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Healthcare in Zurich

Are you planning to spend a few years as an expat living in Zurich? Lucky you! You’re going to benefit from one of the most popular destinations worldwide. Our guide to Zurich briefly introduces you to leisure, transportation, healthcare, and education in the city by the River Limmat.
More than just band aids: expats in Zurich have an excellent medical system at their disposal.

Immunizations and Health Tips

Living in Zurich exposes you to very few health risks. You should, however, make sure to get booster shots for all standard immunizations before moving to Switzerland. These immunizations include DPT (diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus) and MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella). Doctors also recommend a vaccination for hepatitis B.

Unfortunately, the Alpine regions in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland are risk areas for tick-borne diseases. Ticks can transmit TBE (a form of encephalitis) and lyme disease. The former can be life-threatening; the latter may lead to chronic and painful health conditions if it’s not diagnosed and treated in its early stages. Therefore, you should know how to prevent tick bites and how to recognize related symptoms if you want to spend a lot of time outdoors in Zurich.

Zurich has a moderate alpine climate, with temperatures ranging between an average low of -4 °C in winter and an average 23°C in summer. Depending on where you come from, this may be a bit cooler than what you are used to. So don’t forget to pack appropriate clothes for the local weather!

Medical Emergencies — Who to Call

In case that you should have a medical emergency during your time as an expat in Zurich, these are the important phone numbers:

  • 118 (fire)
  • 117 (police)
  • 144 (ambulance)
  • 143 (mental health / crisis hotline)
  • 145 (poison hotline)

By dialing 044 421 21 21, you can contact the emergency medical services, with a doctor on duty for advice and house calls 24/7. If you simply need to pick up some over-the-counter medication outside official opening hours, call 0900 55 35 55. This line provides information on all nearby pharmacies with after-hours service. In central Zurich, the Bellevue Apotheke (Theaterstrasse 14, near Bellevueplatz) is available around the clock.

There’s little reason to worry about the language barrier when making emergency calls. English is a mandatory foreign language in schools throughout Switzerland. Given that 30% of all residents in Zurich are foreign-born, emergency staff should have some English skills for such situations.

Swiss Health Insurances

In Switzerland, you are legally obliged to have health insurance. If you want to stay in the country for a short time only — e.g. as a business traveler on a Schengen visa — a travel insurance policy (worth 30,000 CHF or more) should suffice. However, if you live and work in Switzerland, you need medical insurance from a local provider.

Exemptions from this rule are possible in a few cases: for instance, foreign exchange students may be excluded from mandatory Swiss healthcare. A similar exceptional case could be made for expats whose international health insurance is both cheaper and better than comparable policies in the Swiss market. To enquire about exemptions, contact the health office in the canton of Zurich.

You can find out more about Swiss health insurance options in our in-depth article on health insurance in Switzerland.

Insurance for Expats

Most expatriates have to take out Swiss health insurance. You pay the contributions out of your own pocket, and you need to insure all family members individually. No health insurance provider may refuse you for a basic policy, regardless of your health. However, if you’d like to have top-up insurance, you’ll need to fill out a questionnaire and/or undergo a medical check-up exam. Since basic insurance policies exclude, for example, dental care or treatment in private clinics, lots of people in Switzerland have additional medical insurance.

Even with a basic healthcare policy, you need to make co-payments. Adult patients have to pay at least 300 CHF per year as a standardized co-payment (Franchise). Secondly, for examinations and treatments that you actually receive, you’ll have to pay up 10% of the costs yourself. Usually, you pay medical bills from your own pocket and get reimbursed by the insurance company.

To compare various insurance providers in Switzerland, check out Comparis.ch.

Medical Services in Zurich

In the city of Zurich and the surrounding canton, there are lots of family doctors and medical specialists, as well as several public hospitals and private clinics. You can look up a doctor in the Doctor.ch online directory. The two biggest public clinics (Listenspitäler) in and near Zurich are the University Hospital Zurich and the Hospital of Winterthur.

 

We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

Andrey Vasilyev

"I was able to connect with other expats in Zurich who enjoy cycling as much as I do and organize weekly rides."

Elin Gustavson

"At the first InterNations event that I attended, I met my wonderful partner. We now live together in a flat next to the Limmat."

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