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TRAVEL NEWS

School holidays: Where are Switzerland’s traffic and airport delays the worst?

Part of Switzerland has already started its summer vacations, with other regions beginning theirs this weekend. If you are planning to drive or fly to your holiday destination, expect disruptions.

School holidays: Where are Switzerland's traffic and airport delays the worst?
This is what could happen at the airport when you check in this simmer. Photo by FRED DUFOUR / AFP

July marks the start of summer holidays not only in Switzerland, but also in Germany and the Netherlands.

As a result, Switzerland’s airports and roads are set for significant problems in the coming days. 

Here’s what you need to know. 

Traffic jams

Traffic jams are “virtually certain” on the north-south axis in front of the two portals of the Gotthard tunnel”, according to Viasuisse traffic monitoring group.

But the bottlenecks are not limited only to the south-bound traffic via the Gotthard. Other Swiss motorways are impacted as well. They typically include:

  • 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

READ MORE: The roads and dates to avoid driving in Switzerland this summer

What causes further disruptions to the already intense traffic situation are events scheduled for the summer months in various Swiss cities and communities, all of which involve closures of streets and sometimes lengthy detours.

The traffic congestion will be particularly problematic in the southwest of the country, due to a number of prominent events and festivals. 

Montreux Jazz Festival (July 1st – July 16th)

The famous festival is attended by tens of thousands of spectators, which means that traffic on the A9 motorway will be heavier than usual, especially in the vicinity of the Montreux exit, from about Vevey in the west and Villeneuve in the east

La Tour de France (July 9th -10th)

Access by car to any part of the Swiss route will be difficult if not impossible, as all the roads will be closed to traffic.

The Lausanne-Sud motorway, as well as the UNIL-EPFL, Malley and Maladière entrances and exits will be closed to traffic until 6pm on Saturday.

While A1 / A9 / A12 motorways will remain open in Vaud, Fribourg and Valais, congestion should be expected near exits to Aigle and toward Cully, Vionnaz, Châtel-St-Denis, Bulle, Les Moulins, Les Mosses, Col de La Croix, and Morzine.

A comprehensive overview of where the Tour de France will run through Switzerland is available here. 

READ MORE: The best spots to watch Tour de France in Switzerland

Paléo Festival (July 19th to 24th)

The annual rock event takes place in a field near the town of Nyon in Vaud.

As it lies on the usually busy segment of the A1 near Geneva, traffic on the motorway will be dense, from the Gland exit in the east to Coppet in the West.

Generally speaking, traffic will be more congested on the roads leading up to popular events and festivals like those listed above.

This 2022 traffic calendar from Motoring organisation Touring Club Suisse will give you a general idea of when and where the busiest travel times are:

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

What about airports?

The ongoing problem of personnel shortage and other post-Covid operational difficulties mean that leaving for holiday from an airport will not be a smooth process.

Expect crowds and delays.

In coming weeks “between 80,000 and 90,000 passengers a day will be flying to and from of Zurich”, airport officials said.

Therefore, “travellers are advised to leave enough time for their journey and arrive at the airport up to three hours before their flight’s departure time. At certain peak times, passenger volumes at Zurich Airport are reaching pre-Covid numbers. Longer waits can be expected at times”. 

In Geneva, the airport “was stormed” by about 100,000 holidaymakers on July 2nd and 3rd, and the same situation is expected to continue throughout the summer, though the daily numbers are likely to be lower.

While Geneva’s airport is smaller, both in size and the number of flights, than Zurich, it serves passengers from Switzerland as well as neighbouring French regions, so it basically “handles” passengers from both countries.

For its part, the Euro-Airport in Basel also expects longer queues at peak times but looks forward to coming weeks “with cautious optimism”.

READ MORE: Strikes and queues: How airline passengers in Europe face summer travel chaos

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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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