Switzerland is one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited – the country side is clean, peaceful, and undeniably stunning. Don’t believe me – catch the gallery at the end of this post! You can travel from one side of the country in one day and experience many different cultures in one swoop. So, this brings into question, what’s the easiest way to experience all that Switzerland has to offer? If you are up for an adventure renting a car is the way to go – you are free to go as far as you want and doesn’t cost you much at all!
Although renting a car in Switzerland is rather simple remember you are in another country and they have specific rules of the road – and the rental car employees won’t explain any of these to you. But don’t worry that’s what I’m here for. Here are a few important things to consider when driving in Switzerland.
Parking can be confusing for the non-Swiss and my biggest suggestion is ALWAYS look for signs. It won’t be in english but that’s what google translate is for!
The most common signage we saw was for free parking in the “blue zone” with use of a parking disc (see pictures below). Make sure the rental car has one. This type of parking is free within the restricted time permitted – for example – the picture below shows free parking for up to 2 hours.
When you park in the blue zone, simply set your disc to the time you arrived (always round up to the nearest 30 minutes) and leave it on your windshield. Return before your 2 hours run out or you will get a very expensive ticket! One fun tidbit is Sundays are excluded from this rule.
Typical Blue Zone Sign
Typical Parking Disc
Also common is “white zone” parking which is essentially metered parking. Always look for a meter machine to pay and follow the instructions. Better safe than sorry!
Although Switzerland signage is similar to Germany you are not on the autobahn and your wallet will definitely regret it if you drive like you are! There isn’t enough signage and can be confusing but the basic speed limits are 120 km/h on highways, 80 km/h on main roads and minor roads outside built-up areas and 50 km/h in built-up areas. This can seem almost impossible when the locals are flying by but you want to be careful – Switzerland has a sophisticated and high quantity speed camera system and it can cost you. Sometimes you can see them in the distance but sometimes you can’t and the locals don’t seem to care and just fly through them! Fees for speeding are based on your location and your speed but your rental car company will also charge you an “administration fee.”
Important Tip: Waze helps tremendously in Germany for speed cameras warnings but is illegal in Switzerland so isn’t much help. Common spots for speed cameras are right outside a tunnel so watch out!
Typical Speed Camera
Speed Limit Sign
Your rental should already include a vignette on its windshield if you rent within Switzerland but if you plan to rent in another country and drive into Switzerland you’ll need to purchase one. The basic idea of this sticker is all motorways are tolls and if you don’t have an updated vignette on your windshield you will be fined (big time – I’ve read up to 250 euros!). Crossing borders within the EU is extremely easy, however, major borders will have officers checking to make sure you have the appropriate sticker. That being said, if you cross from Switzerland to it’s border countries, for example Austria, be aware their vignette may be different and you’ll have to purchase it as well. You can easily purchase these at gas stations close to the borders.
Driving across Switzerland was one of the best experiences and I highly recommend taking the chance to drive in this stunning country (and hopefully my tips make your travels just a little easier and stress free!).
There is no other country where you can drive less than 5 hours and experience 3 different cultures (French, Italian and German), drive right through the Alps and experience all the beautiful lakes Switzerland has to offer.
If I haven’t convinced you with my words maybe I can convince you with some unbelievable pictures – ENJOY!