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Ethans Travel Guide To Chamonix, France

Ethan February 8, 2023

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In January 2023 my girlfriend Alyssa and I took a trip to Europe including both Zermatt Switzerland and Chamonix France. This was my first experience outside of The States and it was filled with no shortage of lessons. Alyssa has some experience having studied in both Italy and Spain as well as some other European travels; I was going in blind. Now I could have researched this trip a bit more before going and that may have eased some of the hardships but then what would I have to write about, right? This article features just Chamonix while another breaks down Zermatt.

I’m breaking this guide up into a few sections: Getting to the Resort, Public Transportation Within the Town & Resort, Lodging, Dining, Skiing, and TLDR; & Tips. We spent approx. 5 days in each location and only used our legs or public means of transportation. We also had no cell phone plan and relied solely on public WIFI. Here’s what I learned:

Getting to the Resort

To preface this section, we spent 5 days in Zermatt first then traveled to Chamonix, so if you are flying directly to Chamonix you will fly into Geneva and then take the below-mentioned bus trip if you want the most efficient method. I will give a brief overview of what it took to get from Zermatt to Chamonix in case you are planning a similar trip. There are public trains between the two, which may seem amazing, and really…it is. However, when traveling with two ski bags and two rolling suitcases, and short layovers it can be a bit more stressful.

The trip takes 4 trains, the first being the trip down the Zermatt Valley to Visp, you then transition to high-speed rail from Visp to Martigny. This becomes the start of your journey to the Chamonix Valley; in our case, we had a 4-minute layover which was precisely enough time to get on the wrong train and head an hour in the wrong direction. If you read my Zermatt travel guide you will know to VERIFY which train you get on. In this case, there is an auxiliary platform off to the side called platform 4 – It’s a cog railway train, very different from the high-speed train. I’ll say it again VERY DIFFERENT. Got it? Great.

This train takes you up to Vallorcine which is the far end of the Chamonix public train line. This is the same train that I will talk about more in the next section. You would take this to either your destination or transfer to a bus or taxi. Note a 5-minute taxi ride cost us 25 euros and took 30 minutes to arrive, so stick to public transit. I made the mistake, so you won’t have to. Overall, this trip should take about 3 hours, provided you take the correct trains.

Something to note, since we took the wrong train and missed our connections, we just got back on the train without purchasing new tickets and the train workers did not seem to care once we explained. The train from Martigny to Vallorcine did not check tickets and the Chamonix train from Vallorcine does not need a ticket if you are staying in the valley. They did not ever verify on either that train or the local busses during our trip, so no need to buy anything here.

Now return to the airport at the end of this trip, or maybe flip this around and make it your way in as well. We took a Flixbus, which left Chamonix Sud and got us to the airport 1.5 hours later. Uneventful, no pain, that’s it.

Public Transportation Within the Town & Resort

I have mixed feelings about the public transit in Chamonix. It was sometimes useful and sometimes not. I am going to list some notable items that we learned.

  1. Busses typically run every 30 minutes, almost certainly these will not line up with what you need, and you will be forced to walk.
  2. The trains run a similar schedule as the buses but again seem to never line up, we were able to use the train maybe 2 times the entire 5 days.
  3. The busses are overcrowded, especially around peak time to resorts and after closing. Like I’m not kidding you will wait 30 minutes just to find a bus filled to the brim and you can’t get on. Now try getting on with your ski bags…Stressful
  4. The bus stop and train stops are not near each other. This is sometimes good depending on your destination and sometimes super frustrating.
  5. The bus will NOT stop unless someone requests it or there are people waiting to get on. Ask me how I know. Another wasted hour here
  6. The back of the bus is more likely to not be as stuffed. Go to the back door always.
  7. Save the bus and train routes and timetables to your phone. You will reference these many times per day.
  8. Most buses do not announce the stop, and 95% of them do not show the stop on the digital boards inside the buses. 1 or 2 had them working our entire time. Therefore, screenshots of the routes are so useful.

Now I mentioned it before, but it seems like the timing of the transit was always unfavorable. So, if you don’t mind walking you will probably do a lot of it. Our hotel was about 1 mile from Chamonix Center, and it was quicker to walk the vast majority. Overall, the city center is walkable but if you are staying more than a mile away you need to plan more. You can take transit just about anywhere if you are patient.

Now, this sub-section is specific to transit to the base of the mountains. This varies depending on where you are staying and where you are going. For us, we had a minimum of 2 buses to any base. This could take anywhere from 20 minutes to 1.5 hours depending on bus schedules and the destination. My best advice would be to take a 7-7:45 bus, after that time busses get severely overcrowded. The early bird gets the worm as the saying goes.

I found it easiest to keep my boots loose and keep my helmet, gloves, etc., in my backpack. This could take a while and the busses get hot and stuffy! My last piece for this section is to download google or apple maps. Open the app and load the whole valley, if you don’t quit the app, you’ll have access to this when you don’t have WIFI!


Now we only stayed at one hotel so I can’t say a whole lot but there are a few things I can point out that may help you decide when booking your stay.

  1. Lodging ranges from affordable $100/night to I’m sure thousands per night. This all depends on the location and luxuries you “need”.
  2. We chose a location need both a train station and bus stop – Proved to be useful in the mornings with ski gear, and less useful for dinners and shopping.
  3. If you want to sleep in or be somewhere quiet do not stay at a large hotel specifically for skiers. I promise the ski boots at 7 am will wake most types of sleepers.
  4. When it comes to breakfast, simply put, it’s different. Our hotel’s buffet featured bread you can toast with Nutella at the ready, pastries, some fruits, cheese, sliced meats, and a yogurt bar. Eggs, Bacon, Sausage, and the other breakfast items we are accustomed to you won’t find here. So, check if your hotel offers this or you will need to find something for breakfast every day, which is easier said than done as many cafes do not open early, and may be far from your hotel.
  5. The WIFI, this one’s tough, I’m not an expert but I don’t think Chamonix has fiber because our hotel and every public WIFI was around 5-10 MBPS and was borderline useless. Good luck streaming anything or even sending some photos via iMessage. Now I will directly call out one place.

Le Café du Genepy – This is a café with a great 15-euro buffet with 100 MBPS internet speeds. Don’t ask me how but it’s an open WIFI network and a great place to get work done. You can thank me later.


Chamonix has an interesting mix of French, Italian, and Swiss food. Like Zermatt; Cheese, Cheese, and more cheese. Besides that, here are a few takeaways from our dining experiences:

  1. Food varied in price, some expensive places, some very reasonably priced. Overall, there are 100’s of options so there is something that fits your price point
  2. Free water. What is a basic expectation for US dining is not so common in Europe. I learned this lesson on day 1 after paying $12 for a liter of water. Additionally, carbonated water is seemingly more common that in the US. My recommendation is, Ask for Still Tap Water. Some places may not offer this, some may and will still charge you, and some provide it for free. If you just ask for water, you will most likely get a bottle and it may even be carbonated.
  3. Tipping is not required, this is a common theme across Europe as I now know, however, I did not know going into this adventure. 2 times out of our entire time in Europe where we were asked if we wanted to leave a tip. It is not expected, however, we did leave a few Euros for some of our more memorable dining experiences.
  4. Restaurants are not in a rush for you to leave. In fact, most places we visited took reservations and only planned on filling that table one time during the night.

To add to this point, your server likely will not bring you a check unless you specifically ask for one. So, if you are in a rush, plan accordingly. When they do bring you a check, they will also bring a little portable card reader with them and will process it on the spot.

  1. A lot of restaurants don’t open until 7 pm, I know I typically eat dinner around 6 so this took keeping some snacks in stock to hold off. I guess Europeans tend to eat later! The local grocery stores are also a great spot to grab a cheap lunch if you are looking to save a few dollars as well.
  2. Most menus are in French, but most also have an English “translation” they do not always make sense just a fair warning. You get what you get, and you don’t get upset. This is a good time to mention another tip: Download Google translate and make French available for offline use.
  3. Most servers and general people will speak to you in French, you’ll look confused and politely say “English Please” and most can also speak in English. However, maybe consider learning some French words before going such as Merci (Thank you) and au Revoir (Goodbye), and Bonjour (Good Morning)
  4. Here is an interesting tidbit, sometimes you may be sharing your table with strangers. Larger tables are used in their entirety.
  5. You may have a hard time finding an early morning coffee. Most places open before 8 am are bakeries and most do not have coffee!


The most important part about Chamonix is, of course, skiing. There is some beginner terrain, but the vast majority is intermediate to advanced. Some even need mountaineering equipment and a local guide. The Chamonix valley is made up of multiple different resorts all offering something different. Most require the use of public transportation to navigate between them. There are lots of older Poma T-Bar lifts which I love but are more difficult for snowboarders and newer skiers.

The different resorts require an entire article to explain what terrain is for what type of skier and where to go. So, I am going to highlight a different experience I had in the mountains. Specifically, the Aiguille Du Midi. There is a tram not far from the Chamonix Sud bus stop, this Tram is the first of two that will take you to a completely different world. Far above the clouds, over 12,000’ up, over a glacier, and next to Mont Blanc is one of my most memorable experiences. This is a must-see attraction, with views across Europe and the alps, I think the photos below speak for themselves.

TLDR; & Tips

This article is really dragging on, or maybe you just skipped the whole thing and are here. Here are my key takeaways from my first time in Europe and Chamonix.

  1. I can’t believe they still smoke cigs LOL
  2. Get a VPN if you need to access US websites. Like Hulu. And download episodes for offline use.
  3. Don’t take the wrong train, always VERIFY.
  4. Take a Flixbus from the airport to Cham
  5. The views skiing are incredible, God the skiing is SO GOOD. Steep and challenging.
  6. Public transit is so-so, overcrowded, and will almost certainly not be at convenient times for
  7. The food is covered in cheese, and you may be charged $12 for water so say you want Still Tap Water. You probably can’t read the menus so take a guess and hope for the best.
  8. You don’t tip the servers…unless you really want to. And they are not in a rush for you to leave, so ask for the check if you are.
  9. They don’t shovel, so bring boots to walk over all the snow and ice. I’m not convinced they plow either. They throw little rocks all over everything and call it what it is.
  10. GO TO THE Aiguille Du Midi.
  11. The WIFI blows literally everywhere except Le Café du Genepy, Maybe Elon hooked it up for them.
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