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TRAVEL NEWS

The roads and dates to avoid driving in Switzerland this summer

With schools beginning their holiday break, traffic on Swiss roads will be particularly heavy in the coming days and weeks as many people will head south and west in droves.

The roads and dates to avoid driving in Switzerland this summer
Traffic will be heavy on Swiss and foreign motorways this summer. Image by Ulrike Leone from Pixabay

With flight cancellations and other disruptions expected at Swiss and European airports this summer — not to mention soaring air fares — many people are opting to remain in Europe, driving, rather than flying, to their holiday destinations.

Given all these impediments to air travel, “we assume that vacations by car will be more popular than ever this summer”, according to Jürg Wittwer, director of Touring Club Suisse (TCS) motoring organisation.

However, even road travel will not be without glitches.

“It is necessary to anticipate heavy traffic and bottlenecks on the roads leading towards Italy, France, Spain and Portugal” — the most popular vacation spots for tourists from Switzerland.

How can you make your trip smoother — and quicker?

If possible, you shouldn’t plan to hit the road on the busiest days, such as the weekend, Wittwer said. “If you really want to travel faster, you should take your vacation from Wednesday to Wednesday, rather than from Saturday to Saturday”.

Each year, TCS publishes the Traffic Jam Calendar, which lists the times of the year when traffic can be particularly bad, ranking days on four different traffic levels.

The standard days, with ‘normal’ traffic  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. 

Traffic calendar from Touring Club Suisse

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

You can also save time by avoiding the roads that are typically most congested during holidays, such as the south-bound Gotthard and Simplon tunnels.

These are usually the most congested roads in Switzerland:
 

  • The A3/A1 Basel-Zurich axis
  • The A3/A13 Zurich-Chur-San Bernardino-Bellinzona-Chiasso axis, particularly near Chur and the San Bernardino tunnel
  • Bern and surroundings (A1/A12/A6 interchange)
  • The A9 Lausanne-Montreux-Martigny-Brigue mainly near Lausanne and Montreux
  • The Martigny – Grand-St.-Bernard tunnel axis

You can avoid these bottlenecked routes by taking alternative roads, which may require a detour and are longer in terms on kilometres, but they are likely to get you to your destinations quicker.

For example, instead of queuing up, possibly for hours, at the Gotthard tunnel, you can opt for the Gotthard Pass instead, just as motorists had done before the base tunnel was inaugurated in 2016.

The winding, curvy mountain road, peaking at 2,106 metres, will not only have less traffic, but also provides spectacular views.

Likewise, you can take the Simplon pass instead of the tunnel, also a more scenic route.

Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

If there’s truth in saying that “getting there is half the fun”, then taking the longer but more picturesque route could prove to be more enjoyable.
 
In fact, if you choose secondary roads to avoid congested highways, Swiss geography is such that you almost always have to drive through mountain passes. While they do require some driving skills, they are virtually always paved, so unless you stray off the proverbial beaten path, it will be a smooth ride. (In fact, all of Switzerland’s public roads are paved).

This link provides more information about Swiss mountain passes.

To sum up, if you travel mid-week rather than on weekends and opt for secondary routes, you just might get lucky and not end up in a (traffic) jam.

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TRAIN TRAVEL

Five European cities you can reach from Zurich in less than five hours by train

Switzerland is a beautiful country, but it also has a great location right in the centre of Europe, making it an ideal starting point for train travel. Here are five destinations you can reach in less than five hours from Zurich.

Five European cities you can reach from Zurich in less than five hours by train

As summer is still in full swing and there are many vacation days (or free weekends) to enjoy the sunny weather, it’s not the wrong time to do some travelling. Switzerland is a beautiful country, but it’s also centrally located in Europe. This means that many major European cities are reachable in just a few hours.

If you are located in Zurich, for example, then you are very near Germany, France, Italy, Liechtenstein and Austria. In less than five hours, visiting beautiful cities in these five countries is possible by taking a comfortable train ride.

So, select your final destination, get your ticket, and enjoy the ride.

READ ALSO: Switzerland’s ten most beautiful villages you have to visit

From Zurich to Strasbourg

It will take you just about 2 hours and 30 minutes (including time to stop and change trains in Basel) to get from Zurich’s mains station to the beautiful and historical city of Strasbourg, in northeast France.

Prices vary depending on several factors, but we found one-way tickets for just around CHF 23 on a Friday.

From Zurich to Munich

The capital of Bavaria can be reached from Zurich’s central station on a direct train in just 3 hours 30 minutes, allowing for short stays.

Munich may seem quite far away on a map, but the fast trains without stopovers actually make the journey quick and pleasant. We found one-way tickets for around CHF 70 on a Friday trip.

From Zurich to Vaduz

The capital of Liechtenstein is easy to reach in less than 2 hours from the Zurich central station. In fact, some journeys will take just about 1 hour and 30 minutes.

The lovely town bordering Switzerland has many tourist attractions, from its pedestrian historical centre to castles and parks. Train ticket prices always vary, but we found tickets for a one-way journey on a Friday costing CHF 20.

READ ALSO: Travel: What are the best night train routes to and from Switzerland?

From Zurich to Milan

Depending on the train you take, you can get from Zurich to Italy’s fashion capital in three to four hours with a direct train.

Before 2016, when the Gotthard Base Tunnel was opened to rail traffic, a trip from Zurich to Milan took an hour longer. It’s possible to find tickets for about CHF 70 for a one-way trip on a Friday.

From Zurich to Innsbruck

From Zurich, it is possible to hop on a direct train and, in just over 3 hours and 30 minutes, arrive in the beautiful town of Innsbruck, in the mountains of Tyrol.

Ticket costs vary, but we found tickets for a relatively short-notice one-way trip on a Friday (without discounts) for CHF 84.

READ ALSO: Five beautiful Swiss villages located near Alpine lakes

Cost:

Fares depend on several factors, such as time of the day and day of the week when you travel.

While a rock-bottom cheap fare may be available one day in the morning, it won’t necessarily be offered the next day (or week) in the afternoon, or vice-versa.

Prices also depend on whether you are entitled to any discounts and which wagon you choose.

If you are interested in travelling farther afield, including with night trains, or if you are in other Swiss cities, these articles provide more information:

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