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Driving in Switzerland

Pauline Kenny

Driving in Switzerland is easy. There are just a few things to get used to.

Turning off Cars at Stop Lights

Yes, people in Switzerland routinely turn off their cars while waiting at train crossings or stop lights. We have seen signs telling you to do this. Turn off the car when you stop. When the yellow light starts to flash under the red light, that means the light is about to turn green and you can start your car.


AutoEurope AutoEurope: Car rental in Italy and the rest of Europe.

Driving on the Autobahn

The Autobahn in Switzerland is like our American interstate system. There are no tolls, but every car driving on the Swiss Autobahn must have a yearly permit on the windshield. This is a green sticker with an image of a highway and the two-digit year. It should be provided

If you do not have one, you may be pulled over by the police and fined 100 CHF plus the 40 CHF to purchase the sticker. We know this from experience.

The Swiss drive fast on the Autobahn and it can be busy near the larger cities, but really the driving is very easy. Keep in the right lane unless you are passing. Cars in the left lane can drive fast, but you do not experience those really fast drivers who flash their lights at you to pull over as you do in Italy. Still, keep a watch for fast moving cars in the passing lane.

Being Pulled Over by the Police

If the police want to pull you over on the Autobahn (if, for example, you do not have an Autobahn sticker on your windshield), they will pull in front of you and flash "Stop Bitte" on the top of their car on the Police sign. Then they pull over to the very wide shoulder and drive along that until they come to a pullout. Follow them until they stop.

Driving on Mountain Roads

The mountain roads are narrow, but perfectly maintained. They are not so narrow as to make you nervous driving, but they seem narrow because they are one lane in each direction usually with a wire fence just a foot in from each edge (to keep the animals in the fields), so there is no shoulder and no place to pull over.


Most mountain towns have large paid parking lots. Parking can be expensive. In Gstaad, to park in the main part of town is 2 CHF per hour. Some meters allow you to park for a limited time - e.g. two hours. Parking lots by the mountain rides may be free, or you may have to pay. If you have to pay, you at least can park for the whole day.

You will find parking on the street, but most of it is metered. In mountain towns the few free parking areas will be filled by locals parking for work. It is not easy to drive outside of town and park for free - the roads are very narrow with no shoulder and no obvious place to park. Best is to park in a parking lot or at a meter.

I cannot figure out what the colors of parking spots mean. We have seen blue lines meaning you have to pay and white lines in pay areas too.

  • Parking discs are used in many towns. A sign will tell you to set your parking disc to the time you arrive and the maximum time you can park.
  • Meters are used in many towns, just like in the US. Usually you do not have to pay past a certain time in the evening (6pm in some small towns). The time when you have to pay and the amounts is clearly displayed.
  • Payment machines for a group of parking spots are used in many towns. When you park, look for a sign saying you have to pay and then you will see a payment machine. You put money in the machine for how long you want to park, it spits out a ticket and you put in on the windshield.
  • Yellow lines indicate parking is not allowed.


Navigate by town signs. Find the towns along the route you are taking and follow the signs to the different towns. Green signs indicate Autobahn routes.

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