If you live in Switzerland, you will be confronted not just with Swiss German, but also with Swiss road traffic. We’ve put together the most important things you need to know if you „normalerwis“ (en: usually) drive in another country.

Basics of Swiss traffic rules

Traffic rules in Switzerland are basically very similar to those in the rest of Europe. Most people have a more defensive driving style and speed limits are adhered to strictly. Much like anywhere else, you’ll come across cowboy drivers occasionally, but they tend to be „e Usnahm“ (en: an exception) in Switzerland. Sticking to the rules is largely due to the large amount of radar traps and extremely high fines for transgressions.

The following points are some things to pay attention to when driving on Swiss roads.

Daytime lights

Lights in the traffic
Lights in the traffic

It has been mandatory to switch on your headlights during the day since 1st January 2014. It has been proven that this rule helps vehicle visibility and reduces accidents.

Vehicles with daytime running lights may use these; all others can use dipped headlights. Not following this rule entails a fine of 40 „Frankä“ (en: francs).

Motorway Vignette

You need to have a motorway vignette to drive on the national motorways in Switzerland. The vignette must be stuck in a visible place to the inside of the wind shield. They can be bought at the post office, at every Swiss petrol station and at the borders. The price is currently 40 francs, but there is talk of a price „Erhöhig“ (en: rise). The vignette is valid for the current year as well as for one month before and after this year. For example, a vignette bought in 2015 is valid from 01.12.2014 to 31.01.2016. The fine for not having a vignette is currently 200 francs.

Parking

traffic in Switzerland
traffic in Switzerland

Parking spots are always marked. It is rare to find free parking; most spots have ticket machines. Yellow lined parking spaces are either private spots or belong to companies for their customers and guests to use. Numbered white spots are paid parking and there is always a ticket machine nearby.

Yellow spaces marked with a cross are no parking zones; if there are double yellow lines, you may not even stop (no waiting zone). In blue zones, parking is free with a parking disc for one hour on Mondays to Fridays from 8 am to 6 pm. You set your arrival time to the next half hour. Parking is free between 7 pm and 7 am as well as on Sundays and public holidays. However, „E duurhafti Nutzig“ (en: a permanent use) at night is not encouraged; if you live in the area, you may get a resident’s card that costs around 50 francs.

Obligation to carry

It is mandatory to carry a warning triangle as well as a first aid kit in your vehicle. Vehicles that are registered in Switzerland also require an emissions test certificate and a registration certificate to be in the car.

Right of way on mountain roads

The vehicle that is going up the road has right of way. S Poschti“ (en: the post bus), a yellow overland bus, is the only exception to the rule. They must toot their horn in the curve and always have right of way.

Right of way in roundabouts

Roundabouts are very popular in Switzerland and can be found all over the place. They are often decorated lovingly with plants and sculptures. If not otherwise signposted, the drivers already in the roundabout have right of way. However, trains and trams always have right of way.

Speed limits

Unless otherwise signposted, the speed limit within built-up areas is 50 km/h and 80 km/h outside built-up areas. The maximum speed limit on motorways is 120 km/h. You are driving over the speed limit if your speed is over

  • the signposted limits of 30 km/h / 50 km/h within built-up areas;
  • 80 km/h outside built-up areas;
  • 80 km/h in tunnels;
  • 100 km/h on expressways; and
  • 120 km/h on motorways.

„In dr Schwiiz“ (en: in Switzerland), If the if the driver is over 50 km/h / 80 km/h above the speed limit, the driver is considered a speeder and may face some years of jail as well as high fines.

Radar warning receivers and navigation devices

Navigation devices must be attached so that they do not disturb.
Navigation devices must be attached so that they do not disturb.

Navigation devices may not inhibit your line of sight of the road; if attached wrongly, the fine will be a few hundred francs. „S Bruche“ (en: the use) of radar warning receivers is prohibited.

Skiing holidays – do not forget snow chains and winter tyres

Winter tyres are not compulsory by law, but it is strongly recommended to use them. Should there be an accident or damage due to non-use of winter tyres, insurances often do not pay out. „Schneechette“ (en: snow chains) are only mandatory on some roads and must be removed after leaving these roads.

Automobile associations

The TCS Touring Club Switzerland is the most commonly used breakdown cover provider in Switzerland. This is the equivalent to the AA in the UK or Triple A in the US. It is recommended to join the TCS or their equivalent as there are many advantages in doing so.

All in all, if you are used to driving in the EU, Swiss traffic rules are not going to be much of a problem. „D Schwiizer Strosse“ (en: Swiss roads) are safe and easy to navigate for experienced drivers. However, we do recommend using public transport in larger cities such as Zurich or Basel; there is a lot of traffic in these cities and parking is expensive and difficult to find.

Vocabulary list

Schweizerdeutsch English
1 normalerwis usually
2 e Usnahm an exception
3 Frankä francs
4 Erhöhig rise
5 E duurhafti Nutzig a permanent use
6 s Poschti the postbus
7 in dr Schwiiz in Switzerland
8 s Bruche the use
9 Schneechette snow chains
10 d Schwiizer Strosse Swiss roads

 

On the road in Switzerland
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