Exploring Switzerland by Car: What You Need to Know About the Swiss Vignette

Exploring Switzerland by Car: What You Need to Know About the Swiss Vignette

Driving through the picturesque mountain scenery and charming towns of Switzerland is a popular way to explore the country's natural beauty. However, many visitors must be made aware of Switzerland's mandatory vignette or road tax sticker required for driving on motorways and semi-motorways. Having a valid Swiss vignette displayed is essential to avoid hefty fines.

Exploring Switzerland by Car: What You Need to Know About the Swiss Vignette

Since August 2021, Switzerland has only offered annual vignettes following a change to the Federal Act on the National Road Network. The vignettes must be purchased at the border, online, at gas stations, via a smartphone app, or from Swiss post offices. You can now also buy one conveniently online ahead of time through a new service that launched last August.

With the required vignette purchased, you can embark on an amazing road trip across Switzerland without worry. Remember to properly affix it to the windshield for your stay and observe the rules to avoid penalties. Let's explore more about driving in Switzerland and everything you need to know about the important Swiss vignette.

What is a Swiss Vignette?

A Swiss vignette, a road tax sticker, is a mandatory toll sticker displayed on all vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes driving on Switzerland's motorways and semi-motorways. It proves you have paid the road tax required for the Swiss road network.

The vignette comes in the form of a decal that must be stuck inside the front windshield, either on the top left or right corner. It is easily visible this way to passing police officers who may conduct spot checks. A valid vignette is a legal requirement, and you can face hefty fines if caught without one.

When Was the Vignette System Launched?

Switzerland first introduced the vignette system in 1985 to collect funds for financing road construction and maintenance across its vast motorway network spanning 1,763 miles.

At first, vignettes were available for a month, a year, or longer. But since August 2021, Switzerland transitioned to having just an annual vignette following the amendment of the Federal Act on the National Road Network.

So now, the vignettes are valid for 14 months from the date of purchase till the end of the following calendar year. For instance, if you buy one in August 2022, it will be valid until December 31, 2023.

Where to Purchase the Swiss Vignette

Swiss vignettes can be conveniently purchased in a few different ways:

  • At border crossings - When entering Switzerland by car, you can buy it at a border control point. Major border crossings with Italy, France, Germany, and Austria have vignette sales outlets.
  • From gas stations or garages within Switzerland - Many gas stations and auto repair garages sell the vignettes. Look for signs that say "Vignette" to locate a sales point.
  • Online - You can buy it online from the official Swiss Vignette website and have it delivered to you by mail. Some popular third-party resellers also offer online sales.
  • Via smartphone app - The official Swiss vignette app lets you purchase an e-vignette digitally and activate it using the license plate number. There's no need to stick anything on the windshield.
  • From Swiss post offices - All post office locations sell the vignettes.

When buying in-person or from a third party, you will get the vignette decal immediately upon payment. For online purchases, order it well before your travel to allow time for shipping.

How Much Does a Swiss Vignette Cost?

The cost of the Swiss vignette is 40 Swiss Francs, which is around $42 USD. The price is the same regardless of when during the validity period you purchase it.

One vignette covers the tax for the vehicle it is stuck to, so you don't need to buy multiple ones if you are driving the same car around Switzerland during your stay. However, if you switch vehicles at any point, the new vehicle must also have its valid vignette.

Many visitors must be made aware of Switzerland's mandatory vignette or road tax sticker required for driving on motorways and semi-motorways. Having a valid Swiss vignette displayed is essential to avoid hefty fines.

Types of Swiss Vignettes

There are a few different types of Swiss vignettes you may come across:

  • Annual vignette - As mentioned earlier, this is now the standard vignette required for driving in Switzerland. It is valid for 14 months from the purchase date.
  • Short-term vignette - This was valid for two months, previously offered for only temporarily driving in Switzerland. It has been discontinued since 2021.
  • Annual foreign vehicle vignette - Vehicles registered abroad can get this special vignette, valid for a full calendar year. It costs the same as the regular one.
  • 40-trip vignette - There is a multiple-use vignette for Swiss-registered vehicles making at least 40 trips per year. It does not apply to foreign cars.

Ensure you get the correct type suited for your vehicle and duration in the country. The annual vignette suits most visitors driving their foreign-plated cars around Switzerland.

Where is the Vignette Valid?

The Swiss vignette you purchase can be used to drive on all motorways and semi-motorways in Switzerland. This includes routes like the A1, A2, and A13. It is also valid in the Principality of Liechtenstein, located within the Swiss borders.

However, the vignette is optional or valid on regular town and city roads, not classified as motorways or semi-motorways. Certain Alpine passes and mountain roads also do not need the vignette. Most tourist scenic routes are exempt unless specified.

If you plan to drive through neighboring countries like France, Italy, Germany, or Austria, you must buy additional toll stickers or vignettes specifically for those countries.

When Driving from Switzerland to Another Country

One tricky situation is when you drive from Switzerland directly into another country in Europe. Since the Swiss vignette is not accepted abroad, you need to make sure you purchase the necessary road toll sticker for the next country right before crossing the border.

For example, if driving from Switzerland to Italy via the A2 motorway, there is usually an Italian toll sales point right before the border. Similarly, when entering France or Austria, you can buy each country's requisite vignette at the edge. Just be alert and prepared to pull over and accept the toll sticker as soon as you see the sales counter.

Vignette Enforcement in Switzerland

Swiss authorities take vignette compliance seriously and routinely conduct checks near borders, major highways, and rest stops. Fines for not displaying a valid vignette can be up to 200 Swiss Francs on the spot.

Police may also force non-compliant vehicles to purchase an annual vignette at full price as punishment immediately. For repeat violations, fines can go up to 3000 CHF and lead to prosecution.

To avoid any hassles, get the annual Swiss vignette well before driving and affix it on the windshield where it is visible and legitimate. Don't try to reuse an expired one, and keep an eye out for vignette checks while driving.

Driving in Switzerland without a Vignette

Some travelers debate trying to drive in Switzerland without a vignette since not all routes require it. However, this is an extremely risky idea that is best avoided. Switzerland's motorway network is quite extensive, and it is very easy to end up on a road that requires the vignette unintentionally.

You may not realize it until police pull you over and slap you with a ticket and steep fine. Additionally, the vignette offers the flexibility to drive anywhere, so you don't have to pick and choose routes carefully. For a relatively small 40 CHF investment, it is recommended to get the proper annual vignette and enjoy worry-free driving through Switzerland.

Important Vignette Rules to Remember

Here are some key rules regarding the Swiss vignette:

  • Always stick it on the inside of the windshield, either top right or left corner. Avoid placing it in illegal spots like the dashboard or the rear window.
  • Refrain from using an expired vignette. Doing so can incur fines.
  • Get a new vignette if you change vehicles during your time in Switzerland.
  • Never use a counterfeit or photocopied vignette. Only originals are valid.
  • Keep the vignette on until exiting Switzerland. It would help if you had it for the entire duration, even after 14 months.
  • Purchase additional country-specific vignettes if crossing into other European nations.

Driving Through Spectacular Switzerland

A trip through Switzerland allows you to take in all the stunning alpine vistas at your own pace. The efficient motorways make it easy to travel from lakeside cities like Geneva and Zurich to charming mountain villages like Gstaad and Zermatt. Refrain from letting the vital Swiss vignette be an afterthought and dampen your experience. Obtain one before your travels for smooth sailing on Switzerland's roads.

With your annual Swiss vignette in place, you can set out to explore this magical country. Drive through mountain passes with panoramic views, around shimmering turquoise lakes, and past rolling green countryside. Be sure to stop often to soak in the picture-perfect Swiss villages and magnificent sights that make Switzerland synonymous with alpine beauty. Enjoy the scenic drives, and remember to pick up any necessary vignettes for neighboring countries once your road trip takes you across Switzerland's borders.

Wojciech Kuźma

Hey there! My name is Wojtek and I am very happy that you came to my travel blog. I've been traveling the world for a few good years now and I still want more.

On my website I describe the adventures that have happened to me, you will also find here a collection of valuable tips for tourists and travelers. If you liked this article, be sure to leave a comment and read some more!

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