Swiss Alps in summer
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Swiss Alps in summer

© / Britvich Julia

Switzerland Travel Guide

Key Facts

41,284 sq km (15,940 sq miles).


8,588,758 (UN estimate 2019).

Population density

208 per sq km.


Federal City Bern.


Federal republic.

Head of state

Viola Amherd since January 2024.


230 volts AC, 50Hz. Standard European plugs with two round pins and Swiss plugs with three round pins are used.

Combining expansive greenery, slick cities and bucketfuls of fresh air, Switzerland is a stylish tourist destination that offers countless outdoor adventures and contemporary urban breaks.

Switzerland’s Alpine vistas are so picture perfect, they appear to have been plucked from a postcard or the pages of a storybook. But these disarming landscapes are alive and kicking, as the myriad spots for skiing, hiking or mountain biking can attest. Ski resorts like Zermatt (home to the lofty Matterhorn), Verbier and celebrity-studded St Moritz provide everything from big, bad Olympic runs to encouragingly gentle novice slopes. And when the snow melts at low altitudes, the white-tipped mountain peaks remain against a backdrop of blue skies, providing a superb setting for summertime hiking.

The ancient capital Berne provides almost endless opportunities for sightseeing, shopping and traditional folk entertainment, while Zurich leads the way in art, design and nightlife, from opera and world-class theatre to stylish bars and nightclubs. Geneva is the sleekest and most upscale of Switzerland's cities, acting as home to a thriving community of expats, many of whom work for the numerous international organisations that are headquartered there.

Yet Switzerland’s cultural offerings don’t stop there. When it comes to contemporary art, polished Basel reigns supreme, with more than 40 museums and galleries nestled in this compact city. For a few days every year, Basel takes centre stage for the eminent Art Basel fair. French-flavoured Montreux also steals a moment in the cultural spotlight when it becomes the centre of focus for the jazz world during the Montreux Jazz Festival. Elsewhere, dotted around green foothills, are countless spruce towns and folkloric villages, where ancient farm culture survives and cattle still loiter amid flower-filled pastures. 

Small, mountainous and wealthy, Switzerland is renowned for its enviable quality of life, with public services ticking along like clockwork. Come for the creamy, complex cheeses, smooth chocolates and luxury watches; stay for the exquisite culture, incredible scenery and sheer sense of fun.

Travel Advice

Before you travel

No travel can be guaranteed safe. Read all the advice in this guide and any specific travel advice that applies to you:

Travel insurance

If you choose to travel, research your destinations and get appropriate travel insurance. Insurance should cover your itinerary, planned activities and expenses in an emergency.

About FCDO travel advice

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides advice about risks of travel to help British nationals make informed decisions. Find out more about FCDO travel advice.

Follow and contact FCDO travel on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to get email notifications when this advice is updated.

This information is for people travelling on a full ‘British citizen’ passport from the UK. It is based on the UK government’s understanding of the current rules for the most common types of travel.

The authorities in Switzerland set and enforce entry rules. If you’re not sure how these requirements apply to you, contact the Swiss Embassy in the UK.

COVID-19 rules

There are no COVID-19 testing or vaccination requirements for travellers entering Switzerland.

Passport validity requirements

Switzerland follows Schengen area rules. Your passport must:

  • have a ‘date of issue’ less than 10 years before the date you arrive – if you renewed your passport before 1 October 2018, it may have a date of issue that is more than 10 years ago
  • have an ‘expiry date’ at least 3 months after the day you plan to leave the Schengen area

Check with your travel provider that your passport and other travel documents meet requirements. Renew your passport if you need to.

You will be denied entry if you do not have a valid travel document or try to use a passport that has been reported lost or stolen.

Visa requirements

You can travel without a visa to the Schengen area, which includes Switzerland, for up to 90 days in any 180-day period. This applies if you travel:

  • as a tourist
  • to visit family or friends
  • to attend business meetings, cultural or sports events
  • for short-term studies or training

At passport control, use the ‘All passports’ lane.

The requirements for working in Switzerland are different.

If you’re travelling to other Schengen countries as well, make sure your whole visit is within the 90-day limit. Visits to Schengen countries in the 180 days before you travel count towards your 90 days.

Make sure you get your passport stamped on entry and exit. 

If you’re a visitor, border guards will look at your entry and exit stamps to check you have not overstayed the 90-day visa-free limit for the Schengen area.

If your passport is missing a stamp, show evidence of when and where you entered or left the Schengen area (for example, boarding passes or tickets) and ask the border guards to add the date and location in your passport.

At Swiss border control, you may also need to:

  • show proof of your accommodation, for example, a hotel booking or proof of address if visiting your own property
  • show proof of insurance for your trip
  • show a return or onward ticket
  • prove that you have enough money for your stay – around 100 Swiss francs a day

Staying longer than 90 days in a 180-day period

To stay longer, you must meet the Swiss government’s entry requirements. Check which type of visa or work permit you need with the Swiss Embassy in the UK.

If you are in Switzerland with a residence permit or long-stay visa, this does not count towards your 90-day visa-free limit.

See passport stamping if you live in Switzerland.

Vaccine requirements

At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the vaccinations and certificates you need in TravelHealthPro’s Switzerland guide.  

Customs rules

There are strict rules about goods that you can take into and out of Switzerland. You must declare anything that may be prohibited or subject to tax or duty.


There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting UK interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the UK and British nationals as targets. Stay aware of your surroundings at all times.     

UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out how to reduce your risk from terrorism while abroad.

Terrorism in Switzerland

Terrorist attacks in Switzerland cannot be ruled out.


There is a low rate of serious crime in Switzerland. However, there have been increased reports of petty theft, especially in larger cities, at Geneva airport and on trains to and from Geneva.

Protecting yourself and your belongings

Take sensible precautions to avoid mugging, bag-snatching and pickpocketing. Be particularly alert at airports, railway stations and in crowded areas. Do not leave your valuables unattended.   

Laws and cultural differences

Face-covering ban

In Ticino and St Gallen, it’s illegal to cover your face in public, including for tourists. Do not wear balaclavas, full veils or any other garment or mask that hides your face. You could get a fine of 100 to 10,000 Swiss francs if you do not comply.

Outdoor activities and adventure tourism

Hiking, mountaineering and extreme sports

Adventure sports can be risky. British nationals in the Swiss Alps have been involved in accidents and have been hospitalised or died.

Check the company you are using is well-established and that your travel insurance covers any specific activity.

For sports activities like skiing, potholing and mountaineering, and for sports classed as particularly dangerous (for example, off-piste skiing, mountain biking, climbing, paragliding or BASE jumping), you could get into difficulty and need emergency rescue. Your insurance should include:

  • mountain rescue services
  • helicopter costs
  • repatriation to your home country or transfer to neighbouring countries for treatment

See ‘Altitude sickness’ in Health.

Skiing and winter sports

Read FCDO advice about preparing for winter sports abroad. See the guidance on avalanches in ‘Extreme weather’.

Transport risks

Road travel

If you are planning to drive in Switzerland, see information on driving abroad and read the rules of the road in the RAC’s Switzerland guide. The guide lists driving regulations and other legal requirements you need to be aware of.

Road users must observe Switzerland’s traffic laws, including speed limits, rules on alcohol intake and child security. Traffic police strictly enforce these regulations. Any serious breach can result in heavy fines or imprisonment.

You can use a UK photocard driving licence to drive in Switzerland. If you still have a paper driving licence, you may need to update it to a photocard licence or get the 1968 version of the international driving permit (IDP) as well.  

Check if you need a UK sticker to drive your car outside the UK.


You must buy and display a vignette (sticker) to travel on Swiss motorways. You can buy one at most border crossings, petrol stations, post offices, by phone (+800 1002 0030) or buy a vignette online. If you do not have a vignette, you could get a large fine.

If you’re involved in a car accident, use the orange emergency phones to ask for help.

Road conditions

Roads outside urban areas are narrow and winding. Road conditions can deteriorate fast, even in summer, especially during heavy rainfall and snowfall at higher altitudes. Reduce your speed significantly to suit the conditions.

Alpine winters make driving difficult. Equip your car with winter tyres and snow-chains. Check road conditions before you depart. Carry water, food, warm clothing and medicines in your vehicle.

Find the latest information on road conditions using the Swiss government’s ‘Easy answers’ website.


The official Switzerland Tourism website has useful information for travellers in wheelchairs or with impaired mobility who are travelling in Switzerland.

Extreme weather and natural hazards

Find out what you can do to prepare for and respond to extreme weather and natural hazards.

Alpine conditions  

Check weather forecasts and conditions and make sure you’re properly equipped for the worst-case scenario. Always carry a map, compass, GPS and fully charged mobile when travelling outside urban areas. Do not undertake any activity alone and consider hiring a guide for expert advice. Always leave copies of your itinerary with someone.

These alpine hazards exist throughout the year:

  • avalanches and snowdrifts
  • landslides and flooding
  • glacial crevasses and hollows
  • rockfalls
  • thunderstorms
  • altitude sickness
  • sun exposure
  • sudden weather changes


Avalanches are a risk, particularly during heavy snow. Off-piste skiing is very dangerous due to the risk of avalanches. Follow safety instructions and warnings. Consider carrying search equipment. Avalanche beepers (receivers) are the most common rescue devices and when properly used, are the fastest way of locating an avalanche victim.

Conditions on roads in mountainous areas can quickly become difficult in winter. Carry water, food, warm clothing and medicines in your vehicle.

Check the latest avalanche risk at the Federal Office of Meteorology and Climatology.

For more information, visit the official Switzerland Tourism website.


There is a heightened risk of wildfires in summer, especially after a period of drought.     

Fires in mountainous areas can lead to rockfalls. Wildfires also cause travel disruption in wider areas.

Always check the bans on open fires for the area you’re visiting and:

  • leave no litter
  • make sure cigarette ends are properly extinguished
  • use only designated concrete-based barbecue areas and douse coals before you leave

Causing a forest fire in a place where there’s a ban is illegal, even if unintentional, and can lead to a fine of up to 20,000 Swiss francs.

If you see a wildfire, call the fire department on 118.

Before you travel check that:

  • your destination can provide the healthcare you may need
  • you have appropriate travel insurance for local treatment or unexpected medical evacuation

This is particularly important if you have a health condition or are pregnant.

Emergency medical number

Dial 112 or 144 and ask for an ambulance.

Contact your insurance or medical assistance company quickly if you’re referred to a medical facility for treatment.

Vaccine recommendations and health risks

At least 8 weeks before your trip:

 See what health risks you’ll face in Switzerland, including:

  • biting insects and ticks, especially between April and October
  • tick-borne encephalitis

Altitude sickness

Altitude sickness is a risk in parts of Switzerland, including the ski and hiking areas around:

  • 4 Vallées
  • Belalp-Blatten
  • Chandolin
  • Corvatsch
  • Engelberg-Titlis
  • Hohensaas
  • Lauchernalp
  • Matterhorn
  • Saas-Fee
  • St Moritz

Read more about altitude sickness on TravelHealthPro.


The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or bought in the UK can be different in other countries.

Read best practice when travelling with medicines on TravelHealthPro.

Healthcare in Switzerland

FCDO has a list of medical providers in Switzerland where some staff will speak English.

Health insurance cards

To get medically necessary state healthcare in Switzerland, you need a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) or a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). 

The NHS’s getting healthcare abroad webpage has details about:

  • how to apply for a GHIC
  • how to get temporary cover if you lose your card or it does not arrive in time
  • who qualifies for a new EHIC instead of a GHIC
  • what treatment counts as medically necessary

A GHIC or EHIC is not an alternative to travel insurance. You may have costs your GHIC or EHIC does not cover, including:

  • changes to travel and accommodation bookings
  • additional standard costs for treatment
  • medical repatriation to the UK
  • treatment that is ruled non-urgent
  • private healthcare
  • private clinics

There is also guidance on healthcare if you’re living in Switzerland.

Travel and mental health

Read FCDO guidance on travel and mental health. There is also mental health guidance on TravelHealthPro.

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) cannot provide tailored advice for individual trips. Read this travel advice and carry out your own research before deciding whether to travel.

Emergency services in Switzerland

Telephone: 112 (ambulance, fire, police)

Ambulance: 144

Fire: 118

Police: 117

Contact your travel provider and insurer

Contact your travel provider and your insurer if you are involved in a serious incident or emergency abroad. They will tell you if they can help and what you need to do.

Refunds and changes to travel

For refunds or changes to travel, contact your travel provider. You may also be able to make a claim through insurance. However, insurers usually require you to talk to your travel provider first.

Find out more about changing or cancelling travel plans, including:

  • where to get advice if you are in a dispute with a provider
  • how to access previous versions of travel advice to support a claim

Support from FCDO

FCDO has guidance on staying safe and what to do if you need help or support abroad, including:

Contacting FCDO

Follow and contact FCDO travel on TwitterFacebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to get email notifications when this travel advice is updated.

You can also contact FCDO online.

Help abroad in an emergency

If you are in Switzerland and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the British Embassy in Berne.

FCDO in London

You can call FCDO in London if you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad.

Telephone: 020 7008 5000 (24 hours)

Find out about call charges

Risk information for British companies

The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating in Switzerland on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.

Visa and passport information is updated regularly and is correct at the time of publishing. You should verify critical travel information independently with the relevant embassy before you travel.