Road Conditions and Traffic Safety: Road conditions are generally excellent, but traffic, engineering, and driving habits pose special dangers.
- Lane markings and sign placements may differ from those in the United States. Drivers should be prepared to make last-minute maneuvers and stops.
- Be aware that pedestrians, bikers, and trams generally have the right-of-way.
- In alpine areas roads may become dangerous due to snowfall, ice, or avalanches. Some mountain roads may close for extended periods.
- In some mountain areas, vehicle snow chains are required in the winter.
- Roundabouts are very common in Switzerland.
- The maximum speed limit on motorways is 120 km/h, on expressways it is 100 km/h, on roads outside urban areas it is 80 km/h, and in urban areas it is 50 km/h. Neighborhoods are typically 30 km/h.
Accidents: In the event of a traffic accident, call the police immediately at 117. Call 118 for the fire department and 144 for medical/ambulance services. 144 functions as the equivalent to the ?911? emergency number in the United States.
Toll roads: If you plan to drive on motorways in Switzerland you must purchase a toll sticker (vignette), which must be affixed to the car?s windshield. These are available online, at gas stations, and at border crossings. Rental cars usually have a vignette already; be sure to check with your car rental agency. Failure to comply with traffic rules can result in large fines. For more information visist the website of the Swiss Federal Customs Administration.
Traffic Laws and Fines: While driving in Switzerland you are subject to local traffic laws.
- The minimum age to operate a motor vehicle in Switzerland is 18.
- The maximum allowable blood-alcohol content in the Switzerland is 0.05 percent (0.5 per mille).
- All vehicles are required to travel with their headlights on at all times.
- Use of cellular devices for talking or texting while driving is prohibited.
- Right-of-way rules differ from those in the United States. Unless specifically indicated otherwise, drivers entering intersections from the right have priority over those on the left, even when entering relatively large boulevards from small side streets.
- Turning right on red is illegal.
- Speeding fines vary between 20 and 300 Swiss Francs. If you exceed the speed limit significantly or engage in reckless driving the traffic violation can be referred to the public prosecutor. Public prosecutors commonly impose monetary deposit/bail on foreign visitors, which can be over 1,000 Swiss Francs. Please note that a traffic violation that is referred to the prosecutor will incur significant cost in addition to the actual fine.
See the website of the Swiss National Tourism Office or the website of the Confederation of Swiss Cantons and Communes for additional information.
Driving in Switzerland: You may drive in Switzerland with your valid U.S. license for up to one year after your arrival; then you must obtain a Swiss permit. Swiss licenses are only issued on the basis of valid U.S. licenses. Holders of expired U.S. licenses must take the Swiss driving test when applying for a Swiss license. The minimum age for driving or learning to drive is 18. Liability insurance on motor vehicles is compulsory in Switzerland and must be provided by a Swiss insurance company.
Public Transportation: Public transport in Switzerland is excellent, punctual, and safe. The websites of the Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) and the Swiss National Tourist Office are the best places to obtain information on fares and timetables.
- Travelers must purchase train, bus or tram tickets and validate them by punching them in validating machines prior to boarding (machines can be found near the entrance of train stations or tram and bus stops). Tickets cannot be bought on the train, bus, or tram. Failure to follow this procedure may result in an on-the-spot fine by an inspector. If the violator does not pay the fine on the spot, it will automatically double.
- Be aware of pick-pockets and do not leave bags unattended. Most reported thefts occur on public buses, trams and trains, and at the major railway stations.
For more information visit the website of the Swiss Federal Office of Transport (FOT), which is responsible for public transport in Switzerland.
See our Road Safety page for more information.
Aviation Safety Oversight: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) assessed the government of Switzerland?s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Switzerland?s air carrier operations. Further information may be found on the FAA?s safety assessment page.