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Accommodation & Property

Geneva - Accommodation & Property

First-time expatriates to Geneva city take note – Geneva is a very expensive city to live in!

Housing costs in Geneva are significantly higher than many other cities, including Paris, Milan, Amsterdam and New York. Only the housing costs in London consistently rank higher than that of Geneva. A 2006 survey carried out by the Geneva Department of Economy and Health revealed that the average monthly rent for 2-bedroom apartment in Geneva starts at $1,475 CHF. A brand new 100 square meter apartment cost double, starting at $2,585 CHF. The rent for a house (4-bedrooms) with a garden starts at $4,380 CHF. Click here to download a copy of the report (in English, pdf format).

Some expatriates find that they have been paying premiums that are way above these rental rates published. A way to save on housing costs is to try enlisting the help of a local or friend who is able to speak and understand French. Some expatriates have been able to save on rent per month by looking in advertisements targeted at locals / Europeans. In other cases, some expatriates also choose to live further away, either outside the city, or in the neighboring canton Vaud. As of April 2009, recent newspaper reports on a slowing economy might mean lower rents for newly-relocating expatriates, as most companies are starting to significantly reduce expatriate allowances in areas such as housing and education.

To familiarize yourself with the canton of Geneva, the interactive map at www.ville-ge.ch is a good place to start. The map (in French) offers locations of the nearest schools and other facilities.

Geneva city is divided into eight quartiers (districts), and sometimes the city's neighborhoods are described as being either the right or left bank. The districts (in clockwise manner from the lake) are (1) Eaux-Vives, (2) Champel, (3) Centre / Plainpalais / Acacias, (4) Jonction, (5) Saint-Jean / Charmilles, (6) Grottes / Saint-Gervais,(7) Servette / Petit-Saconnex and (8_ Paquis / Nations. In terms of neighborhood rankings, the neighborhoods on Rive Gauche are ranked higher than those on Rive Droite, but most expatriates would take into consideration other factors, such as traveling distance between work and home, and location of schools and/or public transport (TPG) when deciding on where to stay.

Some things to take note of, when looking for a place to stay in Geneva. In Geneva, the kitchen and living/dining rooms are counted as separate rooms; hence an advert for a 4-room flat is typically a 2-bedroom apartment unit with a separate kitchen and living/dining room. Most windows do not come installed with screens to keep mosquitoes and other flying insects out. Check in advance, if this bothers you. Most residents (and expatriates) live in apartments in Geneva. There is a current shortage of houses in Geneva, so houses that are available for rent can get very expensive due to the high demand. Hence, expatriates new to Geneva might fare better at securing decent accommodation by looking for an apartment first. One of the unique features about apartment living in Switzerland is that you can only do your laundry on assigned days (usually a half day is assigned per unit per week), and everybody adheres to this rule – rain or shine, public holiday or not. Perhaps if you are friendly with your immediate neighbors you could try asking for a swap.

If you are looking to rent in Geneva, you would need to have at least 3 months' of rent in deposits. If you intend to drive / or will own a car, factor in the cost of renting a garage space when budgeting for your housing allowance. Even if you decide to park on the streets at night, you will still need to pay for a parking sticker. If you are looking to buy, the term ""Loué avec baux repris" means that the property has current tenants, and you are expected to take over the current rental contract and fulfill whatever obligations there are.

Most expatriates living in Geneva would agree that there are really no "dangerous" neighborhoods to avoid in Geneva, but expatriates with families might wish to avoid the small red light district around rue de Berne in Paquis and the area around Cornavin train station (Grottes). On Rive Gauche, some areas that are pleasant to live in are Champel, Onex Village and Lancy, and on Rive Droite, there is Petit-Saconnex.

To help you get started on your search for accommodation in Geneva, try contacting the Association of Geneva Property Agents ("Societe de Regisseurs de Genève") at www.sr-gen.ch.

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Expat Health Insurance Partners

Bupa Global

At Bupa we have been helping individuals and families live longer, healthier, happier lives for over 60 years. We are trusted by expats in 190 different countries and have links with healthcare organisations throughout the world. So whether you're moving abroad for a change of career or a change of scene, with our international private health insurance you will always be in safe hands.


Cigna has worked in international health insurance for more than 30 years. Today, Cigna has over 71 million customer relationships around the world. Looking after them is an international workforce of 31,000 people, plus a network of over 1 million hospitals, physicians, clinics and health and wellness specialists worldwide, meaning you have easy access to treatment.