Cookies on the DFA website

We use cookies to give the best experience on our site while also complying with Data Protection requirements. Continue without changing your settings, and you'll receive cookies, or change your cookie settings at any time.

Skip to main content

Switzerland

If you’re travelling to Switzerland, our travel advice and updates give you practical tips and useful information. 

Get travel and medical insurance

Before travelling, the Department strongly recommends that you obtain a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), available by contacting the Health Service Executive, and that you also obtain comprehensive travel insurance which will cover all overseas medical costs, including medical repatriation/evacuation, repatriation of remains and legal costs. You should check any exclusions and, in particular, that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.

Overview

Security status

We advise you to take normal precautions.

Emergency assistance

The best help is often close at hand so if you have problems, try talking to your local contacts, tour operator representative or hotel management.

You can contact the emergency services in Switzerland by dialling the following numbers:

117 Police
118 Fire Brigade
144 Ambulance (145 for toxic poisoning)
112 European Emergency Line
140 Vehicle Rescue
1414 REGA Air Rescue

Our tips for Safe Travels:

  • Purchase comprehensive travel insurance which covers all your intended activities.
  • Get a European Health Insurance Card
  • Add an alert for your destination within the Travelwise App.
  • Register your details with us so that we can contact you quickly if there’s an unforeseen crisis like a natural disaster or a family emergency.
  • Follow us on twitter @dfatravelwise for the latest travel updates.
  • Read our ‘Know Before You Go’ guide.

 

Safety and security

Social unrest

Protests and demonstrations do happen, mainly in Zürich, Geneva, Bern or Basel. These are often aimed at international organisations and international meetings. Some protests have become violent in the past. You should monitor the local media about possible demonstrations. Avoid affected areas and follow the advice of local authorities.

Terrorism

Although the threat from terrorism in Switzerland is generally low, there is still a risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks, which could be against civilian targets, including places frequented by tourists and expatriates.

Crime

Crime remains relatively low in Switzerland although petty theft does happen, especially around main train stations, filling stations, on public transport, at airports and in city centres. There has been a noticeable increase recently in the number of thefts in the Geneva area, both of personal items and cars. You should take sensible precautions. 

  • Don’t carry your credit card, travel tickets and money together - leave spare cash and valuables in a safe place.
  • Don’t carry your passport unless absolutely necessary and leave a copy of your passport (and travel and insurance documents) with family or friends at home.
  • Avoid dark and unlit streets and stairways, and arrange to be picked up or dropped off as close to your hotel or apartment entrance as possible.

Reporting a crime

If you’re a victim of a crime while in Switzerland, report it to the local police immediately. And you can contact us at the Irish Embassy or Honorary Consul if you need help.

Driving

The rules of the road in Switzerland are broadly similar to those in Ireland, and roads are modern and well maintained.

If you want to drive:

  • Bring your full Irish driving license and make sure you have adequate and appropriate insurance
  • Traffic regulations are strictly enforced in Switzerland and any serious breach of the rules, particularly drink driving, can result in heavy fines, loss of licence and imprisonment
  • Be aware of Switzerland’s traffic laws, such as speed limits. Speeding is taken very seriously and could result in a hefty fine, which can be sent to you even after you have left Switzerland. Failure to pay can result in future difficulties when entering or leaving Switzerland
  • Keep your vehicle doors locked and your bags kept out of sight to prevent opportunistic bag-snatching if you’re stopped at traffic lights
  • All cars must be fitted with winter tyres when driving in Switzerland during the winter months. Snow chains may also be required for mountainous routes 
  • A motorway tax, or vignette, must be paid by all users of Switzerland’s motorways, including short-term visitors. The current annual fee is CHF40 and can be obtained from the Swiss Federal Customs Agency at border crossing points

Hiring a vehicle

If you’re hiring a vehicle, we advise you not to hand over your passport as a form of security. If you’re allowing your passport to be photocopied, keep it in your sight at all times.

Check that you have adequate insurance and read the small print of the vehicle hire contract (particularly any waiver that will come into effect if the vehicle is damaged).

Local laws and customs

Federal and local laws

Switzerland is a federal country and each individual canton has its own laws and law enforcement agency. In certain cases, such as traffic regulations, federal law applies.

Alcohol

The drinking age for beer, wine and alcoholic cider is generally 16 (although higher in some cantons or individual shops), while the age for any other alcohol (e.g. spirits, alcopops, etc.) is 18.

Illegal drugs

Possession of drugs carries heavy fines and prison terms in Switzerland, which can vary depending on the amount and type of drugs involved. Any attempt to cross the Swiss border carrying drugs (for instance changing flights in Switzerland via Zürich airport) automatically constitutes trafficking charges.

Health

The HSE publishes detailed information about medical care in Switzerland on its website.

Travel Insurance

We can’t pay for emergency medical repatriation, repatriation of remains, or for expenses as a result of a personal emergency while you are abroad. If you buy an appropriate travel insurance policy, these costs will be covered, provided you haven’t broken the terms and conditions.

Buying comprehensive travel insurance can save you and your family a lot of money if something goes wrong. It will also ensure that you get the medical attention you need, when you need it. Hospital bills can quickly run into thousands of euro, and a medical evacuation back to Ireland can cost thousands more.

Not all policies are the same, and the cheapest one might be cheap for a reason. Make sure your policy covers all the activities you plan to do on your trip. Insurance Ireland recommend that you purchase a policy that provides a minimum medical cover of €1 million.

Emergency expenses

Your policy should cover:

  • All medical care abroad, including evacuation by air ambulance, or other emergency procedures, and any other costs associated with an unexpected longer stay.
  • Your entire trip, from departure to return. Consider an annual multi-trip policy if you’re making more than one trip in the year.   
  • 24-hour emergency service and assistance.
  • Personal liability cover (in case you’re sued for causing injury or damaging property).
  • Lost and stolen possessions.
  • Cancellation and curtailment.
  • Any extra activities you intend to do that are excluded from standard policies (e.g. water sport activities such as jet skiing or other extreme sports).

Exclusions: You should know most insurance policies will not cover drink or drug-related incidents.

European Health Insurance Card

As an Irish resident you are entitled to get healthcare through the public system in countries of the European Union (EU), European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland if you become ill or injured while on a temporary stay there. Ensure that you get or renew your EHIC (the new name for the E111) before you go, and remember, you need one for every person travelling in your group.

Apply for your EHIC and find out more information.

The EHIC is not a substitute for proper travel insurance provided by a reputable insurer. It doesn’t cover medical repatriation, ongoing medical treatment or treatment of a non-urgent nature. Also, some private hospitals may not accept the EHIC, so you should check with the hospital administrator beforehand.

Additional information

Mobile phone charges

As Switzerland is not in the EU or EEA (European Economic Area), roaming charges are not covered by the EU Roaming Regulation. As a result, call charges to and from Irish mobile phones can be high. Check with your mobile provider before travelling to Switzerland.

Climate

Switzerland has a continental climate, which is also influenced by the Alps. Cold and dry northerly winds can make temperatures drop very quickly, even in clear weather. The Alps act as a barrier – southern Switzerland, is influenced by the Mediterranean and has a much milder climate than northern Switzerland. The mountains make for spectacular differences in the weather among different regions. It is common to move from a cold and cloudy landscape to a beautiful clear blue sky in just a few minutes. Monitor regional weather forecasts and take local advice.

Snow and avalanches

Avalanches, snow drifts, flash floods and mudslides are a danger in alpine areas. The weather in the mountains is unpredictable and can change suddenly. Monitor local weather and safety conditions, follow advice from local authorities, equip yourself appropriately, plan your activities carefully and inform someone of your plans. You should also observe all written warnings and notices and stick to marked slopes and trails. Ensure that your travel insurance covers you for all activities you plan to try.