Chamonix. I ended up taking Flixbus from Chamonix to Aosta and it was fine (on time, clean bus, not crowded) so I think that would be a good option if it’s running the day you’re traveling.

Posted by
16165 posts

The advantage of the train is that it goes every hour at 44 past the hour. You have to change trains twice, at La Roche sur Foron and at Saint Gervais-les-Bains. The last change because you are going from standard gauge to narrow gauge tracks.

Posted by
2431 posts

Rent a car if you want to, but don't drive back to Paris if you can avoid it, it's long and boring! Better to go back to Annecy and take the TGV there, you won't save much time (since you'll need a buffer so as not to miss the train) but you'll save your energy, and it will not cost more if there's two of you.
Another option to return the car, with a longer drive but reasonably scenic, is to return it at Bourg en Bresse station, from where a train to Paris is less than 2 hours (vs. 4 hour drive).

Posted by
12 posts

Thank you to all! Regarding the train option, I have a couple of follow-up questions…first, you said there was one train every hour at 44 past the hour. Is this the SCNF train? I assume, if so, I can find a schedule online by going to their website. Also, is there only one train station in Annecy (presumably the train station we will arrive at on the TGV from Paris?)

We will have to take the same train back from Chamonix to Annecy and then take the TGV back to Paris all on the same day so can I expect the trains to be running hourly from Chamonix to Annecy as well? I’m a little concerned because we can’t miss the TGV train.

Finally, would you suggest buying the tickets from Annecy to Chamonix and back ahead of time or is it easier to do in on the day of travel?

Thank you so much! These tips are hugely helpful!

Posted by
12 posts

Hi! regarding car rental, would you suggest renting ahead of time as opposed to upon arrival in Annecy?

Also, thanks for your input regarding not driving back to Paris. I was only thinking of doing that because I didn’t know if I would have enough time to drive back to Annecy from Chamonix, find the rental car drop-off location and then get to the train station in time to catch the TGV back to Paris.
I’m assuming that if I leave early enough from Chamonix, it should be fine.

Posted by
928 posts

I chose to rent a car as well (from Lyon, drivingthru Annecy), but we booked a flight from Geneva thru CDG to the US. Same price as flying from CDG and no backtracking. We are turning in the car in Chamonix and getting a transfer to GVA from our hotel. I didn't want to hassle with driving in Switzerland, returning the rental at the airport when we are trying to get to flight, etc. Just seemed easier for 4 of us.