Driving advice for every country in Europe

Find up-to-date driving laws and advice for any country in Europe before you visit, including any accessories you may need to purchase. Don't forget the RAC provides European breakdown cover while you're driving in Europe.

Driving in Switzerland

Switzerland
Population: 8.3m
Area: 41,285 square kilometres
Currency: Swiss Franc - CHF
Switzerland has some of the most spectacular scenery in Europe, making it ideal for a road trip. However, driving there is very different to driving in the UK. If you’re planning a trip, it’s essential you’re well prepared. 

To make your journey to the Continent as safe and effortless as possible, we’ve put together a guide to everything you need to know before you go, from required documents to rules of the road.  

Driving a rented vehicle? Jump to the advice for driving a hire car in Switzerland section.

In Switzerland, RAC European Breakdown Cover (Basic and Comprehensive) provides a wide range of benefits to ensure you stay safe. 

To supplement this, RAC also offers travel insurance. Cover will include medical expenses, baggage, personal money and belongings, among many other benefits.

European Breakdown Cover

Get covered when driving in Europe from just £7. Plus, get a full refund if Covid-19 restrictions prevent travel.†

Things to take when driving in Switzerland

driving-tips-switzerland

Documents for driving in Switzerland

In order to stay on the right side of the law, the following documents should always be carried:

  • Full, valid UK driving licence
  • Proof of ID (passport)
  • Motor insurance certificate
  • V5 registration document

Do I need a GB sticker for driving in Switzerland

Yes, you will need a GB sticker on the back of your car to drive in Switzerland, even if it’s equipped with EU plates (number plates that show a circle of 12 stars on a blue background). 

Driving in Switzerland packing checklist

In addition to essential documents, drivers are also required by law to carry the following items to avoid a fine:

  • A warning triangle inside the car (not boot) in case you break down
  • Headlamp converters (stickers you put on your headlights when you're driving on the right, so your lights don't dazzle motorists coming the other way)
  • A motorway sticker if you're driving on the motorway - you can buy this at the border and at most petrol stations
  • Snow chains in poor weather - road signs will let you know when you need to put them on the car
  • If you usually wear glasses or contact lenses, you should carry a spare pair with you in the car
  • Crash helmet for motorcyclists or moped riders and their passengers 
  • Green Card (although not a requirement, it's a useful back-up to your car insurance documents and shows you've got the minimum legal level of cover. If you'd like to find out more, contact your insurance company)

If you’re camping, a Camping Card International could also be useful as it gives you additional proof of identity, third party liability insurance, plus discounts at a wide range of campsites and tourist attractions.

Arrival Breakdown Cover

Get specialist personal based cover for caravans, motorhomes and campervans from just £11 per month.^

Rules of the road in Switzerland

Overtaking and passing

In Switzerland, motorists drive on the right and overtake on the left. 

Indicators should be used when returning to the right-hand lane after overtaking. Trams or trains in motion on the carriageway should be overtaken on the right, although overtaking on the left is permitted if that is not possible. However, you should only do this if there is no intersection or no danger to other traffic. Moving trams can be overtaken on either side of a one-way street.

When you are at an intersection without visibility which has no traffic lights or police regulation, only vehicles travelling on the main road are allowed to overtake.

Overtaking on the right is allowed in a built-up area when there are several lanes of traffic moving in the same direction. However, care has to be taken close to pedestrian crossings.

Drivers passing over or about to pass over a level crossing without gates must not overtake another vehicle. They may overtake cyclists or pedestrians provided visibility is good.

Who has priority?

Unless otherwise indicated, the vehicle coming from the right has priority at intersections.

Drivers approaching roundabouts must give way to all traffic already on them, unless otherwise indicated by signs.

In built-up areas, vehicles must give way when a bus signals its intention to pull away from a stop. Trams and other rail vehicles also always have priority, except when they are emerging from a secondary road onto a main road.

Emergency vehicles with flashing lights and sirens have right of way at traffic lights even if the lights are red.

Warning of approach

During the day, you must sound your horn outside built-up areas before a sharp bend with limited visibility. At night, flash your headlights instead.

Needless use of warning signals is forbidden, especially when there is oncoming traffic.

Towing in Switzerland

A caravan or camping trailer may circulate in Switzerland if it does not exceed the following dimensions:

Height: 4m
Width: 2.55m
Overall length: 18.75m

Swiss seat belt law

Drivers and all passengers aged 12 years and over must wear seat belts on the front and back seats of vehicles which are equipped with them. A 60 CHF (£50*) fine can be imposed for not wearing a seat belt.

Traffic lights

The international three-colour system is used in Switzerland. 

A flashing amber light means the driver can proceed with caution.

A green arrow indicates that vehicles may turn in the direction of the arrow and have priority.

A green arrow and flashing amber light means vehicles may turn but must give way to pedestrians crossing; if the flashing amber light is above an arrow pointing to the left, the vehicle turning left must also give way to oncoming traffic.

Swiss speed limits

Switzerland uses the metric system for all road signs, meaning speed limits and other road signs including distance are indicated using kilometres and metres. 

In built-up areas 50km/h
Outside built-up areas 80km/h – 100km/h (according to local signs)
Motorways 120km/h

Special speed restrictions apply to certain classes of vehicles, including cars with trailers, so check before travel. 

Speeding fines in Switzerland

Speeding fines in Switzerland depend on the speed at which offenders are caught and the road on which they’re driving. 

They range from 20 CHF (£16*) for exceeding the limit by less than 5km/h on a motorway to 600 CHF (£504*) for going over it by more than 20km/h in a built-up area. 

Speed camera detectors

If you have a GPS navigation system that shows you where any fixed speed cameras are, you must deactivate this function. It's illegal to carry or use any radar detection equipment when driving through Switzerland.

Travelling with children in Switzerland

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The driver of the vehicle is responsible for ensuring that all children are wearing a seat belt or appropriate restraint.

Car seats

Children under the age of 12 and measuring less than 150cm in height must be placed in a child restraint conforming with European safety standards.  

Bike helmet law

It is recommended but not compulsory for cyclists to wear a safety helmet in Switzerland. 

Driving a camper van and towing a caravan in Switzerland

Camper vans and cars with caravans are not allowed to exceed 18.75 metres in length, 4 metres in height and 2.55 metres in width.

Loads mustn’t overhang laterally or exceed 10 tonnes at a single axle.

Please note: The Department for Transport advises that A-frames are not legal for use by UK campers and caravanners abroad. In practice, this could mean towing your car while it’s fixed to a trailer.*

Penalties and fines in Switzerland

On-the-spot fines

If you're caught committing a driving offence, you'll be given an on-the-spot fine.

Minimum and maximum fines

On-the-spot fines range from 20 to 300 CHF (£16-£252*), depending on the offence committed, although for certain, more dangerous offences such as reckless driving, the fine could be fixed at a higher amount and result in a driving ban.

When visiting motorists contravene traffic regulations, the police can request a deposit equivalent to the fine normally imposed by the courts, plus administration fee, for the offence.

Confiscation of vehicles

The police may confiscate a vehicle in cases of obvious reckless driving.

Parking regulations in Switzerland

Regulations

As well as following any restrictions signposted locally, drivers in Switzerland should also note that parking is prohibited:

  • On yellow lines
  • Within 5 metres of pedestrian crossings and intersections
  • In narrow roads or where visibility is reduced
  • At bus and tram stops
  • Where there is a continuous single or double white line if there isn’t a space of at least 3 metres between the vehicle and the line
  • In front of road signs that might be hidden by the vehicle
  • On main roads outside built-up areas
  • In built-up areas, wherever there would not be enough space for two vehicles to pass each other

Parking on pavements is not allowed, except where specifically authorised by signs.

Paid parking

Parking meters are used throughout Switzerland, with the permitted duration of parking running from 15 minutes to 2 hours. The free use of time left on the meter is generally allowed, but drivers cannot feed the meter. Each town is free to choose its own approach to this issue.

Enforcement of parking regulations

Wheel clamps are not used, but vehicles causing an obstruction can be removed.

Disabled parking access

Special parking spaces are reserved for disabled motorists and are indicated by the international sign showing a wheelchair. 

Parking permits issued in other countries are accepted and those with the necessary documents may be able to park:

  • For a maximum of 3 hours in areas where parking is prohibited
  • For an unlimited period in areas where parking is authorised
  • For a maximum of 2 hours in pedestrian areas ‘zones de rencontre’, outside the areas where parking is permitted

These concessions should only be used when there is no risk to other vehicles or traffic flow is not affected. They should also only be used when there is no other free parking in the vicinity.

Drink-driving law in Switzerland

Legal limit

The blood alcohol limit for drivers in Switzerland is 0.05%.

For newly qualified drivers with less than three years’ experience, the limit is 0.01%.

Drink- driving test

The police can ask any driver to undergo a breath test and can also test for drugs.

A blood test may also be necessary after an accident if there is a real suspicion that anyone implicated may be under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Penalties may come in the form of a fine or prison sentence, while Swiss drivers could have their licence withdrawn for a minimum of two months. Foreign drivers can also be prohibited from driving in the country for a similar length of time.

Customs authorities at the Swiss border may also test the physical fitness of a driver and report those under the influence to the police.

Tolls in Switzerland

To use motorways and semi-motorways in Switzerland, motor vehicles and trailers up to a total weight of 3.5 tonnes must carry a sticker. 

The stickers are valid for 14 months (from December 1 to January 31) and cost 40 CHF (£33*). Drivers can buy them in Switzerland from places including customs offices, petrol stations, regional road authorities and TCS offices.

If you enter a motorway without the sticker, you will be fined 200 CHF (£168*) and will be required to pay 40 CHF for the sticker.

Swiss service areas

There are motorway service areas located across Switzerland. 

Availability of fuel

Unleaded petrol, diesel and LPG are readily available throughout Switzerland.

On normal roads, petrol stations are usually open from 06:00 or 07:00 until 20:00. In addition, smaller stations are open from 07:00 or 08:00 until 18:00. At other times, petrol is available from automatic pumps.

Some service stations on motorways are open 24 hours a day, while others are open from 06:00 to 22:00 or 23:00. Again, outside these hours, petrol is available from automatic pumps.

Car hire excess cover

Protect yourself from unexpected excess costs when hiring a car.

Driving a hire car in Switzerland

Not all of the information in the guide above will be relevant to those looking to rent a hire car in Switzerland. Though it might be a good idea to read through everything anyway, here are the most important things to know for drivers of rental vehicles:

Rental information

  • The minimum age to hire a car is 20
  • You need a full, valid UK driving licence and usually a second proof of ID (passport)
  • Car rental companies ask that you have held your licence for a minimum term of 1 year
  • A credit card may be required by some companies, it is best to check beforehand
  • You may not be able to drive outside of Switzerland unless planned in advance - check with your hire company first
  • Make sure you get car hire excess insurance before your trip to protect yourself from unexpected costs. It's almost always cheaper to do this with a separate insurer and in advance

Hire car driving tips

  • The national speed limit on motorways in Switzerland is 120km/h (74 mph). On a main road outside a built-up area it's 80km/h to 100km/h. For built-up areas it’s 50km/h.
  • Dial 112 in an emergency
  • If seat belts are fitted to your car, they must be worn by both drivers and passengers.
  • The blood alcohol content limit for drivers of private vehicles is 0.05%. That's lower than the 0.08% in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, but the same as Scotland

European Breakdown Cover

Get covered when driving in Europe from just £7. Plus, get a full refund if Covid-19 restrictions prevent travel.†

Driving in Switzerland FAQs

  • Can I drive my car in Switzerland?

    Yes, so long as you have a valid UK licence and V5 document, along with sufficient insurance and breakdown cover for your trip. You should also familiarise yourself with the laws around driving in Switzerland before you set off to keep yourself and other road users safe.

    The quickest option to get to Switzerland by car is to board the Eurotunnel Le Shuttle train from Folkestone to Calais. Then drive south through France towards Reims (there are tolls on this route) and on to the Swiss border. The journey from Calais to Basel, for example, takes around seven hours in total.

  • What side of the road do they drive on in Switzerland?

    Unlike in the UK, motorists drive on the right-hand side of the road in Switzerland and overtake on the left – which can take some adjustment if you’re used to driving on the left.

  • Can you drive in Switzerland with a UK licence?

    Yes, you can legally drive in Switzerland with your UK-issued driving licence without the need to apply for an International Driving Permit.

  • Do I need extra insurance to drive in Switzerland?

    Switzerland and the UK are both part of the Green Card System, a Europe-wide scheme allowing all countries to recognise foreign vehicle insurance policies of visiting motorists, so it’s quite possible your existing insurance will cover you.

    However, before setting off on your trip, you should contact your insurance provider to make sure that no additional cover is required.

  • Do I need a Green Card to drive in Switzerland?

    While carrying a Green Card isn’t a legal requirement, many motorists choose to take one for extra proof of insurance and you should always check with your insurance provider before travel to ensure you will be covered.

  • Is driving in Switzerland dangerous?

    Switzerland has one of the lowest accident rates in the world and the roads are generally in excellent condition. However, driving in the Alps can be quite challenging as there are some very steep roads and numerous bends to negotiate. You should also watch out for farm vehicles and cattle on rural country roads.

    As with driving in any foreign country, it’s imperative to familiarise yourself with the law to ensure you stay safe on the roads.

  • Do I need a GB sticker for Switzerland?

    Yes. As Switzerland isn’t part of the EU, you will need to display a GB sticker on the rear of your car even if it’s equipped with EU number plates.

  • Do I need headlamp converters in Switzerland?

    Yes. This is so you don’t dazzle oncoming traffic when driving on the right side of the road at night.

  • What age can you start driving in Switzerland?

    To legally drive in Switzerland, you have to be 18 years or older and in possession of a full valid driving licence.

  • Do I need snow chains in Switzerland?

    Winter tyres are recommended but not mandatory, and snow chains are only compulsory when their use is indicated by a road sign. If you’re going on a long journey through Switzerland, pay close attention to the weather forecast. It can snow in higher altitudes even in summer, which can lead to road closures over mountain passes.

  • Does Switzerland have toll roads?

    Yes, a Swiss motorway tax sticker is required to use the national motorways. You need to stick the vignette to the inside of your windscreen, otherwise you risk an on-the-spot fine. The sticker costs 40 CHF (£33*).

  • How do I get a vignette in Switzerland?

    You can buy a vignette online or at most border crossings, petrol stations, post offices and the Swiss National Tourist Office.

UK Government travel advice

See up-to-date travel advice


Source: Information in this document is sourced from the AIT (Alliance Internationale de Tourisme) & the FIA (Federation Internationale de l'Automobile) and, to the best of the RAC’s knowledge, is correct at the time of publication (November 2020).
 
*https://www.campingandcaravanningclub.co.uk/helpandadvice/travelplanning/eurotraveladvice/europeancampingguide/page5

British Embassy Berne

Thunstrasse 50
3005 Berne
Switzerland  

Telephone +41 (0)31 359 7700 (available 24/7)

Fax (general) +41 (0)31 359 7701

Fax (consular) +41 (0)31 359 7765

Out of hours emergencies +41 (0)31 359 77 00

† Price for 1 day cover for up to 9 people travelling in a vehicle up to 1 year old in Zone 1. For more information visit rac.co.uk/breakdown-cover/european-breakdown-cover

^£11 a month is for existing Camping and Caravanning Club members purchasing new personal based Caravan Standard cover only on a monthly renewing contract. Vehicle based cover from £10 a month. New member personal based prices from £16 a month.

† Price for 1 day cover for up to 9 people travelling in a vehicle up to 1 year old in Zone 1. For more information visit rac.co.uk/breakdown-cover/european-breakdown-cover