In May 2022, Iain from Ski Flight Free travelled to Chamonix in France by train. He left London St Pancras at 08:01 BST and arrived in Chamonix at 19:02 CET (18:02 BST). This is his report of the journey.
I live in Brighton, so actually my journey started early with a direct train to London St Pancras (LSP). Any journey to the Alps by train from the UK has to start here, as Eurostar is the only rail connection with the continent.
Over the years, I’ve travelled on Eurostar many times, and I tend to be quite relaxed about check in, especially if I’m travelling on an early service.
Hence I didn’t arrive at check in until just after 7am – less than an hour before departure. As per normal, security and passport control went smoothly, albeit slightly slower than usual, and I was in the ‘departure lounge’ by 07:30.
As always, the train left exactly on time (no time sitting on the tarmac, wondering if your luggage has been loaded).
Quick tip if you want a coffee and a croissant while you’re waiting – don’t queue for Pret (right hand side when you come through) before you’ve checked how busy The Station Pantry is (left hand side when you come through):
— Skipedia.co.uk (@skipedia) May 18, 2022
I’ve covered this in previous posts, but getting across Paris is much more straightforward than you might imagine.
We arrived at Gare du Nord on time at 11:23 and my onward connection from Gare de Lyon wasn’t until 12:43, so I had plenty of time.
Take a look at the video below to see how to straightforward it is to use the Metro to get across Paris. This journey typically takes 25-30 minutes, platform to platform.
Paris to Annecy
There is a limited service that will take you direct from Paris to Saint-Gervais-Le-Fayet, but these tend to be at weekends only.
My onward journey from Paris took me to Annecy – a 3h47m journey that was due to arrive at 16:30.
— Skipedia.co.uk (@skipedia) May 18, 2022
Annecy to Saint-Gervais-Le-Fayet
Annoyingly, the service to Annecy arrived 10 minutes late. That meant I missed my ‘fast’ connection via La Roche sur Foron.
The plus side was that I didn’t have to change trains, it was just a slower service, direct to Saint-Gervais-Le-Fayet.
You’ll note that I keep referring to ‘Saint-Gervais-Le-Fayet’. This should not be confused with ‘Saint-Gervais-Les-Bains’, which is the ski resort that most people stay in if they visit the area.
The railway station is located in the bottom of the valley at Le Fayet. This is where you can catch your connecting train to Chamonix.
Saint-Gervais-Le-Fayet to Chamonix
Trains from Saint Gervais to Chamonix are scheduled to fit in with arrivals, so there was little time to wait for my final connection.
This is a beautiful route that takes you up to Chamonix via Servoz and Les Houches. The Mont Blanc Express trains are designed to offer the best possible views, so soak in the magic of the Chamonix valley as you arrive into resort.
Journey Time / Cost
I arrived at 19:02 CET (18:02 BST) – so almost exactly ten hours after leaving London. This could have been nine hours if I hadn’t missed the connection in Annecy, but it still compares well to flying.
I only booked this trip in early April, so I could have reduced costs by booking earlier.
However, the Eurostar leg of the trip (booked direct at Eurostar.com) cost £103. The SNCF section (bought direct at SNCF Connect) cost €171. Therefore the total cost from London to Chamonix inclusive was ~£245.
Money v. Time v. Carbon Emissions
This is likely to have been more expensive than flying, although if you are making a comparison you should take the following into account:
- Unlimited baggage allowance on the train. No additional charge for hand luggage, checked luggage etc
- Transfers from GVA to Chamonix cost around €50 return, but that is for a shared transfer. It won’t necessarily fit seamlessly with your flight, so you may spend time waiting at the (expensive) airport
- Perhaps most importantly, the carbon footprint of taking the train to the Alps is only a fraction of that of flying – typically estimated at 16% of that of taking a plane
If you have any questions about my journey please feel free to contact me via the Ski Flight Free Facebook page.