What is a Chamonix guest card known as a carte d’hôte? And why is it useful to me if I’m hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc?
A carte d’hôte is a visitors card that tourists to Chamonix can obtain free from their hotel or b&b accommodation. So when you arrive in Chamonix, if the receptionist at your hotel hasn’t offered you one, be sure to ask for your free Chamonix guest card.
The carte d’hôte is provided for free to guests because they have paid their taxe du sejour – this is the tourist tax visitors pay per night. This is generally always paid to the hotel or b&b so your hotel can give it to you for free on request. Airbnb can work slightly differently. If your host has not left you a stack of carte d’hôtes for your group (it’s one per person, including children) then you can go to the tourist office with proof of your Airbnb reservation to pick up your visitors card this way.
If you are staying with friends or family then you can still get a carte d’hôte from the tourist office but you need to pay €10.00 per person for a week.
What are the advantages of a carte d’hôte?
The main advantage of a the Chamonix guest card is free train & bus travel throughout the Chamonix Valley (from Servoz to Vallorcine). You can also get discounts in various museums (Musée des Cristaux, Musée Montagnard, Maison de l’Alpage, Maison de la Mémoire et du Patrimoine which is an excellent place to visit to see the old photos of Chamonix and Maison du Barberine) as well the swimming pool & ice rink (and the Cross Country Skiing track in winter). You can also get a discount at some of the car parks (St-Michel, Mont-Blanc & Entrèves)
But isn’t bus travel in Chamonix free anyway?
A carte d’hôte entitles you to free bus travel throughout the Chamonix Valley however bus fares, even though advertised on the Chamonix buses, are not actually charged. The driver will not ask you for money – you just get on and then just get off.
It can be confusing for visitors when they get on, hover next to the driver expecting to pay, especially when there is a sign indicating it’s €3 per person. Just get on and sit down – do as everyone else does. Remember these are ski buses essentially and are included in everbody’s ski pass. It’s a win win situation – the buses in Chamonix are essentially free. Not the night bus – that is always €2 per person.
How to fill in your Chamonix guest card
You need to fill in your Chamonix guest card otherwise it won’t be valid. This is what you need to do:
- make sure the card has been stamped by your hotel or accommodation, if it hasn’t you can write it in
- fill in your name
- fill in the dates of your stay in Chamonix. This should be the dates you arrive and leave Chamonix so include your dates on the TMB. This will enable you to use it on the stage 11, the last leg if you want to take the train back from Les Houches and if you’re spending a few days in Chamonix post trek
- be sure to keep the card on your whilst trekking the TMB so you whip it out at the end of stage 11
Taking the train in Chamonix
Taking the train in the Chamonix Valley is a lovely experience and I much prefer it to taking the bus. The train has large windows that extend onto the roof to enable you to see the mountain tops and spectacular peaks.
The one downside of the train is the frequency – it only runs once an hour whilst buses run every 30 minutes. Download both the bus and train horaires (timetable) by downloading the chamonix.com app
Which TMB stages can the train help me with?
I would use the train whilst you are exploring Chamonix either before or after your Tour du Mont Blanc trek, however the train can also help a little bit with your TMB so I suggest you fill in your Chamonix guest card and take it with you whilst you are trekking the Tour du Mont Blanc.
Below I tell you which stages the train is useful for:-
Stage 10 starting at Tré-le-Champ
Did you know that you can trek stages 10 and 11 as day hikes from Chamonix? These stages run alongside the Chamonix Valley so it’s very easy to trek them as day hikes first before you start stage 1, or to do as day hikes after stage 9.
If you are planning to do this then the train is your friend. Stage 10 begins at Tré-le-Champ which is a bit tricky to get to. There is a bus that goes from Les Chosalets (Argentiere) to the Col du Montets where the trail starts, however this leaves at 9.30 and if you’re coming from Chamonix its a bit of a pain to know where to get off and change bus.
A much simpler way to get to Tré-le-Champ is to take the train to Montroc then hike up (20 minutes). I always advise my zoom clients to do this – is it direct and so much easier!
Finishing Stage 11
After the brutal but stunning descent of Stage 11 you will hit the train station first. If the timetable fits with your descent (remember the train only goes once an hour) then its a perfect way to get back into Chamonix quickly. If its not perfect timing to pick up the train, or you don’t want to wait, then it’s around another fifteen minutes to climb back up to central Les Houches where you can catch the bus.
You will be exhausted on your descent so its a lovely way to be whisked back to Chamonix within minutes. It’s a good idea to take a photo of the train timetable or have downloaded the chamonix.com app so that you can try to speed up or take it slower on your last part of the descent from the Merlot park to coincide with the train’s arrival.
Starting Stage 1?
Often trekkers will stay in Chamonix overnight before picking up the trail in Les Houches on their trek 1 start date. I advise taking the bus rather than the train to do this for two reasons. One, the train only goes once an hour and two, it’s still a bit of a walk up to central Les Houches (15 minutes).
The No 1 bus takes 14 minutes from the main Chamonix bus station (Cham Sud) to central Les Houches (get off at Les Houches Mairie to take a photo at the unofficial start point at the arch outside the tourist office) and just a further one minute to go two stops further to drop you off right outside the Bellevue cable car.