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Renting a car at Geneva airport to explore Annecy

Renting a car at Geneva airport to explore Annecy

Old Jul 5th, 2014, 08:14 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Aug 2012
Posts: 262
Renting a car at Geneva airport to explore Annecy

All good information is welcome, but I would appreciate hearing from anyone with fairly recent experience.

I am considering renting a car at Geneva airport and using it for two weeks to explore the Annecy area of France. Other than driving to-and-from GVA to get to Annecy, I have no plans to drive in Switzerland.

I have a few questions concerning the rental process. I'm going to start with this question first.

When I was in my 20's, I owned a sports car with manual transmission and drove it for several years. I haven't driven a manual car in over 20 years. I'm confident I could quickly get the hang of it, but I'm wondering what's new about manual cars today in Europe, and how easy/difficult are they to figure out with no instruction from a rental facility?

Thank you.
wesleymarsh is offline  
Old Jul 6th, 2014, 06:54 AM
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 849

We took up a standard transmission car after 9 years of driving automatics. The only problem was missing the downshift to first or second in slow traffic. Be certain to push to the left, as third and fourth are in the default position. If, or when, you stall,remember the upset drivers behind you are the ones with the blood pressure problem, not you. You'll have the hang of it is few hours.

The cars all have the shift on the floor and will clearly show the position of the gears on the shift. The only problem is the interlock to prevent accidental shifting in reverse. That varies among manufacturers, and will involve pushing or pulling vertically on the gear shift or on a ring around the shaft. This can be easily done with the right hand. You will have the hang of this in only a few hours of driving, and, I think, will enjoy the additional control on the roads around Annecy.

When you arrive at the Geneva Airport, you will be on the Swiss side of the airport. When last I was there, you had to turn to the North, the runway side, to see the French Border. There is no border control, just walk in to that area and you will be facing the car rental desks. (Be certain to specify pick up in France when you make the booking.) On the way out of the airport, go to the East, which I found counter-intuitive, and then turn right to the South. That will take you to the highway south in a short period of time and you will enter it just before the French Border post and, I think, the toll booth. That way you will not be on any of the Swiss highways, which require purchasing a "Vedette" for use at relatively high cost for someone going to and from Annecy.

A final note, all this information about the airport is 4 years old, and you may want to verify that there have been no changes. Incidentally, we were delayed getting to Geneva, and kept in touch with Peugeot Open Europe by phone. The woman left alone at the desk on a Sunday evening stayed at the airport well after closing time to be certain that we got our car.
Jeff801 is offline  
Old Jul 6th, 2014, 08:08 AM
Join Date: Dec 2005
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Most rental cars in Europe have automatic transmission; only few special cars (like minivans, some sports cars) are manual. You see it in the reservation process.
traveller1959 is offline  
Old Jul 6th, 2014, 08:12 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Actually the opposite is true - most rentals are manual shift not automatics
jamikins is offline  
Old Jul 6th, 2014, 09:41 AM
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I can't imagine trying to re-learn to drive a manual shift after 20 years starting off in Geneva! It'd be one thing if you were out in the countryside (maybe) but Geneva is HUGE and confusing.

I love this area and fly into Geneva to get out to Vevey and Montreux, and have helped a friend plan Annecy, but she did it by bus/train.
suze is offline  
Old Jul 6th, 2014, 10:01 AM
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The drive from the airport to Annecy is not through the city and is very easy...
jamikins is offline  
Old Jul 6th, 2014, 10:07 AM
Join Date: Dec 2005
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Any major car rental company (e.g. Avis, Hertz...) offers compact, intermediate and luxury cars with automatic transmission at Geneva Airport, French side. Just check their websites. If you rent a car on the French side, it won't have a vignette for Swiss motorways. If you rent on the Swiss side, it will have. If you return the car at Geneva Airport, it does not matter on which side you rent. But if you want to return it in another French town you should rent it on the French side.
traveller1959 is offline  
Old Jul 6th, 2014, 10:11 AM
Join Date: May 2007
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I think what traveller1959 meant was that most regular rental car categories like compact, midsize, regular etc. also have an option for automatic transmission. It is usually somewhat more pricey, though.
While some extravagant "fun cars" may only be available with manual transmission.
Cowboy1968 is offline  
Old Jul 6th, 2014, 11:54 AM
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If you return the car at Geneva Airport, it does not matter on which side you rent.

It may be so for some firms but not others. Some charge as much as 120 euro for a car returned in the 'wrong' country.
Alec is offline  
Old Jul 6th, 2014, 01:06 PM
Join Date: Apr 2005
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To go to Annecy it is much better to go and return to the French side, and actually most cars offered ARE manual, you normally have to pay extra for Auto. That said returning ( to most major rental companies) is super easy at Geneva, I have done it a number of times.
Smeagol is offline  
Old Jul 7th, 2014, 08:17 AM
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I'm attempting to keep this thread focused on the newest cars offering manual transmission. I have other car rental/driving questions regarding this trip that I will post separately. Thank you for keeping this thread on topic.

I don't have unlimited funds so I need to control costs for a two-week trip. Ideally, I want the convenience of having a car at my disposal all 14 days. If I go with manual transmission, I stand to save money. Since the trip is next year, it's difficult to tell just how much I can save, since the best deals aren't posted yet. I have to assume Automatics will always cost more than Manuals.

Thank you Jeff801 for your comprehensive reply. I think I understand this portion:


But I'm not 100% sure I do understand. It's possible if I saw a visual of the actual shift, or watch the shift in action, my memory will be jogged. Maybe I can find a training lesson on YouTube for driving a manual car.


The last time I rented in France, it took me forever to figure out how to get into reverse. There was no one around to help. It would be great to find a video showing the various options for that, too.

I plan to be armed with the important questions translated into French. It's easy to do that with Google these days. Hopefully, I'll be able to rely on a good attendant.

I'm going to need to use the Bright Lights, Hazard Lights, and know how to pop the trunk and gas closure open. It took me forever to figure these simple things out on the last car I rented in France, and my father had a career in cars, truly frustrating for me.

If anyone has any more manual training assistance to offer, I'm all ears. Thank you!
wesleymarsh is offline  
Old Jul 7th, 2014, 10:20 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Sure automatics cost more than manuals. If you are determined to do this, I'd try to find a car to borrow or rent at home and get some practice more recent than 20 years ago!

Thanks for the corrections to my post that you would not have to get involved in urban traffic of Geneva on this route. I still say it's no time to try to "learn" how to drive stick-shift.
suze is offline  
Old Jul 7th, 2014, 01:46 PM
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I just found this:

For those of us who have experience and just need a refresher course, it's pretty darn amazing. Nothing like learning on a Ferrari, too.
wesleymarsh is offline  
Old Jul 7th, 2014, 09:17 PM
Join Date: Jul 2014
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I've rented several times on the French side of GVA, most recently last week, returning our car on the 5th of July. This has historically gone very smoothly and saved me a lot of money over renting on the Swiss side of the airport.

Last week's rental was the first where I experienced any issues. The French side of the airport is accessed through a single road that is currently undergoing extensive repairs. Because of this, a long section is down to a single lane, with traffic lights on the ends to control passage. On Saturday the lights were not working properly, so people from both ends ended up going simultaneously, meeting in the middle and causing a major backup that prevented us from being able to return our car.

Our only option for catching our flight was to return on the Swiss side, which we were told should cost us €122. Since this is likely to occur again, I would highly recommend discussing a contingency plan with the rental agency before you leave the airport so that you don't have to figure it out when you are rushing to catch your flight home. For instance, there are a couple lots off the French side access road where someone from the agency could potentially meet you and take you and your bags back to the Swiss side for your departure.
slenge24 is offline  
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