DRIVING TIPS FOR SWITZERLAND
- 1 DRIVING TIPS FOR SWITZERLAND
- 2 REQUIREMENTS FOR DRIVING IN SWITZERLAND
- 3 SWITZERLAND – RULES FOR DRIVING
- 4 RENTING A CAR IN SWITZERLAND
- 5 TOLLS IN SWITZERLAND
- 6 GAS / PETROL STATIONS AND PRICES IN SWITZERLAND
- 7 PARKING IN SWITZERLAND
- 8 DRIVING IN THE SWISS MOUNTAINS / SWISS ALPS
- 9 DRIVING THROUGH TUNNELS AND OVERLOOKS IN SWITZERLAND
- 10 DRIVING IN SWITZERLAND WINTER
- 11 FINAL THOUGHTS ON HOW TO DRIVE IN SWITZERLAND
Switzerland is one of the best places for a 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 stunning to see out your window. Driving through 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.
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 to one country in Europe, then make it Switzerland. Even though public transportation is amazing in this country, it is worth taking a road trip and exploring lovely Switzerland by car.
READ MORE: 7-Day Itinerary for Switzerland
REQUIREMENTS FOR DRIVING IN SWITZERLAND
There are some requirements you need to be aware of.
- You must be 18 years or older to drive in Switzerland.
- 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, 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.
SWITZERLAND – RULES FOR DRIVING
- 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.
- Some signs 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 they have the right of way and sometimes step out into traffic unexpectedly.
- Tip: If two vehicles meet on a narrow road going in opposite directions, the ascending vehicle has the right way.
- If you are traveling with children younger than 18 months, they 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.
RENTING A CAR IN SWITZERLAND
Renting a car in Switzerland is quite easy and straightforward. However, make sure to rent a car that is fully covered. Everything in Switzerland is expensive – if you are responsible for damage to your rental car, it could be expensive. To avoid any negative surprises, I suggest paying a little more for the full insurance.
I always road trip Switzerland in my own car/van and cannot talk about first-hand experiences when renting a car, but I have heard quite good things about this rental company.
TOLLS IN SWITZERLAND
In Switzerland, you will need a toll sticker for the motorways. Though the most scenic roads in Switzerland are actually off the motorways, you usually land up driving on them at some point. I suggest getting a sticker, especially if you road
- It costs about 40 Swiss francs and lasts from December to 31. January the following year (so, it is actually good for 14 months). If you rent a car, it will most likely 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. You can get parking discs at police stations, banks, or tourist offices.
- Depending on the color of the parking zone, you can park for a certain amount of time at no charge. More on that later in this post.
GAS / PETROL STATIONS AND PRICES IN SWITZERLAND
Gas stations are everywhere, but you’ll find that they are all self-service.
Most gas stations have staff. However, you pump your own gas and then go and pay at the cashier (cash or card, ask about credit card acceptance beforehand). Sometimes there is no staff and you have to pay at the machine – pay the amount you want and then you can refill. Those gas stations tend to be minimally cheaper.
Oh, petrol in Switzerland is quite expensive, and prices vary greatly. The rates are some of the highest in Europe, though. Diesel is more expensive than petrol here.
PARKING IN SWITZERLAND
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 until Saturday from 8 am until 6 pm is free of charge for an hour with the blue parking disc (including the EU parking disc). On Sundays and public holidays, parking is free for the day.
- Parking on main roads outside of towns is prohibited.
DRIVING IN THE SWISS MOUNTAINS / SWISS ALPS
Switzerland is known for its mountains and mountain passes, so you will come across many of them while road tripping here.
Driving in the mountains is not always easy, especially not in the Italian-speaking part of Ticino. The people there drive faster, and the 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 have to stop and enjoy drastic skies like this one…
- Tip: Don’t underestimate the distance from one place to another. It can take much longer to get to places on the narrow mountain roads 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.
Most mountain passes are attractions in themselves. You will find lakes, rivers & streams, hiking trails, restaurants, and more along many mountain roads. So, it is fun but can be tedious, too.
DRIVING THROUGH TUNNELS AND OVERLOOKS IN SWITZERLAND
There are a lot of tunnels in Switzerland as well. Long, short, narrow, wide – all kinds of tunnels. Some are boring, some are stunning (like in this picture).
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).
DRIVING IN SWITZERLAND WINTER
Driving in Switzerland in summer is amazing and it is easy most of the time. However, keep in mind that snow is widespread, 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 the fall and some until June. So, consider this when planning your trip (as it will take even more time to drive in the winter).
FINAL THOUGHTS ON HOW TO DRIVE IN SWITZERLAND
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. And as someone who regularly drives in other countries, I can only say: Switzerland is
a good an amazing place for road tripping, and the overall street conditions make it a pleasure to drive.
Check out my Switzerland road trip post to find out about the best stops.