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DRIVING

Where will traffic be worst in Switzerland over Ascension and Pentecost?

Heading out on Switzerland's roads over Ascension and Pentecost? Here's where traffic might get a little tight.

Traffic in the Swiss city of Basel. Photo by Johnson Hung on Unsplash
Traffic in the Swiss city of Basel. Photo by Johnson Hung on Unsplash

While most locals will be able to recognise when heavy traffic days are coming up so they can stay well away, new residents and tourists may have a harder time.

To help out, Touring Club Suisse, Switzerland’s largest motor and mobility authority, each year comes up with the Traffic Jam Calendar, which lists the times of the year when traffic can be particularly bad.

The calendar ranks days on four different traffic levels.

The standard days are in white, while slightly higher traffic days are in yellow.

Days with a high traffic volume are listed in pink/orange, while very high traffic volumes are listed in red.

Image: Touring Club Suisse

Image: Touring Club Suisse

The calendar shown above relates to 2022. The calendar for the current year can be seen here

What about Ascension and Pentecost?

In May, TCS released a map of the likely traffic hotspots for the Ascension (26th May) and Pentecost holidays (June 5th). 

As can be seen here, the roads around Zurich including the A1 and the A51 are particularly busy, as is the A1 near Geneva.

The Gotthard Pass, often a site of traffic jams, is also set to be particularly busy.

For holiday makers, the A13 in the east of the country is also tipped to see very high traffic volumes over the Ascension and Pentecost weeks.

Image: Touring Club Suisse

Image: Touring Club Suisse

You can download the live road information for Switzerland as an app for iPhone and Android.

Additional trains in service over the Ascension and Pentcoast weekends

Due to the heavy road traffic, Switzerland has added new train lines for the weekends in question. 

For travellers who prefer to take the train during this busy period, Swiss Federal Railways (SBB), is “significantly expanding” its service towards Ticino, one of the most popular destinations for public holiday weekends.

“There will be numerous additional trains. We will also be increasing the number of seats available on regular trains”, including between Zurich/Basel and Ticino via the Gotthard Base Tunnel, the company announced.

The company’s online timetable, which includes the new trains, is available here

When is traffic particularly bad in Switzerland?

As can be seen from the calendar, the main days for bad traffic are in spring and summer.

Not only are these the days when the weather is best, but they’re also peak tourist season for domestic and foreign tourists.

READ MORE: When are the public holidays in Switzerland in 2022?

While there is not one very high volume traffic day in Switzerland from the start of September until the end of March, there are 32 from April to August.

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April alone has eight along with several high traffic days, due largely to the Easter holidays over the weekend of the 16th and 17th. In May, traffic ramps up before Ascension Day on the 26th.

In June, Corpus Christi (3rd) and Whit Monday (6th) will both see high travel volumes.

The situation is particularly serious in July and August however, where very weekend day has high traffic volumes.

Even weekdays in these two months have increased traffic volumes, meaning that taking a day off and leaving earlier/coming back later will not be guaranteed to save you some time.

Bottlenecks and delays: Which Swiss cities have the worst traffic?

 

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For members

DRIVING

What costs do drivers face in Switzerland and where might you pay more?

From parking fees to motor vehicle taxes, owning a car in Switzerland can be quite expensive. These are some of the charges you should budget for.

What costs do drivers face in Switzerland and where might you pay more?

To be far, all countries have more or less stringent rules pertaining to car ownership; Switzerland is not exceptional in this sense.

Still, if you live here, it is helpful to know what various car-related costs are, and where are they the highest / lowest.

Here’s an overview.

Parking

Switzerland’s Watson news outlet analysed recent data from the Price Surveillance Office pertaining to hourly rates at municipal parking metres in various Swiss cities.

It turns out that Zurich, Lucerne, and Lausanne have the most expensive tariff — up to 3 francs — for under one hour of parking.

Bern and Biel follow at 2.2 francs, but here is a surprise: in Geneva, which, along with Zurich, is the most expensive city in Switzerland and among the priciest in the world, a parking fee for less than an hour amounts to only 1.4 francs.

Now, if you park for more than two hours, Zurich is the most expensive city, at 7.5 francs, followed by Basel and Lucerne — 6 francs in each. Oddly enough, in Lausanne, the fee for the two-hour parking is almost the same as  its rate for less than one hour: 3 francs.

These Swiss cities make the most from parking fees. 

1.     Zurich: 21,4 million

2.     Lausanne: 13,7 million

3.     Geneva: 9 million

4.     Biel: 7,2 million

5.     Fribourg: 4,2 million

6.     Bern: 3,8 million

7.     St.Gallen : 3,2 million

8.     Yverdon: 3 million

9.     Basel: 2,5 million

10.  Schaffhausen: 2,3 million

On the bright side, while paying for a parking spot is never fun, keep in mind that all the money that municipalities “earn” in this way is used for public benefit in one way or another.

Registration

To drive on Swiss roads you must have your car registered. 

In addition to the permission to drive – an important component to owning a car – your registration will get you a set of licence plates, a registration certificate and you may need to have your car inspected to see if it is roadworthy. 

As with pretty much everything on this list, the cost of registering your car will depend on the canton, but it will be between CHF50 and CHF100 in most cases. If you do need to have your car inspected, that will cost roughly an additional CHF50. 

What about the motor vehicles tax?

Anyone who owns a vehicle in Switzerland must pay this tax, used to finance the maintenance of the road infrastructure.

The amount you must pay depends on where you live and what kind of car you drive, but basically it takes into account the capacity of the vehicle, its horsepower and weight, carbon dioxide emissions (CO2), or the combination thereof.

According to consumer website Comparis, cantons of Aargau, Fribourg, Glarus, Graubünden, Lucerne, Nidwalden, Obwalden, Schaffhausen, Solothurn, Thurgau, Valais, and Zug base their tax on the car’s cubic capacity and horsepower.

Appenzell Innerroden, Appenzell Ausserrhoden, Bern, Basel-Country Jura, St. Gallen, and Uri determine the tax based on the vehicle’s weight, while Schwyz, Ticino and Vaud use both horsepower and gross vehicle weight.

In Zurich, cubic capacity and vehicle weight determine the tax, in Geneva it is based on horsepower, in Basel-City on unladen (rather than gross) weight and CO2 emissions, and in Neuchâtel only on CO2 emissions.

Your tax will be lower if you drive a car considered to be environmentally-friendly, for instance a hybrid or electrical vehicle. However, Aargau, Appenzell Ausserrhoden, Lucerne, Neuchâtel, Schwyz and Valais don’t grant any environmental discounts at all.

A typical vehicle tax rate in Swiss cities car varies from 500 to 1,000 francs a year, though it could be more or less, depending on the car model. Motorcycles tend to vary between 200 to 500 francs. 

While vehicle taxes are compulsory, some charges are self-inflicted. For instance…

Speeding fines

A speeding ticket depends on where you are caught (a town or motorway) and by how much you exceed the speed limit.

While fines are more or less standard throughout the country, as this article explains, what changes are the administrative fees attached to each fine.

 A Comparis.ch study carried out in 2021 found that motorists in Neuchâtel are usually slapped with lowest costs (50 francs in administrative fees), followed by Lausanne (60 francs), and Fribourg (73 francs).

The further east you go, however, the higher speeding-related prices are, Comparis reports.

In Bern, exceeding the speed limit will set you back  200 francs, you will have to pay 300 francs in Glarus, 350 in Appenzell. 370 in Lucerne, 430 in Zurich, 450 in Schaffhausen, and the mind-boggling 500 francs in Aargau.

READ MORE : EXPLAINED: What you should know about speeding fines in Switzerland

Toll roads

Unlike most of Europe, Switzerland doesn’t have an abundance of toll roads; the system of stopping at a booth and paying for driving on a certain section of a road is replaced  by the 40-franc motorway sticker, which should be renewed each year.

More information about this vignette is here:

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

However, toll must be paid in two tunnels: the Grand St. Bernard and Munt la schera Tunnel. Both connect their respective cantons (Valais and Graubünden) with Italy.

In the Grand St. Bernard, the toll depends on the type of vehicle you drive (based on the number of axles), ranging from 29.50 francs or 27.80 euros for the smallest vehicle to 177 francs /167 euros for a truck. Note, however, that the franc-euro conversion was calculated in 2020; these days the two currencies are closer to parity.

You can find the tolls for all car types here.

At Munt la schera, the price of a one-way ticket for a standard passenger car from December to April is 29 francs if purchased online and 35 if paid for in the tunnel. Between May and November, the price is 15 francs online and 17 at the tunnel.

Tolls for other types of vehicles can be found here.

Fuel prices

The cost of gasoline has gone up since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, topping 2 francs per litre nearly everywhere in Switzerland. Adding up to the already high costs is the fact that since January 1st, petrol in Switzerland has been taxed an additional 3.7 cents per litre to finance environmentally friendly fuels.

Before the war in Ukraine, the cheapest fuel could be found at Rasthof Platenenhof station in Gampelen, canton Bern.

Another cheap fuelling option was a few kilometres away, at the Pit-Stop de Boudevilliers in Val-de-Ruz in canton Neuchâtel.

In fact, this whole region benefited from cheaper gasoline due to its proximity to the Cressier-Cornaux refinery and large volume of purchases.

Another low-cost location is in Samnaun, canton Graubünden in the region of Engiadina Bassa / Val Müstair.

The price there is 30 percent cheaper than in the notoriously expensive Lake Geneva region.

And while we can’t really talk about “cheap” fuel these days, you could possibly save a few cents per litre if you shop smartly.

For instance, auto club memberships often offer discounts on petrol. ACS  and TCS members can save between two and five cents per litre. 

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

Larger petrol retailers will also often have discount deals, while stations owed by Swiss supermarkets like Coop and Migros also offer occasional deals.

Prices are usually the highest on (or close to) motorways, in or near large cities, and at branded chain stations. You can find better deals at smaller, independent stations away from main roads.

However, you should avoid going too far out of your way to save on fuel.  

“A one-cent difference on the price of the litre justifies a detour of  two to three kilometers, at most. Otherwise, the excess consumption drowns the economy on a 50-litre tank”, said TCS’s Erich Schwizer.

One useful website listing cheaper petrol options throughout Switzerland is this.

Insurance

While your car insurance will largely depend on the type of vehicle and your driving record, geographical aspects count too.

The amount of premiums for car insurance can therefore vary from one canton to another.

The most expensive insurance (as pretty much everything else) is located near borders or large cities, such as Geneva, Zurich, and Basel, for instance.

The reason is that the number of accidents and claims higher in these cantons, impacting premiums.

The cheapest insurance policies, on the other hand, can be found in Obwalden, Nidwalden, Fribourg, Bern, and Appenzell Innerrhoden.

READ MORE: Ten ways to save on car insurance in Switzerland

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