A little local know-how goes a long way in Switzerland. Here you will find all the essential advice and information you will need during your stay.

Personal Security

Despite Switzerland’s deserved reputation for safety, visitors should be vigilant, particularly when walking in unlit streets late at night, using cash machines, travelling on public transport, or among large crowds of people in public places. If you are a victim of theft, report it at once to the police. Obtaining a police report will enable you to make an insurance claim. Contact your embassy if you have your passport stolen, or in the event of a serious crime or accident.


Switzerland has no national health service, so medical treatment of any kind must be paid for. A reciprocal agreement exists with all EU nations, so if you have an EHIC card, present this as soon as possible. You may have to pay the fee and claim it back later. Private health insurance is recommended, especially if you are planning a skiing, mountaineering or hiking holiday, or any extreme sports. For minor ailments, seek medical supplies and advice from pharmacies. Search the website of the SOS-Pharmacy organization for open emergency pharmacies in your area.


Smoking, Alcohol and Drugs

Smoking is banned on public transport and in enclosed public places, and it is illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol (the blood alcohol content limit is 0.05 per cent). Drug possession is taken very seriously and there are heavy penalties, jail sentences and fines depending on the type of narcotic (small amounts of cannabis are permitted). Taking drugs across an international border automatically constitutes drug trafficking and has a heavy penalty.


By law you must carry valid identification at all times. A photocopy of your passport photo page (and visa if applicable) should suffice.

Local Customs

Be respectful of the religious beliefs and political opinions of the local people and try to adhere to local customs, both at national and cantonal level. The Swiss take their recycling seriously and expect tourists to do the same. Punctuality is key, whether you’re attending a business meeting or a dinner reservation.

LGBT+ Safety

LGBT+ rights in Switzerland are progressive compared to many European countries, especially in major cities. However, smaller towns and rural areas are often more conservative in their views, and overt displays of affection may receive a negative response from locals.

Visiting Churches and Cathedrals

Dress respectfully in places of worship: cover your torso, upper arms and knees.

Mobile Phones and Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi is widely available throughout Switzerland, and cafés and restaurants will usually give customers their Wi-Fi password. Visitors with EU tariffs are able to use their devices abroad without being affected by roaming charges. Check with your service provider for details.


You can purchase stamps (Briefmarken/timbres/francobolli) in post offices and some newsagents. Allow from a couple of days to one or two weeks for delivery of international mail, depending on the service you select.

Taxes and Refunds

Switzerland’s standard VAT rate is 7.7 per cent, although there is a reduced rate of 2.5 per cent on certain everyday consumer goods such as food, non-alcoholic beverages, newspapers, magazines, books and medicines. Hotel stays (including breakfast) are taxed at a special rate of 3.7 per cent. Due to the four official languages, VAT may be called Mwst (Mehrwertsteuer), TVA (Taxe sur la valeur ajoutée), IVA (Imposta sul valore aggiunto) or TPV (Taglia sin la Plivalur). Non-EU residents get a tax refund on purchases over SF 300, subject to conditions. Ask for a tax receipt and relevant documentation at the time of purchase, and show these at Customs (with ID) when leaving the country for your refund.

Discount Cards

Switzerland Tourism offer a range of passes and tickets exclusively for visitors. Their Swiss Museum Pass allows free entrance into 490 museums and galleries and is available from tourist offices, railway stations, post offices and larger museums. They also offer travel passes for three regions – Bernese Oberland, Central Switzerland and Lake Geneva-Alps.

Some cities (Bern, Lucerne, Neuchâtel and Winterthur) offer their own visitor’s pass or discount card. Others also cover the cost of public transport, for instance, the Zürich Card, the BaselCard and the GenevaPass. Certain regions (including the Engadin, Davos-Klosters, Arosa, Saas Fee, Villars and Adelboden) offer schemes whereby guests staying more than one night in a participating hotel receive free transportation during the summer.



Zürich Card

Need to know Getting Around

At a Glance


Need to know Practical Information

Time zone

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CET/CEST: Central European Summer Time runs from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October.

Tap water

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Unless otherwise stated, tap water in Switzerland and water from fountains in towns and villages is safe to drink.


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Need to know Practical Information


Switzerland Tourism produces or partners excellent free apps, including Family Trips, SwitzerlandMobility, Swiss Events, Snow Report and various city guides.

Swiss Museums

This app offers a wealth of information on museums and exhibitions.

Via Michelin

App providing live speed restriction and traffic alerts, navigation and other tools.

Meteo Suisse

The country’s official weather app.

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