Switzerland travel guide
Combining expansive greenery, slick cities and bucketfuls of fresh air, Switzerland is a stylish tourist destination that offers countless outdoor adventures and contemporary urban breaks.
Switzerland’s Alpine vistas are so picture perfect, they appear to have been plucked from a postcard or the pages of a storybook. But these disarming landscapes are alive and kicking, as the myriad spots for skiing, hiking or mountain biking can attest. Ski resorts like Zermatt (home to the lofty Matterhorn), Verbier and celebrity-studded St Moritz provide everything from big, bad Olympic runs to encouragingly gentle novice slopes. And when the snow melts at low altitudes, the white-tipped mountain peaks remain against a backdrop of blue skies, providing a superb setting for summertime hiking.
The ancient capital Berne provides almost endless opportunities for sightseeing, shopping and traditional folk entertainment, while Zurich leads the way in art, design and nightlife, from opera and world-class theatre to stylish bars and nightclubs. Geneva is the sleekest and most upscale of Switzerland's cities, acting as home to a thriving community of expats, many of whom work for the numerous international organisations that are headquartered there.
Yet Switzerland’s cultural offerings don’t stop there. When it comes to contemporary art, polished Basel reigns supreme, with more than 40 museums and galleries nestled in this compact city. For a few days every year, Basel takes centre stage for the eminent Art Basel fair. French-flavoured Montreux also steals a moment in the cultural spotlight when it becomes the centre of focus for the jazz world during the Montreux Jazz Festival. Elsewhere, dotted around green foothills, are countless spruce towns and folkloric villages, where ancient farm culture survives and cattle still loiter amid flower-filled pastures.
Small, mountainous and wealthy, Switzerland is renowned for its enviable quality of life, with public services ticking along like clockwork. Come for the creamy, complex cheeses, smooth chocolates and luxury watches; stay for the exquisite culture, incredible scenery and sheer sense of fun.
41,284 sq km (15,940 sq miles).
8,588,758 (UN estimate 2019).
208 per sq km.
Federal City Bern.
Guy Parmelin since January 2021.
Ignazio Cassis since January 2022.
Coronavirus travel health
Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Switzerland on the TravelHealthPro website.
See the TravelHealthPro website for further advice on travel abroad and reducing spread of respiratory viruses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
You should check the cantonal websites for information on testing facilities.
Entry and borders
See Entry requirements to find out what you will need to do when you arrive in Switzerland.
Returning to the UK
Travelling from and returning to the UK
Check what you must do to travel abroad and return to England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.
If you plan to pass through another country to return to the UK, check the travel advice for the country you’re transiting.
Neighbouring countries may introduce restrictions at borders and conduct health checks. Check the travel advice for any country you need to travel to or through. See our Travel Advice for France and Germany for the latest rules for transiting those countries from/to Switzerland.
Be prepared for your plans to change
No travel is risk-free during COVID. Countries may further restrict travel or bring in new rules at short notice, for example due to a new COVID-19 variant. Check with your travel company or airline for any transport changes which may delay your journey home.
If you test positive for COVID-19, you may need to stay where you are until you test negative. You may also need to seek treatment there.
Plan ahead and make sure you:
- can access money
- understand what your insurance will cover
- can make arrangements to extend your stay and be away for longer than planned
Switzerland has lifted all Covid-19 pandemic restrictions – there are no social distancing or mask wearing measures in place. There is no mandatory isolation requirement if you test positive for Covid19. Local restrictions or mandatory mask wearing and proof of vaccination may be in place in hospitals or care homes.
However, you should follow the basic principles on hygiene to protect yourself and others. If you feel unwell, it is advised to stay at home. If you have Covid-19 symptoms, it may be a good idea to get tested, especially if you are at high risk. The costs of the test are covered by the Swiss government.
Within Switzerland, there is no certificate requirement at the national level.
Further information is available from the Federal Office of Public Health.
Cantons may impose further restrictions, and you should check cantonal websites for further details.
Healthcare in Switzerland
If you feel ill, or are experiencing possible coronavirus symptoms, stay at home and either take the Coronavirus Check or call your doctor.
For contact details for English speaking doctors, visit our list of healthcare providers.
Your emotional and mental wellbeing is important. Read guidance on how to look after your mental wellbeing and mental health.
View Health for further details on healthcare in Switzerland.
COVID-19 vaccines if you live in Switzerland
Wherever possible British nationals should aim to be vaccinated in the country where they live. We will update this page when the Government of Switzerland announces new information on the national vaccination programme. You can sign up to get email notifications when this page is updated.
The Swiss national vaccination programme started in December 2020 and is using the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Janssen vaccines. British nationals resident in Switzerland are eligible for vaccination. The Swiss authorities have issued their vaccination strategy on how vaccinations are organised in your canton. You can register for vaccination on the website of your canton of residence.
Find out more, including about vaccines that are authorised in the UK or approved by the World Health Organisation, on the COVID-19 vaccines if you live abroad.
If you’re a British national living in Switzerland, you should seek medical advice from your local healthcare provider. Information about COVID-19 vaccines used in the national programme where you live, including regulatory status, should be available from local authorities.
If you receive your COVID-19 vaccination in Switzerland, you can get a Digital COVID Certificate from the cantonal authorities. The Certificate proves that you have been vaccinated against COVID-19, received a negative test result, or recovered from COVID-19. It will help facilitate your travel within the Schengen Area and, in some countries, you can use it to demonstrate your COVID-19 status to businesses and other organisations. For further information visit the Federal Office of Public Health’s COVID Certificate page.
For information on financial support you can access whilst abroad, visit our financial assistance guidance.
Further information is available from the Federal Office of Public Health or by calling the Coronavirus Infoline on +41 58 463 00 00 (4am – 9pm GMT). Assistance is available in English, German, French and Italian.
If you need urgent consular assistance, contact your nearest British embassy, high commission or consulate. All telephone numbers are available 24/7.
There is a low rate of serious crime in Switzerland. However, the British Embassy has received increased reports of theft especially in larger cities, at Geneva airport and on trains to/from Geneva.
Take sensible precautions to avoid mugging, bag snatching and pickpocketing. Be particularly vigilant at airports, railway stations and crowded public gatherings. Do not leave your valuables unattended.
This leaflet, produced by the British Embassy and the Swiss transport police, gives more advice on what to do if you’re pickpocketed, including useful contacts. The emergency number for the Police is 117.
In 2019 there were 187 road deaths in the Switzerland (source: Department for Transport). This equates to 2.2 road deaths per 100,000 of population and compares to the UK average of 2.6 road deaths per 100,000 of population in 2019.
If you are planning to drive in Switzerland, see information on Driving Abroad.
Licences and documents
Drivers must be 18 years of age and hold a full valid UK, or other EU/EEA driving licence, insurance and vehicle documents.
When driving in Switzerland, you should always have your:
- driving licence
- car papers
- insurance paper
- MOT/Control technique certificate
- passport or ID and those of your passengers
If you’re living in Switzerland, check the Living in Switzerland Guide for information on requirements for residents.
Driving a British car abroad
You may need a UK sticker to drive your car outside the UK. From 28 September 2021 UK stickers have replaced GB stickers. Check the GOV.UK Displaying number plates website for more information on what to do if you are driving outside the UK.
Road users have to comply with Switzerland’s traffic laws, such as speed limits, rules on alcohol intake and child security. Traffic regulations are strictly enforced. Any serious breach of the regulations can result in heavy fines and/or imprisonment.
A reflective jacket and a warning triangle are compulsory and must be kept within easy reach (not in the boot). You must also have a first aid kit in the car. Radar detectors are prohibited in Switzerland (whether in use or not). The limit for alcohol in the bloodstream is 0.05% and police may request any driver to undergo a breath test or drugs test.
The speed limit on Swiss motorways is 120km/h unless otherwise indicated. Serious traffic offences (including driving over the speed limit) can lead to criminal prosecution. You may face detention while awaiting trial. There is no standard penalty because sentencing varies from canton to canton.
If you receive a traffic fine while driving in Switzerland you might be asked to pay on the spot. If you wish to challenge the fine, you can appeal in writing to the competent Swiss authority by the deadline, giving your reasons and presenting documentary proof. Fines can be enforced for a period of 3 years. This is to encourage foreign motorists who wish to re-enter Switzerland to pay their fine. Unpaid fines can result in a prison sentence.
You must purchase and display a vignette (sticker) to travel on Swiss motorways or face large fines. You can buy a vignette at most border crossings, petrol stations, post offices, by phone (+800 1002 0030) and online. The price of a vignette is currently CHF 40.
Motorway journeys are usually trouble-free, but if you´re involved in a car accident, use the orange emergency phones to ask for help.
Many roads outside of urban areas are narrow and winding, and road conditions can deteriorate fast (even in summer) especially during heavy rainfall and subsequent snowfall at higher altitudes. You should reduce your speed significantly to suit the conditions.
Alpine winters often make driving more difficult. You should equip your car with winter tyres and snow-chains, and check road conditions prior to departure. You should carry water, food, warm clothing and medicines in your vehicle.
You can find the latest information on road conditions on the websites of the Swiss Touring Club (in German, French and Italian). See the AA and RAC guides on driving in Switzerland.
The official website of Switzerland Tourism provides useful information for travellers in a wheelchair or with impaired mobility.
Outdoor sports activities
Hiking, mountaineering and other adventure sports are increasingly popular activities. Unfortunately each year there are incidents with visitors getting into difficulty and needing the help of the emergency services. There have been a number of tragic accidents involving British visitors, including during extreme sports activities.
If you’re taking part in extreme sports, check that the company is well established in the industry and that you’ve arranged for your travel insurance to cover the specific activity. For sports activities like skiing, potholing and mountaineering, and for sports classed as particularly dangerous (e.g. off-piste skiing, mountain biking, climbing, paragliding or BASE jumping), your insurance should include mountain rescue services, helicopter costs and repatriation to your country of residence or possible transfer to neighbouring countries for treatment.
Check weather forecasts and conditions and make sure you’re properly equipped for the worst-case scenario. A map, compass, GPS and telecommunication equipment should always be used when travelling outside urban areas. Don’t undertake any activity alone, and consider hiring a guide for expert advice. Always leave copies of your itinerary with someone.
The following alpine hazards exist throughout the year:
- avalanches and snow drifts
- landslides and flooding
- glacial crevasses and hollows
- rock fall
- thunder storms and lightning
- altitude sickness
- sun exposure
- sudden weather changes
To check the latest avalanche risk, visit the website of the Federal Office of Meteorology and Climatology. Observe all warnings about avalanches and where appropriate consider carrying search equipment. Conditions on roads in mountainous areas can quickly become difficult in winter. You should carry water, food, warm clothing and medicines in your vehicle.
Off-piste skiing is highly dangerous. You should follow all safety instructions carefully given the danger of avalanches in some areas and particularly during times of heavy snow. Avalanche beepers (receivers) are the most common rescue devices and when properly used provide the fastest way of locating an avalanche victim.
For more information and advice on enjoying outdoor activities safely and responsibly, visit the official website of Switzerland Tourism.
Read more about how to stay safe on the slopes.
Terrorist attacks in Switzerland can’t be ruled out. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners.
There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
It’s illegal to cover your face in public places in the Swiss cantons of Ticino and St Gallen. This does not apply to the requirement to wear a face mask. Failure to comply with the ban is punishable by a fine ranging from 100 CHF to 10,000 CHF. The law doesn’t provide any exemption for tourists.
This page has information on travelling to Switzerland. Check what you must do to return to the UK.
This page reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British Citizen’ passport from the UK, for the most common types of travel.
The authorities in Switzerland set and enforce entry rules.
You can see what rules apply to you when entering Switzerland using the online Travelcheck service.
It is no longer necessary to provide proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test or complete an entry form to enter Switzerland.
UK nationals do not need a visa to enter Switzerland. At passport control, UK nationals should use the ‘ALL PASSPORTS’ lane, irrespective of their residence status.
If you’re fully vaccinated
Entry requirements for Switzerland are the same for all travellers, regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status.
Proof of vaccination status
You don’t need to provide your vaccination status for entry to Switzerland.
If you’re not fully vaccinated
Entry requirements for Switzerland are the same for all travellers, regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status.
If you’ve had COVID-19 in the past year
Entry requirements for Switzerland are the same for all travellers, regardless of whether you have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past year.
Children and young people
There are no specific requirements for children and young people.
If you’re transiting through Switzerland
Transiting is when you pass through one country on the way to your final destination.
Check with your airline before departing.
There are no exemptions to Switzerland’s entry requirements.
Check your passport and travel documents before you travel
If you are planning to travel to an EU country (except Ireland), or Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Andorra, Monaco, San Marino or Vatican City, you must follow the Schengen area passport requirements.
Your passport must be:
- issued less than 10 years before the date you enter the country (check the ‘date of issue’)
- valid for at least 3 months after the day you plan to leave (check the ‘expiry date’)
You must check your passport meets these requirements before you travel. If your passport was issued before 1 October 2018, extra months may have been added to its expiry date.
You can travel to countries in the Schengen area for up to 90 days in any 180-day period without a visa. This applies if you travel as a tourist, to visit family or friends, to attend business meetings, cultural or sports events, or for short-term studies or training.
If you are travelling to Switzerland and other Schengen countries without a visa, make sure your whole visit is within the 90-day limit. Visits to Schengen countries within the previous 180 days before you travel count towards your 90 days.
To stay longer, to work or study, for business travel or for other reasons, you will need to meet the Swiss government’s entry requirements. Check the Swiss Embassy webiste to find out what type of visa and/or work permit, if any, you may need.
If you are travelling to work in Switzerland, read the guidance on visas and permits.
If you stay in Switzerland with a residence permit or long-stay visa, this does not count towards your 90-day visa-free limit.
Check your passport is stamped if you enter or exit the Schengen area through Switzerland as a visitor. Border guards will use passport stamps to check you’re complying with the 90-day visa-free limit for short stays in the Schengen area. If relevant entry or exit stamps are not in your passport, border guards will presume that you have overstayed your visa-free limit.
You can show evidence of when and where you entered or exited the Schengen area, and ask the border guards to add this date and location in your passport. Examples of acceptable evidence include boarding passes and tickets.
You may also need to:
- show a return or onward ticket
- show you have enough money for your stay
If you are resident in Switzerland, read our Living in Switzerland guide for passport stamping information.
For information and advice about Swiss customs regulations, visit the official website of the Federal Customs Administration.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Switzerland.
Returning to the UK
Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Switzerland on the TravelHealthPro website.
See the healthcare information in the Coronavirus section for information on what to do if you think you have coronavirus while in Switzerland.
At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.
General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist is available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.
The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or purchased in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
While travel can be enjoyable, it can sometimes be challenging. There are clear links between mental and physical health, so looking after yourself during travel and when abroad is important. Information on travelling with mental health conditions is available in our guidance page. Further information is also available from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).
You should get a free UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) or European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before leaving the UK. If you already have an EHIC it will still be valid as long as it remains in date.
You can use your GHIC or EHIC in Switzerland to get state-provided, medically necessary healthcare at a reduced cost (or sometimes for free) if you are a:
- UK national
- Swiss national
- citizen of the EU
- stateless person
- dependant or survivor of someone with one of these nationalities or statuses
You can only use your GHIC or EHIC in Switzerland if one of the above applies to you – even if you can use your GHIC or EHIC in the EU.
You may also be asked to show evidence of your nationality when accessing healthcare using a GHIC or EHIC in Switzerland.
You’ll get treatment on the same terms as a Swiss national.
If you do not have your EHIC or GHIC with you or have lost it, call the NHS Overseas Healthcare Team to get a Provisional Replacement Certificate.
NHS Overseas Healthcare Services Telephone: +44 (0)191 218 1999 Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm Saturday, 9am to 3pm
A GHIC or EHIC is not an alternative to travel insurance and you should have both before you travel.
A GHIC or EHIC does not cover all health-related costs. For example, it does not cover:
- being flown back to the UK for medical reasons
- ongoing medical treatment
- non-urgent treatment
If you’re living in Switzerland, you can also find more information on healthcare for residents in our Living in Switzerland guide.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 112 or 144 and ask for an ambulance. If you are referred to a medical facility for treatment, you should contact your insurance or medical assistance company immediately.
There is an increased risk of tick bites from April to October. The Federal Office of Public Health warns of a significant number of lyme disease and tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) cases annually. For more information read insect and tick bite avoidance
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the FCDO in London on 020 7008 5000 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCDO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCDO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCDO travel advice
If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCDO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. Versions prior to 2 September 2020 will be archived as FCO travel advice. If you can’t find the page you’re looking for there, send the Travel Advice team a request.
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.