Travel to Cern

  • Short Stays
If this is your first time going to CERN be sure to put some time into your schedule for filling out paperwork. Just filling out and filing paperwork can take a few days, not to mention finding your way around. Additional information can also be found in the Newcomers Guide, which has also been updated to include the new bus routes to CERN from the airport.

  • Forms
Registration forms are avaliable here, by clicking on the link to user registration forms. Be sure to get the CERN and ATLAS registration forms. NOTE: these forms need a signature from a team leader and depending on who is at CERN you may NEED TO GET THESE SIGNED BEFORE GOING TO CERN.


Here are the requirements for paperwork regarding visas, the outdated protocole d'accueil, and the new short term stay paperwork the Convention d’Accueil.

10/12/2010: Following a meeting with the CERN Relations with Host States this morning it has been requested that ALL PEOPLE coming to work at CERN for any period of less than 3 months WHO WILL HAVE REGULAR NEED DURING THIS PERIOD - EITHER FOR MEETINGS OR JUST TO GET BACK TO THEIR HOTEL - TO GO INTO FRANCE and whose nationality is of one of the following countries : Japan, USA, Canada, Israel, etc. request an official PROTOCOLE D'ACCUEIL document from their experiment that they must keep on them with their passport at all times. This document is prepared at CERN then sent to the official department in Gex, France for stamp and signature then returned to CERN.

NOTE: the document will ONLY cover the duration of the stay in question. A new one must be requested for each new stay. Since it takes minimum 5 days to obtain the Protocole please ensure you request it early enough.

FOR ATLAS all visa documents are prepared in the ATLAS Secretariat and signed by me only, so please complete the protocole d’accueil template you can find on

and return it to Use the French version if you can, since they only accept the French version and this avoids us having to transcribe everything from the English to the French.

The procedure for Switzerland and long stays in both countries remain the same, as do the rules for all other nationalities.

Following the many emails I have just received about this, please note that

1. The possibility exists in the 'duration' line of the protocole to put

'several visits not exceeding 90 days between xx/xx and xx/xx' (and here you put a SIX MONTH or ONE YEAR period)

in French 'plusieurs visites n'excedant pas 90 jours entre xx/xx et xx/xx'

This avoids having to ask for repeat protocoles for several short stays close together. HOWEVER THE MAXIMUM PERIOD IS 180 DAYS IN ANY ONE YEAR PERIOD. As of 180 days you are considered resident and a whole different procedure applies.

2.You DO NOT need to have this protocole on you when you arrive at GVA airport. It is sufficient to come pick it up from your ATLAS Secretariat.

MODIFICATION TO THE MAIL BELOW CONCERNING PROTOCOLES: a protocole IS required for stays of less than 8 days.

When we have time we will put an English version of the Protocole on the Secretariat General Information website, but that won't be immediate, so well done to all who have been succesfully working out the French text ! Don't forget to put town/city and country of birth, not just country, and full private home address, as well as where you will be staying when at CERN. If CERN Hostel Meyrin site, put Foyer CERN, site de Meyrin, Geneve, Suisse.

Before Leaving

For a short stay, less than three months, you will need a short-term registration form, an emergency contacts form, and an official attestation that you work for MSU (see example), if you have not been to CERN before. If you are planning to visit throughout the year, or be involved for awhile, it may be easier to fill out a long term registration form. This will last for at least 2 years and will allow you to keep keys, access cards, etc. throughout that time. These are all forms that you will probably need some assistance filling out. The registration also includes a contract, which can be signed in the user's office at CERN. In addition, you will need a passport, proof of insurance, and any necessary visas. For US citizens, a stay less than three months does not require a visa, but restrictions vary by nationality. There are also additional forms if you will work in a radiation area.

If you are bringing a spouse to CERN and want them to have access when you are not around, you can get a spouse ID card by requesting the form at the user's office (they may want to see a marriage license for proof of the relationship). Your spouse should be present, as afterwards you go to building 55 to have his/her picture taken and receive the ID card. This card must be turned in along with your own if you ever leave ATLAS. I have only done this with a long-term registration, so I'm not sure if the rules are different for a short term registration.

There is also a computer center user registration form. One option, which I have not done, is to fill out the external user form and send or fax this with a copy of your passport to the ATLAS secretariat and at the same time say you are requesting a computer account. This can also be done when you arrive at the ATLAS secretariat office, although it may take some time for the account to get set up. There is also a computer user registration form you can fill out here.

Some information for the forms: Nature of visit is research, and the nature of work is scientific. The project is ATLAS, and we are in Building 32, floor 2, office B-03. Your MSU insurance should cover the insurance requirements.
  • Travel Advance: Living in Geneva is expensive. Because of this fact it is advisable to get a travel advance. A travel advance is the university giving you a check for the estimated cost of the trip before you leave. Brenda can put the forms together for you, although you will have to estimate the food, lodging and transportation costs you expect (you should have your room booked before you go and as a rule $35 a day is a fairly low estimate for food). When it is 7 days or less before you leave, you can take this form to the Administration building to get your check. You go first to Contracts and Grants (301 Admin), and then to Voucher Processing (360 Admin). The room on the first floor Cashiers Office (110 Admin) will issue you your check and you can cash it in the ATM on that same floor if you like. If you spend more than this amount of money, MSU will issue you a refund when you return. If you spend less, you will have to return the extra money to the university, within about 30 days of returning. In both cases, paperwork is filed showing what was spent, so be sure to save your receipts!

Also, don't forget to bring an ATM card (most transactions are in cash). You may also want a credit card if you expect large hotel charges. And be sure to notify the bank and credit card companies that you are traveling so they don't identify your overseas charges as fraudulent and put a hold on your account!

The roads at CERN are not laid out in blocks, and you may want to bring a map of Geneva, and one of CERN.

When You Arrive

You will need to go to the user's office to register. Make sure to bring all the necessary forms with you. The roads at CERN are not laid out in blocks, and you may want to request a map at the user's office, if you don't have one already. After getting your ID get your ID card.

After you get your ID you head to the secretariate in building 40, level 4, room D01 to get your accounts setup. You then need to go through a computer safety quiz at and take the level 1 & 2 safety courses at the computer quiz you can see if an answer is correct or not by hovering over it and reading the address it will send you to.

NOTE: If you are planning to take shifts at some point, you may want to do additional safety training courses now- see ShiftTraining page.

The cernaccount page that you access the safety quiz from is also really useful because you can follow links from here to change your password, check your account status, go to egroups to subscribe to mailing lists (see the MailingLists wiki for more information), as well as your email forwarding. To forward your email you go to "check account status" then click on the "manage" button on the right by mail services. This will bring you to the Mail Services page and you go to the services tab at the top of the page and go CERN Mail Tools -> Valid email address and forwarding. At the bottom of this page you can add your forwarding address(es) in a text box and be sure to activate them using the button directly above the box.

My account was not fully active until 4 days after I went to all of the offices (I think it's all there currently). My username and password were active by the time I got back to the office but it took 2 days (48 hours) to have an email address attached to my account so that I could register my laptop to use the CERN wireless. It took 4 days for the secretariate to add me to the atlas-current-physicists group which then enrolls you in the hn-atlas-access-allarchives group. This last group is needed in order to gain access to many of the mailing lists.

Finally, you will also want an office key. To obtain, take your CERN ID to the ATLAS secretariat and fill out the key requisition form (make sure to remember the location you want the key for). It will take a few days to process this request, and an email will then be sent to you with instructions on where to pick the key up. In the meantime the MSU office has an extra key for when you are waiting for your key.


Although scientists tend to use English, the restaurant staff and other personnel do not. It would be wise to know some small level of French before going. You can certainly get along knowing only bonjour, merci, and excuse-moi, and by pointing at the dishes you would like in the cafeteria (incidentally, the meals are generally one entree and two side dishes), but it couldn't hurt to try out some French.

Things to do, money and more!

Geneva is a nice city and there is a walking tour through the town (info here) as well as boat rides that offer some cheap fun. SwissBoat (info here), is nice. It is a smaller boat, but this gets you a little closer to the water. I like the Mermaid tour. There is a larger boat company, with larger boats, called CGN (info here). They offer tours around the Geneva lake area as well, but will also transport you to other towns on the lake. There is a mall, Balexert, which looks a bit like a parking ramp from the outside, from the bus, but if you get off at this stop and follow people in, you will find stores. There is also a grocery store in the mall (Migros), as well as a movie theater. There are also organ concerts at the cathedral downtown on the weekends (schedule here, programme link). Other interesting things to see are the jet d'Eau in lake Geneva, the Cathedrale de St-Pierre where you can climb the towers and get a birds eye view of Geneva as well as the Swiss Alps and Juras, the Palais des Nations (the former UN building) where they offer tours, and the Mur de la Reformation which is in a park with some fun oversized chess sets.

Also, be aware of the currency differences- Geneva is CHF but just a short walk away from CERN, Saint-Genis, France uses Euros. Although not strictly necessary, it is courtious to have both currencies with you, particularly if you are staying in France and working at CERN. Otherwise, there are ATM machines at the cern restaurants, where you can get cash (CHF or Euros) for lunches and such.

If you want to get some Euros or CHF before you leave the US, you can request this through your bank, if you do this several weeks in advance. You can also visit a currency exchange place, the one in this area is Liberty Coins, located in the Frandor shopping center near campus. It is in the same building as a bank, but in the basement. They will almost certainly have Euros to exchange, and also may have CHF (they did both times I went). Otherwise you can exchange money in most major airports or you can withdraw money from an ATM when you arrive in Europe (in the Geneva airport or at CERN). Be sure to bring an ATM card to do this and double check that your card works in common ATM machines (Jeanie, STAR, etc...)


Information about transportation in general in Geneva (bus, train, etc) can be found here. Information specific to buses is listed on the TPG page.A map of all the bus lines can be found here. This is also a good way to understand the scale and layout of Geneva. From the airport, you can take bus Y to CERN, or you can take one of lines 23,28,57 (or a few others)to Blandonnet and then take tram 14 to CERN (up one platform.) Incidentally, you can get a free bus ticket in the airport. The ticket machine is in the area where you collect your bags. Another option is to take a CERN shuttle from the airport, although it runs infrequently and only during business hours. CERN also has a shuttle service onsite with several lines, which loop around CERN/LHC/SPS. If you want to travel off-site, there are coin operated machines that will give you tickets for bus rides.

However, if you will be at CERN for more than a few days, particularly if you will use the bus to commute, you may want to just get a bus pass. Information on bus passes is here. There are cheaper rates for "juniors", where junior means age 25 and under. This pass includes bus and tram lines, and a few other options. You will probably want the 2 or 3 zone pass, depending on whether or not you live in France (this pass does cover, for instance, Saint-Genis, as a separate zone). To get a bus pass, you will need your passport, a passport style picture (there are machines for this in the cafeteria at CERN and at the train station, to name a few places- expect to pay about 8 CHF), as well as a local address (CERN is not enough, bring the address of your hotel). Also identify ahead of time which zones you want the pass for. A monthly bus pass for a junior is 50-75 CHF depending on the zones. To obtain one, it is probably easiest to go to the train station (stop Gare Cornavin on the bus) and look for the tpg location on the station maps.

Although we may not think about this in the US, remember to carry your passport and bus pass or ticket with you at all times, especially if crossing the Swiss-France border. Patrols do check bus passengers. When I took the bus during the summer, there was probably a stop by them every two weeks or so.


The obvious option is the CERN hostel, which is onsite (very convenient). It has (inconvenient) laundry, bed, and an optional private bathroom/shower (more expensive than a single washbasin). However, it can be somewhat of a hassle to get a reservation, and there is a limit to how long you can stay there over the course of a year (because it is so popular). I have had some problems booking the hostel months in advance. Another option is a long-stay hotel (minimum reservation of four nights- and there is a CERN rate). There is one in Saint-Genis (Résidence Saint Genis Séjours&Affaires; 73, Rue Blaise Pascale), although it should be noted that this is a 30-40 minute walk from CERN, so you may want to ride a bike or take the bus, which stops approximately every half hour in the morning and evening. Note that this bus only stops about every hour and a half on the weekends, so plan accordingly if taking the bus to/from the airport, etc.


You will probably find yourself eating at the CERN restaurants a good bit. The menu for restaurant 2 is available online, here. Restaurant 1 is the other cafeteria, which is closer to our office buildings. It is also open on the weekends and for dinner, unlike restaurant 2. There are several good restaurants in Geneva, which will of course cost you more than the CERN restaurants. There are several grocery stores. Probably the easiest ones to get to are at the Blannonet and Balexert stops on the tram line. If you live in Saint-Genis, there is a grocery store, Champion, near the first bus stop (although this is a different line, Y, which runs less frequently than the one from CERN to Geneva, and also leaves from a much smaller bus stop across the street from the bus depot at CERN. There are also smaller breadshops, confectionaries, etc. Don't be afraid to explore or else you will miss out on one of the best parts of being in Geneva, the food!

More Advice

For information about moving to CERN, the US LHC users organization recommends this website, particularly if you are moving with a family

Also don't be afraid to ask others who have been through this before!

-- JennyHolzbauer - 15 Jul 2009 (on behalf of Patrick T.) -- JennyHolzbauer - 01 May 2009 -- JennyHolzbauer - 12 Mar 2009 -- JennyHolzbauer - 19 Jun 2008 -- JennyHolzbauer - 05 May 2008 -- JennyHolzbauer - 04 Jun 2009
Topic revision: r36 - 13 Jun 2013, BradSchoenrock

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