Campervanning in Switzerland

First time campervanning in Switzerland: Everything you need to know

If this is going to be your first time campervanning in Switzerland – congratulations! You are going to have an amazing time. We went to Switzerland in our campervan for the first time last summer and had so much fun. Switzerland is such a beautiful country to explore by campervan and is very well set up for it. One of the benefits of campervanning in Switzerland is that it also helps to keep the costs down in what can be a very pricey country.

Since buying a campervan three years ago, we had been counting down to the time that we would be able to explore some of mainland Europe. Last summer we finally got the chance to spend three weeks travelling through France and Switzerland and had the best time.

I’ve put together this post to answer some of the questions we had before our first time campervanning in Switzerland. But please get in touch if there’s anything else you’d like to know.

First time campervanning in Switzerland

I was really looking forward to our first time campervanning in Switzerland. I had previously only visited the country once before on a mother-daughter trip when my little adventurer was a baby. Travelling with a one year old was a great experience, and I hoped our first campervan trip to Switzerland would be just as fun. And it definitely didn’t disappoint. In fact, we only spent a week there as we had plans in France, but we easily could have stayed longer. I loved how easy it was to drive around, how clean and welcoming all of the campsites were and also how there are absolutely stunning views around every corner.

Switzerland is also a very family friendly country to travel in and is extremely welcoming to dog owners. In fact, I’ve never seen so many dogs on campsites before! So it really does feel as though it caters for all campervan owners. 

A campsite on Lake Geneva

Getting to Switzerland by campervan

Getting to Switzerland by campervan is relatively straightforward. As a landlocked country, it has a number of different border crossings. You can enter the country via France, Germany, Austria or Italy. As we travelled from the UK, we crossed into the country from France at the Geneva border. As a UK citizen you do not need a visa to enter Switzerland and can stay for up to 90 days.

Need to know: Campervans need a Vignette sticker in order to travel on the motorways in Switzerland. This can be bought before you cross the border. Park up on the French side of the crossing and there is an office where you can buy your pass. It currently costs CHF 40 and must be displayed on your windscreen after purchase. It is also possible to buy an e-Vignette if you would like to do so in advance.

The border crossing is really easy. You should have your passports ready as you drive through passport control, but you may not be stopped. We weren’t asked to pull over and simply drove straight through to Switzerland. We were amazed at how straightforward it was compared to some border crossings we have experienced!

Top tip: Food in Switzerland is very expensive, even in the supermarkets. I’d recommend taking as much dry food as you can and a few days’ supply of fresh fruit and vegetables. The only thing you need to be aware of is that there is a maximum allowance of meat which can be taken into the country. This is 1kg per person, so if you are travelling with children they will also be counted in the allowance. Again, you may not be stopped and checked, but if you are you will be required to pay customs duties for any excess. There are similar restrictions for alcohol and tobacco, which can be viewed here. For food shopping in Switzerland, head to Aldi for the best prices.

Driving a campervan in Switzerland

Driving a campervan in Switzerland is quite easy. They drive on the right hand side of the road and are strict about speed limits. So make sure you observe and follow signs. I would also say to be prepared for some very windy roads if you are planning to go up into the mountains. Some of them weren’t great for my fear of heights! But on the plus side, the views are absolutely incredible.

Depending on the size of your campervan, you may also have to consider whether the mountain routes are suitable for your vehicle. We found that as we got up into the mountains, it was mainly the smaller campervans that took those routes. We also found that some carparks in busy areas could be difficult to find larger parking spots in.

As always, driving in towns and cities can sometimes be a little more challenging. So be aware of road signs and be careful when changing lanes etc. If you are driving a campervan in Switzerland, make sure that you always carry your driving license and insurance documents with you. The police emergency control centre number is 112. This number can be called from a foreign SIM card or a mobile phone with no credit. If you have an accident, make sure you call the police, get a reference number and get as many details from the other driver as possible. A full list of emergency numbers in Switzerland can be found on the Swiss Authorities website.

Do you need to book campsites in advance in Switzerland?

The question of whether you need to book campsites in advance in Switzerland is somewhat debated in campervan circles. We saw plenty of people saying they hadn’t booked and had managed to find places to stay.

However, as we travelled in the summer, most places seemed to expect that we would book ahead and a few were fully-booked when we checked. Popular ones often have minimum stays of two nights or more.

We didn’t have any campsites booked in Switzerland when we arrived and we tended to book the day before and were fine. We also found that while it’s not something they really advertise, most campsites seemed to have a ‘spill-over’ zone. So, for example, when we asked to extend our stay at one site they asked us to move from the hardstanding area we were on, as someone else had booked it, and park on some grass instead (which is actually our preference).

Campervanning in Switzerland

What are campsites in Switzerland like?

As you can probably imagine, campsites in Switzerland are very well organised. They have good facilities and we always found them to be clean. 

Obviously they cost more than campsites in France. However, considering how expensive everything else is in the country, we didn’t feel like they were too bad value at around 40 euros a night.

As well as shower blocks and laundry rooms, many of the campsites have their own on-site restaurant and shop. Some also have their own pools (which our little adventurers loved, although they were freezing!) and most have some kind of playground.

Switzerland is a very safe country and the campsites did feel very secure. However, they are open to the public, so we were surprised at how relaxed parents were about letting their children play alone in the parks. We regularly saw unaccompanied toddlers in the play grounds. But even if a place feels safe I would always recommend having at least one parent supervising. If you’re booking the campsite in advance, you can always request a pitch near to the park if you are travelling with young children. 

Top tip:  Check your mobile phone contract before you leave home to see whether Switzerland is included in your payment plan. Mr A and I use two different mobile phone providers and one of them included Switzerland and one didn’t.

Can you wild camp in a campervan in Switzerland?

In most areas it is against the law to wild camp in a campervan in Switzerland. This is especially true in the Swiss National Parks, where you should expect to pay a large fine if you are caught.

Having said that, we did see people high up in the mountains wild camping. However, I think it is safer to find somewhere you camp legally.

If you want to keep costs down, it is worth heading to less touristy areas where campsites are cheaper. Alternatively, look for spots to stay using the park4night app.

Favourite campsites in Switzerland:

Best lakeside campsite in Switzerland: TCS Camping Morges – This chain of campsites is very well-organised and we loved that it was right on the shore of Lake Geneva. It has a restaurant, small playground and swimming pool next door. Morges is a lovely little town to explore and has a really laid-back feel.

Best mountain campsite in Switzerland: Relais de la Sarvaz – We really loved this campsite. The facilities are fantastic, including a swimming pool, playground and restaurant. It’s also in a great location to hike in this region. We enjoyed a spectacular hike to see a glacier on the nearby Buvette du Glacier du Trient trail.

If you want to find out more about some of the towns in Switzerland, check out my post Exploring Switzerland: Bex, Montreux, Sion and Villars.

Pros of campervannning in Switzerland

  • Beautiful views
  • Well-equipped and clean campsites
  • Child-friendly campsites, usually with a playground and often with a pool
  • Lots of free activities to do, such as hikes, lake swimming, site-seeing in the towns

Cons of campervanning in Switzerland

  • More expensive than other surrounding countries
  • Wild camping is not allowed in most places
  • Often small pitches to camp on
  • Campfires often not allowed on sites

I hope this guide to first time campervanning in Switzerland has been helpful. If you have any other questions, please let me know in the comments below!

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