Written by Kiana S

Switzerland. The small western European country which seems to have it all, with its endless cheese, soaring mountains and luscious landscapes. Plus, its four distinct linguistic and cultural regions mean that one moment you can be window shopping on Bahnhofstrasse in German-speaking Zurich, then bathing in the beguiling Lake Lugano in the Italian part, followed by a raclette in the French-speaking area before ending it trying to understand the Latin-based language of Romansh.

Thanks to all those different cultural experiences, you can essentially visit four countries in one go with a trip to Switzerland, so it’s no surprise that over 700,000 Brits chose to visit it in 2016 alone. However, though this little alpine country may seem twee and picturesque at first, there are several different laws to the UK and breaking them can result in severe consequences.

What should I look out for in Switzerland?

Like in the UK, it is against the law to smoke in workplaces and most other enclosed spaces, such as schools, bars, restaurants, cinemas, shopping centres and sports centres, so if you’re going to light up, make sure to do it outdoors.

If you’re planning a roadtrip through the lovely Swiss countryside, it is compulsory to have a reflective jacket and warning triangle in the car and they have to be within easy reach i.e. not in the boot. In addition, unlike in the UK, it is illegal to drive with your lights off during the day, so make sure to always have them flicked on. If you break either of those regulations, or other traffic related ones, you may have to pay an on the spot fine and any unpaid fines can subsequently be changed into a prison sentence - so make sure to pay them on time.

Furthermore, if you choose to visit the Italian-speaking canton Ticino, please be aware that it is illegal to cover your face in public places. Failure to comply with this ban will result in a fine ranging from 100 CHF to 100,000 CHF and tourists are not exempt from this law, so please follow it as Switzerland is already an expensive country, so paying that fine would drain your bank balance even more!

It should also be noted that Switzerland has the 5th highest proportion of foreign nationals in prison, as a recent survey found that 74.1% of inmates in Swiss prisons are of foreign origin, so it’s probably a good idea to be more aware of what you’re doing over there than you usually are when abroad. 

What happens if I do end up in a Swiss prison?

In Switzerland, prisons are generally well funded, so the prison is likely to be sanitary and fairly safe. Having said that, overcrowding can be a problem there, so a single cell cannot be guaranteed, meaning you may have to share.

 As well as that, in 2016, Switzerland passed a law to automatically deport criminals of foreign origin. If you committed more serious crimes, such as murder, greivous bodily harm or fraud, defendants must be deported for at least 15 years, so really be aware of that law when travelling in Switzerland.

 Any other tips before I jet off to this alpine paradise?

Always, always, always read up on the country before you go, so you can be aware of any potential cultural or legal differences before your plane lands rather than finding out about them for the first time when you get arrested for breaking the law.

I would personally recommend the UK Foreign Office Travel Advice page for Switzerland, as all of their information is accurate and up to date. If you’re staying there for a bit longer, their Living in Switzerland guide might be a bit more useful for you, especially with Brexit happening, as you don’t want to end up in any sort of legal limbo. Finally, the Travel Aware website offers great practical advice about staying safe and healthy abroad, so make sure to check out this website before any trip abroad, even if it’s not to Switzerland!