How To Travel Around Switzerland

EuropeSwitzerlandHow To Travel Around Switzerland

By plane

As Switzerland probably has the best developed public transport system in the world and the country’s airports are not that far apart, domestic air traffic is very limited. Routes offered by Swiss International Airlines and Etihad Regional include Zurich-Geneva, Zurich-Lugano and Geneva-Lugano. In most cases, the train, sometimes combined with bus or other means, is cheaper and often as fast and convenient as the plane. If you arrive with an international flight at Zurich airport (in Kloten) or Geneva airport (in Cointrin), you can take a train or bus directly from the stations integrated into the airport terminals. From there, you can get to many destinations with an easy connection by several means of transport, including just one or two quick transfers

Public transport

The Swiss spoil you with fantastic transport – fast trains with shocking punctuality, clean buses and half a dozen different types of mountain railways integrated into one coherent system. The discount options and variety of tickets can be confusing. They range from half-fare cards to multi-use tickets for buses, boats, trains and even bicycle hire. There is usually at least one train or bus per hour on each line, and on many routes trains and buses run every 30 or even 15 minutes. Inner-city local transport often runs every 5-7 minutes during rush hour, but less frequently at weekends, especially on Sundays and public holidays in less densely populated areas.

Official information, routes, fares and timetables for almost all means of public transport can be viewed online on the nationally uniform integratedtimetable of theFederal Railways(SBB FFS), on posters and screens at every stop or at a ticket office at every station. The timetable is also available as a free app for smartphones. Information and tickets (at supervised counters) are available at every station and from every provider for each of the many members of the Swiss rail network and most bus systems, including in particular PostBus, which provides online timetable synchronisation data.

In Switzerland, buses and trains do not and must not compete with each other; on the contrary, they complement each other – and are also coordinated in terms of timetables. Thus, almost all inhabited towns and villages in Switzerland are accessible by public transport. This is indeed what the Constitution requires in the Ordinance on the Public Service of the Swiss Confederation. Public service is a specific Swiss term that refers broadly to all types of laws, statutes and ordinances that define the basic provision of public services and infrastructure, especially in relation to postal services, telecommunications, electronic media, public transport and road infrastructure.

There are about 20 regional fare associations nationwide that combine many types of public transport (city bus, tram, metro, trains of all kinds, postbuses, boats, funiculars and others) provided by different operators around urban centres into a single fare system, such as.e.g. the ZVV in the canton of Zurich or unireso (see also : Genèvetpg) in the canton of Geneva and the neighbouring French region, or mobilised around Lausanne in the canton of Vaud on the northern shore of Lake Geneva, Passepartout in the cantons of Lucerne, Nid- and Obwalden (keyword: Titlis). In general, these networks sell zone tickets that are valid for a certain period of time (instead of point-to-point tickets) for journeys within the boundaries of their fare network. Many of these networks and transport operators offer their own free smartphone apps, which can sometimes also be found on the website of the transport operator of the larger city.

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Even if there is no train or public transport, the complete PostBus/Post/AutoPostal network will get you there. Where it makes sense, PostBus Switzerland is part of the regional tariff associations. You’ll find all the information you need on the SBB online timetable, but PostBus Switzerland also offers its own free app, which contains the same information as SBB’s and many additional features.

Additional information on the Swiss railway network and the Swiss fieldbus network is also available.

Hiking and cycling

Hiking

No matter how good the Swiss rail system is, if you are short on time and only want to cover 1 to 200 miles, you can try buying the best hiking trail maps in the world and walk 10 to 20 miles a day on some of the most beautiful and clearly marked trails, whether in a valley, through a forest or over mountain passes. There are over 60,000 km of well-maintained and documented hiking and cycling trails.

The paths are well planned (after several centuries, why wouldn’t they be? ), easy to follow, and the yellow signs on the paths actually allow you to accurately estimate the distance to the next hamlet, village, town or city – usually in terms of time rather than distance. Once you have calculated the number of kilometres per hour you walk (easy to do after a day’s walking), you can adjust these estimates to your speed.

There are many places where you can sleep in a tent (but don’t put a tent on flat, seemingly comfortable, straw-covered ground – that’s where cows sleep after a lazy day feeding, and they gnaw on the rope supports of your tent and lean against the sides of your tent. And don’t do this during a rainstorm! ), many huts on the tops of mountains, bed and breakfasts in the valleys or hotels in the towns. You could even send your luggage ahead to the next hut and travel light, with the necessary water and Swiss chocolate!

Bicycle

Switzerland is an ideal country for recreational cyclists. There is an extensive network of safe and well-signposted cycle paths throughout the country. Maps and information can be found on the state-sponsored Veloland Schweiz homepage. The routes are interconnected, so you can do rides lasting several days or even several weeks. They lead through picturesque landscapes, mostly on dedicated cycle paths or smaller roads with little traffic, so they are also safe for children and families.

Cross-country mountain biking is a very popular sport in Switzerland. This is no surprise to anyone who has watched a World Cup race and seen that half of the top ten finishers are Swiss riders. Probably the main reason for Swiss excellence in the sport is the incredible training ground they have in their backyard. So Switzerland is a fantastic place for anyone who loves mountain biking. Locals use Swiss single track maps to find the best routes. These cover the entire country at a scale of 1:50,000, with individual trails and routes mapped and classified. They must be purchased in paper form as they are not available online.

The cycling infrastructure for daily cycling varies from city to city. Winterthur and Bern are the champions, almost rivalling Dutch and Danish cities. In general, German-speaking regions are better for cycling than French-speaking regions. There are many Swiss cities where you can rent bikes if that is your mode of transport, and you can even rent electric bikes. In summer, it is common for cities to offer “rental bikes” for free! Cycling in the city is safe and very common. If you choose to cycle in a city, be aware that you will be sharing the road with public transport. Be aware of tram tracks that can block your bike and send you into traffic, and of course the trams themselves and the buses that often stop in the far right lane and always have the right of way.

Inline skating

In addition to the main modes of transport, the adventurer can also see Switzerland on inline skates. Throughout the country, there are three routes with a total length of over 600 km that have been specially designed for inline skating. These are the Rhine Route, the Rhone Route and the Mittelland Route. They are also panoramic routes. Most of the routes are flat, with gentle climbs and descents. The Mittelland Route runs from Zurich Airport to Neuchâtel in the northwest, the Rhine Route runs from Bad Ragaz to Schaffhausen in the northeast. Finally, the Rhone Route runs from Brig to Geneva. It is a great way to discover the urban and rural landscapes of this beautiful country.

By car

If you like cars, Switzerland may seem a little tempting. It has some of the most beautiful roads in the world, but can literally throw you in jail if you drive too fast, even on the motorways. Traffic rules are strictly enforced. If you follow the traffic rules and especially the speed limits, driving on rural and mountain roads will always be a pleasure, while being careful not to get fined or pulled over. Driving can be a great way to see the country and the views from some mountain roads are worth the effort.

Do not think that you will drive at full speed
If you receive a penalty notice but do not stop (e.g. if you are caught on the radar), the police will send you the penalty notice, even if you live abroad.

In Switzerland, speeding is not a traffic offence, but a misdemeanour. If you do not comply with this rule, there is a good chance that an international letter rogatory will be issued and you will have to go to court in your home country. This rule is applied by most countries, including throughout Europe, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and many countries in South America and Asia. Failure to comply with this rule may result in an arrest warrant being issued by your home country.

Switzerland has also banned all GPS devices with integrated speed camera databases because they are equipped with “speed camera detectors”.

According to some GPS navigator manufacturers, it is advisable to clear the Swiss speed camera database while you are travelling in the country, as the police can fine you and confiscate your device even if it is switched off and in the boot of your car!

To use the motorways (called motorway(s), motorway(s) or autostrada/e, depending on the location) with green signs and white lettering, vehicles weighing less than 3500 kg must buy a vignette, a sticker that costs CHF 40 and allows you to use the motorways all year round (more precisely, from 1 December of the previous year to 31 January of the following year, so a vignette for 2009 is valid from 1 December 2008 to 31 January 2010). Trailers must have a separate vignette.

It is not usually necessary to avoid motorways to save on tolls; the amount is worth it even if you are only passing through. Not having a valid sticker is punishable by a fine of CHF 200 and the obligation to buy a sticker immediately (total fine CHF 240). Passing on stickers is of course illegal and is subject to the same fines as not possessing them. The sticker must be irrevocably affixed to the windscreen, otherwise you will be fined the same as if you had left it out. Renters must have already paid the vignette for this vehicle, but ask to be on the safe side.

Vehicles over 3,500 kg (7,716 lbs.) must pay a special toll, which is collected by special on-board units and applies on all roads, not just motorways.

Swiss traffic signs follow international standards (Vienna 1968), but some are specific to Switzerland. Motorways and motorways are marked by green signs with white lettering. Main roads are marked by blue signs with white lettering, while secondary roads are marked by white signs with black lettering.

Speed limits: 120 km/h on motorways, 100 km/h on motorways (ab : autostraße(n), fr: semi-motorway(s), it: semiautostrada/e; often in the opposite direction), 80 km/h on normal main roads outside built-up areas and often in tunnels, and a general speed limit of 50 km/h inside built-up areas and often marked only by the place name.

In addition, some roads are limited to 30 km/h or even 20 km/h in built-up areas where children play on the road and 70 km/h outside built-up areas. Vehicles that are not capable of driving at 80 km/h or more are not allowed on motorways and motorways.

Expect speed limits to change frequently on any road, including motorways; cruise control won’t help you much in Switzerland. Most speed limits are only displayed once, so be careful. The absence of a sign is not accepted as an excuse by the police, and fines are high. As a driver, you are supposed to give your full attention to the road, so don’t be distracted by the beauty of the scenery or anything else. Although it is common to drive “a bit too fast” on the motorways, people otherwise stick pretty closely to the speed limits. If you are stopped by the police, expect to pay your fine on the spot.

The blood alcohol concentration limit is 0.05%. As in all countries, you should not drive under the influence of alcohol, as you may lose your licence for several months and be fined heavily if summoned.

In Switzerland, drivers are obliged to switch on their headlights or daytime running lights when driving during the day, otherwise they face a fine of CHF 40.

In Switzerland, as in most European countries, you drive with your right hand everywhere. Please note that the right-of-way rule applies everywhere in Switzerland, on every road, unless otherwise stated. This means that at intersections, the driver on the right-hand side has priority, unless he is driving on a road whose right of way is indicated by a priority road (de: Hauptstraße, fr: main road, it: strada principale); sign: yellow diamond on a white background, see pictogram no. 303, or no. 304.

When entering a roundabout, observe the traffic signs indicating that vehicles already in the roundabout have the right of way.

Some examples of fines for non-compliance with traffic rules
• Driving licence not presented: CHF 20.
• Exceeding the valid parking duration (<2h): CHF 40, (2h<t<4h): CHF 60, (4h<t<10h): CHF 100.
• At a pedestrian crossing, parking: 120 CHF, bus stop: 80 CHF, also at rush hour: 60 CHF.
• Ignoring pedestrian priority at pedestrian crossings: CHF 140.
• On a cycle path, parking: CHF 120, stop: CHF 80.
• On the yellow stripe in front of a pedestrian crossing, parking: CHF 120, stopping: CHF 80.
• Do not adjust the snow chains if desired: CHF 100.
• Failure to observe the arrow indications printed on the road, given by traffic signs or traffic lights: CHF 100.
• Driving in a bus lane or on tram tracks: CHF 60.
• Failure to stop correctly at a stop sign: CHF 60.
• Ignoring traffic lights (red light and filter): CHF 250.
• Ignore flashing traffic light (yellow): CHF 250
• Use of a mobile phone without hands-free kit: CHF 100
• No passenger uses the seat belt: 60 CHF
• Uninsured children under 12 years (special child seat): 60 CHF
• Non-use of indicators: 100 CHF, misuse of indicators: 40 CHF
• Not extinguishing the indicators after the manoeuvre: CHF 100
• More passengers than allowed: CHF 60
• Dirty number plates: CHF 60
• Driving with unsuitable tyres: CHF 100
• Driving too fast (lower measurement uncertainty)
o In towns and villages (maximum speed: 50 km/h) :
 1-5 km/h : 40 CHF
 6-10 km/h : 120 CHF
 11-15 km/h : 250 CHF
 over 15 km/h: Court ruling
o outside built-up areas (maximum speed: 80 km/h) or on motorways (normal maximum speed: 100 km/h) :
 1-5 km/h : 40 CHF
 6-10 km/h : 100 CHF
 11-15 km/h : 160 CHF
 16-20 km/h : 240 CHF
 over 20 km/h: Court ruling
o on motorways (standard speed limit: 120 km/h, 75 mph) :
 1-5 km/h : 20 CHF
 6-10 km/h : 60 CHF
 11-15 km/h : 120 CHF
 16-20 km/h : 180 CHF
 21-25 km/h : 260 CHF
 over 25 km/h: Court ruling
o A court order results in very high fines, which are based on your personal assets and can also include imprisonment and the confiscation of your car! Speeding is considered a criminal offence.

Indicate whenever you change direction or lane, and always overtake on the left, even on motorways. Never cross an unbroken centre line when overtaking, especially on mountain roads; they are there for your safety and everyone else’s, not to annoy you! Do not forget to indicate the beginning and end of the overtaking manoeuvre.

You may not overtake trams at a stop if there is no passenger island where pedestrians can wait. Moving trams can be overtaken on the right. If a pedestrian wants to cross the road at a pedestrian crossing (yellow stripes on the road), any approaching car must stop and give pedestrians priority. This is a general law valid throughout Switzerland, but it mainly applies to tram stops. Do not stop at a pedestrian crossing, even at rush hour.

You must always give right of way to the police, ambulances, fire brigade and public transport buses, which leave first.

At traffic lights and level crossings you should switch off your engines (“For better air – switch off the engine!”) to avoid traffic pollution.

In Switzerland, the use of seat belts on the front and rear seats is required by law for all car journeys. Children under 12 years of age or under 150 cm must be secured in officially approved child seats and may only be transported in the rear seats.

Six tips for mountain roads:

  • Honk if you are on a narrow road that is too narrow for a normal two-lane road (i.e. without a white line in the middle) and you cannot see into the bend; this is mandatory!
  • The bright yellow Postbus always has priority. You can hear it approaching through its characteristic three-tone horn. It is best heard on hairpin bends. If you see a PostAuto, or better still, if you hear it approaching a bend, stop (before the bend! ) and let it pass, its drivers are counting on your attentive driving!
  • The upward moving vehicle has priority over the downward moving vehicle.
  • Don’t even think about driving as fast as the locals: They know all the curves, not you.
  • Generally drive at a speed that allows you to stop half the distance you can see – it’s even a law for narrow roads! – to be safe; and drive in such a way that you are glad when you come from the other side!
  • Although most vehicles are fitted with winter tyres in winter (not to be confused with all-season tyres or even summer tyres; winter tyres have a tread depth of at least 4 mm and are made of a different rubber), it may be necessary to fit chains to the wheels of your vehicle if you are driving in an area where there is snow on the road. Cars rented in Switzerland usually come with chains, but you should ask for them. Chains may be required for some mountain roads, towns and villages. Illustrated signs with snow chains are posted at the beginning of the route. If chains are required, winter tyres are by no means sufficient! Failure to comply may result in a fine. Petrol stations located on these roads may offer a chain service for a fee. It is worth it, as an inexperienced driver may struggle for an hour or more, sometimes in terrible weather conditions, to learn how to fit tyre chains. Don’t assume that all roads will be open; high-altitude mountain passes (e.g. Gotthard, Furka, Grimsel, Oberalp, Julier) will be closed for part or all of the winter. Before driving, make sure that a mountain road or pass is open or you will come across a red, multilingual “CLOSED” sign at the start of the route.

Car transport

As Switzerland is very mountainous and has a well-developed rail network, it is possible – and often faster and cheaper – to load your car onto a train. This system is called “Autoverlad” in standard Swiss German and the SBB website guides you through the process.