Is Switzerland Safe? A Safety Guide For Tourists & Expats

switzerland safe

Whenever you are traveling to a new country, you want to know how safe it is, right? Now, Switzerland is known as a safe country the world over. And the crime statistics certainly back it up, with Switzerland having one of the lowest crime rates in the world. However, even the safest countries in the world don’t come without their risks.

In order to enjoy what Switzerland has to offer to the max, and we are talking mountains, lakes, rivers, waterfalls, chocolate, cheese, alpine villages, and Swiss wine, you need to feel safe.

In this guide, we are going to run through everything you need to know about how to go about traveling around this safe country so you can relax and take it all in as you go. We’ll cover it all from mountain safety to the major cities.

Is Switzerland Safe to Visit?

For Tourists

Tourists in Matterhorn
Tourists in Matterhorn

Switzerland is one of the safest European countries for tourists to visit and generally it comes with very little risk. That being said, there are some things you will want to look out for when in big cities, major towns, and around busy tourist attractions.

Petty crime in the form of bag snatching and pickpocketing is the only thing visitors really need to worry about in a city, just like all European cities.

Switzerland is brimming with affluence but there is still a poorer side to the country. Therefore thieves take advantage of this and tend to operate around busy train and bus stations, railway stations, and busy tourist areas.

Be sure to keep your valuables safe when out in the city and don’t be an easy target. Keep your bag on your front, don’t hang it on a chair, and generally use common sense and you will be fine.

Luckily there is very little violent crime in Switzerland and the only occasions that could turn violent are protests. Violence is rare at protests but it can happen, and luckily such protests are easily avoided.

Just ask your hotel about any protests and they will gladly inform you, or a quick internet search on local media will give you what you are looking for.

One strange thing that happens in Switzerland is that some places print all your credit card information on the receipt. Why? A friend working in the industry told me businesses have the ability to obscure it but don’t always do so on the machine. So, always dispose of such receipts properly to risk credit card fraud. Or don’t take a receipt at all. Something that is far more common since Covid.

For Solo Female Travelers

Switzerland is one of the safest places in the world for solo female travelers. If you have never taken a solo trip as a female and you are a bit concerned about it, Switzerland is a great place to start as there really is nothing you can’t do on your own, it is such a safe place.

That being said, stay safe at all times, be sensible and use your common sense. Swiss people and Swiss authorities are always on hand to help, so don’t be shy to ask when you need it.

Generally speaking, here are the safety rules to follow for a solo female traveler.

  • Avoid walking through dark alleys in cities at night, and stay in well-lit areas
  • Never accept a drink from a stranger unless you watch the bar staff pour it and it comes straight to your hand
  • Don’t leave drinks unattended as they can be spiked
  • Do group activities such as tours, wine tastings, and even skiing/hike in a group. It is always safer to have a few people around
  • Keep in touch with people and let them know your movements
  • Be careful of your handbag and purse snatching
  • Ignore anyone calling out to your or making comments, just keep walking

For Families

Tourists in Zermatt
Tourists in Zermatt

Switzerland is incredibly safe for families to visit and it is a wonderful place to enjoy with your family as well. Between the stunning scenery, kids’ museums, great activities, and more, this destination has something for every family member.

There is no serious crime to worry about with regard to a family. Just be aware of common crimes like pickpocketing, as you can seem easily distracted when looking after your kids, and thieves might try to grab a wallet or purse in these times.

The only thing to think about with children is the high altitude and the hot sun in the summer. Kids take longer to adjust to altitude than adults and sunburn is a risk at low and high altitudes. Hats, sun scream, and a little bit of acclimatization and you’ll be good.

For LGBTQ+ Community

While the Swiss are known for following rules they are also incredibly open-minded and kind. It is a great place for LGBTQ+ to travel to. Even more stuffy cities like Zurich have become very open and friendly to the LGBTQ community over the last few decades.

There are lots of gay bars in the cities and Switzerland was way ahead of the curve with regard to LGBTQ+ legislation with it being legal since 1946.

Overall, LGBTQ+ travelers will feel and be incredibly safe in Switzerland.

Public Transport

Bus in Switzerland
Bus in Switzerland

The Swiss Public Transport system is like no other when it comes to efficiency. You won’t have to wait for more than a few minutes between transfer connections and they are always on time.

It is also incredibly safe to use the transport system whether you are on a train, bus, tram, or funicular. Even overnight trains are incredibly safe.

All trains and other modes of transport (bar overnights) stop around midnight so be sure to plan ahead or you might end up getting a very expensive taxi instead.

The only safety concern when using public transportation is during rush hour at busy stations. This is when pickpockets will operate so be sure to keep your valuables close so you don’t have to worry.

There has also been an increase in luggage theft on trains of late. Especially around places like Geneva Airport. And although I have never seen it happen, or had any friends affected, it has become more of an issue.

So, my advice to you is to always keep your luggage under the seat or between the seats next to you (where it is visible). Don’t store anything valuable in your suitcase. And keep your hand luggage and backpack right in front of you on any train you travel on. And if you want to nap while traveling on the train (as I do sometimes), and you are alone, put your legs through the straps of your pack to lock it to yourself. Or carry a short bike lock with you :>

Driving in Switzerland

zurich car
Cars in Zurich

Driving in Switzerland is generally very safe until you get into the mountains. When on “normal roads” be sure to follow the traffic laws as police enforce these to the letter.

Also, there are hidden cameras on the roads which the local authorities can use to find the driver, so don’t speed, even if you think you aren’t being watched. The only time I ever see locals speed is on the highway when there is no 80 or 100 sign. Otherwise, the Swiss always stick to the speed limit (as fines are very common and expensive).

When it comes to driving in alpine areas, always check the weather report, especially in winter. Sudden weather changes and terrible weather conditions can make driving almost impossible in Alpine areas and it can become very dangerous. Also, winter tires are essential in snow.

You should also check your route as some roads through the mountains are closed in winter. And some very small roads might not be cleared on time or at all. I have driven on icy, one-car-wide roads in the Safiental one winter and it is not something I want to repeat!

Driving on mountain roads is not for the faint-hearted. Some mountain experience is very helpful as there are steep drops to the side, little room on the road, and it is all about staying calm. Having seen my 70-year-old father drive here, I would just say take it as slow as you need to and ignore those pressuring you from behind.

If you are a nervous driver, driving in the mountains might not be for you!

There are some signs you need to be aware of when driving in the mountains, especially in winter.

If you see a blue circle with a white tire, you have to have snow chains on when there is heavy snow. A blue square with a yellow trumpet inside means buses have right of way, and they will honk three times as they come around corners, so keep your ears open.

In summer, however, mountain roads are usually fine as long as you take it easy.

Mountain Activities

hiking in switzerland
Hiking in Switzerland

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The most dangerous thing in Switzerland is partaking in mountain activities in the wrong way.

Whether you are off-piste skiing in the winter or hiking in the summer or mountaineering, the mountainous areas are subject to sudden changes in weather, and temperature, and getting lost up there is a big risk too.

Be aware of higher altitudes, altitude sickness, and natural disasters like avalanches, and always check the weather before you plan any alpine activity. You should also consider Travel Insurance with Medical Evacuation, as paying for a helicopter to save you is not cheap.

Make sure to carry a first aid kit with you, warm and waterproof clothes for weather changes, and always tell someone where you are going.

If you are not experienced in the mountains, then get a guide to go with you. This is the safest way of enjoying every mountain activity.

Safety at Night

Zurich at night
Zurich at night

As with all other countries in the world, nighttime is not as safe as the daytime. This only really applies to big cities in Switzerland and you should always walk in busy areas along well-lit streets to get back to your hotel room.

Do not take shortcuts down dark side streets and generally follow your gut. If it doesn’t feel safe, change direction, or look for some friendly locals to help you.

It is all common sense really, but you can get caught up in how safe Switzerland is and begin taking risks. Do not do it!

In general, I would say Switzerland is one of the safest places I have ever seen at night. In the last decade, there has been more cases of young people causing fights, which never used to happen. However, the incidence is still very low. But, not zero. So, just follow the same rules you would at home and you should be fine.

Food & Drink

zurich food
Rosti

When it comes to food and drink in Switzerland, you have nothing to worry about. Switzerland upholds high hygiene standards and the Swiss follow these rules to the letter. So, your chance of food poisoning is low and you can drink everything, the tap water is excellent too.

The one thing I will say is that eating out in Switzerland is super expensive and therefore you might not want to do it very often. Reserve eating out for a few special occasions and choose some traditional establishments where you can really taste the local cuisine.

Living in Switzerland

When it comes to safety, living in Switzerland is one of the best countries in the world. Add to this the amazing natural scenery, awesome activities, and great public transport, and you have yourself a winner.

Also, the weather in Switzerland is quite incredible. From June to September, you pretty much have glorious sunshine, and sunbathing and swimming in Lake Geneva becomes a daily norm. In winter, you have snow and mountains, so you are covered there too!

But, living in Switzerland doesn’t come without its quirks either. It is hard to integrate with Swiss locals as a foreigner, therefore choose international hubs like Geneva, Lausanne, and Zurich to find like-minded friends.

You will also find some fun nightlife in these cities but outside of them, the social scene is pretty much dinner and bed.

Top Tips to Travel Safely in Switzerland

  • Look after your belongings on trains, in cities, and busy areas
  • Leave your passport etc. at your accommodations
  • Be wary of scams like people claiming they need money for a train ticket
  • Drive with a cool head in the mountains or not all
  • Always check the weather in Alpine areas
  • Don’t do Alpine activities alone
  • Always take a guide if you are not experienced
  • Pack the right weather gear
  • Think about altitude sickness
  • Get winter sports travel insurance
  • Always wear hats, suncream, and sunglasses
  • Get local knowledge on avalanches

Switzerland Safety FAQs

geneva nightlife
Geneva at night

Why does Switzerland have a low crime rate?

There are numerous factors that contribute to the incredibly low crime rate in Switzerland and these include:

  • Great education across the population
  • Low unemployment
  • Excellent welfare
  • Law-abiding citizens

The more educated a population is, the less likely they are to commit crimes. Also, by being well educated, chances are you have employment and do need to turn to crime like selling illegal drugs to get some money.

Even if you are unemployed, the welfare system is excellent ensuring you don’t have to turn to crime for an income, the state will support you.

Due to the equal rights of Swiss citizens to have employment, education, and equal pay, the Swiss are also law abiding as they uphold their rights!

Together, all of these things make the crime rate in Switzerland very low.

Are there pickpockets in Switzerland?

Yes, there are pickpockets in Switzerland, as I already mentioned. In fact, being pickpocketed is one of the most common crimes in Switzerland.

Just keep your belongings close in busy areas of the cities and you will be fine.

Is Switzerland safer than the United States?

Switzerland is much safer than the US. The crime rates are lower, especially in regard to gun crime, and are generally much lower in every way.

Is Switzerland Safe To Travel Alone?

Absolutely. Switzerland is completely safe to travel alone, especially compared to any other country in Europe. It is also advisable to take precautions at night in cities especially. For the rest, Switzerland is very safe indeed.

Is Switzerland Safe At Night?

In general, Switzerland is relatively safe at night compared to most countries. It is always smart to stay away from the more questionable areas of a city or drunken groups of teens on a weekend. For the rest, Switzerland is very safe at night to move around, go out on the town or do whatever takes your fancy.

Where to change money in Switzerland?

When changing money in Switzerland, do so at the airport, banks, major train stations, and big hotels. Do not do it on the street.

To save money, simply withdraw cash out of an ATM using one of the many cards that don’t charge you for exchange with the Swiss Franc.

Written by Ashley Faulkes
As a twenty-year resident of Switzerland, I am passionate about exploring every nook and cranny of this beautiful country, I spend my days deep in the great Swiss outdoors, and love to share these experiences and insights with fellow travel enthusiasts.

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