What is the best way to travel from Lyon to Chamonix and back again?
what time of year?
how many people in the group?
how much luggage?
sorry, it depends....
It also depends on how you define best.
But I think the train will be hard to beat.
Thank you for you questions about clarification. There will be 4 adults. We plan to be in Lyon at the beginning of October 2021. We'd be visiting Chamonix for a couple of days. We thought we'd drive but are concerned about extra fees for going into a different country as I think we would need to go through Geneva. Is that correct?
It is possible to drive from Lyon to Chamonix without entering Switzerland -- all three of these routes from Google Maps do not leave France.
If you do end up entering Switzerland by car, there is no "entry fee" or similar thing, but if you drive on Swiss highways you will need a Swiss "vignette" or motorway sticker (see down on this page for a map of applicable roads).
Because there is only one vignette that costs CHF 40 (US$45) and is good for a year (there are no options for cheaper shorter-term vignettes) this is why some short-term/transit visitors to Switzerland avoid driving through it. However, if you avoid Swiss highways, it is not an issue.
Look at google maps, it shows three routes all of which are in France and faster than the train.
It's a nice drive. I've done it many times. Parking in Chamonix isn't much of a problem if you stay at a hotel -- just leave your car there and you can walk or take a train or a téléphérique most everywhere you may want to go.
You can rent a car at the main airport (LYS), Gare de Lyon Part-Dieu (main train station, currently under a massive expansion project) and Gare de Lyon Perrache (older train station, southern part of the presqu'île, as well as at many hypermarchés, though I would think the airport or train stations would be better suited to dealing with non-French speaking tourists and foreign driver's licenses. An automatic transmission, if you want one, can be harder to come by but less difficult than a decade ago. Paying extra for a hybrid model gets you an automatic.
One caveat -- while the traffic in Paris is heavier, and once you're in the countryside people drive pretty normally, Lyon drivers are some of the craziest I've encountered. Also -- getting out of the central city can take awhile if you get stuck behind a garbage truck or a delivery truck on a narrow single-lane street.
Thank you SO MUCH for your help Andrew and Sammy! We really appreciate all of your advise and tips.
We drove from Grenoble to charmonix in April. We had to detour up the mountains. Beautiful but it got dark and took quite awhile.