France has introduced a new law making it mandatory for cars driving on roads in mountainous regions to be either 1) fitted with winter tyres; 2) fitted with compliant all season tyres or 3) carry snow chains. Roads where this is required will be marked with the above sign.
The law came into force on 1st Nov 2021 but it’s understood that no one will be fined within the first year – if you’re stopped you should be let off with a warning.
If you’re hiring a car you should check if it comes with winter tyres – otherwise you should hire snow chains. This change in the law does favour hiring on the Swiss side in Geneva, rather than the French sector – even though prices can be significantly higher. Cars from the Swiss side usually come with winter tyres as standard (plus the Vignette sticker for driving on Swiss motorways – saving £30).
Of course you can hire snow chains but have you ever tried to put these on with frozen fingers, at the edge of a narrow mountain path with snow coming down and cars slipping around you. And on several occasions I’ve booked them they were not there at pick up. Or worse, I was once given the wrong size and struggled getting them on if awful conditions before abandoning the car (and family) to find a garage. Plus if you buy locally you usually have to dump them as they are very specific to the tyre size.
I have now invested in a set of universal snow chains that fit a wide range of tyre sizes like these. I’ve used them a couple of times on rentals. They are not as good as snow chains but definitely improve traction . And they are a lot easier to put on. Whether they are compliant with the new law I don’t know but we’ve never been stopped with them on.
You can save a lot of money doing a little research on car hire prices before diving it and booking with a familiar name.
If you’re flying to Geneva, you’ll have a choice of picking up on the French or Swiss side. French side is usually cheaper but it’s not that straight-forward. See here
You could easily save £100-200 shopping around
I’d recommend starting at the comparison sites. Try Carrentals first – as the broadest engine, to get a rough idea. It also might be worth looking directly at other sites, such as like Holiday Autos, AutoEurope or Rentalcars. Shopping around could easily save over £100.
Some car rental companies will give significant cashback on a booking, if made via Quidco or TopCashBack . 15% cashback can make a big difference on a hire cost of £250, so it might be worth looking at direct bookings – with Avis and so on – too once you’ve checked the comparison sites, as cash back may be much higher.
Don’t forget to check the weather and add snow-chains to you booking if needed. Cars come with summer tyres on the French-side of Geneva. The number of times car hire companies have not had chains (or given me the wrong size) or I’ve needed to buy while I was away only to have to dump them has pushed me to buy a set of universal ones like these. Not as good as traditional snow chains but easy to put on I can use again and again on (virtually) any car again.
Don’t be ripped off on insurance!
I’d recommend buying your own car hire insurance, rather than taking it with car hire. I find I can get a full year for less than the price of one hire. I use Questor.
All apartments are assigned parking spaces and the neighbors can get a bit funny if you occupy theirs. Sometimes there may be space in front of the building but this is limited and not ideal in cold weather, so best to park in the underground garage.
Our space is the enclosed garage nearest the entrance to the underground garage. To enter the garage you will need to retrieve the entry remote from the cabinet draw in the living room of the apartment. So, once you’ve unloaded at the front, grab it to put the car away. The remote on the blue lanyard also has a key for opening our own garage door.
Don’t forget to lock it when you leave and put the keys back in the cabinet drawer in the apartment.
There is a lot of debate on this one but for me the French-side swings it. It is located on site (no need to wait for a bus – albeit its only a 5 min trip); is usually a good deal cheaper but is a little harder to return to than the Swiss drop-off (see below).
One thing you need to be aware of when driving from Geneva airport to is that if you choose to go on the Motorway (and it is a lot easier), a “Vignette” sticker should be displayed in the window of the car. It can be purchased at the border, costs around £30 and apparently lasts a year (all the good that will do you since you’ll only be on the Swiss motorway for around 15 mins). You can risk not getting one but there’s a 80% chance you’ll be stopped on the way back in – which might slow you down when you’re rushing for a flight.
Cars hired on the Swiss-side usually have a Vignette sticker already and so the £30 difference may make the Swiss prices more attractive (Swiss cars also come with winter tyres in winter).
It is possible to avoid using the motorway by driving through Geneva (you can find the directions from the French side here – thanks Ma for the scans) but it will take a little longer and there’s a good chance of getting lost).
The biggest hurdle to hiring from the French side is the return. If you mistakenly end up at the Swiss drop off (as we once did in panic) you may be charged a lot by the rental company (Sixt didn’t but I think Hertz do)
The little rat run from the hire location to the road drops you right at the border crossing in an area known as Ferney-Voltaire. So look for directions to here when you are returning. You head past the airport and take an exit which also has indications to the “Palexpo” area. The GPS location for entrance to the rat run is N 46° 15.024 E 6° 07.081