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Swiss vignette: What you need to know about Switzerland’s motorway charge sticker

If you are planning to travel on Switzerland’s motorways, you need a special sticker called a 'vignette'. Here are the key details.

Swiss vignette: What you need to know about Switzerland’s motorway charge sticker
If police catch you without a Swiss motorway sticker, you will be hit with a 200-franc fine.

Does everyone in Switzerland need a motorway sticker?

No. You only need a sticker if you are driving a car and if you are planning to use Switzerland’s motorways. A small number of people who only use local roads do not purchase a motorway sticker.

However, be aware that almost everyone does have a sticker so that they can travel around on Switzerland’s well-maintained motorway system.

Please note that different rules apply for heavy vehicles weighing 3.5 tonnes or above. These vehicles are not covered in this article.

What about tourists who are only in the country for a short time?

Even if you are only planning to drive through Switzerland on the way to somewhere else or just visit for a few days, you still need a sticker to use the country’s motorways. 

So if you are coming from Germany, Austria, Italy or France or anywhere else, and you will be travelling on Swiss motorways, you need a motorway sticker.

If you don’t buy a sticker and police stop you, you could be fined 200 Swiss francs (around €185). You will also have to buy the sticker.

What if I have a rental car in Switzerland?

Swiss rental cars will already come with a motorway sticker.

What roads are covered by the ‘vignette’?

Click on the map above to see an enlarged version.

You need a motorway sticker for Switzerland’s first- and second-class national roads (German: ‘Autobahnen’ and ‘Autostrassen’; French: ‘autoroutes’ and ‘semi-autoroutes’; Italian: ‘autostrade’ and ‘semiautostrade’. 

See the map above for more details.

These roads are marked with green signage as below.

If you wish to avoid these roads, your best option is to follow the blue signage, which signifies main (non-motorway) routes.

How much does a vignette cost?

The vignette costs 40 francs within Switzerland. If you purchase it elsewhere, it costs €36.50, 32 British pounds, 272 Danish krone, 157 Polish zloty and 945 Czech koruna.

Where can I buy a Swiss motorway sticker?

Within Switzerland, the sticker is available at petrol stations and at post offices. It is also available in other countries at petrol stations near the Swiss border. For online purchases, try here.

How long is the sticker valid for?

The vignette is valid for 14 months and a new, differently-coloured sticker is created every year. The current 2021 sticker was launched on December 1st 2020 and is valid until January 31st 2022.

If you have a 2019 sticker, this can be used multiple times during this period. If you plan to visit Switzerland three times in one calendar year, for example, or if you drive through the country regularly on the way to Italy, Germany or Austria, you only need to pay once.

What colour is it?

The vignette has a different colour every year so as to differentiate it from the previous one. 

The current one is officially ‘metallic’ green, but looks a bit more like pea soup

The year is in large white letters. 

Where do I place the motorway sticker?

This sticker must be clearly displayed on your windscreen in a manner that does not obstruct the driver’s view. Generally, people in Switzerland place the sticker in the top-right hand (driver’s side) corner of the windscreen or the top and centre of the windscreen.

What happens if I don’t use one? 

Anyone who is caught not using a vignette will have to pay a fine of 200 francs. 

The penalties are even steeper for people caught forging a vignette, with high fines and up to three years in prison

Is there an electronic version of the motorway sticker?

Not at present. But there are plans to introduce one in 2022, although these have previously been delayed.

If the plans get the go-ahead, only electronic stickers will be available outside of Switzerland and Swiss border areas.

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COST OF LIVING

Switzerland: How to get money back when cross-border shopping in Germany

Crossing into Germany to go shopping is usually cheaper - and that’s before you add the tax savings. Here’s how you can claim back tax when shopping in Germany.

Switzerland: How to get money back when cross-border shopping in Germany

There are a range of reasons why most things are cheaper in Germany than in Switzerland. 

While there are some exceptions to this – the most notable one being petrol – generally speaking you pay a premium on goods purchased in Switzerland. 

EXPLAINED: Why is Switzerland so expensive?

If you shop in Germany, you can also save on VAT, which is generally 19 percent and added to most goods. 

Here’s what you need to know. 

What are the tax rules for shopping in Germany? 

Residents of Switzerland, as a non-EU country, do not need to pay VAT in Germany on purchases over 50 euros. 

Your country of residence rather than nationality is important here. 

Therefore, a German living in Switzerland and shopping in Germany does not need to pay the tax. 

A Swiss living in Germany however would need to pay the amount. 

Importantly, you need to physically be in Germany when you make the purchase. 

In order to qualify for the tax exemption, you must bring the goods back to Switzerland with you. 

The specific rules for this are laid out by German Customs here, but they need to be either in your carry on or checked baggage, or in a car that you are travelling in personally. 

These rules are to ensure people are buying the goods for themselves rather than intending to sell them on. 

What kind of goods? 

Goods bought in Germany and taken back to Switzerland are exempt from VAT. 

You will generally however be required to pay tax on services rendered or completed in Germany. 

For instance, bus or train tickets in Germany, restaurant bills, hotel stays, massages etc. 

There are also a range of rules which apply to vehicles. 

If you are getting your car repaired, filling up with petrol, affixing bumpers, mirrors or other additions or even getting a car wash, you will need to pay VAT. 

How do I get the money back? 

Unfortunately, you do not get a discount at the place of purchase.

Instead, you need to claim the money back after you have purchased the product on which you paid the tax. 

In most large stores or shopping centres, you will be able to do this on site. 

You need to have a copy of the receipt and fill in the VAT refund form (Ausfuhrschein) with your name, address and Swiss residency permit number. 

You can get one of these forms at larger stores or you can download it and print it here. 

You will need to do one for each invoice. 

Once you have done that, you can take the completed form to the German customs office (Zoll), which you can find at most border crossings and get the paper stamped. 

Then, you need to return the paper to the place of purchase, where they will issue with a refund of the VAT. 

Some stores require you to return after three months, some six and some 12, so be sure to check the store policy. 

Note that some online stores will automatically deduct the VAT if you have a Swiss delivery address. 

Cost of living in Switzerland: How to save money if you live in Zurich

One thing to keep in mind however is that Switzerland charges its own VAT, which is either 2.5 percent or 8 percent. More on that below. 

What’s with all this paper? 

For anyone who’s spent even a few hours in Germany, the country’s reluctance to embrace digital methods of payment and record keeping is clear. 

While cash remains king in many stores and restaurants, claiming back money from shopping in Germany is also a paper-heavy endeavour. 

Fortunately for people not so keen on paperwork, a change is afoot – although exactly when it will take place remains unclear. 

In February 2022, the German government announced it had kicked off a project to make a digital export certificate possible. 

In addition to saving time and paper, the government indicated it expected to save around 6.2 million euros in personnel expenses as around 100 customs officers are currently assigned to the Swiss border alone. 

No deadline has been given for when the change will come into effect. 

Cost of living: How to save on groceries in Switzerland

Swiss customs rules

When bringing goods into Switzerland, you will need to pay VAT if the amount exceeds 300 francs. 

While border patrols are rare, those who make a habit of exceeding this amount – even if it is for goods for personal use – run the risk of falling foul of the authorities. 

There are several different rules in place for bringing in different items, including meats, cheeses and alcohol. 

The limits for each of these items can be found here. 

Keep in mind that while the CHF300 applies now, Switzerland is set to reduce this to CHF50 in the future – although final approval of this has not yet been secured. 

Tax change: Switzerland to introduce 50 franc limit on cross-border shopping

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