|Geneva International Airport (GVA)|
|Geneva's airport serves both western Switzerland and eastern France—convenient if you're going to the French Alps—but you must be careful how you use it.|
Geneva International Airport (GVA, Cointrin) has direct access to and from both Switzerland and France (map). See below for Ground Transport information.
If you arrive from any French airport and exit Geneva Airport via the French sector, your flight is considered a domestic French flight and you would not need to pass through Customs controls to continue your travel in France, but you would pass through Swiss Customs to leave the airport via the Swiss side of the terminal.
Both France and Switzerland are members of the Schengen Area for purposes of immigration control, so if you arrive on a flight from any Schengen country, you can depart via the French sector or the Swiss sector without immigration controls.
Arriving at the airport directly from a non-Schengen country, however, you would need to pass through either French or Swiss Immigration and Customs controls.
Follow the signs to choose the country you wish to officially enter. After that, you are in the Schengen Area and you may travel in all the Schengen countries without further Immigration controls.
For departing flights, if you aren't returning a rental car, you may enter either part of the terminal. If you enter the Swiss side (the easiest), you may pass to the F gates on the French side, but only if you have a valid flight ticket, tax refund item, or car rental reservation:
Important! - Rental/Hire Cars
Th French sector/Swiss sector distinction is perhaps most important if you plan to rent/hire a car at the airport.
Important! You must return your rental car to the office on the same side of the airport where you rented it; so if you rent the car on the French side, you must return it on the French side. If you rented it on the Swiss side, return it there.
Swiss vignette (road tax)
If by mistake you return the car on the wrong side, you will have to pay a substantial penalty. One reason: Switzerland requires that all vehicles using its highways bear a vignette, a tax sticker or its electronic equivalent, demonstrating that an annual road tax of CHF40 (about €41) has been paid. If a vehicle is found to be traveling on Swiss highways, or via Swiss bridges or tunnels, or at a Swiss border-crossing point, without a vignette, the fine is CHF200 + the cost of the vignette, for a total penalty of CHF240 (€247).
No exception is made for vehicles in transit through Switzerland; short-term vignettes for transit, or for a day, week, or month, are not available.
So if you want to take the short route through Switzerland, make sure to have an annual Swiss vignette.
If you plan to drive exclusively or mostly in France, it is best to hire your car from an agent on the French side of the terminal so that it is subject to French law and protected by French insurance—but here's the problem: if you're headed to a destination in France that lies in any direction except northwest of the airport, the shortest route to your destination will take you through the Geneva region of Switzerland where your French insurance may not be valid! This means that if you drive the car in Switzerland and become involved in an accident, you have no protection and are responsible for all costs.
If you're headed northwest, no problem: you can exit the airport directly into France and keep going, staying in France.
If the insurance coverage on your car is only for France, no matter your destination you must exit the airport into France and go the long way around the region of Geneva, staying in France, to reach such destinations as the French shore of Lake Geneva (Lac Léman), the French Alps (Chamonix), and Savoy (Annecy), and Lyon.
When in doubt, change countries by passing through the Ferney-Voltaire customs (Douane) station on the northwest side of Geneva Airport.
You can travel from Geneva International Airport into the city center by train and bus for free. Here's how.