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TRAVEL NEWS

What is Switzerland’s ‘traffic calendar’ and how can it help me save time?

Want to know how to avoid traffic in Switzerland? This handy map will help you out.

What is Switzerland's traffic calendar? Image by Towfiqu barbhuiya
What is Switzerland's traffic calendar? Image by Towfiqu barbhuiya

With narrow, winding roads and city and town centres which were designed long before cars were thought up, traffic in Switzerland can be terrible at the best of times. 

But things get particularly stuck on weekends and holidays, where people from Switzerland and abroad clog up the nation’s motorways, which can put a real dampener on your holiday plans. 

READ MORE: Swiss politicians call for ‘lost’ public holidays to be replaced

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

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. 

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?

Where is traffic the worst in Switzerland? 

While the traffic calendar goes into specifics about the days when wait times are worst, it says little about which locations are set to see traffic surges.

To fix this, TCS regularly releases information about upcoming holidays and where things are likely to get tight. 

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

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TRAVEL NEWS

What happens if you overstay your 90-day limit in Switzerland?

If you are coming to Switzerland as a tourist, you can’t overstay your welcome. But rules differ depending on where you live.

What happens if you overstay your 90-day limit in Switzerland?

Switzerland’s tourism authorities are bending backwards to attract foreign visitors to visit the country.

This is evident from these two messages that the (retiring) tennis champ Roger Federer made with his famous friends:

The extent to which Switzerland depends on tourist revenue became clear during the Covid pandemic when borders closed and the hospitality sector slowed down to the point of almost shutting down completely.

However, this doesn’t mean that tourists can remain here for as long as they like.

These are the rules

Visitors (as opposed to permanent residents or others who have some kind of official status in Switzerland such as a long-stay visa), can only remain in the country for 90 days. 

It doesn’t matter whether the person visits from a Schengen nation or a third country, and whether they need a visa to enter Switzerland or not — the 90-day rule is the same for everyone.

There are, however, some differences, based on the person’s country of residence.

If you live in a EU / EFTA state and want to remain in Switzerland longer than three months, you must apply for a residence permit at the Population Registry Office in a given canton.

However, third-country nationals (eg Brits, Americans, Canadians) are not eligible to exceed their stay.

Whether they entered on a tourist visa, or without it — for instance, residents of the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Israel, and Singapore don’t need a visa for Switzerland — they must leave the country within 90 days.

The 90-day rule states that you can stay 90 days out of every 180 – so in total you can spend six months in Switzerland, but not all in one go. It’s important to note that the 90-day limit applies to the whole of the Schengen zone; so time spent in eg France, Germany or Italy also counts towards your 90-day limit. 

These rules are in place not only in Switzerland but throughout Schengen and in other countries outside the EU as well; they are in place to prevent people from staying longer than allowed, and possibly seeking employment or welfare benefits.

What happens if you are caught overstaying your limit?

Swiss police don’t patrol the streets looking for foreigners who have been staying in the country for more than 90 days.

More often than not, these offenders come to the attention of authorities by chance: perhaps someone reports them, or they are ‘caught’ during a random identity check, or in other accidental ways, or your overstay could come to the attention of border police when they stamp your passport as you leave the country. 

The extent of punishment depends, again, on whether the offender comes from EU / EFTA or a third country, with penalties being stricter for the latter category.

According to the government, those fro EU / EFTA living in Switzerland “without permission must leave the country. If they do not voluntarily comply with this obligation to leave, they can be returned to their home country against their will and at their own expense”.

“A third-country national who stays for more than 90 days without a residence permit or a long-stay visa is overstaying and is therefore in an irregular situation. This can lead to a criminal prosecution and to an entry ban to the Schengen area”, which includes Switzerland.

READ MORE: UPDATE: What are the current rules for entering Switzerland?

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