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Travel Security Advice for Switzerland

Switzerland_National_Flag

swiss_mapSwitzerland_Overview


COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:

Switzerland is a highly developed democracy. Liechtenstein is a democratically run constitutional monarchy.  Read the Department of State Background Notes on Switzerland and Liechtenstein for additional information. 



REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:

U.S. citizens living or traveling in Switzerland or Liechtenstein are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy in Bern, with the Consular Agencies in Geneva or Zurich, or through the Department of State’s travel registration page, to obtain updated information on travel and security within Switzerland and Liechtenstein.  U.S. citizens without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.  By registering, U.S. citizens make it easier for the Embassy, Consulate, or Consular Agency to contact them in case of emergency. 

Local embassy information is available below and at the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulatesThe U.S. Embassy websites answer many questions of interest to U.S. citizens visiting and residing in Switzerland.

United States Embassy Bern


Sulgeneckstrasse 19, 3007 Bern
Telephone: (41) (31) 357-7011 (2 p.m. – 5 p.m.)
Facsimile: (41) (31) 357-7280]

United States Consular Agency, Zurich
American Center of Zurich, Dufourstrasse 101, 8008 Zurich
Telephone: (41)(43) 499-2960 (10 a.m. – 1 p.m.)
Facsimile: (41)(43) 499-2961

United States Consular Agency, Geneva
rue Versonnex 7, 1207 Geneva
Telephone: 022-840-51 60 (10 a.m. – 1 p.m.)
Facsimile: 022-840-51 62.

There is no U.S. Embassy or Consulate in Liechtenstein.  For assistance and information on travel and security in Liechtenstein, U.S. citizens may contact or register with the U.S. Embassy in Bern.



ENTRY / EXIT REQUIREMENTS:

Switzerland is a party to the Schengen agreement.  As such, U.S. citizens may enter Switzerland for up to 90 days for tourist or business purposes without a visa.  The passport should be valid for at least three months beyond the period of stay.  For further details about travel into and within Schengen countries, please see our Schengen fact sheet.

Liechtenstein is not a party to the Schengen agreement.  A visa is not required for stays up to 90 days.

For more information on entry requirements for both countries, travelers may contact the Embassy of Switzerland at 2900 Cathedral Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 745-7900, or a Swiss Consulate General in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, or San Francisco.

The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Switzerland.

Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website.  For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.



SAFETY AND SECURITY:

Switzerland remains largely free of terrorist incidents.  However, like other countries in the Schengen area, Switzerland’s open borders with its Western European neighbors allow for the possibility of terrorist groups entering/exiting the country with anonymity.  U.S. citizens are reminded to remain vigilant with regard to their personal security and to exercise caution.  Although there have been no recent terrorist attacks in Switzerland, violence by anti-globalization, anti-Semitic, and anti-establishment (anarchist) groups does occur from time to time.  This violence is typically in the form of property damage and clashes between these groups and the police.  The potential for specific threats of violence involving U.S. citizens in Switzerland is remote.  Nevertheless, the Consular Agencies in Zurich and Geneva may close periodically to assess their security situation.

For the latest security information, U.S. citizens traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs website,

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free within the U.S. and Canada, or by calling a regular toll line, 1-202-501-4444, from other countries. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges U.S. citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas.  For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s extensive tips and advice on traveling safely abroad.



CRIME:

Switzerland has a low rate of violent crime.  However, pick-pocketing and purse snatching do occur in the vicinity of train and bus stations, airports, and some public parks, especially during peak tourist periods (such as Summer and Christmas) and when conferences, shows, or exhibits are scheduled in major cities. Liechtenstein has a low crime rate.  Travelers may wish to exercise caution on trains, especially on overnight trains to neighboring countries.  Thieves, who steal from passengers while they sleep, can enter even locked sleeping compartments.  Thieves have been known to work in pairs to target train passengers; while one member of the pair creates a diversion at a train window or on a platform, the other steals items left briefly unattended.

In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available.  Transactions involving such products may be illegal under local law.  In addition, bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines.



INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME:

If you are the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate (see the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates).  This includes the loss or theft of a U.S. passport.  The embassy/consulate staff can, for example, help you find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds may be transferred.  Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime are solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

Switzerland, through its 26 cantons (states), has programs to assist victims of crime and their immediate relatives.  Medical, psychological, social, financial, and legal assistance are available throughout the country.  These programs also protect the rights of the victim during criminal proceedings.  The victim may receive compensation for some damages, if requested during the criminal procedure. Information is available at the Swiss Department of Justice located on Bundesrain 20, 3003 Bern, telephone: 41-31-322-4750.

The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Switzerland is fire 118; police 117; medical 144.

Please see our information on victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.



CRIMINAL PENALTIES:

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law.  Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses.  Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States

Persons violating Swiss laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned.  Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Switzerland are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.



SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:

Travelers who plan to participate in mountain activities (summer and winter) are strongly encouraged to buy mountain search and rescue insurance.  Costs of search and rescue operations are the responsibility of the victim.  Search and rescue insurance is available inexpensively in Switzerland and may be purchased at many Swiss post offices.  Information can be obtained from the Swiss National Tourist Office, at most tourist information offices or with the Swiss Air Rescue Organization Such insurance has proved useful as uninsured rescues can easily cost $25,000. 

Switzerland’s customs authorities encourage the use of an ATA (Admission Temporaire/Admission) Carnet for the temporary admission of professional equipment, commercial samples, and/or goods for exhibitions and fair purposes.  ATA Carnet Headquarters, located at the U.S. Council for International Business, 1212 Avenue of the Americas, New York, N.Y. 10036, issues and guarantees the ATA Carnet in the United States.  For additional information call (212) 354-4480 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .



MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:

Good medical care is widely available. Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC website.  For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the infectious diseases section of the World Health Organization (WHO) website.  The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.



MEDICAL INSURANCE: 

The Department of State strongly urges U.S. citizens to consult their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to determine whether the policy applies overseas and whether it covers emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.  For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page.



TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS:

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.

Although many roads are mountainous and winding, road safety standards are high.  In some mountain areas, vehicle snow chains are required in winter.  Road travel can be more dangerous during summer, winter holidays, the Easter break, and Whitsunday weekend (late spring) because of increased traffic.  Travel on expressways (indicated by green signs with a white expressway symbol) requires purchase of a sticker or “vignette,” which must be affixed to the car’s windshield.  Vignettes can be purchased at most border crossings points, gas stations and at Swiss post offices.  Drivers using the highway system without a vignette are subject to hefty fines levied on the spot.  Public transportation in Switzerland and Liechtenstein is excellent.

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.  Also, we suggest that you visit the website of the Switzerland’s national tourist office.



AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of Switzerland’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Switzerland’s air carrier operations.  Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.



CHILDREN'S ISSUES:

Please see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.

This replaces the Country Specific Information for Switzerland dated December 18, 2008 without substantive changes.


The UK Foreign & Commonwealth office also has information regarding travel to Switzerland HERE...

Looking for an Embassy ?, You can also check out our World Wide Embassies Listings Section HERE (For US Citizens) or HERE (For UK Citizens)......

Regards

The SW Team.......

 

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