How do I drive in Switzerland with a foreign driver’s license?

If you’re planning to drive in Switzerland with a foreign license, you’ll find that the country’s geographical diversity means that you’ll need to adapt to the environment, from freeways to mountain roads. Swiss rules of conduct are strictly enforced. Regulations also apply to the use of your foreign driver’s license or foreign car.

This guide covers the most important aspects of driving in Switzerland.

Driving in Switzerland with a foreign driver’s license

You can drive in Switzerland with your foreign driving license for up to 12 months. Article 42 of the Ordinance on Driving Licenses stipulates that drivers from other countries may drive in Switzerland – provided they hold a valid or corresponding national driving license – or a valid international driving license.

A foreign, national or international license authorizes its holder to drive any category of vehicle for which the license is valid on Swiss roads. If no international driver’s license or an original national driver’s license is presented, the driver must carry a translation of his or her national driver’s license. A translation into French, German, Italian or English should suffice.

However, it must be issued by an official body. For example, the national authority responsible for issuing national driving licenses – a notary public or an accredited professional translator. The holder’s first and last names must appear in Roman characters on the International Driving Permit; and in the translated version. This will enable the police to identify the holder on the basis of an identity document recognized by Switzerland.

Driving in Switzerland with a foreign licence: Licence exchange

You can drive in Switzerland with a foreign license for up to 12 months. At the end of this period, you have the option of converting your licence into a Swiss driver’s license. Depending on your nationality or profession, you may have to take a theory test or a practical driving test. The following drivers must hold a Swiss driver’s license:

  • Foreign drivers of motorized vehicles who have been resident in Switzerland for more than 12 months without a break of more than three consecutive months;
  • professional drivers of motor vehicles registered in Switzerland – who require a category C or D driver’s license; a subcategory C1 or D1 licence or an authorization as per article 25 of the ordinance on – licences for road traffic purposes.

Blue Swiss driver’s license exchange

If you have a blue driver’s license – you must replace it with a pink credit-card-sized driver’s license. Operate within 14 days of receiving the certificate of establishment. For added convenience, you can also change the blue driver’s license to a credit-card-sized pink driver’s license at any time. The following documents are required: Original blue driving license – 1 full-face passport-size color photo – copy of your identity card (passport or ID card). Request the form to replace your blue permit with a credit card-sized permit

Driving in Switzerland with a foreign license and a foreign car

If you are a tourist or business traveler in Switzerland, you can drive in Switzerland with a foreign license . You can bring your car into Switzerland without any formalities, as long as you live outside Switzerland. Employees, students or trainees staying temporarily in Switzerland can import and use their foreign-registered car duty-free for up to two years in Switzerland.

If you’re moving to Switzerland for a longer period, you can bring your car with you duty-free (if it’s used for at least six months outside Switzerland). You must register your vehicle with theroad traffic office in your canton.

Importing a car from abroad and driving in Switzerland with a foreign licence

Vehicles owned for less than six months are subject to an import tax. Official documentation is required to confirm the value of the car and its country of origin. They are subject to import duties.

Vehicles held for more than six months are not subject to import duties. However, they do require a completed customs clearance application form for the move. One month after the car is imported, the vehicle registration office informs the owner that the official motor vehicle inspection will take place within a year. After the test, drivers pay the Swiss road tax. Insurance and license plates must also be purchased. Total costs can be high, depending on vehicle model, parking space and other details.

Car registration and maintenance for driving in Switzerland with a foreign licence

Each canton has its own automobile office, which carries out technical inspections and issues vehicle registrations. When you move to a new canton, you need to send your driver’s license and vehicle registration papers to the motor vehicle department for updating.

If you move to another canton, you must apply for a new permit from the motor vehicle department of the new canton within 14 days of the move. License plates must be registered with the cantonal road traffic office. You can find the address of your cantonal road traffic office on the ASA (Association des services automobiles) website. If you drive a car not registered in your name, you should have a letter from the registered owner giving you permission to do so.

Motor inspection test

To drive in Switzerland with a foreign or Swiss license – cars need regular inspections by passing the vehicle inspection test. The frequency depends on the age of the car. New cars must undergo a test after four years on the road. Then after a further three years, and every two years thereafter. Cars with diesel engines also have to undergo an emissions test every two years; other cars have annual tests.

Driving in Switzerland with a foreign licence: Knowing the Swiss Highway Code

Always carry your driver’s license; your car insurance certificate; a spare pair of glasses (if you wear glasses or contact lenses); a red warning triangle (which you must place behind the car in the event of an accident) in order to driving in Switzerland with a foreign license or Switzerland.

Make sure you know the Swiss highway code. The Swiss traffic police are very strict when it comes to enforcing even minor offences. It can impose heavy fines on the spot.

Drive on the right side of the road

Priority roads are indicated by a yellow diamond on white. If there is no sign, always yield to the right, unless otherwise indicated. On traffic circles, vehicles inside the circle have priority. When two vehicles meet on a narrow mountain road, the vehicle going uphill has priority. Make way for public transport, emergency vehicles and pedestrians. Outside rush hour, flashing orange traffic lights mean “proceed with caution”.

Be aware of the speed limit for driving in Switzerland with a foreign licence

In winter, on mountain roads, you must use snow chains. Otherwise, you may not be covered by insurance. It is forbidden to use a cell phone, with the exception of hands-free units, while driving. The drink-drive limit is 0.05%. This is less than in some other European countries.

It is illegal to use radar detection equipment. Wear a seatbelt; children under 12 and less than 150 cm tall must sit in the appropriate child seat; or with a seatbelt if over 150 cm tall. You could be fined for not doing so.


To drive in Switzerland, foreign residents must hold a valid national driving license. If you have been living in Switzerland for more than twelve months – you must exchange your driving license for a Swiss one at the cantonal automobile office of your place of residence. Apply before the 12-month period expires.

Please contact your local Swiss Road Traffic Office for further information. A list of all cantonal agencies is available on the Association of Road Traffic Offices (ASA) website.

Do you need an exchange course? Would you like to exchange your foreign driving license for a Swiss one? Our Lémanique driving school offers you a 50-minute manual or automatic driving course, customized to your needs. Completely tailor-made, it will help you identify your strengths and areas for improvement, while making you aware of the nuances and different Swiss traffic rules. It’s also an opportunity to review with you certain maneuvers you’d like to perfect, and to discover the city of Geneva (La Servette, Augustin, Eaux Vive, Carouge) and its surroundings.

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