Flying to Geneva and planning on hiring a car this winter?

Before you leave home make sure you do your research!  A new European Union regulation which came into force on 1st May 2016.  The new law is causing chaos among holidaymakers heading to Switzerland who plan on car hire.  We think this is going to get worse as we head into one of the busiest periods at Geneva Airport!

The new ruling bans EU citizens from driving non-EU registered hire cars in the EU.  The problem comes because although Switzerland sits at the heart of Europe, they are not a member of the EU member.  A Swiss-registered hire car cannot be driven across the border to France, Germany, Italy or Austria by an EU citizen (such as a Brit).  Of course, Geneva sits in a little enclave surrounded by EU countries, so this is likely to be a major issue.  If the driver behind the wheel is Swiss, there is no problem – as it is if the hirer is a non-EU citizen.  Unfortunately, very few car hire firms appear to know anything about the change at the moment and are unsure of how to deal with the problem.

So what do the EU say?

A European commission spokeswoman said:

“EU citizens should try to inform the car rental company in advance if they intend to drive into the EU.  It is the responsibility of the company to provide a car that complies both with customs rules and also with traffic rules”

As a regular traveller and skier, we caught up with Ski Amis’ Commercial Director, Chris Woodbridge-Cox.  Chris has recently taken a trip to the resort and we wanted to get his take on the situation:

“From personal experience, I rented a car through Auto Europe, a broker, in August this year. On their site I declared that I was taking the vehicle into France. When I arrived at Geneva (Swiss side) I was told by the supplier, Enterprise, that I would need to sign a disclaimer if I wanted to go ahead with the rental.  I signed the disclaimer on that occasion, but took the risk that the car could have been impounded if I happened to come across a stroppy policeman or customs officer.”

Car Hire on the French or Swiss Side?

When you arrive at Geneva Airport, you have the option to rent on either the Swiss or French side of the airport.  Many clients already know this and may opt to go for the French side to avoid this new problem.  However, this adds time to the arrival process, and more hassle, to transfer to the French side of the airport.  Another thing to think about is that most cars rented on the French side do not have snow tyres, whereas cars rented on the Swiss side usually do.

Don’t forget either that you need a “vignette” to drive on any Swiss motorway (which is the easiest way to the ski resorts).  This currently costs 40 CHF (about £33.00 at today’s exchange rates) and you can buy it at all the border crossings into Switzerland.  A Swiss rented vehicle should already have a vignette supplied with the car.

Car rental from Geneva is becoming a potential minefield, so with that in mind we recommend our clients consider the option of relaxing in our comfortable, door-to-door minibus transfer service instead!

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