Driving in Switzerland?

This item appears on page 13 of the January 2011 issue.

There are two things travelers planning to drive in Switzerland need to be warned about.

1) In Switzerland, the road-tax sticker, called a vignette, is mandatory if you travel on the Autobahn or on equivalent roads (those signed in white and green). It must be displayed on the windshield and stays with the car. It is not transferable.

The price is 40 Swiss francs (near $40), and it can be purchased, before you enter Switzerland, at gas stations, convenience stores, post offices and also right on the border at the border-police locations. In Germany, you can also get it at all ADAC (auto club) offices.

Do ask for and get the vignette! Otherwise, they’ll nab you right inside the Swiss border, where often you can use no other type of road. The fine is a hefty 100 Swiss francs plus the price of a vignette that you have to buy on the spot!

Switzerland has only one type of vignette, and it is valid January-December (with a 13th-month grace period during the subsequent January). Travelers often confuse this with neighboring Austria’s version of the vignette, which can be bought in three increments: 10-day, two-month or one-year (always January-December).

2) Regarding speeding, Swiss authorities do not “generally tolerate” anyone driving even five miles per hour (eight kilometers per hour) over the limit, an amount which Americans tend to think is acceptable. Depending on the technology used by the cop (radar or laser), the “tolerance” is two to three km/h (that’s 1.24 and 1.86 mph, respectively)!


Denver, CO