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Will travel to and from Switzerland be possible this Christmas?

A man checks his phone at an airport.
Rules for travel to and from Switzerland are in place ahead of Christmas. Photo: Zurich Flughafen
With Austria and some German states imposing restrictions to fight surging infections, will the resurgence of the virus impact holiday travel to and from Switzerland?

Switzerland is a prime destination for foreign skiers, including scores from the UK who traditionally spend their winter break in the Swiss Alps.

But as the number of daily Covid infections is soaring and two of Switzerland’s neighbours have already taken measures to slow down the spread of coronavirus, the question of Christmas travel to and from Switzerland is on many people’s minds.

While it is impossible to accurately predict what the epidemiological situation will be down the road, and how it may affect travel plans, this is what we know so far.

No immediate restrictions — travel or otherwise — are planned at the moment.

The same rules still apply, which basically means unrestricted entry for the fully vaccinated tourists immunised with a WHO-approved vaccine: Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca, Sinovac, Sinopharm, or Covaxin.

Unvaccinated people from countries not on the SEM high-risk list will not be banned from entry. 

However, they will have to complete two negative tests or show proof that they have recovered from the virus in the past six months. 

When arriving, they must show proof of a negative PCR or antigen test, followed, four to seven days later, by another test, all of which they must pay for themselves.

The rules are much tighter for the unvaccinated tourists from high-risk countries.

Even those who have had the virus and recovered in the past six months or those who have tested negative will not be allowed to enter. 

The list of high-risk areas can be seen here.

Also, all travellers – whether vaccinated, recovered or with a negative test – must  complete the passenger locator form before entering Switzerland.

The test and entry form requirements do not apply to travellers in transit through Switzerland without stopping, drivers who transport people or goods professionally, cross-border commuters, and people entering from border areas.

Children under 16 are also exempt from the test requirement.

If you are unsure whether you can enter Switzerland, the Swiss government has developed an interactive tool to check your credentials. 

The tool is anonymous and can be found at the following link: ‘Travelcheck’: This tool shows you what you need to enter Switzerland

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: Who can enter Switzerland right now and what are the rules?

What are the rules for travel from Switzerland?

That, of course, depends on where you are going, but if you are vaccinated and have your Covid certificate, you should have no problems for most countries.

Let’s start with neighbouring nations.

France

Starting on November 22nd, unvaccinated Swiss residents travelling to France will have to present a PCR or antigen test taken no less than 24 hours before departure.

The measure does not apply to cross-border commuters living within a radius of 30 kilometres or those who stay in France  for less than 24 hours. Also excluded from the requirements are professional lorry drivers and people travelling on a business trip “whose urgency or frequency is incompatible with the performance of such a test”.

Germany

If the region is in the ‘alert’ area, a 2G rule will apply; mere testing will not allow entry. 

This means you will need to be vaccinated or recovered.

These areas include, Berlin, Hamburg, Niedersachsen, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Sachsen-Anhalt, Rheinland-Pfalz, Hessen, Sachsen, Nordhein-Westfallen, Schleswig-Holstein, Bayern, Saarland, Thüringen, Brandenburg and, what may be of most interest to Swiss residents, Baden-Württemberg.

As this last region borders Switzerland, the new measure will impact cross-border shoppers as well as people visiting Germany for leisure – such as to attend Europa Park or visit the state’s Christmas markets. 

Keep in mind that you can use your Swiss Covid certificate in Germany, as Switzerland and the EU have agreed to recognise each other’s passes. 

Aside from the Covid pass, you will have to fill out Germany’s entry form.

However, this requirement is waved if you stay in the country less than 24 hours.

More rules for visiting Germany can be seen here:

Switzerland: What Germany’s new Covid rules mean for cross-border shoppers

Italy

Entry into Italy is relatively hassle-free and similar to Switzerland’s requirements: a 3G Covid certificate  — vaccinated, recovered or tested negative. Children under six don’t need the certificate.

This form needs to be filled out as well.

However, these rules are only valid until December 15th; after that date the Italian authorities may or may not alter the regulations.

Austria

This is the most difficult country to get into at the moment, as Austria started a national lockdown on November 22nd.

Christmas markets, restaurants and most stores are closed for at least 10 days; if the situation doesn’t improve by then, the lockdown can be extended by 20 days.

Given the  situation, non-essential travel to Austria is banned until December 13th, according to a government site.

“Please keep in mind that during the lockdown a curfew is in place in Austria, and all tourist facilities such as hotels, restaurants (only take-away possible), bars, cultural institutions, leisure centres, etc. are closed”, the site said.

What about other popular destinations?

United Kingdom

After initially refusing to recognise any Covid vaccine administered outside the UK, the British government now counts as ‘fully vaccinated’ for travel purposes people who had both doses of the vaccine in an EU or Schengen zone country.

That means that those fully vaccinated can enter the country without having to quarantine.

However, once in the country, if they are alerted by the Test and Trace service as a contact case – known colloquially as a ‘ping’ – they will have to self-isolate for 10 days.

And here’s the form to fill out.

You must also have to pre-book and take a test on day 2 of your stay.

If you are not vaccinated, think about whether is worthwhile for you to travel to the UK at this time, unless you are planning to stay awhile.

These are the rules for people who have not had their shots:

  • Complete a pre-departure test before arrival into England
  • Fill out a passenger locator form
  • Self-isolate for 10 days upon arrival
  • Pre-book and take a test on day 2 and on day 8 after arrival

READ MORE: Fully vaccinated Swiss travellers may be forced to quarantine in UK

United States

The US has been open to vaccinated Swiss tourists since November 8th.

Unlike most countries in Europe, which require either vaccination or negative Covid test to enter, the US requires both.

“Fully vaccinated travelers will continue to be required to show a pre-departure negative test taken within three (3) days of travel to the United States prior to boarding”, the US Embassy in Switzerland says on its website.

READ MORE: NEW: The latest travel rules between Switzerland and the USA

Again, these are the rules right now. They could me modified if the epidemiological situation in Switzerland and elsewhere deteriorates.


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