THINKING OF RENTING A CAR IN SWITZERLAND? HERE IS WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
So, you’re thinking about renting a car in Switzerland?! Congratulations! You’re about to embark on an incredible adventure into one of the most beautiful countries in the world.
Driving in Switzerland and exploring the country’s beauty while road-tripping will be an amazing experience. As a road trip enthusiast who has spent months exploring Switzerland by car, I know what I am talking about.
You can explore the beauty of this incredible country at your own pace. But before you get behind the wheel, there are some important tips and information that will help make your driving experience safe and fun.
Today, I am sharing info on how to hire a car in Switzerland, where to find the best rental deals, what to consider before renting a car (and what type of car to rent), and driving tips.
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. This means I might earn a small commission when you buy a product (at no extra cost to you) after clicking on my link. More about it here.
RENT A CAR IN SWITZERLAND: FAQs
Let´s start with some FAQs for renting a car – you might have been wondering about these.
IS IT WORTH HIRING A CAR IN SWITZERLAND?
Absolutely! Absolutely! Absolutely – it is worth renting a car in Switzerland.
Discovering Switzerland by car is one of the best ways to get around and explore the beautiful Swiss countryside. Not only can you see some of the stunning views that make this country so famous, but it also allows you to take advantage of all the great activities that are available for visitors.
Plus, with the well-maintained roads and streets, hiring a car can be the quickest, safest, and most convenient way to get around.
While I, in all honesty, appreciate the amazing public transportation – and especially the Swiss Travel Pass – in Switzerland, renting a car and hitting the roads is especially great if you are looking for more flexibility.
And if you are traveling in a group, hiring a car can also be much cheaper than getting around by public transportation.
CAN FOREIGNERS RENT A CAR IN SWITZERLAND?
Yes, foreigners can hire a car in Switzerland! There are some important rules you need to be aware of before booking your rental car in Switzerland. For starters, you’ll need an international driver’s license (IDP) and proof of identity, such as a valid passport.
Insurance is also required and you may have to pay an additional fee if you’re under 25 or over 70 years old. Be sure to double-check the rental agreement so that you understand all the terms and conditions before signing it!
WHAT DO I NEED TO RENT A CAR IN SWITZERLAND?
If you want to rent a car in Switzerland, you’ll need the following:
➡️ A valid driver’s license. Make sure your driver’s license is up to date with all your details clearly visible, and double-check that it’s accepted by the company you’re renting from.
➡️ You’ll also need a credit card for the deposit, as most Swiss rental companies don’t accept cash.
DO I NEED AN INTERNATIONAL DRIVER´S LICENSE FOR A SWISS ROAD TRIP?
You only need an international license for driving in Switzerland, if your driving license does not mention the authorized vehicle categories in Latin characters.
WHAT ELSE DO I NEED FOR MY RENTAL CAR?
ℹ️ While this is not a requirement by law or the rental car company, I highly suggest you either rent or bring your own GPS or use your mobile.
ℹ️ You do have internet access in the mountains, however, I recommend downloading a Switzerland map so that you can still access it when you do not have internet – just to be on the safe side.
ℹ️ And while the GPS works well most of the time, always use common sense and do not follow the directions blindly (if I had, I would have driven off the cliffs and ended up in Lake Thun, but that is a different story).
ℹ️ Also, you might need a toll/vignette sticker that you stick to the window shield. This sticker costs 40 CHF and is valid from December to January of the next year (so for 14 months actually). This allows you to use all roads, including motorways. I recall only one time when I had to pay an extra toll for a mountain pass, but it is not popular with foreigners so you should be good with a toll sticker.
If you hire a car in Switzerland, the toll sticker might be included, and you do not need to buy an extra one (which is available at gas stations, etc.)
IS IT EASY TO DRIVE IN SWITZERLAND?
Yes, it is easy to drive in Switzerland. And no, it’s not easy to drive in Switzerland!
Let me explain:
✔️ For one, the roads and streets in Switzerland are in amazing condition – rarely you will bump into potholes. They do exist, but overall, the infrastructure – including roads and streets – is in good condition, which makes it much safer to drive than in many other mountainous countries.
✔️ Also, given that only about 8 million people live in Switzerland, and many of them use public transportation, the streets are rather empty, and traffic is only a problem in bigger cities and during rush hour.
On the other hand, there are some challenges when driving in Switzerland.
🛑 The roads are often steep and winding, so you have to be extra careful. Especially when you leave the cities and head towards smaller villages and into the mountains, you need to be alert at all times (but should not that be the case whenever we are driving?).
🛑 Also, the most amazing window views might be distracting. Though there are often parking spaces and vantage points where you can stop and enjoy the panoramas, this might be the biggest downside: not being able to focus on the amazing nature.
🛑 Make sure to stick to speed limits and all rules, including traffic lights. The Swiss Police are not to be joked with. I must say, I have never been stopped even though I drove thousands and thousands of kilometers, but I make sure to “always” stick to the rules because the thought of dealing with the police is frightening enough.
So I, as someone who has driven in many countries in Europe – and very few countries outside of Europe – I think driving is overall easy in Switzerland.
The stunning views of the Alps make up for the challenge of driving here! So buckle up and enjoy the ride! 🙂
Yes, you should definitely rent a car in Switzerland!
Exception: You have your own car and can use that for your trip to Switzerland. Then it would not make sense. But as a visitor to Switzerland without your own car, yes, renting a car in Switzerland is a good idea.
Not only will you be able to explore the country at your own pace and convenience, but you’ll also get to experience some of the most stunning panoramas on earth. Switzerland is known for its incredible mountain views, so why not take advantage and see them up close and personal?
Plus, there are plenty of roads in between cities and towns that are just begging to be explored. So, go ahead and rent a car – it’s sure to be an experience you won’t forget!
FROM WHERE TO PICK UP A RENTAL CAR?
The ideal place to rent a car in Switzerland greatly depends on your travel plans. Here are some rental locations you might consider for getting your rental car:
- Zurich Airport (ZRH): Convenient if you’re flying directly into Zurich.
- Zurich Downtown: Multiple car rental agencies are available downtown if you’re already in the city, I suggest not renting a car for discovering Zurich (just use public transportation there) but just getting the car whenever you leave Zurich and heading to other parts of gorgeous Switzerland.
- Geneva Airport (GVA): Ideal for exploring the French-speaking part of Switzerland or France.
- Geneva Downtown: Similar to Zurich, Geneva’s downtown area has several car rental options. The same I said for Zurich applies here as well: I suggest not renting a car to discover Geneva itself but rather get your rental car once you leave Geneva.
- Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg Airport (BSL, MLH, EAP): Conveniently located near the borders of France, Germany, and Switzerland, making it an optimal choice for multi-country travel.
- Lausanne: Located on the shores of Lake Geneva, this city is a good place to rent a car if you’re planning to explore this region.
WHAT KIND OF CAR SHOULD I RENT IN SWITZERLAND?
✔️ A 2-wheel drive will be fine for Switzerland. I have driven thousands and thousands of kilometers in Switzerland – l probably have been on all the roads and streets that are allowed to be driven – and not once have I hoped to have a 4-wheel drive.
While I wished I had one when road-tripping Albania, Iceland, and Montenegro, not once did it cross my mind for Switzerland. So, a 2-wheel drive for Switzerland should be fine, unless you plan something extra special.
✔️ If you plan to drive up the mountains, then the car should be powerful enough to get you up, but also small enough to navigate through the narrow roads of Swiss villages. So, my tip here is: a medium-sized car for a group of 4 should be totally fine – unless you travel with your household, then rent a bigger car.
MANUAL OR AUTOMATIC CARS FOR SWISS RENTAL CARS?
When renting a car in Switzerland, you can choose between automatic and manual (stick shift) cars. However, there are a few things to consider:
- Availability: Manual cars are typically more common in Europe, including Switzerland. That said, most car rental companies offer both options, but the availability of automatic cars may be slightly less.
- Cost: Renting an automatic car can sometimes be more expensive than renting a manual one, due to less availability and higher demand.
- Driving Comfort: If you’re used to driving an automatic car, it might be a good idea to stick with what you’re comfortable with, especially if you’re not familiar with the driving conditions and rules in Switzerland. The country’s mountainous terrain can make driving a manual car challenging for some drivers.
- Fuel Efficiency: Manual cars are often more fuel-efficient than automatic cars. However, the difference might not be significant enough to affect your decision.
Manual and automatic cars are both available for rent in Switzerland – I recommend choosing the one, you are used to. While renting a manual car in Switzerland could be a cost-effective choice, navigating through the Swiss Alps might prove challenging if you’re unfamiliar with manual transmissions, potentially leading to a tense driving experience. Make sure to specify your preference when booking the car rental.
HOW MUCH DOES RENTING A CAR COST IN SWITZERLAND?
Here is a small downside: Renting a car in Switzerland can be quite costly depending on the type of vehicle you choose. But no matter what we do in Switzerland, everything has a price here (except the amazing mountain water from the fountains – that is free, woohoo).
Standard cars may cost between $30 and $150 per day, while luxury cars or sports cars can easily exceed $150 per day. Prices also vary by season and demand, so it pays to shop around for the best deal.
Additionally, prices often include taxes and insurance fees, but may not cover fuel costs or extra add-ons like GPS systems or child seats. Also, make sure to book the Full Coverage which does not cost a fortune but can help you save a lot of money in case of any damages, etc.
So, if you’re planning on hiring a car in Switzerland, make sure to read the fine print first!
WHAT IS THE BEST RENTAL CAR COMPANY IN SWITZERLAND?
Oh, that is tough. I cannot name THE best rental car company, but there are a few that are pretty great overall. These companies do not only operate in Switzerland but all over the world.
I also want to emphasize that I normally use a site that compares rental prices from different companies. While I mostly drive my own car (and now van) in Europe, I used DiscoverCar, for example, to find the best rental car in Albania.
And this also gives me the confidence that I can turn to them in case anything comes up and the actual rental car company is not responsive. Thus, I would use DiscoverCars and find the best deals – you can see the reviews for each Swiss rental car company and decide whether you hire your car then or not.
DO I NEED CAR INSURANCE WHEN DRIVING IN SWITZERLAND?
Yes, in Switzerland it is mandatory by law to have car insurance when driving in Switzerland.
While some insurance is optional, car insurance in Switzerland definitely isn’t one of them. You’ll need at least a third-party level of coverage to stay on the right side of the law. And if you want some extra peace of mind, you can opt for additional coverage by paying a bit more.
All rental car companies will offer you an insurance package that covers the basics, such as liability and collision damage. It’s always recommended to look into other coverage options, like personal accident insurance or theft protection.
What I do: I know the extra “full” insurance is costly, but I rather pay a bit more upfront than deal with – possible – expenses later. I do not want to worry about costs if something happens to “my car” even if it was “my fault.” Thus, I do buy the extra insurance, the full coverage on top, and wholeheartedly recommend buying it, too.
HOW MUCH IS SWITZERLAND CAR RENTAL INSURANCE?
The prices for Swiss car rental insurance depend on the rental company and type of car, but most companies will offer insurance coverage for a fee.
Generally speaking, the cost of car rental insurance in Switzerland is around 10 to 20 Swiss Francs (CHF) per day.
That said, some policies may be more expensive or offer more comprehensive coverage, so it’s best to read the small print before signing up. Many rental companies also offer additional insurance packages that may come with added benefits, like roadside assistance or third-party liability protection, so be sure to ask about these as well.
All in all, make sure you understand the coverage and costs associated with car rental insurance before driving off in your rented vehicle!
IMPORTANT DRIVING TIPS FOR SWITZERLAND
Here are some of the most important driving tips if you plan a Switzerland road trip with a rental car.
1 FAMILIARIZE YOURSELF WITH THE TERRAIN
Make sure to familiarize yourself with the terrain of the area in which you will be driving, so that you are aware of any tight turns or steep inclines (a GPS helps as you can see sharp turns ahead of time)
2 CHECK THE WEATHER FORECAST
Always check local forecasts, especially in the mountains where the weather can change quickly, and be prepared for inclement conditions.
3 LOW GEARS FOR STEEP INCLINES
It is recommended to use low gears when driving up steep inclines. This will help to increase your control over the car and reduce brake wear.
4 KEEP A SAFE DISTANCE
Be sure to keep a safe distance between you and other vehicles, as it can be difficult to pass on mountain roads.
5 PLAN IN EXTRA TIME
Don’t forget to enjoy the view and take breaks when necessary, as driving in the mountains can be physically and mentally taxing.
6 DOWNLOAD AN OFFLINE MAP
While the internet connection is good almost everywhere in Switzerland, I highly recommend downloading an offline map, so you are safe. My tip: MapsMe and make sure to download the map for each canton.
7 CHECK THE TIRES
When you rent a car, everything should be fine, but if you keep the car for longer, make sure that your tires are properly inflated and have sufficient tread before heading out on the road.
Make sure you are aware of any wildlife that may be present in the area and take extra caution when driving near them. Cows are not the only animals who can cross the streets.
9 BE AWARE OF OTHERS
Be aware of cyclists, hikers, and other pedestrians on the road when driving in mountain areas, as they can be difficult to see. You might be surprised to see them even on the mountain roads.
Renting a car in Switzerland is a great idea as it allows you to explore the beautiful Swiss countryside at your own pace. From stunning views to efficient transportation networks, renting a car allows you to make the most of your time and experience here. With my tips and suggestions, I hope that you enjoy your visit.
With a reliable and comfortable vehicle, you can easily visit remote areas, small towns, and villages, and take in the stunning mountain views.
However, it’s important to keep in mind the rules of the road, as well as the high cost of fuel and parking, and the need for a vignette (toll sticker) on some major roads.
Renting a car in Switzerland can be a great idea for an amazing Switzerland trip.