How to get to the French Alps by train and is it worth it??
At Tasty HQ we have been in the ski game for a number of years now. One of the biggest improvements during our time in the Alps is the number of flights that fly directly to Geneva from multiple UK airports. Competition amongst airlines has increased and prices have fallen. Morzine is just a 1 hour 15 drive from Geneva airport and Le Grand Massif is even closer at just under 1 hour.
However taking the train is a fantastic option and has a number of advantages. You will be pleasantly surprised by the speed, price and comfort of the journey from London St Pancras to Geneva. Also travelling by train significantly reduces your carbon footprint. 73% of a ski resort’s overall carbon output comes from transport to and from resort whereas only 2% comes from emissions of lift servies and pistes.* Traveling by train reduces your carbon footprint by up to 90% compared to traveling by plane which does a lot for your eco credentials.
Step 1 – Booking the Ticket
Booking a ticket seemed like a minefield until we stumbled across raileurope.co.uk. They are an independent online agent who are not affiliated with any one rail operator. They offer the cheapest prices for each route in a simple format with tickets sent through instantly to your email. Tickets during the winter season start at around £100 per person for a return ticket with luggage. The total journey time is around 6 hours and 30 minutes from St Pancras to Geneva including a change at Paris du Nord to Paris Gare Lyon.
Step 2 – The Journey
Obviously if you live in the south east of England your travel time is reduced as the trains depart from London St Pancras. The station itself is stunning and makes a welcome change from the organised chaos of a typical UK airport. There was an airport style baggage check followed by a brief wait in the quiet lounge area. The Eurostar is spacious with larger seats than a normal UK train that gives a good vantage point for the 2 hours 20 minute journey to Paris Gare du Nord.
On arrival in Paris we strongly recommend following Rail Europe’s advice and pre-ordering a taxi or getting an uber straight to Paris Gare Lyon. We on occasion have intrepidly set out to take the Metro where we have immediately got lost. An uber takes about 20 minutes and costs around €25. The Metro is obvioulsly cheaper but be careful to you leave enough time to get lost before going underground. You then hop on the the Train de Grand Vitesse (TGV) which seems to go even faster than the Eurostar. This double decker behemoth then takes a little over 3 hours to arrive in Geneva airport. The food on the TGV is also very good with a larger choice than on a plane and a nice seating area in the buffet carriage.
Step 3 – Geneva to the Alps
When you arrive at Geneva airport the best option is to take a private or shared transfer to your ski resort. The Geneva airport train station is a 10 minute walk from the meeting point for most airport transfer companies. When we travel to Morzine we pre-book a shared transfer (an 8-seater minibus heading to the same resort) with Skiidy Gonzalez. The transfer costs around €40 per person and they drop you off outside your chalet.
We love this train journey and each year we seem to do it more often. The pros are:
1) Competitively priced against flights – on average the train is more expensive however make sure you are comparing like for like. For example large luggage allowance comes as standard on trains whereas when you see the price on the Easyjet website it quotes without luggage which then needs to be added on at a later stage at an additional cost.
2) Much more comfortable and less stressful than airport travel.
3) Allows you to take in the beautiful french countryside.
4) Train travel is significantly more environmentally friendly than plane travel.
The big con is that it takes longer. Door to door London to Morzine by plane takes around 6 hours. Door to door London to Morzine by train takes around 8 hours and 30 minutes (and can be longer depending on what train you catch). When we travel to Morzine from London we like to be out on the slopes in the afternoon. This is possible if you catch any number of red eye flights that depart the UK around 7am. Traveling by train makes this impossible. However this may not apply to you if you want to take it easy on travel day and not set your alarm obscenely early.