Here's a little list of tips we've compiled for living on the road in Switzerland.
Switzerland has four national languages: German is the most widely spoken throughout North East and Central Switzerland; France is the second, being spoken primarily in the West; Italian is third, spoken only in the Southern canton of Ticino and in the South of Graubünden. Romansh is their fourth national language; Romansh speakers are scattered across Switzerland but it is mainly spoken in the trilingual canton of Graubünden.
Switzerland uses the Swiss Franc (CHF) and not the Euro. It is generally considered unusual to pay for anything less than 20CHF by card and some smaller shops do not accept card at all so it is advisable to carry cash.
As Switzerland is mainly mountainous there are usually taps and fonts in most Swiss towns. The water is generally safe to drink unless specified otherwise, and usually crisp, fresh and delicious.
‘Drinking water’ in Switzerland’s three main languages:
French: “Eau potable”
Italian: “Acqua potabile”
Check out our map of water points here.
You can get post delivered to any Swiss Post office by addressing it as “Poste restante”. The service is free and your post will be held for up to one month. The address format is as follows:
Street, house number
Post code, city
Addresses and opening hours for all Swiss Post offices can be found on post.ch.
Petrol: Bleifrei (95 / 98) / Sans plomb (95 / 98) Senza piombo (95 / 98)
LPG: LPG, GPL or Autogas
Switzerland has a website which regularly posts fuel prices online carburants.ch (and its German counterpart tanktipp.ch/) but its usability as a fuel comparison checker is poor. Rather than being able to check for the cheapest fuel prices in an area you must select a Canton, a town and a specific fuel station to view its prices, which are not always up to date.
Disposing of waste and recycling can be a complicated business in Switzerland. Rubbish bins on the street are sometimes hard to find owing to the Swiss waste tax; special bin bags called “saecke” must be purchased for collection on which a surcharge per bag is paid.
PET plastic can be recycled outside of supermarkets. Recycling bins for glass (separated by colour), cardboard and aluminium tins (marked “Dosen”) are scattered around, usually in residential areas. Organic waste is also recycled and used for compost.
· Built-up areas 31 mph (50 km/h)
· Outside built-up areas 49 mph (80 km)
· Semi-motorways 62mph (100km/hm)
· Motorways 74 mph (120 km/h
If you are towing you must not exceed 49mph (80km/h).
In the event of a breakdown you may only tow a car (or be towed) on a motorway as far as the next exit and at a maximum speed of 24mph (40km/h).
Dipped headlights must be used at all times of the day.
To use Switzerland’s motorways you must purchase a vignette. This is a one-off fee covering your road tax for an entire year; the price is CHF40 (33 euros). The vignette sticker must be displayed when using all motorways and semi-motorways or you will be subject to a CHF200 fine plus the cost of the vignette.
To avoid using vignette roads, simply avoid any routes marked in green and stick to the red and blue routes instead.
Compulsory items to carry in your vehicle always.
· Snow chains
· Warning triangle
Wild camping in Switzerland - as in many countries - is a legal grey area. As a general rule if you are out of the way, not on private property or in densely populated tourist areas you will be okay to stay in your van overnight. Just look out for signs and restrictions. Police tend to look differently at the situation if you have chairs out and awning up etc., so just keep it discreet and move on regularly and you should be fine.
Sadly we only spent three days driving through Switzerland on our way back from Italy; we wish we could've spent longer exploring the snowy Swiss Alps and quaint villages. Switzerland is one of those countries that is postcard-perfect no matter where you look, and they make great efforts to keep it that way.
The entire country is mountainous and famous for its lakes, with sunny summers when you can explore the Alpine meadows and beautifully snowy winters (and don't worry, the roads are clear and very driveable). Switzerland is perfect whether you're road tripping or hiking.
The only reason we didn't stay longer is that it's a very expensive country, and one where you'll have great difficulty trying to find a bin on the street to empty your rubbish. The cost of living is a lot higher but the quality of life is also a lot better too.
Swiss chocolate is famous for its rich, creamy texture, as is their hot chocolate which you'll need after a day in the snow, trust me. Another bonus is that the water here, usually found spouting from fountains in villages, is easily the freshest and most delicious water you'll ever drink for free.