Driving in Switzerland
A Road Trip Planner for Safer Driving
Following a few answers to questions you might have about driving in Switzerland:
- Introduction to driving in Switzerland
- Do I need an international licence?
- What other documentation do I need?
- What is the minimum age for driving in Switzerland?
- Are there any toll roads?
- What are the speed limits?
- What are the basic rules for driving in Switzerland?
- What about driving in roundabouts?
- Are there any special security requirements I have to know about?
- What about Children's safety?
- What mandatory items do I have to carry in my car?
- What about parking?
- What is Mobility car sharing?
- Can I use my cell phone while driving?
- What is the legal alcohol limit?
- Road map or GPS for driving in Switzerland?
- Will I understand the road signs?
- Is there car transport by trains possible?
- How much is the cost for gasoline?
- What do I have to know about winter driving in Switzerland?
- Do I have to expect danger from wildlife?
- What do I do if I am involved in an accident?
- Where do I find information about road conditions?
- What about crossing the borders?
- What are the regulations for cyclists?
- What are the emergency and other useful phone numbers?
Driving in Switzerland is not much different from driving in any other European country.
Switzerland is small and 7.8 mio people move around in limited space, so traffic jams are frequent, especially in agglomerations, cities and on motorways. Driving too fast is sometimes not even an option, but this does lead to road rage once in a while.
Cities were built before motoring came into the occasion. Therefore, city streets are often narrow and parking is limited. It can get confusing if you are not familiar with the place. Most of my guests from overseas are glad when they don't have to drive. To avoid city driving, use the so-called P&R (Park and Ride) - parking with access to public transportation at the city's periphery.
Overall, road conditions are excellent, and Switzerland is amongst the countries with the least accidents. But driving in the Alps can be quite challenging. It's pretty much going up and down and around corners all the time. Stretches of roads can be one way and not all roads are paved in an alpine setting. 53% of accidents occur on secondary roads. You might want to think twice before driving in Switzerland. The public transport system is excellent and brings you to almost every corner. To avoid paying full price, check out the rail pass options.
On the other hand, driving in the Alps adds a tad of excitement. A road trip through the Swiss Alps could be that place to enjoy a ride in a sports car or flick up passes on a motorbike. After all, what good is a Porsche or a Moto Guzzi on flat land?
To avoid confusion about road types, I use the following description (E/G/F/I):
- Motorway (freeway, expressway) for Autobahn/Autoroute/Autostrada;
- Highway (secondary roads) for Hauptstrasse/Rue principale/Strada principale;
- Rural roads (secondary roads) for Nebenstrassen/Routes hors localité/Strade extraurbane principale;
- Residential streets for Innerorts/Rue localité/Strada località;
- Residential zones for smaller areas within a city, town or village with a high-density population, school zones etc.
Do I need an international licence for driving in Switzerland?
You don't need an international driver's licence.
However, the police have to be able to read it to verify if your driver's licence is up to date. Therefore, if your driver's licence is not in one of our official languages - French, German, Italian - or English, you need an international driver's licence along with your regular licence. If you can't obtain one in your country, a certified translation in one of the aforementioned languages will be accepted.
What other documentation do I need to drive in Switzerland?
- If you are a resident of Switzerland (or rent a car) you need the vehicle registration and exhaust inspection documents, a warning triangle and motorway sticker;
- When you enter Switzerland in your own car you need car registration documents as well as personal liability insurance: third party drivers need additional insurance;
- In case you enter Switzerland in a borrowed car, import taxes apply if the car owner is not accompanying you.
- As of 2020, everyone who is driving into Geneva needs an anti-pollution sticker called StickAIR.
What is the minimum age for driving in Switzerland?
- You have to be 18 years of age to be able to drive in Switzerland;
- This age also applies for driving motorcycles with a maximum motor power output of 25 kW and up to 125cc;
- 16 years of age for motorbikes up to 50cc with externally supplied ignition or power of maximum 4 kW;
- 14 years of age for mopeds up to 50cc and a maximum speed of 30kph/20mph.
- Be aware that many rental car companies only allow you to rent a car if you are over 23 or even 25 years of age. There are a few that are renting out to younger drivers, but most likely, the insurance rate will be quite high.
Are there any toll roads?
Driving on motorways (Autobahn/Autostrada/Autoroute), also called National Routes/Nationalstrassen, is only possible with a valid "Autobahnvignette" (motorway tax sticker). This is an annual tax paid by everyone who uses motorways, even if only for a couple of hours.
The motorway tax sticker costs CHF 40. As long as you only drive on secondary and residential roads, you don't need the motorway tax sticker.
The motorway tax sticker can be purchased at gas- and rest stops on main roads leading to Switzerland (close to customs), in post offices in Germany, European automobile clubs, directly at the custom entry point or online from the Switzerland Travel Centre.
Don't forget to stick the motorway vignette at the inside of your windshield or you risk a fine, even if you have the sticker with you. Motorbikes stick it onto a non-removable part of their bike. If you don't use the sticker, you won't get a refund. Stickers are not transferable.
A toll is charged when driving through the Great Saint Bernard tunnel (from Martigny in the Canton Valais, Switzerland, to Aosta in Italy).
What are the speed limits?
Speed limits are implemented rigorously; speed controls take place regularly, and radar traps are frequent. Be prepared to pay fines for speeding or other traffic offenses on the spot.
All uniformed police officers can carry out traffic surveillance and are authorized to issue on-the-spot fines.
- Residential zones: 30kph/20mph and 20kph/12mph
- Residential streets: 50kph/31mph
- Highways and Rural roads: 80kph/50mph
- Motorway (freeway, expressway): 120kph/75mph.
Camper Vans weighing more than 3,5 tonnes and trucks towing a trailer: 80kph/50mph
What are the basic rules for driving in Switzerland?
Fasten your seat belt at all times, mandatory front and back.
Do not drive in flip-flops or barefoot. It's not prohibited per see, but it could get expensive if you cause an accident because of not wearing proper shoes.