Day 1: Getting to Italy

50 days in Italy and Switzerland

We would be in Italy and Switzerland from 17th May to 5th July. It would be our longest DIY trip to date. Yat Thong worried that he would get homesick but I was sure everything would be fine. Everyday would be a new place, a new scene, a new experience and a new adventure.

For this trip we had more time so I was sure we would have time to smell the flowers and have more coffee breaks!

Places we planned to visit
Places we planned to visit

Plan for the day 1

Our plan was to fly into Geneva then exit into the France side of the airport.  In France we would  pick up our leased car and drive to Chamonix where we would spend our first night.

By end of the day
The day did not went as smoothly as we planned. We picked up our leased car, one with a manual gear (because it was cheaper), and Yat Thong took a while to get accustom to the manual shift gear so it was a jerky and uneven drive. The situation worsen when the car GPS misbehaved at the initial stretch of our route. More than 30 minutes were wasted looping around, changing lanes and directions but getting nowhere. We ended up on a longer route to our destination, Chamonix. The route looped around Switzerland instead of cutting directly through Geneva. Then we were caught in the evening-going-home traffic jam. Finally after we settled in our “stay for the night” we found all the restaurants in the vicinity closed and had to search for dinner in the next town.

Lease or rent a car

This trip was 50 days long and renting a car for 50 days would require a huge sum of money. We could not imagine travelling without the freedom of a car, no matter how convenient and efficient was the transportation system. After doing some research, we found out that if we were to lease a car in France we could save a great deal of money.

French car buyers had to pay high taxes when purchasing NEW cars. So rather than new cars they found second hand “new” cars more attractive. French car manufacturers like Citroen, Renault and Peugeot leased new cars cheaply to tourists (non EU citizen tourists were exempted from French taxes) to “convert” new cars into second hand new cars for the French buyers. This “leasing” technique ended up helping three parties, saved cost for the French buyers and tourists, and increase car sale for the car manufacturers.

After much research and communication with various French car manufacturers that provided leasing options we decided to lease our car from Citroen. One of the main reasons we decided to go with Citroen was Catherine Proust, she was most helpful and patient, she answered all the concerns of first time potential car leaser, like us. We felt assured and were confident that car leasing (rather than car renta)l was the right choice for us. It was definitely a less expensive option with all the advantages for a 49 days road trip

Contact Citroën Euro Pass Singapour 
Catherine Proust
HP: + 65 9075 0464 (pas de messagerie vocale / no voice mail)
Quote: “CEP JAIKTRAVEL BLOG” in your email to enjoy €50 discount on the lease cost of a Citroen car of minimum 21 days.

We arranged to pick up and return the car on French soil  which for our case was Geneva Airport (French side) and this would save us two one-way charges. From Geneva Airport it would be a 2 hours drive to Aosta, our first Italian destination, from there we would loop around Italy and then travel northward to Switzerland before going back to Geneva and return the car at Geneva Airport (French side).

Our leasing contract was for 49 days the lease cost was €972. This was the cost of buying a new car from Citroen and selling it back to Citroen at the end of 49 days.  The lease cost was all that we had to pay and not the actual cost of the new car. This lease cost covered full insurance without any access, additional driver (spouse) and 24/7 roadside assistance.

After we signed the contract for 49 days we were informed by Qatar Airlines  that our return flight would be delayed for one day which meant we would need the car for another day. The extension was easily handled it was an additional charge of €40 which was almost double the average daily rate of the lease.

Picking up the lease car

Once we exited the custom of Geneva Airport we turned left and searched for signboards that directed us to exit on to the France side. Once we reached the “French Sector”  we called the Citroen service center. A lady at the end of the line directed us to wait between P20 and P21 parking areas and she would arrange for a grey mini van to pick us up.

Geneva Airport

Geneva Airport

The mini van took about 15 minutes to arrive and we and our bags were transported to a warehouse looking office. Our car was ready for us to pick up. The staff were very professional, they explained the features of the car, the steps we should take if we encountered an accident etc etc.

Our new Citroen Car
Our new Citroen Car

We activated the car GPS and found it not as user friendly as the GPS that we brought with us. The Citroen Car GPS searched by address and did not accept longitude and latitude co-ordinates which we preferred to use when searching for destinations.

Since we would be cutting through Geneva on our way to Chamonix we would need a Swiss Vignette to travel on Swiss motorways. It was fortunate that Citroen also sell Swiss vignette. The Swiss vignette costed CHF40 and was valid for the whole year. So with vignette stuck on the driver side of the windscreen we were ready to drive on.

Getting to Chamonix

We took longer to reach Les Houches (8 km from Chamonix) where we had booked a studio apartment for one night. Somehow our car GPS took a longer route rather than a shorter route through Geneva – Switzerland.  Part of the delay was also due to heavy traffic of the “going home” rush hour.

Route from Geneva to Chamonix
Route from Geneva to Chamonix

Though our first destination in Italy was Aosta we decided not to make the long 2.5 hour drive from Geneva Airport to Aosta on the first day of our touch down. We picked a scenic midpoint Chamonix valley (France) for our first night.

Our Airbnb stay at Les Houches

Our stay in Chamonix Valley was in Les Houches a town about 7.5 km from Chamonix Town. Rooms in Chamonix Town were pretty expensive as it was a touristy town. Since we had our own transportation we did not mind staying further away from the main town in a more residential location.

We got this place “Quiet Studio in Chamonix Valley” from Airbnb for €54 a night for two persons.  When we booked it we felt that it was good value for money especially when we got the entire place (studio apartment) to ourselves. Hotel Room with shared toilet in Chamonix Town could cost 30 to 40% more, those with ensuite toilet could cost twice as much and studio apartment were even pricier.

Two days before arriving at “Quiet Studio in Chamonix Valley”, we communicated with Thomas our host and informed him of our expected arrival at 6 pm. But we ended up about 40 minutes late. Our host and his wife lived on the upper level of the same house so it was not so much of a problem when we arrived late.

I was a bit disappointed when I was shown into a studio apartment on the ground level. It felt “not cosy”, it felt shabbier than the pictures shown in the Airbnb listing. But after our host left and after we did some exploration the studio apartment felt fine. The furnishing were “old” but they were clean and usable. The sofa in the room pulled out to be a firm double bed, the bathroom was spacious, clean with ample hot water. The second sofa (probably a bed too) was too soft, it sank in when we sat on it but this did not matter as we did not have to use it. The kitchen equipment (stove, sink, cupboard) looked old but they were clean. The fridge looked new and was clean too.

Our Airbnb Stay in Les Houche
Our Airbnb Stay in Les Houches

“Quiet Studio in Chamonix Valley” was located in a residential area, so there were no shops or restaurants nearby. We were fine with staying in the suburb as we had our own “wheels” and could drive into town easily.


After we settled our bags in our “studio” apartment we went into Les Houches town for dinner. Unfortunately at 7.30 pm all the restaurants were already closed. The supermarket was also closed so the only way we could get our dinner was to drive into Chamonix town. It was a 7.5 km drive (not too long), there were plentiful of restaurants and even a MacDonald. We packed fast food and for two meat burgers, two cafe lattes and 1 big fries the bill came up to €17.50.

2 thoughts on “Day 1: Getting to Italy

  1. Rudi

    Hi Jaik, Thank you for a very informative blog. Enjoyed reading them. I have previously used your Greece blog to plan my trip.
    I am planning to do a south Italy trip. I have a few questions which I hope you can enlighten me.
    1. Do you know if the car leasing also apply in Italy? I will arrive at Rome.
    2. Noticed you did not go to Naples. Any particular reasons? ( i know its a tough city)
    3. Is the driving in Sicily difficult?

    1. jaikyong Post author

      Hi Rudi,
      1. As far as I known the inexpensive car leasing is only for Renault, Citroen and Puegoet (all french car manufacturers). If you pick up the car in France there would be no one way charges. You can still lease the from the french car manufacturers to be picked up in say Rome but pay the one way charges. Leasing only become cheaper than renting a car if you lease 20 days.To find out the cost put in your request at

      2. I did not stay in Naples because I thought it would be more enjoyable to stay in Sorrento (1 hr away) and also because I did not have places near Naples to visit.

      3. Driving in Sicily was not tougher than Rome or Florence.

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