With its snow-capped mountain peaks, tranquil turquoise lakes, quaint villages, and winding roads, Switzerland is a dream destination for a scenic road trip adventure. The best way to fully experience Switzerland’s incredible natural splendor is by car. Driving through the valleys and up mountain passes opens up breathtaking vistas around every bend. From mighty glaciers to rolling vineyards, and waterfall walks to historic hamlets, driving provides the freedom to stop and savor Switzerland’s highlights at your own pace. However, to legally access many of Switzerland’s highways and tunnels, drivers must display a valid vignette. This mandatory toll sticker provides road tax for motorways and certain major routes.
For visitors planning an Alpine road trip getaway, here’s a guide to purchasing a Swiss vignette and driving some of the country’s most spectacular scenic routes. With your pass in hand, Switzerland’s captivating landscapes are yours to explore on an unforgettable journey through the open mountain roads.
What is a Swiss Vignette?
A Swiss vignette, sometimes called a road tax sticker, is a toll pass that provides access to most of Switzerland’s motorway network. Vignettes come in the form of a decal that adheres to the inside of a vehicle’s windshield. They are mandatory for all vehicles up to 3.5 tons on Swiss motorways and certain major regional routes. Vignettes are not required for minor roads or in urban areas.
Swiss vignettes are available for short-term and long-term use. The minimum requirement is to purchase a year-long vignette, which is valid from December 1st through January 31st of the following year. For visitors, shorter validity periods of 1 month, 2 months, or 8 days are available as well.
Prices for Swiss vignettes in 2023 are:
- 1 year: CHF 40 (~$42 USD)
- 2 months: CHF 28 (~$30 USD)
- 1 month: CHF 16 (~$17 USD)
- 8 days: CHF 10 (~$11 USD)
Where to Purchase a Swiss Vignette
Swiss vignettes can be purchased in a few different ways:
- At border crossings – vignettes can be purchased when entering Switzerland by road at border control stations.
- Gas stations – most petrol stations near the border and throughout the country sell vignettes.
- Tourist offices – local Swiss tourism bureaus often sell vignettes.
- Online – vignettes can be bought online at https://vignetteswitzerland.com/ and delivered via post. Online purchases allow you to use the vignette as soon as you enter Switzerland.
- Car rental agencies – if renting a car in Switzerland, the rental company can likely provide a vignette. Inquire when booking.
It’s crucial to have a valid vignette as soon as you drive on motorways in Switzerland, as fines can be hefty for non-compliance. Display the vignette clearly on the windshield in the bottom corner on the passenger’s side before hitting the road.
Top Scenic Drives Requiring a Swiss Vignette
With your vignette affixed to your rental car, here are some top routes to explore Switzerland’s stunning alpine scenery:
The Bernese Oberland region offers some of the most spectacular mountain scenery in Europe. Base yourself in Interlaken and set out to explore turquoise lakes, plunging waterfalls, charming mountain villages, and, of course, formidable snow-capped peaks. Don’t miss driving the Old Axenstrasse, a winding road hugging Lake Lucerne with panoramic views. The Oberland meanders through some of Switzerland’s highest mountain passes, where your vignette will be required.
For jaw-dropping views, drive the 8,000-foot-high Furka Pass in the Rhône Valley. This challenging winding road provides expansive vistas over the Rhône Glacier and Dammastock Peak. Stop to snap photos overlooking the valley at Hotel Belvedere. Continue on to descend through the valleys dotted with tiny hamlets. This alpine thrill requires a vignette.
Carve through the dramatic granite rockscapes of the Grimsel Pass, reaching an elevation of 7,100 feet. Stop at the crystal blue Grimselsee reservoir to take in the breathtaking scenery. Drive over stone bridges and through mountain tunnels to experience this route between the Bernese Alps and the Valais Alps. Sections of this road require a vignette.
One of the most famous Alpine drives is the Glacier Express, which connects Zermatt and Davos. The 8-hour journey on the regional railways crosses 291 bridges and passes through 91 tunnels for non-stop views. For the flexibility to stop and photograph the mighty mountains, traverse sections of this route by rental car. A vignette will be required on certain motorway portions.
The Bernina Express winds through the Engadine Valley with spectacular sights of glaciers, mountain lakes, and snowy peaks on its route between Chur and Tirano, Italy. The railway crosses the Bernina Pass at 7,391 feet. Travel a portion of this scenic ride by car to enjoy flexibility in stops. Note that the section between Filisur and Tirano requires a vignette.
For a scenic trip through Switzerland’s historic heart, drive the awe-inspiring Gotthard Pass. This famous trade route winds through valleys and hairpin bends, passing tranquil villages and lush meadows filled with wildflowers. Look out for historic bridges and churches along this route, which connects Central and Southern Switzerland. Parts of the Gotthard route require a valid vignette.
Swiss National Park
Switzerland’s only national park offers pristine alpine scenery. Spot ibex, chamois, and eagles as you drive amid dramatic mountain peaks and forests of larch and pine. The varied landscapes around the Engadine Valley and St. Moritz make for an unforgettable road trip. Sections of the highway require a vignette when visiting this region.
For spectacular views of the iconic Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau mountains, drive the Jungfraujoch road to Europe’s highest railway station. Travel through the mountains to reach the Sphinx Observation Terrace overlooking the mighty Aletsch Glacier. The route between Interlaken and the car-free village of Wengen requires a vignette.
The scenic splendor of the Swiss Alps is best discovered on the open road. Just don’t hit the motorways without a valid vignette, or you’ll face a hefty fine. Purchase your vignette before exploring Switzerland’s most stunning drives and majestic scenery. With your pass in hand, you’re ready for an epic alpine road trip!