GDA LaGrave

Planning Your Trip

Travel notes to La Grave by way of Geneva airport

Prior to departure:

Contact the bank that services your debit and credit cards and make them aware of the dates that you will be traveling and that you may have charges originating in France, Switzerland and Italy.  If you do not travel to these locations often, it is very common to trigger your bank’s fraud prevention system — quickly rendering your cards and act it.  Contact with your bank will reactivate your card but avoiding the situation will make your life easier.

Within baggage claim

There are excellent baggage carts available for use within baggage claim.  These baggage carts require a deposit of either a two euro coin or a two Swiss Franc coin.  When the coin is pressed into the slot to the right of the handle, the action unlocks an attachment chain.  Be sure to properly return the cart and reverse the process, reclaiming your coin.  To the far right, as you enter the baggage claim hall, there is a cash exchange window (Union Bank of Switzerland).  This cash exchange window is not always open.  Sometimes, at the window there is a basket of tokens available.  These tokens can be used instead of the two euro coin or two Swiss Franc coin to release the baggage carts — but we would not count on them being available.  Oversize baggage such as skis and bike boxes are claimed right near the baggage carousels.

Auto rental

Driving to La Grave is the quickest way to get there.  The drive typically takes between 2 hours and 45 minutes and three hours.   If you are traveling on a Saturday during high season or vacation periods be sure to allow extra time as Saturday’s are typically changeover days and traffic is higher than normal.   If you are renting a car and are new to the airport, here’s what to expect:

You have two options:  you can rent/reserve a car for pickup either from the French side of the airport or you can rent/reserve a car from the Swiss side of the airport.

Directions to auto rental desks on the French side

If you rented your car from the French side of the airport, you must go to the far left — all the way to the end of the hall toward the train station — upon exiting customs and baggage claim and pass through customs into France (within the airport).  Once through customs, you’ll find the auto rental desks.  While the rental rates are somewhat less expensive on the French side, the process is less straightforward and, in our opinion, the cars are not cared for in the same manner.  Winter tires in good condition are sometimes not provided on the French registered vehicles while on the Swiss side, vehicles are maintained to a slightly higher standard and all come with excellent snow tires and tire chains from November through May.   Additionally, French registered rental vehicles do not include a Swiss autobahn window sticker — a requirement to travel on Swiss toll roads.  The sticker can of course be purchased — an additional step if traveling on Swiss toll roads.

Directions to auto rental desks on the Swiss side

Upon exiting customs and baggage claim and into the arrival hall, the auto rental desks are to the far right, past the jazz club in Swiss Post Office.  On the way, there is a food kiosk on the left.  There are public restrooms with showers on the right just before you get to the post office.

You will receive a much better auto rental rate if you pre-book the car.  All of the major global car rental companies are represented at the Geneva airport.  If you are coming from the United States, US resellers such as Kemwel will provide competitive rates and typically work through Europcar.  The rental desk will ask for and need your rental voucher if you have pre-booked the vehicle, your US (or other) driver’s license, passport and credit card.  If you are using a credit card that provides insurance for damage to the vehicle, be sure the limits of that policy are high enough to cover the full replacement value of the vehicle.  If you are comfortable with this arrangement, you are able to waive the insurance and you must ask the person at the desk to do so.  If you are to have multiple drivers for the vehicle, the additional drivers will need to present their driver’s licenses and for each additional driver, an assessment of up to 50 Swiss francs per additional driver per day will be made.  Infant seats and child booster seats are available for rental and typically cost between 30 and 50 Swiss francs for the duration of the rental.

Between the months of November and May all vehicles are supplied with snow tires and tire chains.  On very rare occasion, tire chains are sometimes not available.  In this case, tire chains may be purchased at gas stations, grocery stores and highway kiosks between Geneva and La Grave.  You’ll need the tire size (written on the side of the tire) to choose appropriate chains.  Be sure to retain the receipt for purchase and the car rental company will reimburse you for the full amount in exchange for the chains.  If it is snowing, chains should be unnecessary until you begin the final ascent to La Grave after you pass through the village of Bourg d’Oisons.

Traveling with bikes and skis

Ski racks are also available for the vehicles, however these are typically designed to hold skis in slots and do not accommodate skis in bags very well.  If you need to carry your skis on top of the vehicle, one option is to bring along a so-called “soft rack.”  These are simple racks made out of foam padded nylon webbing and are commonly used to transport surfboards.   They can be purchased from many online surf shops.  The straps form a loop through the interior of the vehicle by way of the front and rear door openings.   You will need further straps to attach your ski bags or other luggage to the system.   An easy solution is to transport skis within the vehicle.  Nearly all the vehicles have one third, two third rear split seats.  After easily removing the headrests, one third can usually be laid down, still providing enough space for two to sit in the back in relative comfort.

We typically rent station wagons such as the Volkswagen Passat.  They seem to be the most practical for transporting skis and bicycle boxes.  Depending on how many people are traveling with bicycles, Volkswagen transporter style vans are available for nine passengers.   Not all of the vans styles rented at the airport have factory roof rails and it is impossible to be guaranteed a specific brand and model.   Nearly all station wagons rented from the Geneva airport have factory roof rails that can accommodate the roof rack system we have for your complementary use at Grenier des Alpes.   That system is comprised of bare Thule universal fit crossbars in the winter and crossbars with front-wheel- off bicycle fixtures in summer.  These racks are available during your stay at Grenier des Alpes.

Rental car pick up

You will be given your car’s key, the rental agreement and the car’s location.  All rental vehicles are located in the P51 parking garage.   This garage is a five-minute walk south of the arrival hall.  A shuttle bus is available at no charge under a weatherproof awning just outside the rental desks.  A shuttle bus tows a small trailer where you are to place large luggage.  There is a spot at the shuttle bus stop where you may return the baggage cart and reclaim your coin.   A shuttle bus will drop you off at P51 and from there you will locate your vehicle by rental company and parking space.  There are additional baggage carts at P 51 should you need one to move your luggage from the shuttle bus to your rental car.  The same coin deposit applies.

You and your passengers should keep passports handy should they be requested when you cross the Swiss/French border — a short drive from the Geneva airport.

Care should be taken when exiting with your vehicle as parking is very tight with obstacles such as steel roof support posts to navigate.

Driving to La Grave via Grenoble:

The basic driving route is Geneva — Grenoble – Briancon/La Grave.

When exiting the garage, you will bear left into traffic and continue straight through several lights until the road ends at “T” and stoplights.   It is helpful to position yourself to the center/right.  You will be making a left-hand turn although will want to position yourself on the far right as you will be entering a right-hand ramp onto the auto way almost immediately.  You will be following signs to France and route A1/E25/E62.  We suggest using a map or GPS and traveling to La Grave via Grenoble.

Once on A1/E25/E62 you will soon come to the Swiss border followed by the French border.  You may be asked to show your passport at the French border.

Once through the French border continue on Route A41 toward Grenoble/Albertville/Chambery.   This is a toll road.   You will pass through a toll booth, press a button and receive a toll ticket.  You’ll present this ticket just north of Chambery and pay approximately €10. If your method of payment is cash or credit card, be sure to use the assigned payment booths.   There are several unmanned booths that process via a speed pass only.

Follow signs to Grenoble.  You will pass through another tollbooth and claim a toll ticket.  This will be her final toll and you will pay approximately €6 at the exiting tollbooth.   While approaching Grenoble follow signs to leading to Briancon.  Briancon is beyond La Grave — you cannot go wrong as long as you are following signs for Briancon.  You will ultimately find yourself on Route D1091.  This route passes directly through the village of La Grave.  The road will begin to climb upon leaving Grenoble.  Typically, it takes approximately one hour to travel from Grenoble to La Grave.

Once in La Grave

There are public parking spaces available in La Grave and on-street parking.  The following simple map indicates public parking and the location of Grenier des Alpes.

Alternate route to La Grave via the Col du Galibier — June through October only

It is possible to reach La Grave by way of the scenic Col du Galibier.  When passable, this route is longer than traveling to La Grave via Grenoble.   While traveling south on A41, take the Albertville exit from Route A41 and merge onto Route A43, following the road to Saint Michel de Maurienne where you will take Route D902 over the Col du Galibier.   Descend the Col du Galibier to the Col du Lauteret and take a right on Route D1091 and then descend approximately 12 km to the village of La Grave.

This route is gated and absolutely impassable in the winter.  Be sure not to be led astray by GPS as GPS often selects this as the best route to La Grave despite the fact the Col du Galibier is closed in the winter.  Attempting this route in the winter, will mean backtracking and adding approximately 2 to 3 hours to your trip.

Fueling your vehicle

The toll highways have many service stations and food kiosks.  Be sure you are using the correct fuel for the vehicle you have rented as diesel powered vehicles are just as common as gasoline.   The appropriate fuel is nearly always marked inside the fuel door.  Typically, during hours when the stations have cashiers, you are to pump first and pay later.  While some pumps appear to take any credit card, this is most often not the case in France.  A special card is required to purchase fuel at self-service pumps, after-hours and at most non-toll highway locations on Sundays.