Switzerland Traveler Information - Travel Advice
Travel Advice with a Travel Advisory overview from the US State Department. Here we cover Visa, Safety & Security, local Laws and Insurance in our Switzerland Traveler Information guide.
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Note: Always check that your destination country is one approved for travel by your travel insurance provider.
PASSPORT VALIDITY: Valid for at least six months after your planned date of departure from the Schengen area.
BLANK PASSPORT PAGES: 1 page.
TOURIST VISA REQUIRED: No visa required for visits of 90 days or less.
VACCINATIONS: No legal requirement.
CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR ENTRY: No restrictions; officers may question over 10,000 Swiss Francs (CHF).
CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR EXIT: No restrictions; officers may question over 10,000 Swiss Francs (CHF).
Embassies and Consulates
3007 Bern, Switzerland
Mailing address: P.O. 3259, 3001 Bern, Switzerland
Emergency Telephone: + (41) (31) 357-7011
Fax: + (41) (31) 357-7280
The Consular Section at the U.S. Embassy provides routine and emergency services for U.S. citizens. The Embassy requires appointments for routine consular services. Please schedule appointments through the online appointment system for U.S. Citizens Services. Additional information is available on the Embassy’s website, Facebook, and Twitter.
When calling from within Switzerland, drop the country code and add a zero. For example: + 41 31 357-7011 becomes 031 357-7011.
There are two part-time consular agencies in Switzerland. They provide limited services to U.S. citizens by appointment only. Please visit our website for more information on available services.
U.S. Consular Agency Geneva
Geneva America Center
Rue Francois-Versonnex 7
1207 Geneva, Switzerland
Mailing address: P.O. Box 3259, 3001 Bern, Switzerland
Entry, Exit and Visa Requirements
Visit the website of the Embassy of Switzerland in Washington, D.C. for the most current visa information.
Traveling Through Europe: If you are planning to visit or travel through European countries, you should be familiar with the requirements of the Schengen Agreement.
- Your passport should be valid for at least three months beyond the period of stay if you plan on transiting a Schengen country review our U.S. Travelers in Europe page.
- You will need sufficient proof of funds and a return plane ticket.
- For additional information about visas for the Schengen area, see the Schengen Visa page.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors or foreign residents in Switzerland.
Safety and Security
Terrorism: Terrorist groups and those inspired by such organizations are intent on attacking U.S. citizens abroad. Terrorists are increasingly using less sophisticated methods of attack – including knives, firearms, and vehicles – to more effectively target crowds. Frequently, their aim is unprotected or vulnerable targets, such as:
- High-profile public events (sporting contests, political rallies, demonstrations, holiday events, celebratory gatherings, etc.)
- Hotels, clubs, and restaurants frequented by tourists
- Places of worship
- Shopping malls and markets
- Public transportation systems (including subways, buses, trains, and scheduled commercial flights)
The local equivalent to the “911” emergency number in Europe, including Switzerland, is “112.” You can also directly dial 144 for medical emergencies, 117 for the police, and 118 for the fire department.
Demonstrations occur frequently. They may take place in response to political or economic issues, on politically significant holidays, and during international events.
- Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly become violent.
- Avoid areas around protests and demonstrations.
- Check local media for updates and traffic advisories.
- Monitor media and local information sources as well as Embassy Bern’s safety and security webpage, and factor updated information into personal travel plans and activities.
- Address specific safety concerns to law enforcement authorities in Liechtenstein.
Crime: The majority of crimes directed against foreign visitors, including U.S. citizens, involve pick-pocketing, vehicle break-ins, bicycle theft, and other forms of theft.
- Do not leave bags unattended. Most reported thefts occur at crowded tourist sites, at airports, car rental agencies, on public buses, trams and trains, and at the major railway stations.
- Visitors to congested and popular tourist areas (e.g., museums, monuments, train stations, airports, and subways) should be particularly attentive to their surroundings.
- Be alert to criminal schemes. Organized groups of pick-pockets operate at major tourist sites and when conferences, festivals, shows, or exhibitions occur. Thieves frequently work in pairs. For example, one member of the pair creates a disturbance while the other steals your belongings.
- While the incidence of sexual assault is statistically low, attacks do occur. See our travel tips for Women Travelers.
- In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available. Transactions involving such products may be illegal under local law. In addition, bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines.
Victims of Crime: Report crimes to the local police at 117, and contact the U.S. Embassy at +41 31 357-7011. Remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting the crime.
See our webpage on help for U.S. victims of crime overseas.
- Assist you in reporting a crime to the police
- Help you find appropriate medical care
- Contact relatives or friends with your written consent
- Explain the local criminal justice process in general terms
- Provide a list of local attorneys
- Provide information on victim’s compensation programs in the U.S.
- Provide an emergency loan for repatriation to the United States and/or limited medical support if you are destitute
- Help you find accommodation and arrange flights home
- Replace a stolen or lost passport
Alpine hazards: Liechtenstein is a popular destination for outdoor sports enthusiasts, including skiing, hiking, and mountain climbing. Alpine hazards such as avalanches and snowdrifts, landslides and flooding, glacial crevasses, falling rocks, sun exposure, and sudden weather changes are common year-round. Although safety standards are excellent, visitors need to be aware that public safety warnings are not comparable to those found in the United States. While hiking paths and ski slopes are clearly marked, not all possibly hazardous situations will have clear warning signs. People are expected to use common sense and caution when enjoying the outdoors.
- Stay on designated paths or slopes
- Follow the advice given by local authorities and guides
- Take note of weather forecasts and conditions
- Be in a team of two when participating in mountain activities
- Inform someone of your plans and anticipated time of return
Mountain rescues can be extremely expensive and we recommend that you have sufficient insurance coverage that includes coverage for mountain search and rescue. See our website for more information on overseas insurance coverage. The non-profit foundation Swiss Air Rescue Organization (REGA) offers a membership that waives the costs of rescue missions; many Swiss citizens are members and U.S. citizens are able to join as well.
Domestic Violence: U.S. citizen victims of domestic violence may contact the Embassy for assistance. Local organizations offer counseling and assistance for victims of crime.
Tourism: The tourism industry is generally regulated and rules with regard to best practices and safety inspections are regularly enforced. Hazardous areas/activities are identified with appropriate signage and professional staff is typically on hand in support of organized activities. In the event of an injury, appropriate medical treatment is widely available throughout the country. Outside of a major metropolitan center, it may take more time for first responders and medical professionals to stabilize a patient and provide life-saving assistance. U.S. citizens are encouraged to purchase medical evacuation insurance. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage.
Local Laws & Special Circumstances
Criminal Penalties: You are subject to local laws. If you violate local laws, even unknowingly, you may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Individuals establishing a business or practicing a profession that requires additional permits or licensing should seek information from the competent local authorities, prior to practicing or operating a business.
Arrest Notification: If you are arrested or detained, ask police or prison officials to notify the U.S. Embassy immediately. See our webpage for further information.
Swiss Banking: Most major credit cards are widely accepted, but many vendors will only accept chip-and-PIN cards. ATMs are widely available and accept U.S. debit cards. Numerous banks do not accept U.S. citizens as clients. Please see the Embassy’s website for more information on banking in Switzerland.
Faith-Based Travelers: See the following webpages for details:
- Faith-Based Travel Information
- International Religious Freedom Report – see country reports
- Human Rights Report – see country reports
- Hajj Fact Sheet for Travelers
- Best Practices for Volunteering Abroad
LGBTI Travelers: There are no legal restrictions on same-sex relationships or the organization of LGBTI events in Switzerland.
Travelers Who Require Accessibility Assistance: While in Switzerland, individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different from what you find in the United States. Many sidewalks are narrow and uneven, and cobblestone streets can make access difficult, but most major tourist areas have better facilities. Please see the website of the Swiss National Tourist Office for more information.
For emergency services in Switzerland dial 144, or 117 for the police.
Medical care is comparable to that found in the United States. Ambulance services are widely available.
The U.S. government does not pay medical bills. Be aware that U.S. Medicare does not apply overseas. Swiss medical facilities and care providers will ask for you to settle your bills onsite and you will have to claim a refund with your insurer later. It is common for hospitals to ask for a deposit to ensure medical costs will be covered.
Medical Insurance: Make sure your health insurance plan provides coverage overseas. Most care providers overseas only accept cash payments. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage. Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more information on type of insurance you should consider before you travel overseas.
Medications: Over-the-counter medicine is available at pharmacies and a pharmacist is on call 24/7. Information regarding the pharmacy and pharmacist on duty in your area can be obtained over the medical emergency telephone line by dialing 144. If traveling with prescription medication, check with the Swiss Federal Customs Administration to ensure the medication is legal in Switzerland. Always carry your prescription medication in original packaging with your doctor’s prescription.
Vaccinations: Be up-to-date on all vaccinations recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) is common. Travelers planning high-risk activities (camping, adventure travel) should take precautions. See the website of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for more details on TBE and TBE prevention.
Further health information:
Travel and Transportation
Road Conditions and Traffic Safety: Road conditions are generally excellent, but traffic, engineering, and driving habits pose special dangers.
- Lane markings and sign placements may differ from those in the United States. Drivers should be prepared to make last-minute maneuvers and stops.
- Be aware that pedestrians, bikers, and trams generally have the right-of-way.
- In alpine areas roads may become dangerous due to snowfall, ice, or avalanches. Some mountain roads may close for extended periods.
- In some mountain areas, vehicle snow chains are required in the winter.
- Roundabouts are very common in Switzerland.
- The maximum speed limit on motorways is 120 km/h, on expressways it is 100 km/h, on roads outside urban areas it is 80 km/h, and in urban areas it is 50 km/h. Neighborhoods are typically 30 km/h.
Accidents: In the event of a traffic accident, call the police immediately at 117. Call 118 for the fire department and 144 for medical/ambulance services. 144 functions as the equivalent to the “911” emergency number in the United States.
Toll roads: If you plan to drive on motorways in Switzerland you must purchase a toll sticker (vignette), which must be affixed to the car’s windshield. These are available online, at gas stations, and at border crossings. Rental cars usually have a vignette already; be sure to check with your car rental agency. Failure to comply with traffic rules can result in large fines. For more information visist the website of the Swiss Federal Customs Administration.
Traffic Laws and Fines: While driving in Switzerland you are subject to local traffic laws.
- The minimum age to operate a motor vehicle in Switzerland is 18.
- The maximum allowable blood-alcohol content in the Switzerland is 0.05 percent (0.5 per mille).
- All vehicles are required to travel with their headlights on at all times.
- Use of cellular devices for talking or texting while driving is prohibited.
- Right-of-way rules differ from those in the United States. Unless specifically indicated otherwise, drivers entering intersections from the right have priority over those on the left, even when entering relatively large boulevards from small side streets.
- Turning right on red is illegal.
- Speeding fines vary between 20 and 300 Swiss Francs. If you exceed the speed limit significantly or engage in reckless driving the traffic violation can be referred to the public prosecutor. Public prosecutors commonly impose monetary deposit/bail on foreign visitors, which can be over 1,000 Swiss Francs. Please note that a traffic violation that is referred to the prosecutor will incur significant cost in addition to the actual fine.
Driving in Switzerland: You may drive in Switzerland with your valid U.S. license for up to one year after your arrival; then you must obtain a Swiss permit. Swiss licenses are only issued on the basis of valid U.S. licenses. Holders of expired U.S. licenses must take the Swiss driving test when applying for a Swiss license. The minimum age for driving or learning to drive is 18. Liability insurance on motor vehicles is compulsory in Switzerland and must be provided by a Swiss insurance company.
Public Transportation: Public transport in Switzerland is excellent, punctual, and safe. The websites of the Swiss Federal Railways (SBB)and the Swiss National Tourist Office are the best places to obtain information on fares and timetables.
- Travelers must purchase train, bus or tram tickets and validate them by punching them in validating machines prior to boarding (machines can be found near the entrance of train stations or tram and bus stops). Tickets cannot be bought on the train, bus, or tram. Failure to follow this procedure may result in an on-the-spot fine by an inspector. If the violator does not pay the fine on the spot, it will automatically double.
- Be aware of pick-pockets and do not leave bags unattended. Most reported thefts occur on public buses, trams and trains, and at the major railway stations.
For more information visit the website of the Swiss Federal Office of Transport (FOT), which is responsible for public transport in Switzerland.
See our Road Safety page for more information.
Aviation Safety Oversight: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) assessed the government of Switzerland’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Switzerland’s air carrier operations. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.
For additional travel information
- Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive security messages and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
- Call us in Washington, D.C. at 1-888-407-4747 (toll-free in the United States and Canada) or 1-202-501-4444 (from all other countries) from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
- See the State Department’s travel website for the Worldwide Caution and Travel Advisories.
- Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.
- See traveling safely abroad for useful travel tips.
International Parental Child Abduction
Review information about International Parental Child Abduction in Switzerland. For additional IPCA-related information, please see the International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act (ICAPRA) report.
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