Switzerland travel advice

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Switzerland - Take normal security precautions

Take normal security precautions in Switzerland

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Safety and security

Crime

Petty crime, such as pickpocketing and purse snatching, occurs in most public places and particularly in major cities such as:

  • Basel
  • Bern
  • Geneva
  • Zurich

Thieves are particularly active in airports, railway stations and trains. They often work in teams, one distracting the victim while the other steals the valuables.

Car break-ins occur at gas stations and highway service areas, as well as in parking lots.

  • Ensure that your belongings, including your passport and other travel documents, are secure at all times
  • Never leave bags containing money, airline tickets, credit cards or passports in the trunk of a parked car and do not leave anything on car seats
  • Don't put any valuables or identification in the overhead storage compartments of trains
  • Exercise caution on trains, especially on overnight trips

Spiked food and drinks

Never leave food or drinks unattended or in the care of strangers. Be wary of accepting snacks, beverages, gum or cigarettes from new acquaintances. These items may contain drugs that could put you at risk of sexual assault and robbery, particularly in bars and nightclubs.

Fraud

Credit card and ATM fraud

Credit card and ATM fraud occurs. When using debit or credit cards:

  • pay careful attention if other people are handling your cards
  • use ATMs located in public areas or inside a bank or business
  • avoid using card readers with an irregular or unusual feature
  • cover the keypad with one hand when entering your PIN
  • check for any unauthorized transactions on your account statements

Cybercrime

Cybercrime occurs in Switzerland. Perpetrators may compromise public Wi-Fi networks to steal credit card or personal information.

  • Avoid using public Wi-Fi networks
  • Avoid making purchases on unsecured websites
  • Use judgment when posting information on social media
  • Be especially careful if you are meeting people you have met online
  • Never click a suspicious link in an email or text message asking for your credit card details

Romance scams

If you’re travelling to Switzerland to meet someone you’ve otherwise only met online, be aware that you may be the victim of a scam.

Be wary of attempts at fraud by persons who profess friendship or romantic interest over the internet.

Never send money.

Useful links

Terrorism

There is a threat of terrorism in Europe. Terrorists have carried out attacks in several European cities. Terrorist attacks could occur at any time.

Targets could include:

  • government buildings, including schools
  • places of worship
  • airports and other transportation hubs and networks
  • public areas such as tourist attractions, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, shopping centres, markets, hotels and other sites frequented by foreigners

Always be aware of your surroundings when in public places. Be particularly vigilant if attending:

  • sporting events
  • religious holidays
  • public celebrations

Terrorists have used such occasions to mount attacks.

Demonstrations

Demonstrations take place from time to time, particularly in Bern, Geneva and Zurich. Even peaceful demonstrations can turn violent at any time. They can also lead to disruptions to traffic and public transportation.

  • Avoid areas where demonstrations and large gatherings are taking place
  • Follow the instructions of local authorities
  • Monitor local media for information on ongoing demonstrations

Mass gatherings (large-scale events)

Mountain activities

Mountain activities, such as hiking, can be dangerous, especially if they are not well-organized.

Weather conditions can change rapidly, even in summer. In winter, heavy snowfall can make it difficult to reach some villages and ski centres. Roads may become impassable. There is also a risk of avalanches, some of which can be fatal, even with light snow accumulations.

If you intend to go hiking, mountaineering or skiing:

  • never do so alone and do not part with your hiking companions
  • buy travel insurance that includes helicopter rescue and medical evacuation
  • ensure that your physical condition is good enough to meet the challenges of your activity
  • do not venture off marked trails or slopes
  • ensure that you’re adequately equipped
  • carry an avalanche beacon
  • stay informed about weather and other conditions that may pose a hazard
  • inform a family member or friend of your itinerary
  • know the symptoms of acute altitude sickness, which can be fatal
  • obtain detailed information on your activity and on the environment in which you will be doing it before setting out

Useful links

Road safety

Road conditions and safety are very good throughout the country.

Many roads are mountainous and winding. Traffic jams are common, especially in major cities and during rush hour.

Priority to the right

The “priority to the right” system is in effect in Switzerland.

Drivers must give way to vehicles approaching from the right at intersections, even on secondary roads. This is often a surprise to foreign drivers and results in accidents.

Familiarize yourself with the “priority to the right” system.

Latest traffic information - Touring Club Switzerland (in French)

Public transportation

Switzerland has an extensive, reliable and safe public transport network. Train and bus services provide easy access between the country's different regions and cities.

Rail traffic information - Swiss Federal Railways

Taxis

Taxis are generally safe. Ride-sharing services are also available.

Use only officially marked taxis or use a trusted ride-sharing app.

Air travel

We do not make assessments on the compliance of foreign domestic airlines with international safety standards.

Information about foreign domestic airlines

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Entry and exit requirements

Every country or territory decides who can enter or exit through its borders. The Government of Canada cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet your destination’s entry or exit requirements.

We have obtained the information on this page from the Swiss authorities. It can, however, change at any time.

Verify this information with the Foreign Representatives in Canada.

Schengen area

Switzerland is a Schengen area country. Canadian citizens do not need a visa for travel to countries within the Schengen area. However, visa-free travel only applies to stays of up to 90 days in any 180-day period. Stays are cumulative and include visits to any Schengen area country.

If you plan to stay in the Schengen area for a longer period of time, you will need a visa. You must contact the high commission or embassy of the country or countries you are travelling to and obtain the appropriate visa(s) prior to travel.

Useful links

Passport

Entry requirements vary depending on the type of passport you use for travel.

Before you travel, check with your transportation company about passport requirements. Its rules on passport validity may be more stringent than the country’s entry rules.

Regular Canadian passport

Your passport must be valid for at least 3 months beyond the date you expect to leave the Schengen area.

Passport for official travel

Different entry rules may apply.

Official travel

Passport with “X” gender identifier

While the Government of Canada issues passports with an “X” gender identifier, it cannot guarantee your entry or transit through other countries. You might face entry restrictions in countries that do not recognize the “X” gender identifier. Before you leave, check with the closest foreign representative for your destination.

Other travel documents

Different entry rules may apply when travelling with a temporary passport or an emergency travel document. Before you leave, check with the closest foreign representative for your destination.

Useful links

Visas

Tourist visa: not required for stays up to 90 days in any 180-day period
Business visa: not required for stays up to 90 days in any 180-day period
Student visa: not required for stays up to 90 days in any 180-day period
Work visa: required

Other entry requirements

Customs officials may ask you to show them a return or onward ticket and proof of sufficient funds for your stay.

Children and travel

Learn more about travelling with children.

Yellow fever

Learn about potential entry requirements related to yellow fever (vaccines section).

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Health

Relevant Travel Health Notices

This section contains information on possible health risks and restrictions regularly found or ongoing in the destination. Follow this advice to lower your risk of becoming ill while travelling. Not all risks are listed below.

Consult a health care professional or visit a travel health clinic preferably 6 weeks before you travel to get personalized health advice and recommendations.

Routine vaccines

Be sure that your routine vaccinations, as per your province or territory, are up-to-date before travelling, regardless of your destination.

Some of these vaccinations include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, varicella (chickenpox), influenza and others.

Pre-travel vaccines and medications

You may be at risk for preventable diseases while travelling in this destination. Talk to a travel health professional about which medications or vaccines may be right for you, based on your destination and itinerary. 

Yellow Fever - Country Entry Requirements

Yellow fever is a disease caused by a flavivirus from the bite of an infected mosquito.

Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.

Risk

  • There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.

Country Entry Requirement*

  • Proof of vaccination is not required to enter this country.

Recommendation

  • Vaccination is not recommended.

* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.

About Yellow Fever

Yellow Fever Vaccination Centres in Canada

Tick-borne encephalitis

Tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) is a risk in some areas of this destination. It is a viral disease that affects the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). It is spread to humans by the bite of infected ticks or occasionally when unpasteurized milk products are consumed.

Travellers to areas where TBE is found may be at higher risk  during April to November, and the risk is highest for people who hike or camp in forested areas.

Protect yourself from tick bites. The vaccine is not available in Canada. It may be available in the destination you are travelling to.

Rabies

In this destination, rabies may be present in some wildlife species, including bats. Rabies is a deadly disease that spreads to humans primarily through bites or scratches from an infected animal. 

If you are bitten or scratched by an animal while travelling, immediately wash the wound with soap and clean water and see a health care professional. 

Before travel, discuss rabies vaccination with a health care professional. It may be recommended for travellers who will be working directly with wildlife. 

Measles

Measles is a highly contagious viral disease. It can spread quickly from person to person by direct contact and through droplets in the air.

Anyone who is not protected against measles is at risk of being infected with it when travelling internationally.

Regardless of where you are going, talk to a health care professional before travelling to make sure you are fully protected against measles.

Hepatitis B

 Hepatitis B is a risk in every destination. It is a viral liver disease that is easily transmitted from one person to another through exposure to blood and body fluids containing the hepatitis B virus.  Travellers who may be exposed to blood or other bodily fluids (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment, sharing needles, tattooing, acupuncture or occupational exposure) are at higher risk of getting hepatitis B.

Hepatitis B vaccination is recommended for all travellers. Prevent hepatitis B infection by practicing safe sex, only using new and sterile drug equipment, and only getting tattoos and piercings in settings that follow public health regulations and standards.

COVID-19

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious viral disease. It can spread from person to person by direct contact and through droplets in the air.

It is recommended that all eligible travellers complete a COVID-19 vaccine series along with any additional recommended doses in Canada before travelling. Evidence shows that vaccines are very effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19. While vaccination provides better protection against serious illness, you may still be at risk of infection from the virus that causes COVID-19. Anyone who has not completed a vaccine series is at increased risk of being infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 and is at greater risk for severe disease when travelling internationally.

Before travelling, verify your destination’s COVID-19 vaccination entry/exit requirements. Regardless of where you are going, talk to a health care professional before travelling to make sure you are adequately protected against COVID-19.

Influenza

 The best way to protect yourself from seasonal influenza (flu) is to get vaccinated every year. Get the flu shot at least 2 weeks before travelling.  

 The flu occurs worldwide. 

  •  In the Northern Hemisphere, the flu season usually runs from November to   April.
  •  In the Southern Hemisphere, the flu season usually runs between April and   October.
  •  In the tropics, there is flu activity year round. 

The flu vaccine available in one hemisphere may only offer partial protection against the flu in the other hemisphere.

The flu virus spreads from person to person when they cough or sneeze or by touching objects and surfaces that have been contaminated with the virus. Clean your hands often and wear a mask if you have a fever or respiratory symptoms.

Safe food and water precautions

Many illnesses can be caused by eating food or drinking beverages contaminated by bacteria, parasites, toxins, or viruses, or by swimming or bathing in contaminated water.

  • Learn more about food and water precautions to take to avoid getting sick by visiting our eat and drink safely abroad page. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!
  • Avoid getting water into your eyes, mouth or nose when swimming or participating in activities in freshwater (streams, canals, lakes), particularly after flooding or heavy rain. Water may look clean but could still be polluted or contaminated.
  • Avoid inhaling or swallowing water while bathing, showering, or swimming in pools or hot tubs. 

Insect bite prevention

Many diseases are spread by the bites of infected insects such as mosquitoes, ticks, fleas or flies. When travelling to areas where infected insects may be present:

  • Use insect repellent (bug spray) on exposed skin
  • Cover up with light-coloured, loose clothes made of tightly woven materials such as nylon or polyester
  • Minimize exposure to insects
  • Use mosquito netting when sleeping outdoors or in buildings that are not fully enclosed

To learn more about how you can reduce your risk of infection and disease caused by bites, both at home and abroad, visit our insect bite prevention page.

Find out what types of insects are present where you’re travelling, when they’re most active, and the symptoms of the diseases they spread.

Animal precautions

Some infections, such as rabies and influenza, can be shared between humans and animals. Certain types of activities may increase your chance of contact with animals, such as travelling in rural or forested areas, camping, hiking, and visiting wet markets (places where live animals are slaughtered and sold) or caves.

Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, livestock (pigs, cows), monkeys, snakes, rodents, birds, and bats, and to avoid eating undercooked wild game.

Closely supervise children, as they are more likely to come in contact with animals.

Person-to-person infections

Stay home if you’re sick and practise proper cough and sneeze etiquette, which includes coughing or sneezing into a tissue or the bend of your arm, not your hand. Reduce your risk of colds, the flu and other illnesses by:

  •  washing your hands often
  • avoiding or limiting the amount of time spent in closed spaces, crowded places, or at large-scale events (concerts, sporting events, rallies)
  • avoiding close physical contact with people who may be showing symptoms of illness 

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs), HIV, and mpox are spread through blood and bodily fluids; use condoms, practise safe sex, and limit your number of sexual partners. Check with your local public health authority pre-travel to determine your eligibility for mpox vaccine.  

Medical services and facilities

Health care is excellent. It is available throughout the country.

Medical and hospital costs are much higher than in Canada. Immediate payment is usually required.

Make sure you get travel insurance that includes coverage for medical evacuation and hospital stays.

Travel health and safety

Keep in Mind...

The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.

Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.

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Laws and culture

You must abide by local laws.

Learn about what you should do and how we can help if you are arrested or detained abroad.

Transfer to a Canadian prison

Canada and Switzerland are signatories to the Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons. This enables a Canadian imprisoned in Switzerland to request a transfer to a Canadian prison to complete a sentence. The transfer requires the agreement of both Canadian and Switzerland authorities.

This process can take a long time, and there is no guarantee that the transfer will be approved by either or both sides.

Drugs

Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are severe. Convicted offenders can expect jail sentences or heavy fines.

Drugs, alcohol and travel

Concealing your face in public places

It is illegal to cover your face in public places. This ban is already in force in several cantons and is expected to be implemented nationwide in 2022.

There is no exemption for tourists or for religious reasons.

Offenders risk a fine.

Dual citizenship

Dual citizenship is legally recognized in Switzerland.

If you are a Canadian citizen, but also a citizen of Switzerland, our ability to offer you consular services may be limited while you're there. You may also be subject to different entry/exit requirements.

Travellers with dual citizenship

Compulsory military service

Swiss male citizens must perform military service, or alternative civilian service.

A man with dual Canadian and Swiss citizenship or who is eligible for Swiss citizenship may also be required to do so.

In peacetime, the Swiss authorities do not generally call up their nationals living abroad for compulsory military service as long as they remain abroad.

Consult a Swiss embassy or consulate before your trip.

Useful links

International Child Abduction

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is an international treaty. It can help parents with the return of children who have been removed to or retained in certain countries in violation of custody rights. The convention applies between Canada and Switzerland.

If your child was wrongfully taken to, or is being held in Switzerland, and if the applicable conditions are met, you may apply for the return of your child to the Swiss court.

If you are in this situation:

  • act as quickly as you can
  • contact the Central Authority for your province or territory of residence for information on starting an application under The Hague Convention
  • consult a lawyer in Canada and in Switzerland to explore all the legal options for the return of your child
  • report the situation to the nearest Canadian government office abroad or to the Vulnerable Children's Consular Unit at Global Affairs Canada by calling the Emergency Watch and Response Centre

If your child was removed from a country other than Canada, consult a lawyer to determine if The Hague Convention applies.

Be aware that Canadian consular officials cannot interfere in private legal matters or in another country's judicial affairs.

Useful links

Driving

You must be at least 18 years old to drive in Switzerland.

You can drive with your Canadian licence for up to 12 months. If you stay in Switzerland, you will have to exchange your Canadian licence for a Swiss licence.

To drive on the motorways, you must obtain a vignette and affix it to the windshield of your vehicle.

Valid for one year, this vignette can be purchased:

  • at most border crossings
  • at tourist offices
  • at petrol stations
  • at post offices
  • online at the Swiss Post website

Drivers who do not display the vignette are liable to heavy fines levied on the spot.

All vehicles must be equipped with a safety kit and a warning triangle for use in the event of a breakdown.

In winter, winter tires are mandatory and snow chains may be required in some mountainous areas.

Useful links

Money

The currency of Switzerland is the Swiss franc (CHF).

If you are carrying CHF 10,000 or more in cash, you may be subject to a customs check when entering or leaving Switzerland.

Cash, foreign currencies, securities - Federal Office for Customs and Border Security

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Natural disasters and climate

Flooding and landslides

Heavy rains, particularly in spring and summer, can cause severe flooding and landslides. Roads may become impassable and infrastructure damaged.

  • Exercise caution, particularly in areas around major rivers
  • Stay informed of the latest regional weather forecasts
  • Download the AlertSwiss app to receive important alerts from the Swiss authorities
  • Follow the instructions of local authorities, including evacuation orders

Useful links

Avalanches

There is a risk of avalanches in mountainous regions, especially following heavy snowfalls. Some may be fatal.

Monitor the avalanche forecasts, particularly if you plan on skiing or practicing mountain activities.

Useful links

Wildfires

Forest fires may occur, particularly during summer.

The air quality in areas near active fires may deteriorate due to heavy smoke.

In case of a major fire:

  • stay away from affected areas, particularly if you suffer from respiratory ailments
  • monitor local media for up-to-date information on the situation
  • follow the instructions of local authorities

Current forest fire danger - Natural Hazards Portal

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Need help?

Local services

Emergency services

In case of emergency, dial:

  • for all emergencies: 112
  • police: 117
  • medical assistance: 144
  • firefighters: 118
  • REGA Swiss Air Rescue: 1414
  • Roadside assistance: 140

Consular assistance

Bern - Embassy of Canada
Street AddressKirchenfeldstrasse 88, CH-3005 Bern, SwitzerlandPostal AddressP.O. Box 234, CH-3000, Bern 6, SwitzerlandTelephone41 (31) 357 3200Fax41 (31) 357 3210Emailbernconsular@international.gc.caInternethttps://www.Canada.ca/Canada-And-SwitzerlandTwitter@CanSwitzerlandOther social mediaEmbassy / Ambassade - Canada
Consular district

Liechtenstein

Geneva - Permanent Mission of Canada to the Office of the United Nations
Street Address5, de l'Ariana Avenue, CH-1202 Geneva, SwitzerlandTelephone41 (22) 919-92-00Fax41 (22) 919-92-33Emailgenev-consular@international.gc.caInternethttps://www.Canada.ca/Canada-And-SwitzerlandTwitter@CanSwitzerlandAppointment Book your appointment online

For emergency consular assistance, call the Embassy of Canada to Switzerland, in Bern, or if you are in the canton of Geneva, the Permanent Mission of Canada in Geneva, Switzerland, and follow the instructions. At any time, you may also contact the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa.

Disclaimer

The decision to travel is your choice and you are responsible for your personal safety abroad. We take the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provide credible and timely information in our Travel Advice to enable you to make well-informed decisions regarding your travel abroad.

The content on this page is provided for information only. While we make every effort to give you correct information, it is provided on an "as is" basis without warranty of any kind, expressed or implied. The Government of Canada does not assume responsibility and will not be liable for any damages in connection to the information provided.

If you need consular assistance while abroad, we will make every effort to help you. However, there may be constraints that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide services.

Learn more about consular services.

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