This post is also available in: Français (French)
Geneva airport straddles two countries. It is mostly Swiss but there is also a French side to the airport. The story about how this came about is available on this Wikipedia page. The French side is very small and VERY easy to miss. However, when booking car hire on the internet it may be that hiring on the French side is cheaper than on the Swiss. If I’m asked for advice I will always suggest car hire from the Swiss side from a convenience point of view. I’m writing this piece to help people who have hired a car from the French side. Particularly those that are heading towards the the main ski areas of the Haute Savoie (places like Chamonix, St Gervais, La Clusaz, Les Carroz, Samoens, Morzine and Chatel)
For the average slightly lost tourist hiring a car from the French side can lead to a stressful end to a holiday. BUT for the accomplished and alert traveller it will not cause a problem.
The first issue is that from the French side you cannot guarantee the hire car will have a Swiss motorway vignette. If you need to drive on a Swiss motorway then you’ll have to buy one for 40 CHF. You can avoid driving on a Swiss motorway, but to give you an idea of how ludicrous this is, the nearest motorway is only 200 metres from the hire centre!
If you are using a GPS the address for the French side is: Route Douanière, Grand-Saconnex, Switzerland or coordinates 46.233842, 6.111623
Leaving the French side of Geneva airport.
Actually, first you have to get there. All international or Swiss flights distribute luggage on the Swiss side. Only if you have arrived from France should you follow signs to France inside the airport BEFORE picking up your luggage. Unless of course you are travelling with hand luggage only, in which case you can follow the French sign straight away. There is more information on the GVA website.
Here is the Google route for heading to Morzine. You can see that the difference between taking the motorway or not is only a few minutes. Remember, I’m assuming you won’t have a vignette and that you don’t want to buy one! So all these routes avoid the 10km of Swiss motorway. NB – Unless it is rush hour in which case Geneva traffic might cause up to an hour of delay.
“Via D902” is the one.
From GVA to Chamonix you’ll add on 10 minutes by taking the route through Geneva that misses the Swiss motorway.
For both Morzine and Chamonix once you leave P20 do the weird dog leg through the border (driving under the runway, round the border and then back under the runway!) then follow signs for Geneva centre. Once you hit the lake follow signs for Evian (if heading to Morzine or Chatel) or Annemasse (for Samoens or Chamonix), it can be a bit congested at times in Geneva but it usually moves. (Unless it’s rush hour in which case this route can add 45 minutes)
Keep your eyes open on that weird dog leg, reversing it on the way home is the hard bit.
Returning to the French side of Geneva airport.
On the way you’ll need to head through the centre of Geneva again. Then follow signs towards the airport. All the signs in Geneva point you to the Swiss side of the airport, and not to the French side. The trick when you get to the vicinity of the airport is to head for signs that say “La Faucille/Gex/Ferney”….whereas all logic would make you head towards Aeroprort/France…nicely illustrated here.
You need to be in the right hand lane and head into the tunnel (under the runway).
then get to the border, and take a hard left. See here. Above the sign that says Gex, it says “Aeroport secteur Francais”, unfortunately google hasn’t street viewed both sides of the road!
another little sign here
If you miss those signs then drive 100m to a roundabout and then head back around to the border. It’s more obvious now.
You are aiming to get onto this fenced road, a weird piece of France in Switzerland. Obviously a deal the Swiss came to with the French when they swapped land for the runway.
Availability of all the car parks and prices here. For the French secteur it’s P20.
Various versions of “how to get to the French side of the airport” are here.
Fantastic information, really detailed and precise…. many thanks.
Thanks for that great info. A question, how do you get from the French side after dropping the car off to the Swiss side catching a flight?
Follow the signs, once you are in the French side, getting to the Swiss side is not hard.
Except they ( the border control) demand a boarding card. We were unable to either print or download ours and they were not helpful at all. This is despite following the signs ( Switzerland and buses etc) we both speak French but as I say they were difficult and finally accepted our eswrvarion which was on my phone.
That does sound awkward!
Please can you help me out. We land in geneva and then overnight in an airport hotel. Do you know if we can we then collect a car from the French side the following day?
Emma, that won’t be an issue. You can cross the internal airport “border” in the same way that you cross any border.
Thanks so much for this *VERY* helpful information. This post actually saved me hundreds of euros/dollars.
I initially researched renting a car in southern France and returning it to Geneva (CH). I found that the one way rental cost for this was very high. But after doing more research and reading this web page which helped me learn that I could both rent and return in France, I found that the same car from the same rental location but returned to the French side of Geneva’s airport was *MUCH* less expensive. By renting a car in France and returning it within France, I saved lots of money. Thank you!
For those doing the same thing, just pay close attention to the drop off location when making your car rental reservation. The major car rental agencies list TWO return locations at Geneva airport (CH and F). Be sure to choose wisely!
Glad to be of help!
Very, very helpful – many thanks indeed.
Excellent work. A really good walk-through as this is an issue that comes up constantly and causes a lot of confusion for people arriving at the airport. As Ken mentioned above, an uninformed decision can be costly.
Cathy, thanks. I hope it will be of use. It is one of the most popular pages on this blog…so Google must like it too!
This looks so useful!
Just a question about the alternative 3 min slower route to morzine on the google map link / the one that goes through Geneva then across a bridge and round the lake. Does that one also avoid the motorway? I’ve tried to see where the end of the 1 is and whether this route avoids it but I can’t tell. I want to take this route as it’s quicker to Seytroux. Thanks.
Jon, that route is fine. It does avoid the motorway. However it can get quite slow due to the traffic. During the morning and evening rush it can add an hour. However very early or very late it can be the quickest and cheapest way!
Hello! I’m planning a trip to Geneva/ France this summer. I plan to fly to Geneva from the USA. I will be renting a car upon arrival and driving to Annecy then to chamonix and finally back to Geneva to stay a few days. From what I have read, is it easier to pickup/dropoff the car on the swiss side of the airport? I can drive a swiss car into France without problems right?
Eric, there are no problems driving a Swiss car to France. Your most convenient option is to hire the car from the main (Swiss) side of the airport. The only reasons I can see for people hiring from the French side are sometimes cost and often just a plain old mistake.
Super useful information, thank you!
Hi, I have to say, what you have done there is excellent. Thank you for all your advice.
I take it once you get into the underground car park that it is easy enough to find the car hire drop off points.
Michael, thanks for your comments. It should be easier enough to find the car hire, the French side is such a small area, everything is crammed into the same spot!
Thanks so much for this information, it costs so much less renting from the French side.
The only problem I have had is late afternoon arrival into GVA means a big increase in the cost.
EG. I booked a car on the French side with a Saturday morning pickup time and the cost is ~ £100. I’ve now had to change the flight to a later time arriving at GVA at 1610 Changing the car pick up time from 1100 to 1645 has seen the price more than double to over £200 even though the rental period is now shorter – the return time remains the same at 1100.
Do you know why, and is there a way around this?
Sorry for the slow reply – but I can’t help. I live on the European side, so I have no need to hire a car here!
They used to be a problem that if you rented a car on the French side of Geneva airport that they did not supply winter tires… That could be a real problem if you’re heading to the mountains… I’m not sure if the law has changed.
It would certainly be a problem. It is something that needs to be confirmed with the hire company (not always easy to do). I don’t know the logistics of this, but I think that most of the cars do have winter tires, but occasionally cars from other parts of the network sneak in to the Fleet and get hired out – hoping the renter won’t notice? I don’t know.