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Driving your rental car in Geneva: Rules of the Road

Driving your rental car in Geneva: Rules of the Road

Driving around Switzerland can seem intimidating to foreign visitors. A good place to start when it comes to driving in the Geneva region is with the basic rules of the road. Consider a car rental Geneva Airport deal for your next visit.

Right Hand Side Driving

Here, vehicles drive on the right hand side of the road, something which visitors from the UK and other countries such as Australia should keep in mind.

Insurance plus age restrictions

Third party insurance is obligatory, as is wearing seatbelts. No children under 12 are allowed in the front seats of cars without a suitable child restraint in place. Honking your horn after dark is also prohibited, while the legal age for driving is 18, not 17 as in the UK.


With those basics out of the way, it is a good idea to look at some of the specifics of driving in the Geneva region.

Roads in and around Geneva

Roads in Geneva are often single lanes, with plenty of slow-changing traffic lights. Swiss driving regulations also forbid turning left at intersections, so it is necessary to carefully plan routes in order to avoid large detours.

Parking in Geneva

It is also wise to plan where you are going to park, and ask locals such as hotel staff for advice on this. Parking at the Place des Nations is recommended, as this can provide convenient access to many of the city’s top tourist attractions.

There are other car parks and garages which are available throughout the city, though it can get crowded, particularly at busy times of year.

Driving in Winter Weather

In a mountainous and wintry country like Switzerland, it also pays to take some precautions against bad weather and difficult driving conditions. All vehicles must carry a red warning triangle as standard, and snow chains are actually compulsory in some conditions.

Speed Limits

Speed limits on ‘green sign’ motorways are 120 kilometres per hour, with 100 kilometres an hour the limit on dual carriageways. Drivers travelling through residential areas though must be aware that the limit there is just 30 kilometres an hour, and 50 kilometres an hour in most towns and villages.


If you are crossing from France into Switzerland, then you will need to purchase a ‘Vignette’ from Customs. This sticker is compulsory for all motorway driving here.

Toll Roads

There are also tolls to look out for, as well as the differences between French and Swiss roads if you are crossing the border to ski resorts such as Chamonix.

Geneva City Driving

One thing which is well worth remembering about travelling around the city of Geneva is that it is often easier to take a tram or a bus when in the city itself. This can often make getting to the major landmarks easier, though you will, of course, need your car to get to the main ski locations.

Car Hire Geneva Airport French or Swiss side?

Car Hire Geneva Airport French or Swiss side?

Car Rental Geneva Airport - France or Switzerland side?

A question we often get asked is "Should I arrange car hire Geneva Airport on the French side deal or a car hire Geneva Airport Swiss side deal? and what are the advantages/disadvantages?

French SideSwiss Side
ProsSome Possible ConsProsSome Possible Cons
Generally Cheaper RatesYou are unlikely to be given a vignette which may be needed for driving in SwitzerlandCar comes with vignette. It is displayed on the windscreen.Usually not as cheap as the French area
Easy fast pickup area (P21)Rules vary from country to country and one rule in France is that you must carry a breathalyser testing device in your carWhatever equipment you need for adverse weather conditions is normally supplied by the car hire firm such as snow chains, tyres etcCustoms walk-through necessary if pickup is on French side of the airport
Shorter queues at rental desks in general (though not always)Winter weather equipment such as snow tyres are not necessarily included and may add to your rental fee if needed.Pick up location (P51) is within easy reach whether you decide to take the free bus or just walk. It is about four hundred metres away and is situated on the lower level. Desks are found to the west side of the terminal.
You must travel through customs if you arrive on the Swiss side of the airport yet have booked a car for pickup on the French SideQuicker route to the motorway than the French side

Car Hire Geneva Airport French or Swiss side? 1

Car Rental Geneva Airport Swiss Side

Car Rental Geneva Airport Swiss Side

Search for a cheap car hire Geneva Airport Swiss side quote. Things are a little different from the norm when it comes to hiring a car in Geneva Airport as there are two sides, the Swiss side and the French side.

You must make a decision on which side of the airport you wish to pick up your rental car from. Both sectors are housed within the same building.

Car Rental Geneva Airport Swiss Side 3

Car Rental Geneva Airport Switzerland Side

There are of course advantages and disadvantages to each side. It is true that most international flights arrive into the Switzerland side of the airport so quicker access to your car may be possible.

Swiss cars are also more likely to come with items needed for driving in wintry conditions such as snow tyres and chains.

A disadvantage of picking up on the Swiss side would be expense as cars tend to cost a bit more here than with car hire Geneva Airport France side rates. You can find the rental desks in the arrivals hall. Keep in mind that Swiss cars must be returned to the same side as they were rented from.

The full name of the airport is Geneva Cointrin International Airport and you will find it just five kilometres from the city centre. If you are on a domestic French flight you will want to enter through the French side so as to bypass customs.

Car Hire Geneva Airport Swiss Side Informaton

How many car rental firms are there on the Swiss side of the airport?
8 - Thrifty, Enterprise, Budget, Avis, National. Sixt, Europcar and Hertz
What class/type of rental cars are available to rent?
Budget/Economy, Automatic. People Carriers, Convertibles, Estate, Luxury, Minivan and more

Vignette for Geneva Swiss Side Car Hire

When you obtain a rental car in the Swiss part, it comes with a sticker called a Vignette. This is needed for traveling on the roads of the country.

An important thing to keep in mind here is that if you hire a car on the French side but intend traveling in Switzerland, you will be subject to an extra charge for the Vignette. You are likely to be fined if you choose to travel without one.

Ski Trip

If you are not heading for Geneva City then your first port of call when leaving this part of the airport might be wherever you booked your ski holiday.

Vallée de Joux and Portes du Soleil can be driven to an hour or so. Many will also be booked into resorts such as Anzère, Zermatt or Les Nendaz.

Geneva Airport Car Hire Return on Swiss Side

Watch the video below to see the collection of a car from area P21. The driver then heads for the A1 motorway.