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COST OF LIVING

Fuel in Switzerland: Why are Germans crossing the border to fill up?

Reversing a decades-long trend, Germans are crossing the border to fill up in Switzerland. Here's why.

A person reaches for a petrol pump from a colourful selection
Fuel is cheaper in Switzerland than in neighbouring Germany, bucking a trend. Photo by Gustavo Fring from Pexels

Usually, the residents of Switzerland cross the border into neighbouring countries to shop, as goods are much cheaper there.

Cross-border shopping is so common place in Switzerland that during the pandemic, restrictions needed to be put in place. 

Cross-border shopping: Vaccinated Swiss can now shop in Germany again

But when it comes to filling up on petrol, the opposite is happening: drivers from Germany are queuing up at Swiss stations to fuel up their cars.

For instance, people from the Constance region of Germany come to the nearby Kreuzlingen, in the canton of Thurgau, to fill up and save 20 cents per litre of unleaded fuel.

“Once again, we are seeing an increase in customers from across the border”, manager of a local petrol station told Germany’s Südkurier newspaper.

While the price difference between Germany and Switzerland has sent plenty of drivers south, it is not the case in neighbouring France, where the fuel costs are roughly similar to those in Switzerland. 

Why is fuel cheaper in Switzerland?

The reason why filling up a tank is cheaper in Switzerland is the country’s comparatively lower tax rates on petrol.

Only Austria has lower fuel taxes than Switzerland (among Switzerland’s neighbours). 

While Germans may be crossing the border to fill up on petrol from Switzerland, the traffic still goes the other way for Diesel, which is still cheaper in Germany. 

A major reason for this is that Diesel is more heavily subsidised in Germany than it is in Switzerland. 

READ MORE: Where in Switzerland can you find the cheapest fuel?

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DRIVING

What to do if you have a car accident in Switzerland?

An accident is not on anyone’s ‘to-do’ list, but sometimes bad things unfortunately happen to good people. These are the steps to take if you are involved in a road accident in Switzerland.

What to do if you have a car accident in Switzerland?

Of course, nobody plans on a car accident, with many of us thinking it’ll never happen to us. Even if you are a safe driver, you could still be a victim of an accident caused by another person.

Nearly 18,000 traffic accidents involving injuries  had been reported in Switzerland in 2020 — the last year for which official data is available. Fortunately, the vast majority were relatively minor; over 3,700 people were seriously injured and 227 were killed.

The only bright spot among these grim statistics is that the number of car accidents has dropped considerably — by 62 percent —  in the past two decades.

EXPLAINED: How does roadside assistance work in Switzerland? 

What should you do if you are involved in an accident?

If this happens, it is normal that you might get nervous, stressed out and feel in a state of shock, possibly forgetting how to act and what to do.

The steps to take are the same whether you or the other driver(s) are at fault. According to motoring organisation Touring Club Suisse, this is what you must do immediately after a traffic accident.

Stop and keep calm

This is easier said than done but it is essential that you keep a cool head.

  • First, turn on your distress signals
  • Determine the number of vehicles involved, their positions and the nature of the accident
  • Secure the scene of the accident by installing the warning triangle at least 50 metres (approximately 60 paces) from the scene of the accident. Note to self: make sure you have these triangles in the trunk of your car.

Make an accident report in writing

Describe the course of the accident with the help of the European accident report. If you don’t already have this document, you can download it here.

Always keep this document in the glove compartment of your vehicle: hopefully, you will never need it, but it is  better to be prepared.

In the best-case scenario, everyone involved in the accident can stay polite or, in the very least, civil. All parties can then fill out the accident report together, with each person signing it.

Taking photos of the damage is always helpful.

Declare the accident to the insurance company

Don’t repair your vehicle until after your insurance company has examined it.

If you are at fault, your insurance will settle with the other driver(s)’ insurance; if the other party is responsible, then your carrier with seek compensation from the other policyholders.

READ MORE: Which Swiss canton has the worst drivers?

When should you call emergency services?

Traffic accidents are common and most are minor, not requiring an intervention from emergency services or law enforcement.

However, one or the other (or both) should be called if:

  • You or other people involved are injured (ambulance number: 144)
  • There is a risk of fire or explosion: call the fire department (118)
  • When an argument or a fight erupts among the parties involved in the accident, call police (117).

What equipment should you always have in your car?

In Switzerland, you are only required to have the triangle, according to TCS. Safety vests are not obligatory but it is good to have one nevertheless, as they are compulsory in many other European countries, including Switzerland’s neighbours.

This map shows where the vests are required:

Countries marked in yellow require safety vests. Image: TCS

Another very important thing to know before you even hit the road (though hopefully not literally): car insurance is mandatory in Switzerland, even if it is only the basic one that doesn’t cover your own vehicle, but covers others.

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about car insurance in Switzerland

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