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Switzerland

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Summary

  • 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.
  • Terrorists are likely to plan attacks targeting Switzerland. In recent years, terrorist attacks have occurred in a number of European cities. Be alert 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 Natural disasters
  • Switzerland is currently experiencing an outbreak of measles. Make sure your vaccinations are up-to-date. See Health

Entry and exit

Every country or territory decides who can enter or exit through its borders. The Australian Government cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet your destination’s entry or exit requirements. 

Visas

Switzerland is party to the Schengen Convention. This allows you to enter Switzerland without a visa in some circumstances.

In other circumstances, you need a visa unless you're travelling for tourism or business purposes for 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.

More information: Schengen Convention

Other formalities

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 the parent/guardian's contact details and attach a copy of the parent's/guardian's valid passport or ID.

Passport

Check the expiry date of your Australian passport before you travel. Some countries won't let you enter unless your passport is valid for six months from when you plan to leave that country.

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 access 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.

Money

The currency in Switzerland is the Swiss Franc.

Safety and security

Crime

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 known to attract tourists. Thieves often operate in pairs, with one creating a diversion while the other steals unguarded items.

Be alert to your belongings.

Terrorism

Terrorists are likely to plan attacks targeting 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. Local authorities (Cantons) may increase security in major cities during the December/January holiday period.

  • In planning activities, consider the kinds of places known to be terrorist targets and the level of security provided.
  • Be alert 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 suspicious activity or items to police.
  • Monitor the news for new or emerging threats.
  • Follow local authorities' instructions.

If there's an attack and it's safe to do so, leave the affected area immediately.

More information: 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.

Local travel

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 travel

Road conditions are of a generally high standard, but be alert to winter road conditions. Follow local advice on the use of snow tyres and snow chains.

Switzerland has some different road rules:

  • ​​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 have a warning triangle for use during breakdowns or accidents
  • vehicles crossing the borders into France, Germany and Italy must have a fluorescent safety vest, to be worn whenever the warning triangle is used
  • radar detectors are illegal.

​Penalties include on-the-spot fines.

More information:

Driver's licence

To drive in Switzerland you must be at least 18 and have an Australian driving licence. Some car hire companies will require an International Driving Permit as well.

Rail

Information about rail services is available on the Swiss Travel System website.

Air safety

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade 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.

More information: Air travel

Laws

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. We can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

Drug laws

Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking illegal drugs are severe and penalties include imprisonment and fines.

Other laws

Smoking is illegal in workplaces and public places, including hotels, restaurants, cinemas, schools, shopping centres and sports centres. Larger restaurants and bars often have designated areas for smokers.

Switzerland can deport and expel foreign criminals  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.

Australian laws

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
  • terrorism.

More information: Staying within the law

Health

Get comprehensive travel insurance before you leave 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 won't pay for your medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs. This can be very expensive and cost you thousands of dollars upfront.

Confirm:

  • ​​​what circumstances and activities are and are not covered under your policy
  • that you are covered for the whole time you will be away.

More information: Travel insurance

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 leave, see your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up. Discuss your travel plans and implications for your health.
  • Get vaccinated before you travel.

More information:

Medication

Not all medication available over the counter or by prescription in Australia is available in other countries. Some may be illegal or a controlled substance, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor. Only bring prescription and non-prescription medication into Switzerland for personal use. 

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 Switzerland.

More information: Prescription medicines

Health risks

Health risks in Switzerland are broadly similar to those in Australia.

Measles

Switzerland is currently experiencing an outbreak of measles. Make sure your vaccinations are up-to-date before you travel.

More information:

Medical facilities

The standard of medical facilities and care throughout Switzerland is comparable with Australia. 

Switzerland does not have a reciprocal health care arrangement 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.

Natural disasters

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 local authorities' advice
  • equip yourself appropriately
  • inform someone of your plans
  • observe all written warnings and notices
  • stick to marked slopes and trails
  • ensure your travel insurance covers all your planned activities.
  • keep informed of regional weather forecasts and plan your travel accordingly
  • ​​if a natural disaster occurs, follow local authorities' advice.

More information:

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: 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.

Australian Government

Read the 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
Switzerland
Telephone: +41 22 7999100
Fax: +41 22 7999178
Email: Australian.consulate-geneva@dfat.gov.au
Website: geneva.mission.gov.au/

Check the 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.

Additional information

Additional resources