Driving in Switzerland – Things to Know When Road Tripping in Switzerland
Switzerland is one of the best places to road trip. Between the incredible lakes, stunning mountain peaks, beautiful towns and villages, UNESCO World Heritage sites, and greenery along the way, there is always something to see out your window.
Driving though Switzerland is fun as the altitude changes as you crest and descend hills and mountains – so small yet so many beautiful places.
The roads and highways are incredibly safe and fantastic. It’s the best place I can imagine road tripping.
There’s only one downside – as the driver, you miss a lot of the beauty because you have to look at the road. If you can only road trip one country in Europe, then make it Switzerland.
Even though public transportation is amazing in this country, it is worth it to take a road trip and explore lovely Switzerland by car.
READ MORE: 7-Day itinerary for Switzerland
There are some requirements you need to be aware of before you start your Switzerland road trip. You must be 18 or older to drive in Switzerland, and your driver’s license must be in either English, German, Italian, or French.
Otherwise, it will need to be transferred. If you stay for more than 12 months, then you can use your own foreign driver’s license. Your license needs to be with you at all times, and you need to be insured.
It’s important to know the rules of the road when road tripping in Switzerland. The speed limit for motorways/freeways is 120 kph and highways are 100 kph. In the cities, the speed limit is 50 kph, in residential areas 30 kph, and in rural areas 80 kph.
There are signs that advise when to adjust your speed, and make sure that you heed them as there are speed cams everywhere and the tickets are expensive.
You will be driving on the right side of the street in Switzerland. Always yield right of way to public transportation and emergency vehicles. Be aware of pedestrians and cyclists as well, as they have right of way and sometimes step out into traffic unexpectedly.
Tip: If two vehicles meet on a narrow road going in opposite directions, then the ascending vehicle has the right of way.
If you are traveling with children, any that are younger than 18 months should be in a child safety seat; everyone else needs to use a seatbelt. You are required to drive with your lights on, even in the daytime.
Don’t drink and drive. In Switzerland, the maximum blood alcohol content while driving is 0.05%, which is lower than in many other European countries. If you are caught driving under the influence, you will be fined and your license will be revoked.
In Switzerland, you will need a toll sticker for the motorways. Though the most scenic roads in Switzerland are not actually off the motorways, you usually land up driving on them at some point, so get a sticker.
It costs about 40 Swiss francs and lasts from December to December (good for 14 months). If you rent a car, it will already have a sticker. You can buy one for your car at gas stations, online, or at the border.
You should get a parking disc as you may need it. Depending on the color of the zone in which you are parking, you can park for a certain amount of time at no charge. You can get parking discs at police stations, banks, or tourist offices.
Gas / Petrol
Gas stations are everywhere, but you’ll find that they are all self-service.
You can pay with your card and then pump your own gas. Petrol in Switzerland is quite expensive and prices vary greatly. The rates are some of the highest in Europe though. Surprisingly, diesel is more expensive than petrol here, unlike in Germany.
Parking in Switzerland can be a little tricky.
Always look for signs to tell you if you can or cannot park in a certain area, but as a rule of thumb, follow these color codes.
Yellow Zones: These are private or reserved for companies and may only be used by them or their clients and guests.
White zones: These are chargeable, and often numbered. There are parking meters sometimes, so check the number on the white line where you parked and input it into the meter to pay for the spot.
Areas with blue lines mean that parking from Monday untill Saturday from 8 am until 6 pm is free of charge for an hour with the blue parking disc (including EU parking disc). On Sundays and public holidays parking is free between the hours 7 pm in the evening and 7 am in the morning.
Red zones mean that you can park with a parking disc for up to 15 hours.
And yellow lines indicate that parking is forbidden.
Parking on main roads outside of towns is prohibited
Driving in Mountains
Switzerland is known for its mountains, so you will come across a lot of them while road tripping here. Driving in the mountains is not always easy, especially in the Italian part.
They drive faster and streets are narrower. Just remember that you need to drive on the right side of the road and yield right of way to all public transportation and emergency vehicles.
And sometimes you just have to stop and enjoy drastic skies like this one…
Tip: Don’t underestimate the distance from one place to another. On the narrow mountain roads, it can take much longer to get to places than you would expect. Plan in enough time for travel.
Extra Tip: Some mountain passes are closed in the winter because of snow, including my favorite – Susten Pass, which is only open from June to October.
Tunnels and Overlooks
There are a lot of tunnels in Switzerland as well.
The Gotthard Base Tunnel is the longest at 16.9 km (10.5 miles) and worth a visit. You’ll also come to a lot of scenic overlooks, so you can stop and enjoy the scenery (perfect when you’re the driver).
These are nice because you don’t need to worry about where to pull off and park. Just stop at one of these spots and enjoy the view.
Driving in Winter
Drilvng in Switzerland in summer is amazing and easy. And it is easy fr most of the time – however, keep in mind that snow is very common and driving might become a bit more challenging.
I have never driven myself in the winter but have experienced closed mountain passes in October – many mountain passes are closed in the winter.
Actually, they are even closed in fall and some even until June. So, keep in mind when planning your trip (as it will take even more time to drive in the winter).
Road tripping in Switzerland is quite an experience.
I hope these tips will make your trip – and especially driving in Switzerland – easier and more enjoyable. Once you know how to travel by car in Switzerland, you can focus on the lovely scenery, charming towns and cities, and breathtaking lakes and mountains that the country is known for.
There will be a road trip itinerary very soon, so be sure to check out my blog regularly!
Here are more travel tips you should read before planning your trip to Switzerland.
Check out the best places to visit in Switzerland in 10 days