Written by Lily King

Switzerland is known for many things: swiss chocolate, swiss cheese and its beautiful mountain landscapes.  It is also less known for the four languages that are spoken there (German, French, Italian and Romansh) and its low-key capital Bern. Perhaps most shocking and least commonly known, however, is the fact that a whopping 71.4% of their prisoners are foreign nationals, the 5th highest proportion of incarcerated foreigners in Europe. Though this is a striking figure, fear not if you are heading to Switzerland! As long as you’re clued up on the need-to-knows before you travel, you won’t find yourself on the wrong side of the law.

What do I need to know to stop myself getting into trouble?

  • Do not cover your face in public in the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino. If you do so, you could be fined up to 10,000 CHF.
  • Smoking is banned in most workplaces and confined public places. Some restaurants may provide separate areas for smokers, but only smoke if you are sure you are allowed to.
  • Jaywalking is illegal, so wait for the green man to avoid a hefty fine!
  • Beware of the difference in the drink-drive limit compared to the UK: the legal limit in Switzerland is just 0.05% blood alcohol content, which is lower than the 0.08% in the UK. If you are caught when over the limit, you could face a fine, driving ban or even a prison sentence.
  • Do not carry any drugs, especially over borders: any attempt to cross a border in possession of drugs carries trafficking charges.

BUT in the event that you do end up in a Swiss prison, it's important to know what to expect. Though prison conditions tend to be sanitary and safe, overcrowding can be a problem, which means a single cell cannot be guaranteed. You could also be deported for up to 15 years depending on the nature of the crime you have committed.