My husband, dad, his wife and I will be driving from Germany to Switzerland in September 2014. We will only be in Switzerland for 2.5 days. I'm trying to find out what the border crossing will be like. If anyone has information on this, we'd be very greatful for your help. We are most concerned with being stopped and having to declare our goods. Thank you in advance, Tina
On the Autobahn connections, if your car already has the required vignette affixed to the windsheild (you can buy it at rest stops before you hit the border), you don't even need to stop. You simply slow down, drive through the "vignette" lane, and that's it. If you don't have the vingette, then you need to stop and purchase one at the border. Switzerland is a signatory to the Schengen Agreement, which along with other things, eliminated routine passport and custom checks between member states (although this has been complicated somewhat by a referendum on immigration that Swiss voters recently approved). So, unless you give the Swiss police good reason to suspect something, you will not be asked anything.
At a border crossing on secondary roads... well, it's been awhile since I've driven one of these, but I don't remember any sort of staffing at the Kontanz border at all. I think I simply drove over a bridge, and then saw the sign that I re-entered Germany.
Nothing to be added to Tom's response. That's exactly what it is going to be like. It's like crossing a US state line except that you MUST have their €40 toll sticker (yes, it's that pricey, even if you're only there for a few days) - and of course the currency changes from € to Swiss Francs.
Re: "Schengen Agreement, which along with other things, eliminated routine passport and custom checks between member states".
This is not true. Schengen eliminates passport checks, but because Switzerland is not in the EU there are still custom checks at the border. That said, they only stop a small sample of cars crossing the border, in 95%+ of the cases you just slow down and the customs literally waves you through without stopping. Even if they stop you, it will be less than 5 minutes.
On Autobahns, there are two clearly labelled lanes, one for cars which already have a Vignette, and one for cars "ohne Vignette". In the later case you stop a few seconds while someone sells you a Vignette. Note the Vignette costs 40 Franks not Euros, but they accept Euros.
On minor roads, there is often no customs post, just a sign that says if you have goods to declare you musn't cross here. For these roads they have roving patrols doing random checks.
The customs aren't interested in normal travellers. What you are carrying is well within the duty free limits. There was a story on the local radio this morning about the customs stopping a van on the border with France attempting to smuggle 200 Kg of meat. That is who they are interested in, not tourists.
I drove in and out of Switzerland on the borders with France, Austria, Germany and Italy a coulple of months ago. Granted I was driving my own UK registered car, with Vignette, and at every crossing into Switzerland I was passport controlled. That'[s more than it usually had been.
I agree with the mixed reactions of the above posters. Somedays it's drive right on through, some days it's slow down while someone looks carefully at the drivers. Again though, they're not looking for the typical tourist, they know what they're looking for and you're probably not it. Same with France, some days nothing, some days they're pulling cars and making people get out.
One HUGE warning....if you're coming from Stuttgart south (through Singen to Schaffhausen) watch out for the first of many well planted photo radars JUST as you cross the border and head down a slope. You must go exactly the speed limit or under....none of that 'well, it's just a few km over, I'm sure I'm fine.'
We - four 60 something adults with a station wagon packed full of luggage - drove into Switzerland on a Wednesday in May on the A5 with a fresh Swiss vignette purchased at a German Autobahn gas station and while there were plenty of folks directed to the 'let's talk' line, we were waved through after a 2 second look-see into the car.
A few days later we drove out of Switzerland on the A7(?) into Germany at Konstanz and the Germans didn't even give us a glance - there was a very long line of people waiting to go into Switzerland on the other side of the road though. It looked like the Swiss were checking everyone entering there that day (a Sunday too).