How to drive in Switzerland?

Basic rules of the roads and driving requirements.


Traffic drives on the right and passes on the left. Country of origin stickers (e.g. GB) must be used in, unless your license plate has the pre-applied sticker. Roads in Switzerland offer spectacular views of the Swiss Alps, one of the world’s most spectacular mountain ranges. The alpine passes are easy to drive but extra caution is advised on narrow and winding roads. Traffic tends to be heaviest during the summer and winter tourist season.


Switzerland has quiet, well-maintained roads and a decent auto route network, coupled with its dramatic scenery. Auto route signs are green.


Moving trams must be passed on the right if there's enough room; otherwise they may be passed on the left. A stationary tram should be passed on the left, unless it's stopped at a passenger island, in which case it may be passed on the right.


Trams always have priority. Buses have priority when leaving a bus stop. Blue posts indicate an upcoming intersection with a priority road. Traffic climbing a mountain has priority, except where signs, displaying a yellow post horn on blue background, signal that postal buses have priority. A red slash going through such a sign indicates the end of the postal priority zone. Some of these mountain postal roads are one way and are indicated by a white rectangle placed below the blue post horn sign. Some mountain roads require one-way traffic during certain hours only; these hours are posted at either end of the road. Motorcyclists are not allowed to pass long columns of vehicles or weave in and out of traffic.


No parking where there are signs “Stationierungsverbot” or “Interdiction de Stationner.” Parking on the sidewalk is illegal except where otherwise indicated. Blue Zones restrict parking during from 8am to 7pm on weekdays. You may obtain free parking discs from ACS or TCS motoring club offices. In Basel, Berne, and Geneva you’ll find them at fuel stations, restaurants, kiosks, police stations, and garages. In Lausanne a Red Zone system is in effect; discs used for both zones (one side for each zone) can be obtained from the TCS offices or the tourist information offices. Wheel clamps are used and Braunwald, Murren, Rigi, Wengen and Zermatt cannot be reached by private vehicle and is only accessible by public rail transportation.


Traffic laws are strictly enforced and the Swiss police may impose on the spot fines. Radar cameras are common, particularly in areas where the speed limit is lower than usual. The blood vs. alcohol limit is higher than many European countries at 0.4 milligrams; nevertheless, you should not drink and drive.


Unleaded, diesel and LPG is available, lead fuel is not sold. Automatic pumps require that you pay in advance using cash, notes only. Because of the variety of languages, unleaded petrol is called bleifrei (German), essence sans plomb (French), or benzina sensa piomba (Italian), diesel is also called gasolio and LPG is called autogas, Gaz de pétrole liquéfié (GPL), or gas liquido (GPL).


Motorways 120 kmh
Open roads 80 kmh
Towns 50 kmh


Road numbers on green signs indicate toll expressways.
Swiss auto-routes are tolled, and an annual “vignette” is needed. This sticker, fixed to the inside of your windscreen, entitles you to drive on the auto-routes for 1 year, from January to December. You may purchase them in advance from Swiss tourist offices, upon entering at border posts or in Switzerland from post offices and selected garages. Visitors are often not aware of this law and immigration officers, especially those in remote areas, will not inform you of this requirement. If you are entering the country via auto-route, you will be stopped and sold a vignette at the border.


The minimum age to drive in Switzerland is 18 and even if you legally hold a license at a younger age in your country it is illegal to drive in Switzerland.


International Driver’s License is recommended. Licenses must be photo-card licenses and if you do not have one you must also carry your passport.


You must carry an international driver’s license, proving you are licensed to drive the category of vehicle, prove ownership of the vehicle or the owner's permission to drive it, and proof of insurance.


Fire and third party liability insurance is mandatory.


Warning triangles are compulsory. Fluorescent vests are not required, but as they are in Italy, one should be on board in the event of an emergency.  A first aid kit is recommended and snow chains are required in some areas during winter.


Seat belts must be worn in the front and rear.


Right-hand drive cars must be adapted using headlight deflectors, even during daylight hours. Spare bulbs must be carried and headlights must be on in tunnels. Dipped headlights are compulsory day and night.


Children under 7 years may not travel in the front seats unless seated in a proper child seat. In the rear, children between 7 and 12 years old must be in a child seat or a booster seat.


Headlights must be used night and day.


Police 117
Fire 118
Ambulance 144
Emergency road services 140

Sources: Bug / Drive Alive / Driving Abroad / AutoEurope / Slow Travel Switzerland