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I am going from Israel to Grenoble, France. I can go via either the Geneva airport or the Lyon airport. The flight to Geneva is more convenient, but it is in another country. Are there any complications in travelling (e.g. by train) from Switzerland to France? Any special border-checks, etc.? Or I just enter the train in Geneva and exit in Grenoble?

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    One complication is that Switzerland is not fully integrated in the EU single market. This makes a difference for customs. If you want to bring back expensive goods or maybe several bottles of wine, you would technically need to worry about transit rules in Switzerland. – Relaxed May 29 '15 at 11:41
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    Only if you have something to declare. If you do, there is still an office (e.g. at the train station) where you can find some customs officers. Many border crossings are also completely unguarded with a sign that says that you are not allowed to cross if you have something to declare. In theory, it means you are supposed to turn back and find another border crossing or possibly phone the customs administration. – Relaxed May 29 '15 at 11:54
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    What do you mean by complications? Are you asking about visas? Immigration? Delays? Having to arrange travels with yet another currency? – JoErNanO May 29 '15 at 13:02
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    @Erel: Grenoble is easier to reach from Lyon airport than from Geneva airport. You have to take that into account too. – Maître Peseur May 29 '15 at 15:16
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    @ErelSegal-Halevi: The bus gets on the highway just at the airport, and crosses the border through the highway checkpoint. As both, Switzerland and France are part of the Schengen area, there won't be a passport check. There is a (IMHO rather small, as it is a bus running on a schedule) chance that there is a customs check (which may also occur at Bellegarde (where the bus stops), or at Grenoble, but the chance for that to happen is even smaller. – Max Wyss May 31 '15 at 10:49
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Welcome to Grenoble! It's a beatiful city.

To answer your question, there is a very cheap Geneva<->Grenoble bus, and I have never ever seen checks conducted on it. I have taken the train as well, with the same result.

EDIT: Clarification on the bus.

The bus in question is http://www.aerocar.fr/en/, departing from the airport every hour or so. There is a train station both at the airport and in the city, but the distance is walkable as well.

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    This answer could be improved if you clarify if the bus is from the city, from the airport, or both. – gerrit May 29 '15 at 16:25
  • Thanks! I took the bus and it was very convenient. And, Grenoble is indeed a beautiful city. – Erel Segal-Halevi Jul 21 '15 at 12:41
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I have frequently travelled by train in and out of Switzerland. Border guards used to enter the train at the border, run through the train, asking one or two people for their passports (or, rarely, everybody) and getting off again. But now Switzerland is in Schengen, so the train journey should be no problem at all.

It does mean that Switzerland will be your first entry in Schengen, I'm not sure what that implies for an Israeli citizen (assuming you are).

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    At GVA you can exit directly into France if you wish, half the airport is in French territory. – Calchas May 29 '15 at 9:59
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    @Calchas - not the train station however, which the OP appears to intend to use. – CMaster May 29 '15 at 10:51
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    @ErelSegal-Halevi It's really unpractical, the French exit is very small and only accessible by road. To reach Grenoble while avoiding Switzerland, you have to make a huge detour by bus or taxi and catch a train in Bellegarde or maybe rent a car. Except if you really want to bring back several litres of alcohol or something like that, I would not worry about it and just go out on the Swiss side. – Relaxed May 29 '15 at 11:56
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    @AndréPeseur Have you ever actually been there? Checks have been relaxed for quite some time and I am not sure how the corridor looks now but but platform 7 and 8 were traditionally used for French trains, with French power on the overhead line and police and customs offices in the corridor leading to them. You had to queue and wait for customs/police to open to be able to reach those platform. – Relaxed May 29 '15 at 16:41
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    There is no separate station building like Basel Bad and there are also some exceptions like the RER – which is able to run under two different powers – and never underwent border checks or stopped on platform 7/8 but it's not true that there is no separation between French and Swiss trains. All in all, not very different from Basel SBB/Bâle SNCF. – Relaxed May 29 '15 at 16:47
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If it's really important that France and not Switzerland is your point of entry then it's quite possible. You simply exit GVA from the French side and get your passport stamped by French immigration if they happen to be there, take a taxi to Ferney-Voltaire which is literally five minutes away from the airport. From there you can take a Line F bus to Geneva Cornavin (about 25 minutes and costs ~4€, checks at the border happen very rarely) and take a train direct to Grenoble. You will pass through customs at Cornavin, then leave Switzerland again on an SNCF train (about 2 hours), which will not be stopped or searched.

I cross the Franco-Swiss border four times a day on my way to and from work (I live in France and work in France but have to transit via Geneva using the TPG) and have had my passport checked twice in the past three months. As mentioned before, taxi's from the airport on the French side might be difficult to get as they all congregrate on the Swiss side, but tbh I landed there around 11pm so you might have better luck if you arrive during the day. Bon voyage.

  • +1 and thank you for the useful info! It's difficult to think of a scenario that would require entering France first but would not make a subsequent transit in Switzerland equally problematic, though. – Relaxed May 29 '15 at 18:44
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It does not matter. France and Switzerland are members of the Schengen area. There will be a border control when you enter the area. When travelling between countries there are no border controls. However, the French Police is regularly patroling in international trains and makes sporadic controls. They may ask travel documents or about the purpose of travel. That's it. They preferably control dark-skinned travellers and those having a more "exotic" look.

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    Switzerland is not EU, so there can be Customs even without the immigration checks – Gagravarr May 29 '15 at 13:20
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    @Gagravarr As a matter of fact, there are no controls in this region however. They could probably decide to check more intensively at any time (and on the border with Germany they usually do) but in the ten or so times I crossed that particular border in 2015, I have only seen someone once or twice and have never been stopped or asked anything. – Relaxed May 29 '15 at 13:38

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