Welcome Desk - Frequently Asked Questions - Practical information on your stay in Geneva (including visa issues)

Practical information on your stay in Geneva (including visa issues)

Practical information on your travel to and stay in Geneva, from accommodation and transport, to visa questions and other practical information such as currency, weather, security, lost and found, and much more.

Visas

To enter Switzerland foreign nationals must be in possession of a valid identity document recognised by the Swiss authorities. Citizens of most countries need a passport which is valid for at least 3 months past the duration of their stay in Switzerland. To find out which identity documents are recognized for citizens of a specific country, see the list by nationality of the Federal Office for Migration, or ask at your local Swiss Embassy or Consulate.

The conditions for entry to Swiss territory vary according to nationality. For citizens of certain countries, a visa is required (see also "What are the modalities to obtain a visa to enter Switzerland?").

As soon as you consider going to Switzerland, ask at the Swiss representation in your country of residence if you need a visa. Visas can normally be obtained within a few weeks, yet it is recommended that you submit your request as early as possible, since in some countries, the procedure may take considerably longer. Note, however, that visa requests can be submitted 3 months before travelling at the earliest.

To identify your local Swiss representation, please check the list of Swiss representations abroad. For a visa request, contact the Embassy or the Consulate (but not an Honorary Consulate) in your country of residence. If there is no Swiss representation in your country, the Swiss representation in a neighbouring country may be competent for visa requests by residents in your country.

The Federal Office for Migration publishes a list per country detailing if citizens of a certain country need a visa to enter Switzerland.

If you need to submit a visa request, you will always need a valid identity document (see above), travel insurance  (see below), a confirmation of your participation in a given conference (see below)  and sufficient financial means to cover your living costs during your stay in Switzerland (in general, CHF 100.- per day are considered sufficient). Sometimes, you may be asked to provide a declaration of sponsorship, a confirmation of a hotel or accommodation booking (see below) or any other documents.

For further information on the procedure for obtaining a visa, read carefully the information note of the Swiss Mission in Geneva, check the website of the Federal Office for Migration and in particular this information note, as well as the Delegate’s Guide.

Usually, you can get a certificate with the secretariat of the conference you will attend. Most international organisations will have someone in charge of relations with NGOs (called "NGO focal points"). You may thus wish to contact the NGO service of the international organisation that is organising your conference. Please refer to this list of NGO focal points.

If your NGO holds ECOSOC consultative status and wishes to attend a conference which requires participating organisations to hold this status, you may contact the NGO Liaison Office of the UNOG, whose contact information is available here. Make sure you give them some advanced notice to prepare your certificate! And check your organisations' headquarters main Email address, since this is where your certificate will be emailed to. It will not be emailed directly to the person who has requested the certificate!

If you are unsure about which Email address the UN considers to be your main address, please look up your organisation in the Ecosoc database.

It is strongly advised to make sure that your insurance covers medicals fees abroad, in particular in Switzerland. Otherwise it is recommended to contract a complementary health and accident insurance for the duration of your stay in Switzerland. Do not forget to bring along a copy of your insurance policy.

In the context of a visa request, foreign nationals are required to conclude a travel insurance if the coverage of medical emergency treatments is not assured otherwise. Among the costs that need to be covered are rescue operations, repatriation for medical reasons, as well as first aid and a stay in a hospital. The minimal coverage provided by this travel insurance needs to be at least 50’000 Swiss francs. The insurance policy must cover medical expenses throughout the Schengen area.

Since Switzerland is now part of the Schengen area, your Schengen visa delivered by Switzerland will allow you to transit through other Schengen countries without having to apply for a transit visa in that other Schengen country. If you stop over in a non-Schengen state, you should check with the embassy of that state if you require a transit visa. When making this inquiry, be sure to indicate if you are arriving and leaving from the same airport, or if you will have to change to another airport during your transit.

=> stopover in Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain: no transit visa required

=> stopover in the UK: check with your local UK representation

 

Please note: If you stopover in another Schengen country before arriving to Geneva, you will still have to request your visa with the Swiss representation, and not the one of the country where you stop over, since Switzerland is your main destination (where you will spend the most of your time).

A valid travel document is essential for excursions to France and other neighbouring countries.

Switzerland is part of the Schengen area. With your Schengen visa obtained from Switzerland, you may therefore travel to any other Schengen country.

Members of the Schengen area are 22 of the 28 members of the European Union, as well as Norway and Island. Neighbouring France is thus also a Schengen country, as are Italy, Austria and Germany. Member states of the EU which are not part of the Schengen area are the United Kingdom, Ireland, Bulgaria, Rumania and Cyprus.

A Schengen visa is a visa which allows its holder to travel freely within the countries known as "Schengen area". These countries are: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. It is a short stay visa the duration of which cannot exceed three months and does not allow for taking up employment.

When travelling to a Schengen country, you will have to apply for your visa to the country that is your main destination (where you will spend the most of your time), and not to the country where you first enter Schengen territory. If for example you would like to assist to a conference in Geneva but have a flight to Paris first, you will have to apply for your visa to the Swiss embassy in your country, and not the French one. For other issues related to stopovers, please also refer to the relevant question in this section.

 

No specific vaccination is required for a stay in Switzerland. Immunisation against tick-borne encephalitis may be recommended in certain cases. Be also aware that the vaccination rate against measles in Switzerland is relatively low and that therefore the number of measles cases has increased in the past few years.

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Accommodation

Geneva hotels are generally very well kept. You should expect to pay about CHF 100.- per night in a standard hotel and more in a luxury hotel.

A list of hotels provided by the Geneva Tourist Office is available here (quick overview) or on their website (searchable).

A comprehensive list of temporary accommodation is available on the website of the Geneva Welcome Centre.

Cheap hotels can also be found on rooms.ch. Also check the Bed and Breakfast website.


For information and advice on longer term accommodation, you may contact the Geneva Welcome Centre (CAGI)'s housing service.

You can also consult the classifieds on the website Glocals.

 

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Transport


Bus n°5 or n°10 – the bus stop is located next to the parking on the departure level. One journey to the centre costs CHF 3.50 and lasts about 25 minutes. Please note that you have to buy the ticket before getting on the bus. Tickets can be purchased at the vending machines at bus stops.

Trains: Departures every 10 minutes, the journey takes 5 minutes. All trains stop at Geneva main station. Tickets cost CHF 3.50 and can be purchased at the vending machines in the train station or at the ticket counters.

If you just landed in Geneva, you may take a free bus or train ticket at the vending machine inside the airport, where you pick up your luggage (before going through customs!).

Taxi: About CHF 30.- to the centre.


Bus n°28 towards “Jardin Botanique”. Get off at either “Appia” for the Palais des Nations Pregny Gate (badges for the UN) or at “Nations” for a variety of other organisations. The journey takes 20 minutes.
Bus n°5 towards “Thônex-Vallard”. Get off at “Nations”. The journey takes 11 minutes.

The bus ticket costs CHF 3.50.

A taxi will cost you approximately CHF 25.- for a 10 minutes ride.

Take any train towards Geneva airport from the Geneva train station (about 5 minutes), or take bus number 5 or 10 (about 20 minutes from the train station).
By taxi the journey will last about 15 minutes depending on traffic and will cost you around CHF 35.-.

For general inquiries:
Geneva International Airport
Case postale 100
1215 Geneva 15
Phone: +41 (0)22 717 71 11,
Fax: +41 (0)22 798 43 77
Tx 415 520 DAG

Information on arrivals and departures: 0900 57 15 00 (CHF 1.19 per minute from Switzerland) or directly through the airport's website.
For lost or damaged luggage, please contact the Lost & Found Office of your handling company. To find out which handling company corresponds to your airline, please consult the handling companies table.

Lost and Found of Swissport +41 (0)22 799 33 32 *
Lost and found of Dnata (Jet Aviation) 058 158 14 76
*For Swissport: If you have already declared a loss and opened a file, you may also call 043 812 87 77 to get information on the progress of your case.


The public transport network (TPG) covers the whole town and allows you to move around fairly quickly. The network comprises buses, tramways and little yellow boats called “mouettes”. TPG tickets are also valid on trains as long as they run within the network, notably on trains between the airport and Geneva main station.
For a map of the network, click here.

Tickets can be purchased at the vending machines at most bus and tramway stops, as well as at TPG selling points, at the train station and at the "Rond-point de Rive" stop. Be aware that a number of vending machines do not give change!

Tobacconists and TPG selling points also sell the so-called cart@bonus (CHF 20.-, 30.- or 50.-) which is a pre-paid card that allows you to buy tickets at vending machines without using cash.

Ticket controls take place regularly and controlled passengers without a valid ticket will have to pay a fine of CHF 80.- in addition to the price of a ticket.

Those who are staying in a hotel will be given a "Geneva Transport Card" (free travel on the Geneva network, valid throughout your stay) when they check in at the hotel.

If you just landed in Geneva, you may take a free bus or train ticket at the vending machine inside the airport, where you pick up your luggage (before going through customs!).

Adult fares:

• Ticket ‘Tout Genève’ for the centre (zone 10), valid 60 minutes: CHF 3.50
• Day pass for the centre (zone 10), valid from 9.00 am to 5.00 am next day: CHF 8.-
• Day pass for the centre (zone 10), valid from the time of purchase until the end of services: CHF 10.60
• 2-week ticket (zone 10): CHF 38.-
• Monthly ticket (zone 10): CHF 70.-

Click here for a map with fare zones.

Hotline: 0900 022 021 (CHF 0.94 per minute)
TPG selling points: At the train station and at the Rond-point de Rive stop. Opening hours weekdays from 7am to 7pm, and Saturdays from 9am to 6pm.
Website: www.tpg.ch


The base rate during daytime amounts to approximately CHF 7.- and the meter rate is around CHF 3.- per kilometre.
• New Cab, phone: +41 (0)22 320 20 20
• Coopérative Taxi, phone: +41 (0)22 320 22 02
• Taxi-phone, phone: +41 (0)22 331 41 33


The train is a quick way to travel to main Swiss and foreign cities. If you need to travel more than once, do check if there are any special offers for frequent travellers.

Swiss Railway Company (CFF)
Cornavin station (in the town-centre)
Information and booking - Phone 0900 300 300 (CHF 1.19 per minute)
www.cff.ch

Special offers ("supersaver tickets") are available here (can be purchased no earlier than 14 days before the travelling date).

Europcar (airport), phone: +41 (0)22 798 11 10 - fax : +41 (0)22 788 36 70
Hertz (airport), phone: +41 (0)22 717 80 80 - fax : +41 (0)22 788 24 05
Avis (airport), phone: +41 (0)22 929 03 30 – fax: +41 (0)22 929 03 39
Budget Rent-A-Car (airport), phone. +41 (0)22 798 22 53 - fax : +41 (0)22 798 99 78
Allo Car, 32, rue de la Servette, phone: +41 (0)22 740 30 30 - fax : +41 (0)22 740 31 70
ADA Car Rental, rue du Prieuré 12, phone: +41 (0)22 901 12 62

In Switzerland, traffic drives on the right hand side. Most road signs correspond to international signs. For the circulation on Swiss motorways, a motorway toll sticker is compulsory. The sticker is valid for one year, costs CHF 40.- and can be purchased at the border, at petrol stations and at post offices.

In Switzerland, wearing seat-belts is mandatory on front as well as back seats.

• Inside town and residential areas: 50 km/h (31 miles/h).
Be aware that in certain urban zones, the speed limit is fixed at 30 km/h (20 miles/h)
• Regional roads: 80 km/h (50 miles/h).
• Motorways: 120 km/h (75 miles/h).

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Health issues

Health care in Switzerland, public as well as private, is in general of good quality. In case you need to consult a physician or to stay in hospital, you will either need to provide a deposit, or to furnish evidence of a health insurance valid in Switzerland. In case of an ambulatory treatment, you might be asked to pay the bill on spot, but you will receive a receipt sent to your home address which will allow you to claim a reimbursement from your health insurance.


  • The phone number for all medical emergencies is 144.

  • SOS médecins (home consultations in case of an emergency), phone: +41 (0)22 748 49 5.

  • Hôpital Cantonal, Emergency Service (Geneva Public Hospital)
    24, rue Micheli-du-Crest, 1205 Geneva.
    Phone: +41 (0)22 372 33 11 / +41 (0)22 382 33 11 / +41 (0)22 372 81 20

  • Permanence de Vermont (close to the UN Building), rue de Vermont 9A, 1202 Genève,
    Tel. +41 (0)22 734 51 50, Fax +41 (0)22 734 66 29

  • Permanence de Cornavin (close to the train station), rue du Jura 3, 1201 Genève,
    Tel. +41 (0)22 595 11 11, Fax +41 (0)22 595 11 00

  • Permanence de Chantepoulet, rue Chantepoulet 21, 1201 Genève,
    Tel. +41 (0)22 731 21 20, Fax +41 (0)22 731 21 98

  • Permanence médicale de Plainpalais, rue de Carouge 17, 1205 Genève,
    Tel. +41 (0)22 329 56 56, Fax +41 (0)22 329 52 31

  • Permanence médicale de Carouge, av. Cardinal-Mermillod 5, 1227 Carouge,
    Tel. +41 (0)22 309 46 46, Fax +41 (0)22 309 46 00

  • Permanence médicale d'Onex, route de Loex 3, 1213 Onex,
    Tel. +41 (0)22 879 50 50, Fax +41 (0)22 879 50 60

  • Permanence médicale de la Tour, avenue J.-D.-Maillard 3, 1217 Meyrin,
    Tel. +41 (0)22 719 61 11, Fax +41 (0)22 719 61 12

  • Clinique dentaire de la Servette (close to the train station), av. Wendt 60, 1203 Genève
    Tél. +41 (0)22 733 98 00, Fax +41 (0)22 733 91 83
    Emergencies and all kinds of consultations 7/7
    Web: www.malodent.ch

  • Clinique dentaire de Malombré, chemin de Malombré 5, 1206 Genève,
    Tel. +41 (0)22 346 64 44, Fax +41 (0)22 346 64 46
    Emergencies and all kinds of consultations 7/7
    Web: www.malodent.ch

  • Clinique dentaire de Genève, avenue de France 29, 1202 Genève or rue de la Terrassière 58, 1207 Genève,
    Tel. +41 (0)22 735 73 55
    Web: www.cliniquedentairedegeneve.ch

  • ADENT(private clinic), chemin des Tulipiers 24, 1208 Genève,
    Tel. +41 (0)22 700 81 00, Fax +41 (0)22 700 81 01
    Emergency Service: 0800 101 800 (calls are free of charge).
    Open 7/7
    Website: www.adent.ch

 

In case of an emergency, call 144 to obtain the address of the pharmacy open throughout the night (there is a rotating system, and every night, it’s another pharmacy’s turn). It opens form 7pm to 8am, but you will be charged a surplus of CHF 10.- per customer. You may also want to consult the following website for contacts of pharmacies that open late in the evening: http://www.pharmageneve.ch/pharmacies-de-garde/pharmacies-de-garde/

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Security


Switzerland is a relatively safe country. Still, you need to be aware of pickpockets, in particular in crowds and in public transport vehicles. There have also been cases of armed robbery, particularly near the train station.

Don’t carry large amounts of cash with you, and always keep a copy of your passport separately from the actual passport.

In case of any incident, do immediately inform the police.

  • 117 Police
  • 118 Fire brigade
  • 144 Ambulance
  • 145 Poisonings
  • 140 Road service (break-down service)
  • 143 “The helping hand” (Psychological help over the phone)
  • 1414 Rescue helicopter
  • Emergency Pharmacies: 1811 or 144 (ask which pharmacy is on duty)
  • SOS Doctor +41 (0)22 748 49 50 or +41 (0)22 322 20 20
  • SOS Nursery: +41 (0)22 420 24 64
  • SOS Pharmacists: +41 (0)22 420 64 80


Control Centre (in case of emergency): 72900
Medical Service: 72520

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Lost and found


If you have lost a personal belonging, call at 71948 (+41 22 917 19 48 if you are calling from outside the UN). The Lost and Found Office is located on the 8th floor of building A.


Loss on the plane: contact the Lost & Found of the handling company corresponding to your airline. In order to find out to which handling company to contact, check the table of assistance companies.

Lost & found Dnata (Jet Aviation): phone +41 (0)58 158 14 76, gvalost@dnata.ch.
Lost & found Swissport: tél. 0900 775 775, gva.bags@swissport.com, www.mylostbag.com.

Loss in the transit zone (after the passport control if departing, or before customs when arriving) or at a security check-point : contact Swissport’s Lost & Found Office at +41 (0)22 799 31 11.

Loss in the airport or its surroundings (Swiss zone): at the Swiss Police during the 24hours following your loss at+41 (0)22 427 92 22, and later than that you may contact the Geneva Lost and Found Office at +41 (0)22 327 60 00.

Loss within the French sector of the airport : phone +33 450 40 69 05.


Loss at a train station or on a train of the Swiss railways : check the website of the Swiss railway company or call 0900 300 300.

Loss on a bus, tramway or boat : contact the Geneva Lost and Found Office, from the next day at 11am onwards.
In the city of Geneva : contact the Geneva Lost and Found Office.
Geneva Lost and Found Office
Rue des Glacis de Rive 5
1207 Geneva
Phone +41 (0)22 787 60 00
Email scot@etat.ge.ch
From Monday to Friday, 7.30am to 4pm
For information on what to do in case of loss of your credit card or Passport, read the corresponding section in the delegates guide.

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Weather and climate

Spring (March to July) and autumn (September to December) are subject to changes; showers of rain can be frequent, so it is best to bring warm clothes with you, e.g. a coat and a good pair of shoes.

During the summer (June to September) the weather in Switzerland is sunny and warm. It does rain from time to time and temperatures can fall.

During the winter (December to March) it is cold and snowfalls are frequent, therefore it is important to have a warm coat, trousers and a good pair of winter shoes.

To see the weather forecast for the next few days, click here.

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Currency and living costs

The exchange rate is available in every exchange office and bank as well as in the press.

To convert your currency into Swiss francs, please click here.


To find out about Geneva exchange offices and banks as well as their opening hours, please refer to the delegate’s guide or to the website of the tourist office.

Inside the Palais des Nations, you will find two UBS (United Bank of Switzerland) branches as well as a post office, where you can change money as well.

You can also change your money in hotels but at a less advantageous rate.

The living cost in Switzerland is relatively high. You should anticipate a budget of at least 80.- to 150.- CHF per day.

Below some approximate prices in Swiss francs:
• A loaf of bread (500 g) between CHF 1.20 to CHF 2.20 
• A litre of milk CHF 2.-
• A coffee/tea in a restaurant CHF 3.50
• A soda in a restaurant CHF 4.- 
• A sandwich CHF 6.- to CHF 10.-
• A pizza in a restaurant CHF 18.- to CHF 24. -
• A night in a cheap hotel CHF 50.- to CHF 150.-
• Buses and trams CHF 7.- (day card)

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Information resources and guides

The Geneva Tourist Office is located near the train station.

Genève Tourisme
Rue du Mont-Blanc 18
1211 Geneva
Tel. +41 (0) 22 909 70 00

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