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France or Switzerland: How does Geneva airport's border divide work?

Michael Stuchbery
Michael Stuchbery - [email protected]
France or Switzerland: How does Geneva airport's border divide work?
Two nations, one airport: Switzerland's second-largest airport is shared with France. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini / AFP

Geneva’s airport is Switzerland’s second-largest, serving approximately sixteen million passengers per year and with a stunning view of the Alps. That’s not the only thing distinguishing it.

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Due to geography and planning challenges since the early 20th century, Geneva’s airport borders France on its north side. 

Thanks to an agreement between the two countries in 1960, it’s accessible from and shared between Switzerland and France.

How does it work? 

The airport is divided into two sectors - the French and Swiss. 

In the French sector, only domestic flights to and from destinations within France are accessible. This sector is located within Pier F of the Main Terminal.

All other flights - including international long-haul flights - arrive and depart from the Swiss sector, which constitutes the rest of the Main Terminal. 

READ MORE: What foreign passengers should expect when landing at a Swiss airport

Can you cross between the Swiss and the French parts of the airport? 

You can - if you have a ticket for a flight that day, and you have your passport or identification documents with you. 

This doesn’t involve custom controls if you’re travelling to or from a Schengen country. You will merely be asked to show your ticket and ID. 

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Where is the crossing point? 

You can cross between the two sectors from the Swiss side on the Departures level. Follow the ‘Destination France’ signs near the Air France counters. 

What if I’m catching a French domestic flight - do I need to pass through the Swiss section? 

The entire process for French domestic flights takes place within the French sector, so there’s no need to cross over. 

From arrival at the airport to check-in,  to departure, you remain within France for all legal purposes.

Can I enter and exit the airport by car directly from France? 

Yes, you can enter the airport from France, via the town of Ferney Voltaire. There, from the customs post, follow the signs to ‘Aéroport secteur France’.

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Where are the Swiss entrances?

If you're driving to the airport from within Switzerland, many choose to follow the signs from the city centre to Grand-Saconnex where there is the ability to drop passengers off outside the terminal or use one of several short or long-term parking possibilities. 

Driving from Vaud on the A1 motorway, you can exit after Coppet, when the road will split into the one going to the airport (and France) and the other into the centre of Geneva.

The airport also has a train station, which is an eight-minute trip from Geneva city centre, and costs about 3 francs for a one-way ticket.

Buses from the city also stop at the airport (see below).

Is there public transport from the French side?

Yes there are buses and other means of transport. This website shows you have three options, depending from where you travel: namely 272, 66, and 274.

What about parking? 

Aside from the P20 parking on the French side, which has 214 spots, there are also several parking garages on the Swiss side, with thousands of places.

This link shows all the garages, as well as the number of spots available in real time, along with tariffs for each one.

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Can I hire cars on both sides? 

Yes, the big car rental firms have outlets on both sides of the airport. However, this is where one very important detail comes into play.

Drivers in Switzerland need to buy a vignette (electronic or physical sticker) that demonstrates that they have paid the road tax levied on all vehicles using the country’s motorways. 

READ MORE: Swiss vignette: What you need to know about Switzerland’s motorway charge sticker

Additionally, there are differences in insurance liability between the two countries, meaning that crossing between the two results in times a vehicle is not covered. 

Therefore, it’s imperative that if you’re renting a car at Geneva’s airport, it’s absolutely essential that you return it on the side that you hired it - otherwise you could be charged sizable fees. 

Another interesting fact:

Geneva is not Switzerland's only airport that straddles two countries.

Basel's EuroAirport is entirely within France, with the terminal split into a French and Swiss sector. 

What are your experiences with Geneva’s two airport sectors? Have you experienced any troubles passing between them? Let us know in the comments. 

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