The main international airports are in Zurich IATA: ZRH, Geneva IATA: GVA and Basel (for the Swiss part: IATA: BSL), with smaller airports in LuganoIATA: LUG and Bern IATA: BRN. Some airlines fly to Friedrichshafen, which is on the other side of Lake Constance at Romanshorn, not far from Zurich.
Basel airport is a special case because it also serves the neighbouring cities of Mulhouse and Freiburg and has three different IATA codes, as well as a different customs procedure (and sometimes even airfares) depending on whether you are travelling to “Basel” or “Mulhouse”. The airport also has a regional code for the IATA “Greater Area”: EAP, which should allow you to get flights to both destinations.
Almost all major European airlines serve at least one Swiss airport. Switzerland’s national airline is SwissInternationalAirlines, a member of the Star Alliance and the Lufthansa Group. Together with its subsidiaries, the charter airline Edelweiss Air and the short-haul carrier Swiss European Air Lines, it offers connections to most major European airports as well as to many intercontinental destinations.
In addition, some smaller airlines based in Switzerland also offer connections to Switzerland – Etihad Regional mainly from Geneva and Lugano, Helvetic Airways from Zurich and Bern and Sky Work Airlines from Bern and Basel. AirBerlin also has a strong presence in the Swiss market through its subsidiary Belair, with almost all flights sold as AirBerlin flights.
However, the major European low-cost airlines are hardly represented in Switzerland and usually only offer a single flight from their home hub to Zurich or Geneva. The exception is EasyJet, which has its own subsidiary, EasyJet Switzerland, and offers flights to and from Basel, Geneva and Zurich as part of its normal low-cost business model. Ryanair flies to Basel from Dublin and London Stansted, as well as Strasbourg and Baden-Baden in France and Germany respectively.
In winter, many airlines specialising in charter and holiday flights offer connections to Swiss airports to meet the needs of the ski and winter sports market.
It is possible to take a flight from an airport near a neighbouring country. Grenoble in France is an alternative to Geneva and Stuttgart (IATA: STR) and Munich (IATA: MUC) airports in Germany are within driving distance of Bern and Zurich respectively. There is a small airport in Memmingen (IATA: FMM), mainly served by low-cost airlines, which is close to the border and marketed as being close to Munich (which is not the case).
Due to the excellent rail connections (see below), you can also fly to Frankfurt Airport (IATA: FRA) and take the train from there.
Switzerland, together with Germany, is one of the most central countries in Europe and trains come from all parts of Europe. The main routes include
- TheTGVLyria (high-speed train), with several daily trains to/from Paris, Dijon, Lyon, Valence, Avignon, Aix-en-Provence, Marseille, Toulon, Cannes, Antibes and Nice.
Examples of journey times: Paris-Geneva 3h, -Lausanne 3.5h, -Basel 3h, -Bern 4h, -Zurich 4h ;
and Geneva-Lyon 2h, -Avignon 3h, -Marseille 3.5h, -Nice 6.5h;
and Basel-Marseille 5h
- EuroCity (EC) trains run hourly to/from Milan with connections throughout Italy.
Examples of journey times: Milan-Bern 3h, -Basel 4h, -Geneva 4h, -Zurich 4h
- ICE (InterCity Express, German high-speed trains) run regularly from Zurich / Interlaken via Bern, Basel to Freiburg i.B., Offenburg, Baden-Baden, Karlsruhe, Mannheim, Frankfurt a.M.. (main station or airport) in Germany, many of which continue to Cologne and Dortmund, or Hanover and Hamburg, or Berlin, or Amsterdam.
Examples of journey times: Frankfurt Airport – Basel 3h, – Bern 4h, -Interlaken 5h, -Zurich 4h
- Regular ICE trains between Zurich and Stuttgart, journey time 3h.
- Regular EuroCity (EC) trains between Zurich and Munich, journey time 4h.
- Regular RailJet trains (RJ) between Zurich and Innsbruck (3.5 hours), Salzburg (5.5 hours), Vienna (8 hours) in Austria and further east.
Night trains from Amsterdam, Berlin, Hamburg, Dresden, Prague, Vienna and Belgrade to Basel, Geneva, Zurich and partly to Lausanne. These trains are either EuroNight services (symbol: EN) or CityNightLine services (symbol: CNL). Due to commercial decisions of Deutsche Bahn, but also other European railways, many of these connections will be discontinued in the near future. The Austrian ÖBB, on the other hand, is committed to using sleeper trains and may even take over some routes that have been abandoned by other railways, including Deutsche Bahn.
- Eurolines has integrated Switzerland into its route network.
- There are several bus companies that serve the Bosnian diaspora and offer a cheap way to travel to the Balkans. Turistik Prošić serves Switzerland from various destinations in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
- Most companies that offer intercity buses in Germany also serve some stops in Switzerland.
All Swiss cities and many popular excursion destinations in Switzerland are relatively easy to reach by car, e.g. Geneva from central-eastern France and Zurich from southern Germany. However, some tourist destinations, especially small Alpine villages such as Zermatt or Wengen, are car-free.
Although Switzerland is now part of the Schengen Agreement, it is not part of the EU Customs and Tariff Union. When crossing the border between the EU and Switzerland, the focus will therefore be on smuggling etc. and on roadside checks during or after crossing the border. The time limits are usually short, but cars can be stopped without giving reasons, even during searches within Switzerland.
Some delays may be due to congestion at peak times, and there are often queues of several hours to drive from Italy through the tunnels under the Alps, such as Mont Blanc, Gotthard, etc. Swiss motorway vignettes (40 Swiss francs) can and should be bought at the border if your car does not already have one valid for the current year and if you intend to use Swiss motorways, which is almost inevitable. Remember that there is no free parking in most cities; expect to spend between 25 and 40 Swiss francs for a day’s parking. Some cities are completely car-free, but are well served by public transport. So be sure to consider travelling by train if your final destination is one of these cities.
When using the mountain roads, remember that they are also used by buses – especially in the switchbacks, which take up all their space. And most mountain roads are frequently used by the yellow Swiss PostBus. If you see a PostBus, or if you hear it approaching a bend with its characteristic three-tone horn, pull back (before the bend! ) and let it pass, they always have priority and their drivers count on your cooperation.