Switzerland

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Friday, 09 January 2015.   This advice contains new information ahead of the World Economic Forum (WEF) to be held in Davos from 21-24 January 2015. The level of the advice has not changed. We continue to advise Australians to exercise normal safety precautions in Switzerland.

Switzerland overall

Summary

  • We advise you to exercise normal safety precautions in Switzerland. Exercise common sense and look out for suspicious behaviour as you would in Australia, and monitor the media and other sources for information on local travelling conditions.
  • There is an ongoing threat of terrorism in Europe. In the past, terrorist attacks have occurred in a number of European cities.
  • The World Economic Forum (WEF) will take place in Davos from 21-24 January 2015. Protests have been staged at this event in the past. You should monitor the local media, and in the event of a protest, avoid affected areas and follow the advice of local authorities.
  • 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:
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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.

Make sure your passport has at least six months' validity from your planned date of return to Australia. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.

Safety and security

Terrorism

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 Overseas bulletin for more information.

Civil unrest/political tension

Protests and demonstrations can occur in Switzerland. These are often aimed at international organisations and international meetings. Such protests have become violent in the past. You should 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.

Crime

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. The rate of crime increases 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.

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. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

Review the general advice to Australian travellers for further information on being safe and prepared abroad.

Local travel

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.

For further advice, see our road travel page.

Airline safety

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.

Laws

When you are in Switzerland, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail. Research local laws before travelling

Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.

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.

Health

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. Switzerland has a high cost of living and medical services can be expensive.

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. Up-front payment is required if a patient does not have medical insurance.

Where to get help

Depending on the nature of your enquiry, your best option may be to contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurance provider in the first instance.

The national emergency numbers are 117 for police, 118 for fire and 144 for ambulance services. You should 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

Chemin des Fins, 2
Case postale 102
1211 Geneva 19
Switzerland
Tel: +41 22 7999100
Fax: +41 22 7999178
Website: www.geneva.mission.gov.au

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.

In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 6261 3305.

Additional information

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 undertake (see Health Issue for more information).

Additional Resources

For additional general and economic information to assist travelling in this country, see the following links:



While every care has been taken in preparing this information, neither the Australian Government nor its agents or employees, including any member of Australia's diplomatic and consular staff abroad, can accept liability for any injury, loss or damage arising in respect of any statement contained herein.

Maps are presented for information only. The department accepts no responsibility for errors or omission of any geographic feature. Nomenclature and territorial boundaries may not necessarily reflect Australian Government policy.