Switzerland & Liechtenstein
The Department of Foreign Affairs strongly recommends that you obtain comprehensive travel insurance which will cover all overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before travelling to Switzerland and Liechtenstein. You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake. For those Irish citizens travelling to Switzerland for winter and mountain sports holidays, it is important to ensure that insurance coverage extends to injuries sustained while participating in such sports.
Irish Citizens should note that the Irish Government does not provide funds for emergency medical repatriation or for repatriation of remains.
You should also obtain a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) free of charge which entitles you to emergency medical treatment. This card is NOT a substitute for travel insurance. See www.ehic.ie for further details. The EHIC replaces the Form E111, which is no longer valid.
Switzerland and Liechtenstein are stable democracies and normal safety precautions should be taken, as they would be in Ireland. Visitors should exercise common sense and look out for any suspicious behaviour.
Switzerland and Liechtenstein attract visitors year round due to the beautiful Alpine scenery and mountain sports and activities. These activities involve their own risks and appropriate travel insurance should be sought. The weather in Alpine regions is unpredictable and can change suddenly. Avalanches, flash flooding and mudslides are common dangers.
Safety and Security
The level of serious crime in both Switzerland and Liechtenstein is relatively low and most visits to the either country will be without trouble.
However, instances of petty theft do occur, especially around main train stations, filling stations, on public transport, at airports and in city centre areas. In particular there has been a noticeable increase recently in the number of thefts occurring in the Geneva area, both of personal items and cars. Irish citizens have seen their passports, money and other personal belongings stolen. It is important not to leave bags unattended and to guard personal belongings carefully.
Protests and demonstrations do occur in Switzerland, mainly in Zürich, Geneva, Bern or Basel. These are often aimed at international organisations and international meetings. Some protests have become violent in the past. You should monitor the local media and other important sources of information about possible demonstrations. You should avoid affected areas and follow the advice of local authorities.
Along with other European countries, there is potential for Switzerland & Liechtenstein to experience international terrorism
Local Laws and Customs
Switzerland is a federal country and each individual canton has its own laws and law enforcement agency. In certain cases, such as traffic regulations, federal law applies.
Swiss traffic regulations are strictly enforced and any serious breach of the rules, particularly in the case of driving under the influence of alcohol, can result in heavy fines, loss of license and/or imprisonment. Speeding is taken very seriously and any infringement of the speed limit could result in a hefty fine, which can be sent to you even after you have left Switzerland – failure to pay can result in future difficulties when entering/leaving Switzerland.
All cars must be fitted with winter tyres when driving in Switzerland during the winter months. Snow chains may also be required for mountainous routes.
Drug possession carries heavy fines and prison terms in Switzerland, which can vary depending on the amount and type of narcotics carried. Any attempt to cross the Swiss border carrying drugs (for instance transiting Switzerland via Zürich airport) automatically constitutes trafficking charges.
Natural Disasters and Climate
Switzerland has a continental climate, which is also influenced by the presence of the Alps. Cold and dry northerly winds can make temperatures drop very quickly, even in clear weather. The Alps act as a climate barrier - Southern Switzerland, is influenced by the Mediterranean Sea and has a much milder climate than Northern Switzerland. The mountainous character of Switzerland is also responsible for spectacular differences in the weather among different regions. It is common to move from a cold and cloudy landscape to a beautiful clear blue sky in just a few minutes.
Avalanches, snow drifts, flash floods and mudslides are a danger in Alpine areas. The weather in alpine regions is unpredictable and can change suddenly. If you travel to alpine areas, you should monitor local weather and safety conditions, follow advice from local authorities, equip yourself appropriately, plan your activities carefully and inform someone of your plans. You should also observe all written warnings and notices and stick to marked slopes and trails. Ensure that your travel insurance covers you for all activities you intend undertake.
Additional Country Info
As Switzerland is not in the EU or EEA (European Economic Area), roaming charges are not covered by the EU Roaming Regulation. As a result call charges to/from Irish mobile phones can be high. Check with your mobile provider before travelling to Switzerland. Liechtenstein is in the EEA.
The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) does cover emergency medical treatment for Irish visitors to Switzerland and Liechtenstein. However it is still advisable to obtain full medical and travel insurance before travelling to Switzerland or Liechtenstein, especially if engaging in winter or mountain sports.
The drinking age for beer, wine and alcoholic cider is generally 16 (though higher in some cantons or individual shops), while the age for any other alcohol (e.g. spirits, "alcopops", etc) is 18.
A motorway tax, or vignette, must be paid by all users of Switzerland’s motorways, including short-term visitors. The current annual fee is CHF40 and can be obtained from the Swiss Federal Customs Agency at border crossing points.
The local equivalents of the 999/112 emergency numbers in Switzerland and Liechtenstein are;
118 Fire Brigade
144 Ambulance (145 for toxic poisoning)
112 European Emergency Line
140 Vehicle Rescue
1414 REGA Air Rescue
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