Driving in Switzerland

I am planning a trip to Switzerland with my 86 year old mother who wants to go 'home' one last time. I have been with her and/or my family many times and have always purchased a Swiss Rail Pass, and we have all loved the experience. My mother is not getting around that well anymore and I feel that renting a car would be easier for her, but she is extremely nervous about this because of what her friends have said in the past about driving in Switzerland. I am not a nervous driver and handle heavy traffic and narrow, curvy roads just fine, but I would like some input as to how difficult of an adjustment this would be since I have never driven in Switzerland. I would appreciate any input at all.(She is especially concerned about picking up the car from the airport in Zurich and trying to find our way out of there :)

Posted by Bob
694 posts

Hi Brigitte. I have rented cars in Switzerland twice and it was great. Driving in Switzerland is similar to driving in the U.S. Good roads, well marked; Zurich airport is modern and user friendly. It should go fine. Maybe buy a Swiss road map ahead of time to study possible routes if it would make you / her feel better. Enjoy your trip!

Posted by Tom
Lewiston, NY
11065 posts

Driving in Switzerland, for the most part, is similar to driving in any other country in Europe, with the exceptions that traffic tends to move a little slower, and they make greater use of tunnels... even in non-mountainous areas. "narrow, curvy roads just fine" You will generally only find such roads on the mountain passes, and if you really want, you can avoid them, but you will have to drive a few hours out of your way. For example, if you wanted to visit the Berner Oberland from Zurich, instead of driving the direct route via Luzern, you could head west to Bern along the Autobahn and then make towards Interlaken via Thun. No winding mountain passes from this direction. And if you do drive the mountain passes, I have found that the general flow of traffic is pretty slow. You're usually moving at 30 km/hr or less.

Posted by Tim
Knoxville, TN, USA
4369 posts

I've only driven in Switzerland on 2 occasions, all the other times I've trained. Driving in Switzerland is fine. However, there was one occasion where we over one of those "mountain passes" and I've never been such a nervous wreck behind the wheel as I was on that stretch of road. Definitely it was beautiful. But there were only slim little wooden posts about ever 10 feet between me and the edge of the cliff that would have meant certain death if we had gone over. I'm a confident driver - but that stretch scared the pants off me. Just be aware of what you may encounter if you choose one of those gorgeous mountain passes. Switzerland is wonderful!

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
13881 posts

Which parts of the country will you be taking your Mom? I drive in Switzerland every year, maybe I could help? Does your Mom drive at home in NC? Does she ride with you driving in NC? Does she like it? Maybe she is so used to the routine of taking thetrain she is scared of change? What have her friends said to her about driving in Switzerland? Are they Swiss or American?

Posted by Beatrix
2204 posts

Driving in Switzerland is just like driving anywhere else in Northern/Western Europe, i.e. much easier than Italy ;-) If you mom is concerned about getting lost take along a GPS. Worked just fine for us when we drove around Switzerland. It was actually the very first time we ever used one (it was borrowed) and convinced us to buy one for ourselves.

Posted by Irv
Beverly Hills, MI
523 posts

Sounds like you should do just fine in Switzerland, it really is not difficult once outside of the cities. Take a GPS with a European map card and make sure you know how to use it before you leave. Picking the car up at the Zurich airport puts you outside of the city and you can work your way around it. Getting out of the airport should be no problem, unlike the Italians the Swiss mark their roads very well. Also take a good paper map of Switzerland with you as a back up to the GPS so you can keep track of where you are in the grand scale of things.

Posted by Charles
Austin, Texas, USA
325 posts

Agreed. No problems for me either. I had a GPS which was very useful.