What you should know before you travel abroad from Switzerland

When the coronavirus pandemic struck, numerous flights and other travel arrangements were abruptly canceled. Now the situation has improved, but when it comes to leaving Switzerland and going abroad, it’s better to be prepared for all kinds of scenarios.

What you should know before you travel abroad from Switzerland
Before you fly away, make sure you have contingency plans. Photo by AFP

Summer is here, and Swiss as well as most EU borders are open for tourists. Are you ‘itching’ for a holiday abroad?

Before you leave, here are some tips from the Swiss consumer agency FRC.

Your flight is canceled by the airline.

In this case, should receive a full refund. Currently airlines make this refund more difficult to obtain because they want you to opt for a postponement or a voucher. You can accept this alternative, but you don't have to. However, you will not be able to claim additional compensation, as this is an extraordinary circumstance.

But if you have to extend your stay abroad due to the cancellation, and it is subject to European regulations, you may be reimbursed for accommodation and additional meals for a period of two to three days.

You no longer want to fly because your destination country has increasing rates of Covid-19 infections.

If your flight is maintained but you no longer want to travel for fear of being contaminated, the refund of your flight is not guaranteed, with the exception of airport taxes. However, given the exceptional circumstances, some airlines may (but are not obligated to) modify the reservation or give you a credit for a new flight.

READ MORE: International night train services from Switzerland to resume this week

Your package trip is canceled by your travel agency or the tour operator

In this case, the agency will have to reimburse your money or offer you either an equivalent replacement trip or a postponement of the canceled trip.

Will your unused hotel nights be refunded?

Refunds for hotel reservations are made in accordance with the establishment's policy, so you should read the fine print before booking. It depends, too, on whether the hotel closed its doors, in which case it should refund your money, or whether you canceled the reservation yourself. If latter is the case, you will probably not get your payment back; if you have a travel cancellation insurance, see what the conditions are for such a refund.

However, Airbnb has implemented a policy of ‘force majeure’ related to the coronavirus epidemic for a certain period of time, which offers reimbursement to travelers who have booked accommodation in one of the areas seriously affected by Covid-19. 

Now let’s talk about cancellation insurance

In April, the Local had an article about getting money back for cancelled trips 

While it was written during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, some of the content is still relevant today.

While some insurers exclude any coverage for trip cancelations in the event of epidemics and pandemics, others offer refunds in case of an epidemic, quarantine, natural disasters, and terrorist attacks, but not pandemics.

This may be good to know if you are going to an area that is still impacted by the outbreak, or if an outbreak happens while you are there.

However, if you have to cancel your trip before the departure, or if you have to come back urgently because of an illness, family emergency, or any other exceptional circumstance, then your travel cancellation insurance will likely refund the costs — provided, of course, that you have one. 

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What is the fine for not filling out Switzerland’s Covid arrival form?

There is one essential form all travellers to Switzerland must fill out, but many don’t. If caught, border guards will hand out fines.

A 100-franc fine could be imposed on those who don’t fill out the Personal Locator Form
Important paperwork: Switzerland-bound travellers must fill out the PLF form or risk getting fined. Photo by Zurich Airport

With constantly changing travel rules, it is difficult to keep up with all the regulations that need to be followed to enter Switzerland (and all the other countries, for that matter).

Since September 20th, everyone arriving in Switzerland, regardless of their country of origin, mode of transport, or vaccination status, must fill out the electronic Personal Location Form (PLF).

Once filled out and registered online, you will receive a QR code which you will have to show when entering Switzerland.

However, some people may be unaware of the requirement and enter the country without this form.

READ MORE: Here is the form you need to enter Switzerland

Checks are done randomly, so many travellers slip in without having filled this form. But if caught, you will have to pay a 100-franc fine.

So far, 200 people had to pay this fine, according to Tamedia media group.

The only people exempted from this rule are transit passengers, long-haul lorry drivers transporting goods across borders,  children under 16, cross-border workers, and residents of border areas.

The PLF requirement is an addition to other travel regulations the Federal Council implemented in September:

Two tests to enter Switzerland are now required for the unvaccinated and unrecovered.

Unvaccinated arrivals and those who have not contracted and recovered from the virus in the past six months must show two negative tests. 

The first proof should be presented when arriving in Switzerland.  Then, four to seven days later, travellers will have to undergo another test, which they must pay for themselves.

Both PCR and antigen results are accepted.

These rules only apply to arrivals from nations not on the Switzerland’s high-risk list. As the United States and United Kingdom are considered high risk, only vaccinated people from those countries can arrive in Switzerland.

This article contains more information on the rules which apply. 

EXPLAINED: What are Switzerland’s new travel and Covid certificate rules?