Driving in Switzerland - An Introduction
Speed limits are measured in kilometres per hour (KPH).
|Outside built-up areas||80kph/50mph|
Cars with trailers are limited to 80kph (50mph) on expressways. If the combination of the car and trailer weighs more than 1000kg it is also limited 60kph (37mph) outside built-up areas. Roadside automatic radar-triggered cameras help enforce these limits.
When driving on Swiss motorways it is necessary to display a 'vignette' pass in your windscreen. These are available from tourist offices, customs posts at the border, post offices or garages. At the border you can pay in CHF, EUR, GBP and USD. You can also pay inside the Customs office onsite by credit card. The vignette is valid until the end of the January of the year after you buy it and it is non transferable. If you buy it from the person stationed for this purpose outside the office (who accepts only cash), they will insist on affixing the sticker. If you buy inside the office you can affix the sticker yourself. You must obtain a separate vignette for a trailer or caravan. If your vehicle doesn't bear a properly affixed vignette and the Swiss police catch you driving on an expressway, you'll be subject to a fine as well as the cost of a vignette.
Expressways offer a quick and level route through the mountains of Switzerland and they will save money on fuel that you would otherwise use on less direct routes meaning the vignette quickly pays for itself. You can drive through Switzerland without using expressways if you choose and this will allow you to enjoy the expanses of beautiful Swiss countryside along the way. Road numbers on green signs indicate toll expressways.
General Tips and Road Information
When passing, do not cross a double white line. When completing a passing manoeuvre, you must signal with your vehicle's right blinker before you re-enter the right lane. Moving trams must be passed on the right if there's enough room; otherwise they may be passed on the left. A stationary tram should be passed on the left, unless it's stopped at a passenger island, in which case it may be passed on the right. Motorcyclists are not allowed to pass long columns of vehicles or to weave in and out of traffic.
Do not park where you see a sign that reads 'Stationierungsverbot' or 'Interdiction de Stationner'. Parking on the sidewalk is illegal except where signs indicate otherwise. Many towns have Blue Zones that restrict parking during the period 8am to 7pm on weekdays. Obtain discs free of charge from ACS or TCS motoring club offices. In Basel, Berne, and Geneva you can get discs at fuel stations, restaurants, kiosks, police stations, and garages. In Laussanne a Red Zone system is also in effect; discs good for both zones (one side for each zone) can be obtained from the TCS offices or the tourist information offices. Wheel clamps are in use. Braunwald, Murren, Rigi, Wengen and Zermatt cannot be reached by private motor vehicle; park at the local railway station and go on by public transport.
Fuel stations along expressways are usually open from 6:00 a.m. to between 10pm and midnight. Those along Basel North, Pratteln North/South, and Coldrério East/West (N2) stay open 24 hours. Along other roads fuel stations are open from 6, 7 or 8 am to 6 or 8 pm. Outside of open hours fuel is commonly available from automatic pumps that accept 10 and 20 CHF notes or credit cards. Many stations do not accept major charge cards like Visa, MasterCard or American Express. Normal unleaded petrol has an octane rating of 95; unleaded super has an octane rating of 98. Unleaded petrol is called bleifrei, essence sans plomb, or benzina sensa piomba, depending on whether you're in a German-, French-, or Italian-speaking part of Switzerland, respectively. Likewise, diesel is called diesel, diesel, or gasolio; and LPG is called autogas, Gaz de pétrole liquéfié (GPL), or gas liquido (GPL).
Trams always have priority. Buses have priority when leaving a bus stop. Blue posts are used to indicate an upcoming intersection with a priority road. Traffic going up a mountain has priority, except where signs displaying a yellow posthorn on a blue background signal that postal buses have priority. A red slash going through such a sign indicates the end of the postal priority zone. Some of these mountain postal roads are one way; such cases are indicated by a white rectangle placed below the blue rectangle/yellow horn sign. Some mountain roads require one-way traffic during certain hours only; these hours will be posted at either end of such roads.
Police are empowered to collect fines on the spot.
Minimum driving age:
You must be 18 to drive in Switzerland.
Seatbelts are compulsory for the vehicle driver and passengers.
Children under 7 must sit in the rear passenger seats unless using a child restraint.
Use headlights in tunnels. Motorcycles must be operated with headlights on night and day. Use the horn in cases of immediate and extreme danger only; flash your headlights instead.
Motorcyclists must wear a crash helmet and use their headlamp at all times.
Essential equipment for your car:
You must have a warning triangle.
Emergency Telephone Numbers
Police: 117 Fire: 118 Ambulance: 144
The above pointers are by no means exhaustive. Drivers spending any time in Switzerland should try to familiarise themselves with all the rules of the road, including traffic signals, signposting, road-markings, speed limits etc.
Take care and enjoy the drive!