Local Heart, Global Soul

January 10, 2015

The Hills Are Alive: With Our Feelings Of Guilt…

Filed under: AUSTRIA,LIFE,PHOTOGRAPHY,SWITZERLAND,The vaguarities of Parenting — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Following yesterday’s archive post, where we travelled briefly though Austria, we have now rounded a corner and found ourselves on a little road with a manned border crossing and no space to turn around and go back the way we came.

Our should-have-been-updated Our Lady Of The Tom Tom is taking us into Switzerland!  Himself and I let out an involuntary groan.

Switzerland is a member of the Schengen Agreement countries, which comprises most of the countries in western europe with the exception of the United Kingdom and Ireland.

No passport checks are done on people crossing borders within the Schengen Areement countries, but Switzerland is not a member of the European Union and therefore does not share a customs union with it’s neighbours so customs officers can stop visitors in order to see if they have anything to declare to customs. It’s important to know that Switzerland has some tough and expensive laws: for instance driving a non-EU registration car (i.e. a Swiss one), into an EU country (i.e. Austria)  needs to be accompanied with the correct customs clearance and registration documents upon entry, (otherwise it’s classed as an ‘import’ and failure to do so results in fines at the border: calculated as 10% of the value of the car in customs costs plus 19% import tax. Therefore a Swiss national needs to have things in order even if they are only going for a day trip across the border. Of course there are special papers for people who travel frequently over the border for business etc.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Driving into Switzerland  without a “vignette”  (autoroute sticker) is also forbidden,  This is the yearly motorway toll fee ( as of February 2014 it cost 40CHF (Swiss francs).

You pay for a whole year’s fee regardless if you make a day trip into Switzerland, or use it for a week or three months or the whole year.   The border posts all take credit cards and payment in cash can be made in Swiss francs or Euros.

Even having the vignette in a non-approved spot on your windscreen can catch you a hefty fine: 200 CHF (Swiss francs) and that translates as roughly Euro 165,– or USD 200,–. Needless to say since you also get a hefty fine for having no vignette at all,  (Himself thinks it’s Euro 600,– fine) and if we had wanted to enter Switzerland we know that we should have organised getting one before we came.

So here we are, creeping up to a Swiss boarder control  with no vignette on our windscreen at all, and no way to turn around and go back. We prayed that the border guards were in a good mood and have their attention on other things as we creep towards the window with fixed grins on our faces and me holding up our  four EU passports for them to see… we are lucky and they don’t notice and wave us through.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Himself and I breathe out.

Now we need to avoid any police cars who also do random checks on non-Swiss registered cars.

Ideally we need to get out of Switzerland as quick as we possibly can, so like fugitives we take the nearest side road in the direction we think we need to go in… and end up on the wrong side of the Rhine River with no indication of where the next crossing point is.

Goodness knows career criminals must have nerves of steel, Himself and I couldn’t handle the stress of feeling guilty and the fear of getting caught  and we hadn’t even done a big crime. We have nothing against the Swiss, or Switzerland, we’d just rather visit “legally” without the possibility of massive instant fines hanging over our heads.

The side road we take is tiny and we end up next to some people harvesting cabbages where Himself asks a lady  in German for directions. Apparently they give directions at this farm regularly to lost tourists like us because the road we wanted is almost literally next to the border crossing but hidden on the far side of a roundabout that has some concealing “art”  on top of it.

With our new directions we head back to the border crossing, but directly before it, turn right, go round the roundabout and then hard left… now on the correct side of the river we are in the country we intended to be in, in the first place: The Principality of Liechtenstein. Phew, no vignette needed here…. breathe out again.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

The offending roundabout that hid our exit the first time around…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Another nature bridge…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

And one of our first sights in Liechtenstein, a man driving what looks like a backwards facing boat on tractor wheels… (No, sadly we never found out what this was for…), but it certainly makes for an interesting welcome to a new country on our travel list.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)


  1. so glad you made it, and didn’t end up driving around Switzerland for ever… 🙂

    Comment by kiwiskan — January 10, 2015 @ 4:32 am | Reply

    • Kiwiskan,
      We do have friends living in Switzerland, (albeit on the other end of the country) so if push had come to shove we could have turned up out of the blue and begged a bed LOL !

      Comment by kiwidutch — May 14, 2015 @ 8:12 pm | Reply

  2. They have hefty speeding fines too. It can be easy to get caught out in the cities as the speed limit changes may change a lot which an be a bit confusing.

    Comment by sarsm — May 12, 2015 @ 11:09 pm | Reply

    • Sarsm,
      We *should* be used to that because Dutch roads are famous for variant speed limits all over the place, especially in and around large cities. Not only on one road are there variable speed limits but there are often speed cameras right near the points of change so get it wrong and you set of a camera and get a nasty fine.
      At least next time we go to Switzerland we will be ready on all counts!

      Comment by kiwidutch — May 14, 2015 @ 8:08 pm | Reply

  3. It’s okay to drive in Switzerland without any vignette, as long as you don’t use the highway (Autobahn/autoroute) because the vignette is a toll for these roads. If you keep on regular roads, you’ll be okay.
    Direction signs on green background (like the one shown in one of your photos here) indicates that you’re on the highway, so get out of it as soon as you can, then always follow direction signs on blue background (and never the green one) to make sure that you stay on regular roads. [side note: In France, Germany and Austria, blue signs are for highway. In Italy, it’s green like in Switzerland]
    If you use GPS, you can set the settings to “avoid toll roads”.

    Comment by Evan — May 16, 2017 @ 3:41 pm | Reply

    • Evan,
      Many thanks for this EXCELLENT information, not just for us and any future trips to Switzerland, but to the many readers of this blog who appreciate this kind of practical information too.

      We hadn’t intended to enter Switzerland at all but couldn’t turn around easily before we ended up at the border by accident.(A common occurrence when we navigate, even with the help of a SatNav… getting lost is our forte).
      Thanks for the tips!

      Comment by kiwidutch — May 19, 2017 @ 4:34 pm | Reply

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