Will I need to drive my own vehicle to conduct my everyday life (work/school/shopping) at my destination?
Zurich has outstanding infrastructure and facilities for private and public transport. A dense railway network links all major cities and the ZVV (Zurich Transport Association) services cover not only the city of Zurich but the whole of the canton. Trams and buses within the city run at a six-minute interval during the rush hours. S-Bahn trains and buses run throughout the agglomeration at 12-, 15, - and 30-minute intervals. Night buses and trains run on weekends from 1:00 a.m. on Friday night, ensuring that those enjoying the city's nightlife arrive safely in their suburbs.
Private transport is challenging at times as rush-hour traffic in Zurich is no different from other big cities, with traffic jams on arterial roads and correspondingly long wait times. If you really do not need the car, use public transport. In order to drive legally in Switzerland, you must be at least 18 years old. You can drive using a foreign driving license for up to one year. During this time, you need to exchange your license for a Swiss license at your local transportation authority (Strassenverkehrsamt).
If you forget to obtain the Swiss license within the first year, you will be obliged to pass the complete Swiss driving license test. So make sure to get your local license within the first 12 months of your arrival. You can only receive the Swiss driver’s license in exchange for the foreign driver’s license and can’t have both. Your foreign license will be sent to your home country traffic authorities where it can be collected when you return to your home country.
When changing a foreign license for a Swiss license, you will be required to take a (practical) test, unless you are from a country with which Switzerland has an agreement. These countries are: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Liechtenstein, Luxemburg, Malta, Monaco, Morocco, Norway, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Romania, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, San Marino, Sweden, United States. In this case, your license will be transcribed but you need to provide an eye test from a certified optician. Your Crown relocation consultant will guide you through this process if required. International Driving Permits are also available to people over the age of 18 who hold valid full UK (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) driving licenses. An IDP is valid for 12 months from the date of issue.
How can I legally drive a vehicle in this city?
Anyone who lives in the Netherlands and intends to drive a motor vehicle must possess a valid driver's license and be at least 18 years old. You may use your foreign driver's license for a certain time, the length of which depends on which country issued the license. However, you must obtain a Dutch driver's license by the time this probation period has elapsed.
If you have a valid driver's license issued in one of the countries of the European Union or in Iceland, Liechtenstein or Norway, you may use it for up to a year from the day you start living in the Netherlands. A driver's license from one of these countries can also be renewed for a longer period of valid use in the Netherlands. This is done by registering your driver's license with the RDW Vehicle Technology and Information Center through your town hall. After this registration, which is free, the driver's license is valid in the Netherlands up to a maximum of 10 years after date of issue of the original license.
If you have a driver's license issued in a country other than those listed above, or in the Dutch Antilles or Aruba, you may use it up to 185 days after moving to the Netherlands. However, you must obtain a Dutch driver's license by the time this period has elapsed.
What side of the road do people drive on?
People in Switzerland drive on the right hand side of the road.
Describe typical public transportation an expat might use to get around the city.
The blue trams are quite famous, but there are also buses and trains (called S-Bahn = Schnell Bahn = fast train) that link the inner city and outer suburbs. In addition, you can also use the boats on the Zurich Lake with the same ticket you use for the tram system.
Could an expat also use public transportation to get out of the city—to surrounding towns, recreation areas or suburbs? If so, list options.
Yes. Information on Swiss public transport can be found on the website for the transit authority.
In regards to transportation, are there any safety issues I should be aware of?
Some driving tips:
- Watch out for the many cyclists and trams in the city.
- Always give way to vehicles coming from your right.
- Traffic flows counter-clockwise in roundabouts and cars to the left have priority.
- Post buses always have the right of way and drivers must sound their horns when approaching blind turns or corners.
- Only hands-free headsets may be used while driving.
- Summer and winter tires need to be changed each season. Winter tires are not legally required but are recommended. You can use summer tires in the winter but if the road conditions are icy or snow is on the road, you should not drive with summer tires. If an accident results from use of summer tires, the insurance company could claim money back from you. In the city center, winters can be mild and you can use summer tires and public transport if streets are icy on occasion. But most people change to winter tires.
- You are required to carry a red breakdown triangle and a first-aid kit in your vehicle.
- It is prohibited for children under 12 years old to sit in the front seat. Children up to the age of 7 must sit in a child seat.
- Be especially careful when setting off from service stations or restaurants on the left side of the road.
- Take care when overtaking; allow more space between you and the car in front so you can see further down the road ahead.
- Switzerland has strict drink driving laws, only allowing 0.5 milligrams of alcohol per liter of blood.
- Front and rear seat belts are obligatory everywhere.
Speed limits, shown below, are implemented rigorously. Radar traps are frequent. Speeding and other traffic offenses are subject to on-the-spot fines.
- Motorway: 120 km/h
- Open road: 80 km/h
- Town: 50 km/h
It’s a good idea is to invest in literature on how to drive in Switzerland. A useful guide in English is Living and Working in Switzerland. (This book is part of Crown's welcome pack.)
Some helpful terms to know while driving:
Umweg – detour
Einfahrt – entrance
Aussfahrt – exit
Benzin – gasoline/petrol
Parken verboten – no parking
Einbahn – one-way
Polizei – police
Where do I buy tickets/tokens/etc. for the major public transportation?
You can buy these at the machine by each bus, train and metro station or at the Zurich tourist office. Monthly or annual tickets can be purchased only at certain stations.
Crown Relocations has made every effort to present accurate information. However, regulations, rates and other variables are subject to change and Crown Relocations cannot accept responsibility for the errors that might result. Should you have any questions or need additional information, please contact your local Crown representative.