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Switzerland Driving Guide

Switzerland is a unique beautiful country. Explore all of it by driving when you get your International Driving Permit

2021-04-09 · 9min read

Willkommen in der Schweiz!

If you took a trip, one of the places you will never forget is Switzerland. Bordering five countries, including France and Italy, the country boasts a picturesque environment and rich culture. If you're traveling to Europe by Switzerland is definitely worth your time and money. Visiting Switzerland with a tour group can be a swell experience, and that goes for backpacking too.

Driving a car there, however, can serve you better, especially if you want to follow your own schedule and itinerary, as long as you brought with you any valid type of driving license in Switzerland. So if you're looking to drive there but have no idea yet what you need or where to go, we're here to guide you, including getting your own International Driver's Permit (IDP).

How Can This Guide Help You?

This driving guide will help you plan and manage your excursion to the country. You'll learn the things to know about driving in Switzerland, including rules and regulations, and other stuff concerning driving there. It will also help you find a car rental agency after you have received your IDP. Are you excited for Switzerland now? Let's get to it and know more about the country, which is called by some "the land of milk and honey.”

General Information

Ranked as one of the happiest countries in the world, Switzerland sits at the junction of western, central, and southern Europe. It has 26 cantons or districts, and not all of which speak the same language. The country is best known for its products and banking institutions, like Swiss chocolate, Swiss cheese, Swiss Army knives, and Swiss banks. And, of course, not being part of World War 2.

Geographic Location

Switzerland is a relatively small country located near Central Europe. It borders France to the west, Germany to the north, Austria and Liechtenstein to the east, and Italy to the south, essentially being a landlocked country.

Even though the country's landlocked, its lakes also offer gorgeous beaches in various locations in the country that have seaside feels to it, which will make driving in Switzerland seem like paradise.

You’ll experience four major climates in this country. From the west, you’ll feel the mild and moist air. In the North, you’ll feel the dry and cooler air. From the east comes the warm air, which you can feel during summer, and dry colder air during the winter season. The warm and moist air can be felt northward, which comes from the Mediterranean.

Languages Spoken

There is no "Swiss language." Due to the ethnicities in Switzerland, the four official languages of Switzerland comprise German, French, Italian, and Romansh. Since the country is basically the result of the cantons' agreement to unite, the languages of each ethnicity depend on their geographic positions and the countries closest to them.

Land Area

Formerly known as Helvetia (some people still use this name for good old times), Switzerland has an area of 41,285 km. It extends 220 km from north to south and 350 km from west to east.

It is known for its mountainous landmass with the famous Swiss Alps in the south and Jura Mountains near the border with France in the northwest. At the center of these two landscapes lies another: the Swiss Plateau, or the Central Plateau, which covers around 30 percent of the country's land area. Rolling hills, plains, and large lakes shaped by ice age glaciers occupy this region.

History

The country of Switzerland used to be under the Roman Empire from the 1st century BC until the 4th century AD. Many of its main cities were linked to military roads making the country a flourishing one. Following that, German tribes and the French also ruled the country. And in 2002, Switzerland became a member of the United Nations.

Government

The Sovereign of Switzerland is a federal state composed of the 26 cantons with broad autonomy, which have chosen to enter into an alliance. The Swiss Federal Government shares power with the Cantonal governments and the country's over 2,000 Communes. Commune, also known as a municipality, is the smallest political entity in Switzerland.

The seven-member Swiss Federal Council oversees the executive branch, with each member acting as head of the administration department. Switzerland doesn't have a full-time president since the functions of a president are already assumed by one or all of the council members. But every year, a member of the council is elected federal president, with very limited special powers.

Simonetta Sommaruga is the swiss president for 2020. Switzerland also has a Bicameral Parliament (two legislative chambers) called the federal assembly, composed of the council of states and the national council. There’s also the federal supreme court, which hears appeals of cantonal courts or edicts of the federal government.

Tourism

Besides its scenic natural surroundings and abundant culture, the country offers a certain feeling of safety to its visitors. In 2019, Switzerland ranked 2nd place in the Global Finance ranking of the safest countries in the world, which means the chances of you being mugged there is much less.

Why won't tourists love Switzerland? Although relatively small compared to other European countries and surrounded by tourism powerhouses like France and Italy, Switzerland has its own arsenal to boast of.

Switzerland also offers cultural diversity to tourists, who may feel they're already visiting another country. One of its notable cities, Geneva, is home to 190 nationalities alone.

International Driver’s Permit FAQs

You have many options for going to Switzerland and exploring it. Tourists usually hitchhike, go with tour groups, and use public transportation to get in and around the country. However, driving in Switzerland, alone or with someone, can be more adventurous and manageable since you can follow your itinerary to the letter.

Do you need a foreign driving license in Switzerland? If you're interested in driving in Switzerland, it's recommendable that you have a valid International Driver's Permit together with the appropriate driving license from your country. With an IDP, you can be at ease while enjoying your driving trip in the country without restriction since getting a driving license in Switzerland is much work.

Carrying an International Driver's License in Switzerland also offers you options to travel to nearby countries. If you want to do some country-hopping or cross-country partying or anything you wanted to do more, make sure to have an IDP. If you want to know more, read further!

Is a Local Driver's License Valid in Switzerland?

The country's transportation ordinance reads that foreign tourists need either a valid national, foreign, or International Driving Permit to drive in Switzerland. This entitles holders to drive all categories of vehicles that their licenses allow them to. If you’re driving in Switzerland with a US license, you’re good. It’s highly recommendable still to have an International Driving Permit.

Tourists with any valid type of driving license in Switzerland can drive in the country for a year without an international permit. But, it is only allowed if their license is either translated into German, French, Italian, or English. Suppose your country's driving permit isn't in any of those languages, it's highly recommended that you acquire an IDP to be able to drive in Switzerland.

Having an IDP gets rid of worries since it serves as a translation of your original license. For example, if you’re carrying a Serbian driving license in Switzerland, you may have to get an IDP due to language barriers. Driving in Switzerland with a foreign license is okay as long as it’s in any of the country’s four languages.

Is an International Driver’s Permit Required in Switzerland?

You'll need an IDP to drive in Switzerland if your original driver's license is not in German, French, Italian, or Romansh. This goes for licenses from China, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and other countries that have their licenses in their native language that are not the four languages of Switzerland.

As mentioned before, an International Driving License will serve as a translation for your native permit, which you also need to bring with you to drive in the country. An IDP will be convenient for you, especially when crossing borders in Europe. If you’re from Europe, an E.U. driving license in Switzerland is allowed. An IDP is also perfect even for a one-time drive.

How Do I Get an International Driving Permit in Switzerland?

Ready for an International Driving License in Switzerland? Then visit the International Drivers Association’s application page and choose an IDP package.

Here are the requirements for your application:

  • Valid Government Issued Driver’s License
  • Passport size image of yourself
  • Passport Copy (if needed)

You don’t need to take a driving test in Switzerland if you’re wondering. As long as your original driving license is valid, you’re good. Taking a driving test in Switzerland is only needed if you’re applying for a Swiss license.

Applying for an IDP is fast and easy, visit our International Drivers’ Association website page, This is more practical than getting a driving license in Switzerland. Tourists and other travelers apply for an IDP, usually weeks or months before taking their trip abroad.

If you're ready to have an IDP, you can download your digital copy and print it in just two hours! Bringing an International Driving License in Switzerland will be worth it.

How Long is an International Driver’s Permit Valid in Switzerland?

The validity of your international permit depends on your request or application and its price. But according to the Convention on Road Traffic, which is the 1968 international treaty that established standard global traffic rules, an IDP must not be substantial for more than three years. The most expanded international permit application bundle you can profit from is just three years. You can, however, also avail of one-year and two-year packages.

Picking the validity period of your IDP relies on you. However, a one-year IDP is more practical if you plan to stay for months in Switzerland. This way, you can maximize its use because International Driving Permit in Switzerland is valid for up to a year.

Does an IDP Replace Your Native Driver’s License?

It doesn't necessarily replace your native license but carrying an international permit can come in handy. If you're faced with unexpected developments, like being involved in a minor accident while driving in Switzerland, your IDP from the International Drivers Association can help you with local law enforcement, making it a lot simpler to coordinate with authorities during your outing.

If you think about it, carrying an International Driving License in Switzerland also assures you of worry-free travel, not just in the country, but in nearby countries if you plan to wander in Europe by car. With an IDP, you're guaranteed to drive unrestricted during your trip, as long as you also have your native driving license with you.

Do you need a foreign driving license in Switzerland? If you’re carrying a Serbian license in Switzerland, for example, presenting an IDP along with it to local authorities will help your coordination with them. Driving in Switzerland with a foreign license is allowable if it’s either in German, French, Italian, or Romansh.

Renting a Car in Switzerland

Want to experience what driving in the country feels like? Do you desire to see and enjoy glancing at beautiful mountains and spectacular lakes while driving? Do you want to experience the best driving roads in Switzerland or be able to visit its world-class attractions, cities of great renown, and villages with abundant culture? You need to have a car first. Although there are excellent trains in the country, the expensive train fare might get you considering renting a car instead of taking public transport.

Since you likely won't haul your own car from home to another country, renting one is practical and easy. Renting a car in Switzerland is actually a popular choice among tourists and traveling business people because not only can you revel in the country's natural beauty, you explore at your own pace. Read further for information on renting a car in Switzerland.

Car Rental Companies

You need to figure out first where to rent a car that will fit your budget and choice of vehicle. It's advisable to search and pre-book online since it can save you some time and enable you to get some of the best offers that can save money in your pocket. Online booking allows you to compare rates of car rental companies in your preferred pick-up location.

There are also hundreds of car rental companies you can go to after arriving in Switzerland. You can have car finder searches online to choose your car rental supplier. You can find most of their pick-up locations at the country's airports and railway stations, while some of them are located in town and city districts. Here are some car rental agencies in Switzerland you can pick from:

  • Edel & Stark
  • Avis
  • Elite Rent-a-Car
  • Sixt
  • Europcar
  • Enterprise
  • Nomadcar

Documents Required

You ought to carry important and appropriate documents with you when renting a car. Be sure to check first with the rental agency's website before booking.

Here are some standard prerequisites to rent a car:

  • Valid driver’s license
  • IDP
  • Passport
  • International Debit or Credit Card

When booking online, you may simply upload pictures of your driver's permit, IDP, and your passport's ID page.

Vehicle Types

Car rental agencies in the country provide different types of vehicles to suit your needs (or craving). You may notice rental companies offer various vehicle specifications, such as seating capacity and car size. You should choose a vehicle that will be helpful during your journey.

With a minimal budget and luggage, you can rent:

  • Mini car
  • Economy car
  • Standard car

The following car will suit you if you have one up to four companions. They’re fuel-efficient and great for short trips, including a sojourn to nearby cities and towns. The ease of use of smaller cars are perfect when you pass roads that are narrow.

  • Minivans
  • Full-size SUVs
  • Full-size vans

If you're on a business trip to Switzerland and want to drive in style, there are luxury car rental agencies you can choose from that offer eye-popping car models, like Mercedes C Class, Audi Q5 Quattro, and Porsche 911 Carrera. Driving in Switzerland with a top-of-the-line car can make your day and a tale worth telling.

Car Rental Cost

In Switzerland, car rental rates depend on the type of vehicle, its seating capacity, and rental period. Rates also differ on the payment method. Economy car rental’s price range starts at $16 a day while renting a compact will cost you at least $21 a day.

Here are other starting prices of different types of vehicles on a daily period:

  • Standard car - $33
  • SUV - $43
  • Passenger van - $44
  • Minivan - $57
  • Luxury car - $53
  • Luxury station wagon - $88
  • Convertible - $1,859

Extra fees may apply for insurance coverage and other charges.

Age Requirements

The driving age requirement in Switzerland is at least 18 years old to drive motorbikes and cars. However, an adjustment in the law will permit young people to get a temporary permit at 17 years old starting January 1, 2021. You must be at least 21 years of age to drive a bus or other big vehicles in Switzerland.

Driving at 16 or even 14 is allowed in specific cases, such as small mopeds and bikes, as well as operating farm vehicles. If you are under the minimum age limit depending on the type of vehicle, you can't drive in Switzerland regardless of whether you can at home.

Car Insurance Cost

Third-party insurance is required by law and is included in all rentals in Switzerland, meaning you are covered for injury and damage to other people. This can cancel out or limit deductibles related to these insurances, as it offers up to $1,800,000 insurance coverage if damage or injury to people or property occurs outside of the rental vehicle.

You can extend the coverage to be completely comprehensive, including in cases of robbery and harm while your car is parked and other lawful expenses.

Car Insurance Policy

You need to sign a Collision Damage Waiver to release you from the liability arising from collision damages. For example, if you’re driving in Switzerland and a truck comes out of nowhere and slams into your car, the rental company can’t ask you to pay for the damages incurred unless the broken parts are not included in the waiver. The waiver will usually state the items covered in the rental insurance in case of damage.

You can also purchase additional insurance coverage like Personal Accident Insurance for precaution in case you sustain an injury inside your car.

For total peace of mind, you can also buy theft insurance. For example, you parked your rental car outside a shop in Zurich, but it was stolen. In that event, the car rental agency will replace your vehicle.

You can also purchase additional insurance to cover your personal belongings you left in your stolen rental car. If you have receipts of these belongings, it can help you prove they were in the car when it was stolen. If you're driving beyond the Swiss border, ask your insurance company if you're still covered.

Switzerland Photo by Laura Cros

Road Rules in Switzerland

Visiting another country somehow requires tourists and other travelers to know its own laws. This not-written requirement applies, especially to driving rules and regulations.

Switzerland has won multiple awards for having the safest roads in Europe, a continent known for including looking after its thoroughfares as one of its top priorities. You can just imagine how safe Switzerland's roads are before visiting there. Read further to familiarize yourself with the driving rules in Switzerland.

Important Regulations

Having important road regulations help tourists to have a wonderful experience if they should drive in that country, and at the same time, stay away from unnecessary fines and penalties.

Switzerland is no exception to this. If you plan on driving in the country, you'll see its geographic variety requires adjusting to a scope of conditions, from motorways and little mountain streets to the best driving roads in Switzerland.

Do Not Drive Without A Driver’s License in Switzerland

Of course, those who don't have a valid license are not permitted to drive in Switzerland. Without one, it's just not possible to drive in the country. For you to have permission to drive in Switzerland, a driver’s license with an international driver’s permit is required. Bring this with you at all times to avoid having problems in your journey.

Driving Under the Influence

Like most countries, Driving Under the Influence (DUI) of alcohol is strictly prohibited. All drivers, whether professional or new, are subject to this rule. For your sake and other motorists and pedestrians, it's highly recommended not to drink at all when you intend to drive. Beware, if you get caught driving while drunk, you face heavy penalties under the driving rules in Switzerland.

If you're caught with 0.25 to 0.39 milliliters of alcohol per liter (ml per liter) of exhaled air (or 0.5 to 0.79 grams of alcohol per kilogram of blood), you will be warned and heavily fined for your first offense. Drivers that are breaking other rules or causing an accident caught with these alcohol levels will likely lose their license for at least a month. That goes for the drivers who have repeated DUI in 2 years.

Drivers caught with 0.4 or more ml per liter of alcohol in their breath have a chance of losing their license on the spot for at least three months! Worse, they will be slapped with fines and face a prison term of up to three years. Penalties vary, depending on the violator's income and wealth.

Do Not Text and Drive

The needless use of mobile phoneswhile driving is prohibited in Switzerland. Always concentrate on the road. Keep your music volume low so you'll be able to hear clearly and avoid distractions. Try not to entertain text messages or phone calls as it's illegal to use a mobile phone, except for hands-free units, while driving.

Always Turn Your Headlights On

This may be new to you, but you should have your headlights on regardless if the sun's out or not. This is mandatory for all cars in motion in Switzerland.

Wear Seatbelts While Driving

Seat belts are mandated for all passengers. If you are bringing children under 12 years old, they are required to have a special seat if they're under 150 cm (4'9 feet) tall. The seats should be suited for their age and weight and carry an official security label that certifies it's effective to use it.

Kids more than 150 cm tall and more than 12 years old must wear a safety belt. Seats with pelvic restraints, usually used by older cars and minibusses, only children up to 7 years old must be secure utilizing a child security seat. Children are permitted to sit in the front seat, regardless of their age.

Penalties for Disobedience of the Law

Penalties for violating the Swiss traffic laws vary. But, penalties could include impounding of your vehicle, confiscation of license or permanent loss of license, and up to four years in prison.

General Standards of Driving

Swiss drivers are very cautious when it comes to driving on the roads, making the country one of the safest to drive in. You’ll also be seeing both automatic and manual cars on the country’s roads since the vehicles that they use depend on the skills they have.

Speed Limits

Speed limits in Switzerland depend on the location. For residential areas, the speed limit is 30 kph. Towns and cities in the country require drivers to drive 60 kph and slower. Since there are more people and cars in these areas, you should avoid speeding up. Road rage is strictly prohibited in the country. The use of radar detectors is also illegal in Switzerland.

When on country roads, be sure to drive at a speed just up to 80 kph and below. You can speed up to 100 kph on expressways and 120 kph in Switzerland. However, it's for your benefit to drive slowly as you're allowed to on all roads in the country since you'll be able to enjoy the spectacular scenery of Switzerland more.

Driving Directions

Like most countries worldwide, road users drive on the right-hand side in Switzerland. If you're from a left-hand traffic country like the UK, you need to adjust driving a car with the steering wheel on the right. Be aware when approaching crosswalks, since pedestrians are prioritized here. Sometimes they step onto the road unexpectedly.

Traffic Road Signs

Traffic road signs are available in Switzerland to guide each driver. Most road signs are similar to those in other countries and are at the very least clear enough for all drivers. Thoroughfares are well signed throughout Switzerland. When driving into a city, signs lead you easily to town centers, public transportation hubs, hotels, and main points of interest.

Traffic lights in Switzerland is similar to most countries. If you see a flashing amber light, this means proceed with caution through the intersection. Flashing amber light does not mean stop. Driving directions can be an issue, however, in case you're bad at directions. Focusing on normal traffic street signs is fundamental to avoid losing direction, overstepping any traffic law, or being entangled in a mishap.

Right of Way

When driving in a town, city, or village in Switzerland, the right of way at an intersection is automatically given also to the vehicle on the right unless indicated by a priority sign according to Swiss traffic laws. This also applies in the case of a small side or secondary road entering a major main road.

If in doubt, always give way to the right. Drivers in Switzerland should always prioritize emergency service vehicles, such as police, ambulance, or fire services, and public transportation such as trams and buses.

If your vehicle is joining from the right at a traffic circle or a roundabout, the car that is already inside the circle has the right of way. On hill roads, the traffic going uphill has priority over the one driving downhill. Pedestrians also have the right of way at black and white striped pedestrian lanes.

There are also age limitations for drivers. As mentioned, you should be at least 18 years old to drive a car or a motorcycle, but at least 21 years old to drive a bus or really big vehicles.

Laws on Overtaking

There are basic rules about overtaking in Switzerland. Always drive in the right-hand lane, even on three-lane thoroughfares, and only use the left-hand or middle lane to overtake. Before changing lanes, make sure there's enough room to maneuver and watch for vehicles in your blind spot. Indicate well in advance whenever you change lanes so other drivers know your intent.

Driving Etiquette in Switzerland

Besides traffic rules and customs, there are other things to know about driving in Switzerland. You will experience challenges and issues occasionally while you're in Switzerland, like other countries you may have visited. Since you're out and about often in the country, anticipate that there will be minor or major car issues. Of course, there will also be times when you have to ask locals for directions to your destination.

Always make sure to be polite and well-mannered along these lines. Besides English, you can try talking to them using German, French, Italian, or even Romansh if you know it, especially if you're in a district where that particular language is being used. Locals will appreciate your endeavor to speak with them. Driving in Switzerland for tourists has always been a gratifying feeling.

Car Breakdown

You have to prepare for the possibility your car will break down in the middle of the driving in Switzerland. It can be disconcerting, especially if you're just beginning your trip. But don't lose it. Keep calm and call for help. Here's something to follow in case of car failure:

  1. Slow down and park at the side of the road.
    When your car begins to show signs of engine trouble or your tires went flat, don't stop immediately. Gradually slow down with your hazards lights on, which will tell other drivers you've got car trouble. Slowly pull to the side of the road and park at the farthest side so you'll not bother the traffic. Keep the hazard lights on even if the engine's not running anymore.
    Before leaving the vehicle, wear your fluorescent vest. These vests can flag approaching vehicles you stopped due to vehicle inconvenience. In Switzerland, the vest is mandatory in each vehicle, especially when you're crossing borders. In case you're renting a car, ensure that the car rental agency included mandatory equipment in your lease.
  2. Bring out the hazard sign.
    Bring out the red warning triangle and place it behind the car, on the side of the traffic lane, to warn approaching vehicles. The triangle signals other drivers that there's car trouble, which will prompt them to slow down. If you call a mechanic or tow services, they'll be able to find you more easily.
    Be careful when you have a warning triangle in the car in Switzerland. You can't just throw it in the trunk of your vehicle, you should always have with it you in the cabin. As you can see, the country pays attention to security precautions very seriously.
  3. Turn car wheels away from the road.
    While parked and waiting for help, remember to turn your car wheels away from the road, so if the hand brakes fail, the vehicle won't move towards oncoming traffic.
  4. Contact your car rental provider.
    Call your car rental agency for assistance when everything settles down. If you bought a roadside support package, wait for help to arrive. Nonetheless, you should inform the rental company about the breakdown even if you didn't purchase any support package. Likewise, also ask assistance from the rental agency in searching for car services near your vicinity.
  5. Ask help from the locals.
    You may be scared to ask for help from locals after watching too many slasher movies. But it's Switzerland, and you can ask help from residents nearby to assist you. Be polite when speaking with them. In any case, still, advise your car rental agency that you need assistance.

Police Stops

You may experience being pulled over by the police in Switzerland if due to an unintentional traffic violation, misunderstanding, or ignorance. Whatever it is, cooperate with local authorities. When you get pulled over, here's what you should do:

  1. Slowly move to the roadside.
  2. Turn on your hazard lights to signal oncoming vehicles to slow down.
  3. Present necessary documents like a passport, driver's license, and IDP.
  4. Sit tight for the police's directions.
  5. Cooperate if they need to talk to you at the precinct.

Asking Directions

Although you can get to your destination with a road map, it's still advisable to ask locals for directions. Asking for directions in Switzerland can be hard, especially if you don't speak German, French, Italian, Romansh in the country. You can first talk to them in English, and if they don't understand you, ask them in their language. Here are some basic words or phrases to help you with:

HI!

  • Grüezi (German)
  • Salut (French)
  • Ciao (Italian)
  • Tgau (Romansh)

Good morning!

  • Guten Morgen (German)
  • Bonjour (French)
  • Buon giorno (Italian)
  • Bien di (Romansh)

Good evening!

  • Guten Abend (German)
  • Bonsoir (French)
  • Buona sera (Italian)
  • Buna sera (Romansh)

Thanks

  • Danke (German)
  • Merci (French)
  • Grazie (Italian)
  • Engraziel (Romansh)

Where is the nearest hotel/restaurant, please?

  • Wo ist das nächste Restaurant/Hotel, bitte? (German)
  • Où est le restaurant / hôtel le plus proche, s'il vous plaît? (French)
  • Dove è il ristorante / l'hotel più vicino, per favore? (Italian)
  • Nua ei il restorant / hotel il pli maneivel? (Romansh)

How far is it to the airport?

  • Wie weit ist es zum Flugplatz? (German)
  • A quelle distance se trouve l'aéroport? (French)
  • Quant'è distante l'aeroporto? (Italian)
  • Con lunsch eis ei agl eroport? (Romansh)

My car broke down. Can you help?

  • Mein Auto ist kaputt, können Sie mir helfen? (German)
  • Ma voiture est tombée dans une panne, pourriez-vous m'aider? (French)
  • L'automobile s'è rotta, può aiutarmi? (Italian)
  • Miu auto ei en panna, saveis vus gidar mei? (Romansh)

Checkpoints

You need a valid travel document like a passport or government-issued ID card from your native country to enter Switzerland. Foreign nationals need a visa in certain cases.

When passing border patrols, please remember to observe proper etiquette. Greet the border patrols and whole-heartedly show them all necessary documents. Answer all of their questions, and be calm and courteous when doing so. If you have trouble communicating, get your phone and let it translate for you. If they ask to inspect your car, accept their request.

Other Tips

Be sure to park only on allowed spots after arriving at your destination. Even if Switzerland is ranked among the safest countries worldwide, it's still advisable to park in well-lit areas, especially at night. Always follow the rules regarding traffic lights.

You’ll also find parking meters, car parks, and parking garages. Pay attention to parking rates to avoid being unsettled with your parking fees. Bring your valuables with you and secure your vehicle before leaving. Parking is sometimes free at night and lunchtime.

Driving Conditions in Switzerland

Driving in Switzerland isn't much different from driving in other European countries. Since Switzerland is small and at least 8 million individuals move around in the country, gridlocks can be frequent, particularly in cities and on motorways. Driving too quick isn't so much of an alternative. However, this prompts street rage on occasion.

Road conditions are great overall. Switzerland is among the countries with the least vehicular accidents and its record speaks for itself. You’ll get to experience this, especially once you’re on one of the best driving roads in Switzerland. You'll pass roads with much scenery, which makes your driving experience great in this country.

Driving in the Alps can be very challenging since it's practically going up and down and around corners constantly. But driving in the Alps adds a touch of energy, as an excursion through the mountains could be that place to appreciate a car ride or motorbike.

Accident Statistics

In 2017, the recorded number of deaths on roads across Switzerland was the lowest in almost 80 years despite an increase in road transport over the past 40 years! Experts say improved car and infrastructure safety standards, as well as stricter regulations, were behind the decline in deaths related to road accidents.

This figure places Switzerland on the pedestal, even with several roads much smaller to other transport-safe countries in Europe.

Common Vehicles

Vehicles mostly used in Switzerland are similar to the ones you'll find in France and Germany, likely due to the proximity of these countries. You can pick a utility car or an SUV in case you're renting a vehicle. If you're bringing a large family with you, there are large SUVs and minivans to accommodate you.

During the winter, it's highly advisable that you rent SUVs and vehicles of similar size since the snow can grow to a height challenging enough for you to drive, especially on roads in the alpine regions.

Most car brands being used in Switzerland are products of their neighbors, like Volkswagen, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Renault, and Peugeot. If you want to have the ride of your life in Switzerland, you can rent luxury car brands like Jaguar and Porsche.

Toll Roads

While driving in Switzerland, it’s possible to encounter some toll roads along the way. This depends on where your destination is. Munt la schera Tunnel and the Grand St. Bernard Tunnel are the possible toll roads you may encounter during your trip.

Grand St. Bernard Tunnel costs CHF 27 during weekends and CHF 22 during weekdays. Munt la schera Tunnel costs CHF 16 during the daytime and CHF 18 from 8 pm to 8 am.

Road Situation

Some of the most wonderful yet hair-raising roads on the planet can be found in Switzerland. The country has great road conditions so it's guaranteed you'll have a great driving experience here. Tourists and other guests will be dazzled by the surprising design of the country's roads and bridges, especially in elevated districts and Alpine pass regions. The main goal of the Swiss tourism industry is to make your experience safe and memorable.

Most major roads, if not all, are consistently cleared of snow especially in places with heavy traffic. As mentioned, snow tires are highly recommended but not mandatory. Road signs however will tell you when they become obligatory. At that point when you see the sign "Ketten obligatorisch" (Chains obligatory), you need to fasten the chains or risk being slapped with a fine.

Pay attention to the temperature and weather if you're on a trip longer than usual in Switzerland. Snow in high regions, even in summer, can shut down roads and passes for more than a few hours for safety purposes.

Driving Culture

Swiss Roads are one of the safest in the world, so you have nothing to worry about. Know that Swiss people are careful in driving and you should too! This for the safety of everyone, including yourself.

Things To Do in Switzerland

After visiting Switzerland, you might think of residing in the country. Due to high-quality life, multiple job opportunities, education, excellent health care, Switzerland is an exceptionally popular country for aspiring immigrants. In 2018, more than 140,000 individuals moved to Switzerland in general from all over the world.

Drive as a Tourist

You can drive in Switzerland to your heart’s content. Driving could also be the best choice you’ll ever make when visiting the country. Having the time to go wherever and whenever you want is freedom that it could provide. Plus, driving through the beautiful roads in the country is an experience you should never miss!

Work as a Driver

If you loved driving in Switzerland and want to use this as an opportunity to earn, you can definitely do that! Although you must first have a working visa. Switzerland’s work visa is for foreigners who want to take up work as employees. You should have a work contract with a Swiss employer before you can apply.

Work as a Travel Guide

Another job you might consider in this beautiful country is the travel guide. This way, you’ll be able to see the beautiful spots in the country and share its history with other foreign nationals! But, just like working as a driver, you need a Working visa to work here. This is issued to foreigners who move to Switzerland to work in a specific job or company.

Apply for Residency

If you want to work in Switzerland, you should have a residence permit to legally stay in the country. To apply for residency in Switzerland, you can follow these steps:

  • Get a work visa, study visa, or family visa in Switzerland
  • Apply for the appropriate residence permit
  • Request for Swiss C Residence Permit or the Permanent Residence Permit)

People usually immigrate to Switzerland to work, study or join a loved one. But before you immigrate, you have to apply for the required visa. Every visa has its conditions, restrictions, and requirements. The next step towards immigrating to Switzerland after receiving your Swiss long-stay visa is getting your residence permit.

Even from the European Union (EU)/ European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries, all foreigners must apply for a residence permit if they want to move to Switzerland. You must apply for a residence permit at the immigration office of the canton or district you want to reside in. As mentioned, Switzerland has 26 who are responsible for issuing residence permits and work authorization to immigrants.

Within 14 days of entering Switzerland, you should apply for a residence permit. Immigrants who usually want to move to Switzerland for the first time will be issued one of the residence permits.

Other Things to Do

Aside from working as a driver and travel guide, you can look for other job offers you can take in Switzerland. There are many job offers in Switzerland, and mostly it will depend on your skills. Just make sure to have a working visa and have a work contract with a Swiss employer before you can apply.

The Top Destinations in Switzerland

Due to its beguiling natural landscape and interesting towns overflowing with alluring culture, it's hard to steal the spotlight from Switzerland when it comes to tourism in central Europe.

The snow-covered pinnacles of the Alps, sparkling lakes, majestic valleys, glorious ice sheets, and pleasant lakeside villages pervade this country like a fantasy marvel. Amid the mountain valleys and lakes lie A-list hotels and vigorous activities, including climbing, trekking, cycling, paragliding, skiing, and sledding.

You can drive there with your rental car to experience all the country has to offer, and make memories for a lifetime.

Matterhorn-Switzerland Phot by MarekUsz

Matterhorn

This majestic peak is almost always at the top of tourists' lists of places to visit in Switzerland. And there are definitely good reasons for that. Located near Zermatt, the pyramid-shaped Matterhorn is one of the highest mountains in the Alps and one of the most impressive in Europe. Maybe you've seen this before, like on a bar of that famous chocolate, Toblerone?

Due to its astonishing height at 4,478 meters, thrill-seeking hikers and mountaineers worldwide visit Switzerland attempting to reach the mountain's summit. If you're not that of a thrill-seeker, you can ride a cable car that goes all the way up and still sees the view from above.

Zermatt is car-free, but you can drive to Täsch in the Visp district and take a train from there. Drivers park their private and rental cars in a convenient parking garage in Täsch. There are shuttle trains every 20 minutes in each direction between Täsch and Zermatt. If you're driving from Montreux, you'll be able to reach Zermatt in less than 2 hours.

Driving Directions:

  1. Get on A9 in Rennaz. Head southeast on Avenue du Casino/Route 9 toward Rue du Quai, then use the right lane to take the ramp to Simplon/Gd-St-Bernard. Merge onto A9.
  2. Follow Route 9 to A9 in Leuk.
  3. Follow A9 to Kantonsstrasse/Route 9 in Turtmann. Take exit 31-Gampel-Steg from A9.
  4. Continue on Kantonsstrasse/Route 9. Take Kantonstrasse, Talstrasse and Breitmatten to Neue Kantonsstrasse in Täsch.

Things to Do

Here are the things that you could do in Matterhorn:

  1. Experience World-Class at Matterhorn
    The lovely Zermatt town lies at the foot of Matterhorn, where a world-class resort with horse-drawn carriages, lovely cottages, and A-list restaurant and hotels are located.
    You will be able to taste culinary perfection among the numerous Gault Millau or Michelin gourmet joints, satisfying yourself in mountain cafés and restaurants while appreciating the view in Zermatt.
    The gourmet capital of the Alps, Zermatt boasts of many restaurants offering award-winning cuisine. They use reliably fresh and high-quality ingredients, and with their skillful preparation, you get to taste novel and exquisite dishes.
  2. Shop for Souvenirs at Matterhorn
    Besides sightseeing and outdoor activities, Zermatt is also a marvelous place to shop. The town offers souvenirs, luxury items, fashion wear. You can also buy from its grocery stores which have many items to offer.
  3. Enjoy the View From the Mountain Top
    One of the extraordinary things you can do in Matterhorn is to ride a cable car going to the top of the mountain. You can take lots of pictures that will serve as souvenirs once you return to your home country.
Jungfraujoch-Switzerland Photo by CAHKT

Jungfraujoch

Labeled "the Top of Europe", Jungfraujoch is one of Switzerland’s best and highest tourist destinations. With an elevation of 3,454 meters, it's a beautiful viewing point in the Bernese Alps and also known as Europe's highest train station. The longest glacier in Europe, the Great Aletsch Glacier, also starts at this Alpine beauty which is technically a glacier saddle between two mountains.

There's plenty of activities if you decide to visit, like mountain climbing, sledding and much more. You'd also want to visit Ice Palace, a destination every Frozen fan would want to see. You can also see the scenery of Jungfraujoch through the air on its popular zip-line.

If you decide to travel by car from Bern, you can park close to the rail station at Interlaken Ost or Lauterbrunnen and take the train from there to Jungfraujoch.

Driving Directions

  1. Get on A6 in Kirchenfeld-Schosshalde from Grosser Muristalden, Muristrasse and Ostring/Route 6.
  2. Traverse A6 until Spiez.
  3. A8 turns slightly right and becomes Route 11/Route 6. After that, continue onto A8.
  4. Follow Route 11/Route 6 to Untere Bönigstrasse in Interlaken.

Things to Do

Here are things that you can do at one of Switzerland’s best and highest tourist destinations:

  1. Don't Miss The Sphinx Observatory
    For sightseeing, visit the Sphinx Observatory, which is an observation terrace and astronomical observatory at an eye-popping elevation of 3,000 meters.
  2. Try The Restaurants At Jungfraujoch
    There are multiple restaurants in the Winterland you can choose from. At Jungfraujoch, you'll be able to find what you want exactly to eat. Whether you're just craving for a quick grub or seeking to gorge on fine cuisine, Jungfraujoch cafe and restaurants will always accommodate you. You can choose from a variety of Swiss specialties and worldwide delicacies.
  3. Buy Snow Globes At Jungfraujoch
    There are souvenir shops on Jungfraujoch. Since you can't take home a block of the mountains, you can resort to buying from a wide range of clothing, watches, adornments, and hand-carved wooden figures and snow globes. If you're from a tropical country and the mountain air's too much for you in Jungfraujoch, you can buy caps, hats, and gloves.
Château de Chillon-Switzerland Photo by Kisa_Markiza

Château de Chillon

If you like to visit historical monuments, you've got yourself a treat in Château de Chillon, a medieval castle on an island in Lake Geneva near the popular town of Montreux. The medieval water fort comprises around 25 buildings with three courtyards. Inside, you'll be mesmerized with its great halls, underground and weapons rooms, and chapel with 14th-century paintings.

Outside the buildings but still, in the castle compound, you'll be spoiled with the magnificent views of Lake Geneva. Getting to Chateau de Chillon is easy by car. The castle is in the south of Montreux and north of Villeneuve, making these towns the center points for arriving at Chillon from other parts of Switzerland. The medieval fort is right next to the lakeside road linking Montreux and Villeneuve.

The Autoroute A9 passes above Chateau de Chillon, so you can use the Montreux or Villeneuve exit when you're driving from Geneva. You can reach the castle from Geneva in under an hour and a half.

Driving Directions

  1. Get on A1a in Pregny-Chambésy from Route 1 and Route de Lausanne.
  2. Follow A1 and A9/E62 to Route du Simplon/Route 9 in Rennaz. Take exit 16-Villeneuve from A9/E62.
  3. Merge onto Route du Simplon/Route 9.

Things to Do

Here are the thing to enjoy at Château de Chillon:

  1. Treat Yourself in Château de Chillon
    A 10th-century stronghold, it housed wealthy nobles when the castle rooms were filled with all kinds of art and treasures, which you can see for yourself. If you're a literary writer, you'd be interested to know that poets like Lord Byron, Jean Jacques Rousseau, and Victor Hugo wrote about Château de Chillon.
  2. Enjoy your meal at Château de Chillon
    You can enjoy a meal after memorable sightseeing at Château de Chillon. In the dazzling, lakeside town of Montreux, you can relax and satisfy yourself in refined cafes and restaurants that are a treat for the senses. From local to Michelin-class, you'll be able to pick exquisite dishes ranging from traditional Swiss cuisine to international delicacies.
  3. Visit Freddie Mercury’s Statue:
    Freddie Mercury is a famous artist, and for sure, you are familiar with his music. If you are a big fan of Freddie Mercury, feel free to stop by his statue and take a picture with it.

Lake Geneva

Lake Geneva is one of the most beautiful places in Switzerland and Europe's largest Alpine lake. Extending from Geneva in the west to Lausanne in the east, the lake laps at some of the shores of Switzerland's famous cities and towns, including Montreux, as mentioned. Parks, gardens, and boardwalks encompass the lake, and there’s just much to visit in the surrounding region.

If you just want to chill, you can just sit by the shoreline and take in the beauty of Lake Geneva. You may also be fascinated by the Jet d'Eau, a fountain in the lake shooting water over 100 meters into the air. Taking the perfect Jet d'Eau photo will be perfect for Instagram!

If you're driving from Bern, it'll take you just a little over an hour to reach the Lake Geneva region.

Driving Directions

  1. Take Schüttestrasse, Hodlerstrasse and Route 1/Route 12 to Tiefenaustrasse in Länggasse-Felsenau.
  2. Follow A1/E25 to Avenue des Figuiers in Lausanne.
  3. Continue on Avenue des Figuiers. Take Avenue du Mont-d'Or, Avenue Marc-Dufour and Avenue Jules Gonin to Rue du Grand-Chêne.
  4. At the roundabout, take the 2nd exit onto Avenue des Figuiers heading to Lausanne-Ouchy/Lausanne-Maladière/Vevey.

Things To Do

Enjoy fun activities in Lake Geneva with your friends or family. Below is a list of activities you can do in Lake Geneva,

  1. Experience Water Activities in Lake Geneva
    There's plenty of activities if you decide to visit, such as windsurfing, water skiing, and kayaking. This is perfect for you if you love water activities and wouldn't want to miss one in Lake Geneva!
  2. Watch Theater Plays
    If you are a person who has a passion for music and arts, you can drop by the nearby Opera House and the Grand Théâtre and watch international plays. If you're more of a cultural person, try to visit the local wines and vineyards, this will let you experience the local wines of Switzerland.
  3. Dine at Lake Geneva
    The dining scene by the lake is remarkable as you'll discover a heap of cafés and restaurants that offer mouth-watering dishes and refreshments. From steakhouses and seafood to pizza joints and local cuisine, you can choose from a wide range of establishments by the lakeside.
    Visiting Lake Geneva can work up an appetite, and eating by the Alpine lake will fully satisfy you, body, and mind.

Bern

Many think that Geneva or Zurich for the capital of Switzerland. The Swiss capital is Bern which is a medieval town. Bern has many tourist attractions, including the tallest cathedral in Switzerland, 16th-century fountains, the Zytglogge medieval clock tower that's famous for its moving puppets. If you're a science geek, you can also visit the Albert Einstein Museum located in his old flat!

You can reach Bern easily by car, especially if you're coming from Geneva and Zurich. Provided you have a motorway vignette as mentioned, you can take the motorway links from Geneva and Zurich and travel less than two hours. You can take the Autoroute A1 from both cities.

You should park your car in one of Bern's 3,500 multistory parking garages before exploring the city. The old town is car-free like Zermatt. If you're driving from Zurich, you can reach the place in more or less in an hour and a half. If you have a driving license in Switzerland, Zurich is a good starting point.

Driving Directions

  1. From Zurich, get on A1H in Kreis 9 from Sihlquai, Hardturmstrasse and Route 1.
  2. Traverse A1 to Papiermühlestrasse/Route 6 in Breitenrain-Lorraine, Bern then take exit 37-Bern-Wankdorf from A6.
  3. Continue driving on Papiermühlestrasse/Route 6, before taking Aargauerstalden to Hotelgasse in Innere Stadt.

Things To Do

To enjoy and gather memories at Bern, here are some things you can do:

  1. Walk On Cobbled Streets In Bern
    Visiting it takes you back in time, no exaggeration. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it's one of the most enchanting places to visit in Switzerland. It's a stunning location on a peninsula of the River Aare, and the sight of it will give you a medieval charm. Walk on cobbled streets and explore the almost magical town.
  2. Shop At The Longest Covered Shopping Area in Europe
    For those who love to shop, Bern is the place! It has a stretch of six kilometers of shopping arcades, which locals call Lauben, making it the place where you’ll see one of the longest covered shopping areas in Europe. Even if you're just window shopping, you'll still be satisfied as Lauben has specialty stores, boutiques, galleries, and emporia filled with curiosities.
  3. Stay at an Igloo Hotel During Winter
    After a long day of doing different activities in Bern, staying at an igloo hotel would be the best decision for relaxation! You can also enjoy the spa and sauna that they have, whether you are with your partner or with your family.

These are just some of the top destinations in Switzerland you’ll love visiting and driving to. Before you set out to visit the attractions and witness the culture of Switzerland, you have to familiarize yourself with the dos and don’ts of the country.

Moreover, you need to be prepared for the essential documents when driving in Switzerland with a US license or as a tourist. Apply for an International Driving Permit now with the International Driver’s Association, and begin enjoying a hassle-free driving experience as a tourist!

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