Australian Government advice for Switzerland
When travelling to Switzerland, you should always get travel insurance in case the worst happens. To help you ensure you travel safely, we have included the travel advice from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for Switzerland.
This Advice was last issued on Friday, 11 September 2015. There has been a significant influx of asylum seekers into Europe, causing localised disruption to cross-border road and train transport services. Travellers should be aware of the possibility of further disruptions, make appropriate contingency plans and follow the instructions of local authorities (see Local travel). The level of the advice has not changed. We continue to advise Australians to exercise normal safety precautions in Switzerland.
- We advise you to exercise normal safety precautions in Switzerland. Exercise common sense and look out for suspicious behaviour, as you would in Australia. Monitor the media and other sources for changes to local travelling conditions.
- There has been a significant influx of asylum seekers into Europe, causing localised disruption to cross-border road and train transport services. Travellers should be aware of the possibility of further disruptions, make appropriate contingency plans and follow the instructions of local authorities. See Local travel .
- There is an ongoing threat of terrorism in Europe. In the past, terrorist attacks have occurred in a number of European cities.
- The weather in alpine regions is unpredictable and can change suddenly. Avalanches, flash flooding and mudslides are a danger. See Additional information .
- See Travel Smart for general advice for all travellers.
Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
- organise comprehensive travel insurance and check what circumstances and activities are not covered by your policy
- register your travel and contact details , so we can contact you in an emergency
- subscribe to this travel advice to receive free email updates each time it's reissued
- follow us on Facebook and Twitter .
Entry and exit
Switzerland is a party to the Schengen Convention, along with a number of other European countries, which allows you to enter Switzerland without a visa in some circumstances. See our travel bulletin on the Schengen Convention for more information.
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 the most up-to-date information.
If you plan to travel to Switzerland for reasons other than tourist or business purposes for a maximum stay of 90 days, you are required to obtain a visa issued by the Swiss authorities prior to your arrival. Australians cannot apply for an extension to the 90-day visa waiver program nor can they change the status of their visa (for example, from a tourist visa to a student or resident visa) whilst in Switzerland.
To avoid delays when arriving or departing Switzerland, 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 has at least six months validity from your planned date of return to Australia.
Safety and security
Switzerland has a low incidence of serious crime. However, petty crime is increasing, including pick-pocketing, bag snatching on public transport, especially trains, and theft from unattended vehicles and vehicles stopped in traffic. The majority of crime is directed at tourists near tourist attractions in major towns. In particular, there are reports of petty crime at the 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 large numbers of foreign visitors. Thieves often operate in pairs, with one creating a diversion while the other steals unguarded items.
Do not leave bags containing money or valuables unattended. Passengers on overnight trains have been robbed while sleeping.
There is an ongoing threat of terrorism in Europe. In the past, terrorist attacks have occurred in a number of European cities.
Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. See our Terrorist Threat Worldwide bulletin.
Civil unrest/political tension
Protests and demonstrations can occur in Switzerland. These are often aimed at international organisations and international meetings. Protests have become violent in the past. Monitor the local media and other important sources of information about possible demonstrations. You should avoid affected areas and follow the advice of local authorities.
Money and valuables
Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.
There has been a significant influx of asylum seekers into Europe. In some cases, police have been deployed to prevent asylum seekers from crossing borders and accessing transport. As a result, there has been localised disruption to some cross-border road and rail transport services. You should be aware of the possibility of further disruption to transport services and monitor the local media and other information from transport providers for up to date information. If travelling by road or train, you should allow additional time to cover any disruption, remain vigilant and follow the instructions of local authorities. Australians travelling across affected borders, either by road or rail, should make appropriate contingency plans to cover any disruption to travel plans.
In Switzerland, drivers must be at least 18 years of age and hold a valid driver’s licence. You should 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.
Motorists should pay particular attention to road conditions during the winter, which may require the use of snow chains.
All vehicles must have their headlights on when driving during daylight hours. Anyone who fails to comply with this requirement will be fined.
All vehicles travelling on motorways in Switzerland must display a valid vignette (car sticker) or risk an on-the-spot fine. Information about vignettes, including where to purchase one, can be found on the Swiss Federal Customs Administration website.
All vehicles must be equipped with a warning triangle for use during breakdowns or accidents. It is mandatory to carry the warning triangle plus a fluorescent safety vest when driving across the borders into France, Germany and Italy.
Radar detectors and the use of mobile phones while driving (unless they are fitted with a hands free device) are prohibited in Switzerland.
For further advice, see our road travel page.
The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See instead the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in Switzerland.
Please also refer to our general air travel page for information on aviation safety and security.
You are subject to the local laws of Switzerland, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards. 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. Research laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.
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.
Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.
Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years’ imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.
Information for dual nationals
Our Dual nationals page provides information.
We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. If you plan to participate in adventure sports or mountain activities, including skiing, make sure your insurance policy will cover you. Be aware that mountain rescue is expensive and may not be covered by standard travel insurance. You may be responsible for the cost of any search and rescue operations. 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 a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.
It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.
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.
Prescription and non-prescription medication can be brought into Switzerland for personal use only. It is advisable to carry a copy of your prescription with you.
Where to get help
Depending on your enquiry, your best option may be to first contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurer. Your travel insurer should have a 24 hour emergency number.
The national emergency numbers are 117 for police, 118 for fire and 144 for ambulance services. You should always obtain a police report when reporting a crime.
The Consular Services Charter explains what the Australian Government can and can’t do to assist Australians overseas. For consular assistance, see contact details below:
Australian Consulate-General, Geneva
See the Consulate-General website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.
If you are travelling to Switzerland, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency - whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.
If you are unable to contact the Consulate-General in a consular emergency, you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305, or 1300 555 135 within Australia.
Natural disasters, severe weather and climate
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, you should 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 intend to undertake (see Health for more information).