Exercise normal safety precautions in Switzerland. Use common sense. Look out for suspicious behaviour, as you would in Australia. Monitor the news and other sources for changes to local travelling conditions.
- There is a threat of terrorist attack in Switzerland. In recent years, terrorist attacks have occurred in a number of European cities. Terrorists are likely to plan attacks targeting Switzerland. Exercise caution in public places such as shopping areas, places of worship, sporting venues, public transport, airports and other transport hubs, and places of mass gathering. See
Safety and security.
- Petty crime targeting tourists occurs, particularly around transport hubs in major cities. Crime rates increase during peak tourist seasons. See
Safety and security.
- The weather in alpine regions is unpredictable and can change suddenly. You could encounter dangerous avalanches, flash flooding and mudslides. See
Travel smart for general advice for all travellers.
Entry and exit
Switzerland is party to the Schengen Convention, along with a number of other European countries. This allows you to enter Switzerland without a visa in some circumstances.
In other circumstances, you'll need a visa unless you are travelling only for tourism or business purposes and your stay is for a period of 90 days or less.
Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. Contact the nearest
Embassy or Consulate of Switzerland for up-to-date information.
To avoid delays when arriving or departing, the Swiss
State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) recommends that unaccompanied minors, or those travelling with only one parent or legal guardian, carry a letter of consent from the absent parent or guardian. The letter should contain details of the parent/guardian, and attach a copy of the parent's/guardian's valid passport or ID.
Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months from the date you intend to return to Australia.
Your passport is a valuable document and attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. Always keep it in a safe place.
Be aware of attempts to obtain access to your passport by deception. If you are forced to hand over your passport, contact the Embassy for advice.
If your passport is lost or stolen, you must notify the Australian Government as soon as possible.
The currency in Switzerland is the Swiss Franc.
Safety and security
Switzerland has a low incidence of serious crime. Petty crime, bag snatching and pick-pocketing is increasing, particularly on public transport and in tourist areas. Theft from unattended vehicles and vehicles stopped in traffic also occurs. Passengers sleeping on overnight trains have been robbed.
The majority of crime targets tourists near tourist attractions in major towns. In particular, petty crime occurs at airports and railway stations, mainly in the larger cities of Bern, Zurich and Geneva.
Crime rates increase during the peak tourist seasons of summer and Christmas, and at events which are known to attract a large numbers of foreign visitors. Thieves often operate in pairs, with one creating a diversion while the other steals unguarded items.
- Don't leave bags containing money or valuables unattended.
- Pay close attention to your personal belongings, particularly in places frequented by tourists and, in public places including public transport.
- Monitor local sources of information on crime.
There is a threat of terrorist attack in Switzerland. In recent years, terrorist attacks have occurred in a number of European cities. Targets have included public transport and transport hubs, places of worship, sporting venues and places of mass gathering, including those frequented by foreigners. Terrorists are likely to plan attacks targeting Switzerland. Local authorities (Cantons) may increase security in major cities during the December/January holiday period.
- In planning your activities, consider the kinds of places known to be terrorist targets and the level of security provided.
- Exercise caution in public places such as shopping areas, places of worship, sporting venues, public transport, airports and other transport hubs, and places of mass gathering.
- Report any suspicious activity or items to police.
- Monitor the news for any new or emerging threats.
- Take official warnings seriously and follow the instructions of local authorities.
If there is an attack, leave the affected area immediately if it is safe to do so.
Terrorist threat worldwide
Civil unrest and political tension
Protests or demonstrations may occur in Switzerland and have the potential to turn violent.
- Monitor the news and other sources for information about possible demonstrations.
- Avoid all crowds, protests and demonstrations, where possible.
- Follow the advice of local authorities.
Since 2015, there have been significant pressures on border controls in Europe due to the movement of asylum seekers. Carry your passport when crossing borders, even within the
Schengen area. Keep up-to-date on border conditions by checking local news sources and asking transport providers directly.
Road conditions are generally of a high standard, but pay particular attention to road conditions during winter. Follow local advice on the use of snow tyres and snow chains.
Switzerland has some road rules that Australian drivers may not be familiar with:
- vehicle headlights must be on at all times, including daylight hours
- vehicles travelling on motorways must display a valid vignette (car sticker)
- all vehicles must be equipped with a warning triangle for use during breakdowns or accidents
- vehicles crossing the borders into France, Germany and Italy must also carry a fluorescent safety vest, to be worn whenever the warning triangle is used
- radar detectors and the use of mobile phones while driving (unless they are fitted with a hands free device) are prohibited.
Penalties, including on-the-spot fines, apply.
Drivers must be at least 18 years of age and hold a valid driver's licence. Obtain an International Driving Permit in order to meet the requirements of some car hire agencies. Check what the licence requirements are for neighbouring countries before crossing the border.
Information about rail services is available on the
Swiss Travel System website.
The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See the
Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in Switzerland.
You're subject to all local laws and penalties, including those that may appear harsh by Australian standards. Research local laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.
If you're arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our
Consular services charter. But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.
Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking illegal drugs are severe and penalties include imprisonment and fines.
Smoking is banned in workplaces and all public places in Switzerland, including hotels, restaurants, cinemas, schools, shopping centres and sports centres. Larger restaurants and bars often have designated areas for smokers.
Under Swiss law, foreign criminals can be deported and expelled from Switzerland for five to 15 years. Repeat offenders can be expelled for life. Crimes that can lead to expulsion include murder, grievous bodily harm, breaking and entering, fraud, rape, genital mutilation, benefits fraud and aggression.
Some Australian criminal laws apply overseas. If you commit these offences, you may be prosecuted in Australia. Laws include those relating to:
- bribery of foreign public officials
- child pornography
- child sex tourism
- female genital mutilation
- forced marriage
- money laundering
Staying within the law
Switzerland recognises dual nationality.
Get comprehensive travel insurance before you depart to cover overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation.
Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for your medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs. This can be very expensive and cost you many thousands of dollars upfront.
- what circumstances and activities are and are not covered under your policy
- that you are covered for the whole time you will be away.
Physical and mental health
Consider your physical and mental health before travelling, especially if you have an existing medical condition.
- At least eight weeks before you depart, see your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and implications for your health.
- Get vaccinated before you travel.
Not all medications available over the counter or by prescription in Australia are available in other countries. Some may even be considered illegal or a controlled substance, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor. Prescription and non-prescription medication can be brought into Switzerland for personal use only.
Take prescription medicine with you so you remain in good health. Always carry on your person a copy of your prescription or a letter from your doctor stating what the medicine is, how much you'll take and that it's for personal use only.
Before you leave Australia, check if your medication is legal in each country you're travelling to.
Health risks in Switzerland are broadly similar to those in Australia.
The standard of medical facilities and care throughout Switzerland is comparable with Australia.
Switzerland does not have reciprocal health care arrangements with Australia and medical costs can be extremely high. Often hospitals, doctors and medical centres will ask for payment up-front if a patient does not have medical insurance.
Avalanches, flash flooding and mudslides are dangers in alpine areas. There have been a number of fatalities in recent years. The weather in alpine regions is unpredictable and can change suddenly.
If you travel to alpine areas:
- monitor local weather and safety conditions
- follow the advice of local authorities
- equip yourself appropriately
- plan your activities carefully
- inform someone of your plans
- observe all written warnings and notices
- stick to marked slopes and trails
- ensure that your travel insurance covers you for all your planned activities.
- keep informed of regional weather forecasts and plan your travel accordingly
- if a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities.
Where to get help
Depending on what you need, your best option may be to first contact your family, friends, travel agent, travel insurance provider, employer, or airline. Your travel insurer should have a 24-hour emergency number.
Emergency phone numbers
- Firefighting and rescue services: 118
- Medical emergencies: 144
- Criminal issues, contact police: 117. Always get a police report when reporting a crime.
Tourism services and products
For complaints relating to tourism services or products, contact your service provider directly.
Consular services charter for what the Australian Government can and can't do to help you overseas.
For consular assistance, contact:
Australian Consulate-General, Geneva
Chemin des Fins, 2
Case postale 102
1211 Geneva 19
Telephone: +41 22 7999100
Fax: +41 22 7999178
Consulate-General website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.
If you're unable to contact the Consulate-General in a consular emergency, contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 from overseas, or 1300 555 135 within Australia.