a VirtualTourist member from Washington D.C.
I have booked 2 flights independently for my trip home, so my bags will not check through. My flight to DC from London leaves at 1pm. I have 2 flight options leaving Geneva - one leaves at 7am and arrives with plenty of time for the connection. The other arrives in London at noon. My question is this: is it harder to find transportation from Ferney-Volaire in the wee hours or is it riskier to leave only an hour to make my next flight (assume no checked bags). I have no idea what customs is like in the eu (ie long lines or very quick?) Thanks for any input.
PS - any advice on what to do in Ferney-Volaire while I'm there visiting a friend would be great!
Heathrow is a huge airport with multiple terminals, some requiring a bus ride for connections. You have a chance of making it in one hour but that would not be my call.
Do you have bags to check or not? It seems that you do, but then you assume that you don't. Which? If you check bags in Geneva your chances of claiming them in Heathrow and checking them again is none to never in one hour.
Geneva is a small airport on the Swiss/French border, around the corner from Ferney-Voltaire. Swiss passport police may stop and check your passport as you come in but that shouldn't take more than 30 seconds for Americans. I crossed that border many times and just waved the blue book at the officer. Show the officer your ticket if there is any delay, which there won't be.
It appears that your friend cannot take you to the airport. Arrange for your taxi the day before. Geneva taxis may be permitted to pick you up on the French side but then again may not. When you make your taxi reservation ask what currency they accept and have enough on hand. Some Geneva taxis accept all the plastic known to man.
Ferney-Voltaire is a peanut of a place. What I would do there is get out of town. Your friend must know what you like and what to do in Geneva. Me, I'd go to Carouge for some night life. What you can do depends on the dates and days of the week that you are there. What are they? What are your interests?
1) "I have booked 2 flights independently for my trip home, so my bags will not check through."
It doesn't matter in the least that you booked them independently of each other, if you present both tickets when checking in for the first flight and if the flights are within 24 hours of each other, your bags can be checked through to your final destination. If you choose not to do this, and wish to pick up your bags at Heathrow, go through passport control and customs and check in again, you DEFINITELY need a lot longer than one hour for the connection, so you must take the 7 a.m. flight even though it means getting there for 5 a.m. Why can't your friend in Ferney-Voltaire (which is in France btw) advise you on transport?
2) "I have no idea what customs is like in the EU". It's much like customs anywhere else, but in any case, it's not customs you need to worry about, it's a) on arrival, if you are not continuing in transit but exiting the "customs area", how long it takes for baggage delivery and incoming PASSPORT control (i.e. controls on persons: customs controls goods), which depends on what flights have arrived from where at the same time as you reach them; and b) whether in transit or after going through passport and customs controls, time needed to change terminals, in your case normally 2 to 3, and then c) upon departure, how long the lines are to check in for your second flight (terminal 3 is for long haul-flights, which mean larger aircraft and consequently longer check-in times) and for SECURITY checks. Some carriers, including United and American Airlines, operate additional security measures at their check-in desks, which increases waiting time. Heathrow says you need to check in THREE HOURS before your flight to the US, see:
3) Virtually anything you do from Ferney-Voltaire will involve going to Geneva first, so check what there is to do there, depending on your interests - e.g. boat on the lake, exploring the Vieille Ville, trip up the Mont Salève, trains all over Switzerland...
Thanks for the info. My friend doens't live there and will only be arriving one week before I do (summer internship at the WHO) so will be only slightly less clueless than I as to what to do or how to get around. As she will be busy during the day, I need to plan a few day activities but be back by evening. I'm not so much into museums or galleries - more markets and outside sights. We will have the weekend free and are interested in seeing some of the mountainside. Is there a must see?
WHO is in Geneva, not Ferney. So why do you have to get back there (to Ferney)? Meet your friend at her office door. WHO is up the hill and away from the center of town but you will manage. Public transport in Geneva is excellent. Or have her meet you at a convenient point. There are a couple of OK restaurants on the NW side of the gare Cornavin where you can sip a wine while you wait.
A mountain, you say. The magnificent Mont Blanc is visible from the quai on a clear day. If you are lucky you will fly over it as you approach Geneva. What a block of ice!
Get a Michelin Green Guide to Switzerland for a good rundown on things to do in Geneva and nearby.