What You Need To Know
Geneva is the second most populous city in Switzerland (after Zürich) and is the most populous city of Romandy, the French-speaking part of Switzerland. It is a Swiss city that lies at the southern tip of expansive Lac Léman (Lake Geneva). Surrounded by the Alps and Jura mountains, the city has views of dramatic Mont Blanc. Headquarters of Europe’s United Nations and the Red Cross, it’s a global hub for diplomacy and banking. French influence is widespread, from the language to gastronomy and bohemian districts like Carouge.
Area: 6.151 mi²
Population: 188,634 (2012)
- The currency in Switzerland is the Swiss Franc (CHF). Swiss Francs are divided into 100 rappen in German-speaking areas, centimes in French-speaking areas and centisimi in Italian-speaking areas. Coins appear in denominations of 5, 10, 20 and 50 rappen and 1, 2 and 5 francs. Notes are available in denominations of 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 1,000.
- Unlike much of Europe, Switzerland has not adopted the Euro currency; however, you will find many shops accept Euros as payment, as long as you don’t mind change being given in Swiss Francs.
- Credit cards are widely accepted, even entrance to a nightclub can be paid by credit card. ATMs are widely available throughout the city, dispensing notes up to 1000 CHF.
- Geneva’s high altitude results in pleasantly warm summers, mild winters (with temperatures not going much below freezing), and year round rainfall. July is the hottest month in Geneva with an average temperature of 20 degrees Celsius (67°Fahrenheit) and the coldest month is January with 2 degrees Celsius (35°Fahrenheit) Travelers to the region may experience either the Bise (super cold wind) or the Foehn (hot wind), depending on the month.
- The months June, July and August have a nice average temperature.
- Most rainfall (rainy season) is seen in June, July, August and September.
- On average, the warmest month is July.
- On average, the coolest month is January.
- August is the wettest month.
- February is the driest month.
The official language of Geneva, in both the city and canton is French, the main language used in Romandie. As a result of immigration flows in the 1960s and 1980s, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish are also spoken by a considerable proportion of the population. English is also quite common due to the high number of anglophone expatriates and foreigners working in international institutions and in the bank sector.
Geneva is by and large a very safe place. Violent crime is rare but not unheard of, and it’s important to keep an eye on your belongings in public, as petty theft is a fairly common occurrence. Do report any such activity to the police, you will probably find them much more interested and helpful than police in many other western cities, especially if you speak a little French. Avoid the area around the main train station after nightfall, as gangs of vagrants often congregate there and can be verbally abusive (or worse) to passersby. Avoid walking alone in the waterfront area near Jonction late at night, especially on weekends. The high concentration of drug dealers serving the cheap clubs in this area coupled with the total absence of police presence creates an unsavory atmosphere and lone travelers have been known to be followed from the area and mugged or assaulted. If you see people gambling on the streets (usually along the main city centre bridges) stay away!
By bike: Geneva is a great town to get around in by bicycle. Except for the old-town, the city is fairly flat, and though there are some streets that are dangerous to ride, there is almost always a safe, fast route to your destination.
By bus: Tickets, which cover both trams and buses, must be bought from ticket machines (located at every stop) before boarding the transport. Some bus stops do not have a ticket machine, but in that case you can buy a ticket on board the bus itself. Observe that you will need to purchase a separate ticket if you are traveling outside the canton of Geneva – ie. To or from France or the canton of Vaud. “Ordinary” tickets and day passes are only valid inside Geneva. Bus stops in France that are served by the Genevan transport authority do not have ticket vending machines, instead you have to buy the tickets from vending machines on board the bus when traveling from France.
By train: Suburban trains to outskirts run every half hour during the day and every hour after 8PM. The last train to the eastern terminus, (Coppet), leaves at 12:03AM. Though these “Regios” mostly serve commuters, at least two of their station stops, Versoix and Coppet, have several good restaurants and historic main streets. There is also another suburban rail line: the RER Genève, which goes from Cornavin to La Plaine, sometimes continuing to France (2 stops from La Plaine). As with buses and trams, tickets must be bought before boarding the train.
By tram: Geneva has an expanding network of super frequent trams. Many lines have their hub at the Cornavin train station, a few others at Place Bel-Air on the old-town side of the river. If you did not receive a TPG / Unireso card from your hotel, you will need to buy a ticket from one of the ticket machines located at every stop before boarding the transport. Tickets cover both trams and buses.
By boat: The “mouette” service is included in the TPG / Unireso card that tourists receive free of charge from their hotels. This is a nice way to get from the Pâquis station near the Quai du Mont-Blanc in the north to the other side of the lake, e.g. to the Eaux-Vives stop near the Jardin anglais. Boats run every 10 minutes.
Police Emergency Number – 117
Ambulance / Medical Emergency – 144
Fire Department – 118