It’s only an hour’s drive from the airport to Chamonix, and although not necessary, it can be useful to have a car as the ski areas are quite spread out. More information about travel within the Chamonix Valley.
It’s best to book it well in advance to get the best price. Also be aware that at very busy times they can sell out! Unless you have an existing loyalty programme or account, it’s generally easiest to get it through a comparison site like Compulsory winter equipment may be included but is sometimes a surcharge after the rates are calculated, so check this when you compare prices, as it can add up.
Driving from Geneva to Chamonix
Once you have your car, it’s just an hour’s drive on good roads to Chamonix. Follow signs for France and once you are through the border, Chamonix is well signed. Don’t forget some euros for the tolls. (around €7) as the cash dispensers in the airport only give out Swiss Francs. The tolls also take cards.
Swiss Side or French Side?
You can hire a car from the Swiss side or French side of Geneva airport. The debate rages around the internet, with each side having its supporters. Short version for the busy: Get it from the Swiss side, unless it’s a huge saving. Especially in winter. If you go French side, allow 4 hours to return from Chamonix to Geneva airport.
Why hire on the Swiss side?
Although it can be slightly cheaper to hire from the French side, it’s very complicated to pick up and (especially) return your car.
Also, cars from the Swiss side will have snow chains and winter tyres included – it’s a legal requirement – and you may well need them! They also have a Swiss motorway “vignette” – a tax disc which allows you to drive on the Swiss motorways. Without it, you have to take a roundabout, badly signposted route back to the airport. You have to ignore almost all signs to the airport as these will take you to the Swiss side. You have to go through the city centre which is often congested. So the minor saving is generally not worth the bother, even if your flight arrives on the French side.
People say: “It’s fine, just follow these directions!” The directions are pretty long and if you miss one turning, you’ll be lost, as you can’t follow any signs to the airport since they’ll take you to the Swiss side! Here’s a thread on Tripadvisor with all the discussion you can handle and then some more.
If you have to get your car from the French side, allow three hours absolute minimum (more at busy times) to return to the airport and keep the map and directions for the return journey as it is not easy to find. It’s not too bad going from the airport, but the return journey is much trickier and very counterintuitive. Make sure you have the phone number for the hire car company in case you need help. Here’s the map from the airport detailing the routes.
Car Hire in Chamonix
If you just want a car for a day or so, it’s possible to hire one in Chamonix itself, though rates are often expensive. Only Europcar has a Chamonix office, and it’s best to book in advance – it’s staffed for office hours only, no weekends. Other companies will offer hire from Chamonix, but require it to be delivered (very expensive) or for you to pick it up (impractical)