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Getting here and advice about your stay

Entry requirements

Passport validity

If you are a British citizen or British subject with right of abode in the United Kingdom, you do not need a visa to enter Switzerland. Your passport should be valid for the proposed duration of your stay. No additional period of validity beyond this is required.

Working in Switzerland

Switzerland is outside the EU and there are a number of rules and registration processes associated with deploying your employees in Switzerland.

The Swiss Federal Office for Migration at: https://www.sem.admin.ch/content/sem/en/home.html provides the most up-to-date information on employee residency rules.

 

Safety and security

Crime

There is a low rate of serious crime in Switzerland. However, the British Embassy has received increased reports of theft especially in larger cities, at Geneva Airport and on trains to/from Geneva.

Watch out for pickpockets, confidence tricksters and thieves in city centres, airports, railway stations, on trains and in other public places. Do not leave your luggage unattended at any time. Do not keep your passport, credit cards and other valuables in the same place. Use the inside compartments in bags where possible. Carry your bag across your body rather than on your shoulder. Pickpockets can work in gangs: one to distract you while the other one goes into your bag. Keep your belongings close to you in restaurants and bars. Alcohol and drugs can lead to you being less alert, less in control, and less aware of your environment. If you are going to drink, know your limit and take sensible precautions. Do not become separated from friends.

See: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/travel-safely-travel-aware for a leaflet produced by the British Embassy and the Swiss transport police, which gives more advice on what to do if you are pickpocketed, including useful contacts. The emergency number for the Police is 117.

Scams

Foreign visitors and residents can be targeted by scam artists. Scams can cause great financial loss. If you receive an e-mail claiming to be from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) offering a tax refund on provision of your bank details, you should make absolutely sure that it is not part of a scam.

Road travel

Road users have to comply with Switzerland’s traffic laws, such as speed limits, rules on alcohol intake and child security, or risk fines or other punishments. See: https://www.ch.ch/en/how-behave-road-traffic/.

Follow instructions given by local police and officials on the main alpine transit routes and in areas of heavy traffic congestion.

A reflective jacket and a warning triangle are compulsory and must be kept within easy reach (not in the boot). You must also have a first aid kit in the car. Radar detectors are prohibited in Switzerland whether in use or not. The limit for alcohol in the bloodstream is 0.5% and police may request any driver to undergo a breath test or drugs test. Swiss traffic regulations are strictly enforced. Any serious breach of the regulations can result in heavy fines and/or imprisonment.

The speed limit on Swiss motorways is 120km/h unless otherwise indicated. To travel on Swiss motorways, road users must purchase and display a vignette (sticker) or face large on the spot fines. You can buy a vignette at most border crossings, petrol stations, post offices, by phone (+800 1002 0030) and online at: https://www.ch.ch/en/swiss-motorway-sticker/. The price of a vignette is currently CHF 40.

Serious traffic offences, including driving over the speed limit, (see: https://www.ch.ch/en/driving-over-speed-limit/) can lead to criminal prosecution. You may face detention while awaiting trial. There is no standard penalty because sentencing varies from canton to canton.

If you receive a traffic fine while driving in Switzerland you might be asked to pay on the spot. If you wish to challenge the fine, you can appeal in writing to the competent Swiss authority by the deadline, giving your reasons and presenting documentary proof.

Under Swiss federal law, unpaid fines can subsequently be changed into a prison sentence. Fines imposed by the Swiss authorities can be enforced on Swiss territory for a period of three years. This measure encourages foreign motorists who wish to re-enter Switzerland to pay their fine.

Many roads are narrow and winding and road conditions can deteriorate fast even in summer, especially during heavy rainfall and subsequent snowfall at higher altitudes. You should reduce your speed significantly to suit the conditions.

Alpine winters often make driving more difficult. You should equip your car with winter tyres and snow-chains, and check road conditions prior to departure. The Swiss motoring organisation, TCS, has up-to-date information on its website: https://www.tcs.ch/ (in German, French and Italian only).

Drivers must be 18 years of age and hold a full valid UK, or other EU/EEA, driving licence, insurance and vehicle documents. There is no need for an International Driving Permit.

In 2016 there were 216 road deaths in Switzerland. See the European Commission, AA and RAC guides on driving in Switzerland at:

Motorway journeys are usually trouble-free, but if you are involved in a car accident, use the orange emergency phones to ask for help.

Rail travel

Information about rail services is available on the Swiss Travel System website: https://www.myswitzerland.com/en-gb/transport-travel/getting-around.html.

Outdoor sports activities

Make sure your insurance covers you for sports activities such as skiing, potholing, mountain biking and mountaineering. Travel insurance should also include mountain rescue services and helicopter costs.

Many accidents happen due to insufficient information, inappropriate equipment or overestimation of your own capabilities. Do not undertake any activity alone, and consider hiring a guide for expert advice. Always leave copies of your itinerary with someone. Follow the advice given by local authorities and guides. To ignore such advice could put yourself and other mountain users in danger.

The following alpine hazards exist throughout the year:

  • avalanches and snow drifts

  • landslides and flooding

  • glacial crevasses and hollows

  • rockfall

  • thunder storms and lightning

  • altitude sickness

  • sun exposure

  • sudden weather changes

You should:

  • take note of weather forecasts and conditions

  • make sure you are physically fit and have the necessary experience

  • be in a team of at least two

  • inform someone of your plans

  • take warm clothes and wet weather gear

  • use sun block (SPF20 or higher) and sun glasses

To check the latest avalanche risk, visit the website of the Swiss Federal Commission for Snow and Avalanche Research at: https://www.slf.ch/en.html?no_cache=1. Observe all warnings about avalanches and where appropriate consider carrying search equipment. Conditions on roads in mountainous areas can quickly become difficult in winter. You should carry water, food and warm clothing and medicines in your vehicle.

Off-piste skiing is highly dangerous. You should follow all safety instructions carefully given the danger of avalanches in some areas and particularly during times of heavy snow. Avalanche beepers (receivers) are the most common rescue devices and when properly used provide the fastest way of locating an avalanche victim.

Read more about how to stay safe on the slopes at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/winter-sports-stay-safe-on-the-slopes.

For more information and advice on enjoying outdoor activities safely and responsibly, visit the official website of Swiss tourism at: http://kanuland.myswitzerland.com/en/behaviour-en-route.html.

Terrorism

Terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks in Switzerland. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners.

There is a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.

Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. See: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/reduce-your-risk-from-terrorism-while-abroad.

[Source – FCO Travel Advice/gov.uk]

 

Local laws and customs

Smoking has been banned throughout Switzerland in the workplace and in most enclosed spaces accessible to the public, including bars, restaurants, cinemas, schools, shopping centres and sports centres. Exceptions can be made at a local level where smoking licences are sometimes granted to small restaurants, cafés and bars. Larger restaurants and bars have the option of providing separate areas for smokers.

[Source – FCO Travel Advice/gov.uk]

 

Health

Visit your health professional at least four-to-six weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures.

Country-specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre on the TravelHealthPro website: https://travelhealthpro.org.uk/countries and by NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website: http://www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk/destinations.aspx.

Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website: http://www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/Healthcareabroad/Pages/Healthcareabroad.aspx.

There is an increased risk of tick bites from April to October. The Ministry for Health warns of a significant number of Lyme disease and tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) cases annually. For more information read insect and tick bite avoidance at: https://travelhealthpro.org.uk/factsheet/38/insect-and-tick-bite-avoidance.

If you are visiting Switzerland you should get a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before leaving the UK. See: http://www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/Healthcareabroad/EHIC/Pages/about-the-ehic.aspx. The EHIC is not a substitute for medical and travel insurance, but it entitles you to state-provided medical treatment that may become necessary during your trip. Any treatment provided is on the same terms as for Swiss nationals.

If you do not have your EHIC with you or you have lost it, you can call the Department of Health Overseas Healthcare Team (+44 191 218 1999) to get a Provisional Replacement Certificate. The EHIC will not cover medical repatriation, ongoing medical treatment or non-urgent treatment, so you should make sure you have adequate travel insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment and repatriation.

If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 112 or 144 and ask for an ambulance. If you are referred to a medical facility for treatment you should contact your insurance/medical assistance company immediately.

[Source – FCO Travel Advice/gov.uk]

 

FCO travel advice

If you are travelling to Switzerland for business, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) pages on gov.uk have up-to-date travel advice to help you prepare for your visit overseas and to stay safe and secure while you are there.

Contact: traveladvicepublicenquiries@fco.gov.uk. This email service only offers information and advice for British nationals planning to travel abroad.

If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Consular Assistance team on +44 (0)20 7008 1500 (24 hours).

If you are abroad and need emergency help from the UK Government, contact the nearest British Embassy, Consulate or High Commission.

For advice please visit the FCO travel section pages on the gov.uk website: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/switzerland.

[Source – FCO Travel Advice/gov.uk]

Travel insurance

Take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before you travel. See the FCO Foreign Travel Insurance guidance at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/foreign-travel-insurance.


 

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