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

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.

Before you travel

No travel can be guaranteed safe. Read all the advice in this guide as well as support for British nationals abroad which includes:

  • advice on preparing for travel abroad and reducing risks
  • information for women, LGBT and disabled travellers

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

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.

This advice reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British citizen’ passport from the UK, 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 Embassy of Switzerland in the UK.

COVID-19 rules

Countries may restrict travel or bring in rules at short notice. Check with your travel provider for changes.

If you test positive for COVID-19, you may need to stay where you are until you test negative. You may also need to get treatment there.

Read TravelHealthPro’s general COVID-19 advice for travellers.

Travel to Switzerland

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

More information is available from the Federal Office of Public Health or by calling the Coronavirus Infoline on +41 58 463 00 00 (7am to 5pm GMT). Assistance is available in English.

Public spaces

Cantons (administrative area) may impose further restrictions. Check cantonal websites for more details.

Passport validity requirements

If you’re planning to travel to an EU country (except Ireland), or Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Andorra, Monaco, San Marino or Vatican City, you must follow the Schengen area passport requirements.

Your passport must be:

  • issued less than 10 years before the date you enter the country (check the ‘date of issue’)
  • valid for at least 3 months after the day you plan to leave (check the ‘expiry date’)

You must check your passport meets these requirements before you travel. If your passport was issued before 1 October 2018, extra months may have been added to its expiry date.

Contact the Embassy of Switzerland in the UK if you think that your passport does not meet both these requirements. Renew your passport if you need to.

Check with your transport provider or travel company that your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.

Passport stamping

Check your passport is stamped if you enter or exit the Schengen area through Switzerland as a visitor. Border guards will use passport stamps to check you’re complying with the 90-day visa-free limit for short stays in the Schengen area. If relevant entry or exit stamps are not in your passport, border guards will presume that you have overstayed your visa-free limit.

You can show evidence of when and where you entered or exited the Schengen area and ask the border guards to add this date and location in your passport. Examples of acceptable evidence include boarding passes and tickets.

You can find more information on travel documents on the cantons website website. If you live in Switzerland, read our Living in Switzerland guide for passport stamping information.

Visa requirements

You can travel to countries in the Schengen area for up to 90 days in any 180-day period without a visa. 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

UK nationals do not need a visa to enter Switzerland. At passport control, UK nationals should use the ‘ALL PASSPORTS’ lane, whatever their residence status.

If you’re travelling to Switzerland and other Schengen countries without a visa, make sure your whole visit is within the 90-day limit. Visits to Schengen countries within the previous 180 days before you travel count towards your 90 days.

To stay longer (to work or study, for business travel or for other reasons), you must meet the Swiss government’s entry requirements. Check which type of visa or work permit you may need with the Swiss Embassy website.

If you are travelling to work in Switzerland, read the guidance on visas and permits.

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

Additional documents required by tourists

At Switzerland’s border control, you may need to:

  • show proof of your accommodation, for example, a hotel booking confirmation or proof of address if visiting your own property (for example, a second home)
  • show proof of insurance for your trip – check FCDO’s travel insurance guidance
  • show a return or onward ticket
  • prove that you have enough money for your stay – around 100 Swiss francs a day

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 information about Swiss customs regulations on the cantons website.

Vaccination requirements (other than COVID-19)

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


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. You should stay vigilant.

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 theft, especially in larger cities, at Geneva airport and on trains to and from Geneva.

Protecting your belongings

Take sensible precautions to avoid mugging, bag snatching and pickpocketing. Be particularly vigilant at airports, railway stations and crowded public gatherings. Do not leave your valuables unattended.

Laws and cultural differences

Public offences

Covering your face in public places in the Swiss cantons of Ticino and St Gallen is illegal, including for tourists. This includes balaclavas, full veils or any other garment or mask that is used to hide the face. You could be fined 100 to 10,000 Swiss francs if you don’t comply.

Outdoor activities and adventure tourism

Trekking, mountaineering and extreme sports

Hiking, mountaineering and other adventure sports can be risky. Visitors can get into difficulty and need the help of the emergency services when hiking and mountaineering. British visitors have been involved in accidents, been hospitalised or have died.

Check the company you are using is well-established and that you’ve arranged for your travel insurance to cover 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), your insurance should include:

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

Read FCDO advice about staying safe while skiing and preparing for winter sports abroad.

Extreme weather

Check weather forecasts and conditions and make sure you’re properly equipped for the worst-case scenario. A map, compass, GPS and telecommunication equipment should always be used when travelling outside urban areas. Don’t 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 snow drifts
  • landslides and flooding
  • glacial crevasses and hollows
  • rockfall
  • thunderstorms and lightning
  • altitude sickness
  • sun exposure
  • sudden weather changes

Forest fires

There are a number of ongoing forest fires in Switzerland. There is more information on the Federal Government’s Natural Hazards Portal. Check with your travel provider before travelling and follow the advice of local authorities at all times.

Forest fires can lead to rockfall in mountainous areas. Official advice on the safety measures currently in place can be found on the Federal Office for the Environment’s website. You should:

  • take care when visiting or driving through woodland areas
  • make sure cigarette ends are properly extinguished
  • not light barbecues
  • take care when you are travelling or hiking in a mountainous area

Causing a forest fire when a ban on open fire is in place is illegal, even if unintentional, and can lead to fines of up to 20,000 Swiss francs.

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

Forest fires can also cause travel disruption in wider areas.


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.

Transport risks in Switzerland

Road travel

If you are planning to drive in Switzerland, see information on driving abroad and read the RAC Switzerland guide.

Licences and documents

If you are visiting Switzerland, you can drive on a full, valid UK driving licence, insurance and vehicle documents. If you’re living in Switzerland, check the Living in Switzerland Guide for information on requirements for residents.

Driving a British car abroad

You may need a UK sticker to drive your car outside the UK. UK stickers have replaced GB stickers. Check the government guidance on displaying number plates for more information on what to do if you are driving outside the UK.

Driving regulations

Road users have to comply with Switzerland’s traffic laws, such as speed limits, rules on alcohol intake and child security. Traffic regulations are strictly enforced. Any serious breach of the regulations can result in heavy fines or imprisonment.


You must buy and display a vignette (sticker) to travel on Swiss motorways or face large fines. You can buy a vignette at most border crossings, petrol stations, post offices, by phone (+800 1002 0030) or buy a vignette online.

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.

See the latest information on road conditions on the cantons website.


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

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 promptly if you’re referred to a medical facility for treatment.

For more information read guidance on healthcare when travelling in Europe.

Vaccinations and health risks

At least 8 weeks before your trip check:

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.

Insect and tick bites

There is an increased risk of tick bites from April to October. The Federal Office of Public Health warns of a significant number of lyme disease and tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) cases annually. For more information read about insect and tick bite avoidance 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.

The NHS has information on whether you can take your medicine abroad.

Healthcare facilities in Switzerland

FCDO has a list of English-speaking doctors in Switzerland.

COVID-19 healthcare in Switzerland

Local restrictions, such as face masks or proof of vaccination, may be required in hospitals or care homes.

More information is available from the Federal Office of Public Health or by calling the Coronavirus Infoline on +41 58 463 00 00 (7am to 5pm GMT). Assistance is available in English.

Health insurance cards

Apply for a free UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) before leaving the UK. If you already have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), it will still be valid as long as it remains in date.

The GHIC or EHIC entitles you to state-provided medical treatment necessary during your trip. Any treatment provided is on the same terms as Swiss nationals. If you do not have your card with you or you’ve lost it, contact the NHS Overseas Healthcare Team.

It’s important to take out appropriate travel insurance for your needs. A GHIC or EHIC is not an alternative to travel insurance and you should have both before you travel. An GHIC or EHIC does not cover all health-related costs, for example, medical repatriation, ongoing medical treatment and non-urgent treatment. Read more about what your travel insurance should cover.

GHIC and EHIC cover state healthcare only, not private treatment. You will be responsible for the cost of any treatment provided by a private doctor or private clinic.

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

If you need to contact emergency services, call these numbers:

General emergency: 112

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

Help abroad in an emergency

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

You can also contact FCDO online.

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 overseas 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.