Switzerland at a Glance
Driving in Switzerland
Driving in Switzerland is both exhilarating and very comfortable. Motorists will be pleased by the scenic routes through the Swiss mountains and alongside alpine meadows.
However, Switzerland is a country where you won’t be obliged to own a car in order to get around, as, for example, in the United States. Due to the extensive and efficient public transportation network of trains, buses, and ferries, driving is often a mere luxury.
But the roads are extremely well maintained, and driving in Switzerland, be it on motorways or winding mountain roads, is mostly pleasant and not overly stressful. Therefore it is your decision whether you prefer your own car to public transport. Having the freedom of driving in Switzerland when travelling cross-country, especially for leisure purposes, is an advantage that cannot be compared to public transportation.
The Swiss Roads
Switzerland prides itself on its well-established roads and motorways. With its nearly 72,000 kilometers of paved roadways to maintain, the cost for this infrastructure can add up for such a small country. Therefore the government introduced the famous motorway vignette.
The vignette is a small sticker you must purchase before driving on the motorway. Glue it to your windshield so that it is visible for the police. You can buy such a sticker at most gas stations, customs offices, or post offices around Switzerland, as well as online.
The price of one such vignette for driving in Switzerland is 40 CHF, and it is valid for 14 months. Although there are no checkpoints to ensure that you have a vignette, it would be unwise to try your luck and not purchase one. The cost of getting caught without one is 240 CHF.
Due to the mountainous nature of the country, driving in winter can be rather dangerous. We recommend you to contact one of the automobile associations in order to check which mountain passes are closed during the winter months.
Make sure that you have adequate equipment for driving under winter conditions: snow tires, snow chains, blankets, GPS system, etc. Both the Touring Club Schweiz and the Automobile Club der Schweiz offer up-to-date information on driving conditions in less populated regions, as well as guides on how to deal with driving in harsh weather.
Importing and Registering a Vehicle
If you plan on driving in Switzerland with your car from back home, you should be aware of the following: If your car is more than six months old and you import it strictly for personal use, you do not need to pay any import tax or clearance fees. After a maximum period of one year, you must then register your car for driving in Switzerland.
For registering your car, please go to your local department of motor vehicles or vehicle licensing agency and bring along the following:
- original car registration papers from abroad
- EU certificate of conformity (ask the manufacturer to send you one)
- proof of insurance
- customs clearance
- technical inspection report from the customs office (with official stamp)
- proof that your car has undergone a local emission check
- completed application forms
- your residence permit / proof of residence
If you’d like to import a new car and thus have to pay import duties, vehicle tax, and VAT upon crossing the border or if your car may not pass the technical standards without major repairs, it might be easier to buy a car in Switzerland. If you’d like to save money, you can opt for purchasing a second-hand vehicle or simply lease one.
Insuring Your Car
Third-party liability motor insurance is mandatory in Switzerland. You cannot register your car without it. The policy must be made with a Swiss insurance company. The law requires only an insurance policy that covers damages done to other cars or people by your vehicle.
Optional motor vehicle insurance coverage is either partially comprehensive or fully comprehensive. This will cover your car not only against damages incurred in an automobile accident, but against fire or theft as well. Additionally, you can take out a passenger insurance policy for full protection when driving in Switzerland.
We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete.