Driving in Switzerland?
Traffic Rules in Switzerland
The Highway Code
As it is known as a particularly clean and proper country, Switzerland has to implement some rules in order to keep it this way. Be sure to follow these closely and carefully without trying anything, as Swiss police tend to be rather strict with fining and these fines are often very high.
- You must be at least 18 years old to drive a car in Switzerland.
- Speeding in Switzerland is not tolerated, and even going 10 km/h over the limit may result in a hefty fine. It is therefore in your best interest to obey the following speed limits carefully: 50 km/h in cities and towns, 80 km/h outside of cities/towns, 100 km/h on Autostrassen, and 120 km/h on motorways.
- All passengers in a car must be wearing a seatbelt at all times, and children up to the age of 12 (or smaller than 1.50 m) must wear appropriate child restraints. Infants and toddlers should not be placed on the front seat, due to the dangers posed by airbags.
- As far as drinking and driving is concerned, it is, of course, best to drive completely sober. In Switzerland the legal limit for blood alcohol content is 0.5‰. Anything over 0.5‰ results in the immediate confiscation of your license and a high fine, maybe even a jail sentence.
- Refrain from talking on your handheld mobile phone as this is prohibited in Switzerland.
- All drivers must have a warning triangle on board their car, and it is highly recommended to have a first-aid kit and a visibility vest as well.
- In winter, due to the driving conditions on some high altitude roads, snow chains are then required. Snow tires are recommended for all non-4-wheel-drive vehicles. If police deem your car unfit for driving in the snow, they reserve the right to pull you over and prevent you from driving until you fix the situation.
- Be very careful where you intend to park as there are many specified non-parking areas designated in most cities. Do not be surprised to return to your illegally parked vehicle and find a parking ticket with an impressive fine attached to your windshield wipers.
Exchanging Your Driving License
As a foreign resident, you may use a valid license from abroad for up to one year in Switzerland, provided that you are old enough to drive the specific sort of vehicle. After twelve months, you have to exchange it for a Swiss driving license. For this purpose, please bring the following documents:
- completed application form
- foreign driving permit (original)
- proof of residence or residence visa
- 2 passport photographs
- eyesight test
In addition to this, you may need to take a written and/or practical driving test.
Non-EU/EEA nationals as well as expats with a driver’s license from Andorra, Australia, Canada, Croatia, Israel, Japan, Monaco, Morocco, New Zealand, San Marino, Singapore, South Korea, Tunisia, and the United States are all exempt from the practical test.
Nationals of the non-EU or EEA member states listed above still have to sit the theoretical exam, though, but drivers with an EU license can just exchange their permit for a Swiss one.
How to Obtain a Swiss License
Keep in mind that the exact requirements and procedures for acquiring a new license in Switzerland may vary according to the canton where you live. It is best to contact the local department of motor vehicles or the Swiss automobile club to find out exactly what the rules and fees for your area are.
Generally speaking, the process resembles that of most other European countries: if you don’t already have a valid driver’s license, you need to get a learner’s permit. Then you must pass a theoretical test and a practical driving exam in order to get a regular license. In addition to the practical and written tests, you need to take a medical vision test as well. You can do this at any local optometrist’s shop and ask them to certify the result.
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