Switzerland ditches some travel restrictions to save its ski season

Dec 9, 2021

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If you’re craving a vacation in a European winter wonderland but travel restrictions have left you grounded, Switzerland is making it easier to visit with fewer travel restrictions.

On Dec. 4, the Swiss government ended the 10-day quarantine requirement it had placed on some foreign visitors in an effort to try and combat the COVID-19 omicron variant.

That makes Switzerland the first country to lift restrictions imposed after the world first learned of the new coronavirus variant.

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Ice skater on the frozen Lake Sils. The sun goes down towards Maloja.(Photo courtesy Swiss Tourism)
Ice skater on the frozen Lake Sils. (Photo courtesy of Switzerland Tourism/Martin Maegli)

But before grabbing your skis, snowboards and sleds, it’s important to note that while Switzerland’s 10-day quarantine requirement is now over, the government is still buckling down in other areas to try and keep visitors and residents as safe as possible while dealing with the omicron variant.

What’s changed? You need to plan on more COVID-19 testing and mask-wearing, and additional places are now requiring you to show your vaccination card.

Here’s what you need to know about the latest travel rules for Switzerland. As always, requirements and regulations can change fast, so be sure to also check the Swiss government website and the links we’ve provided below for more information.

In This Post

Swiss travel restrictions for Americans

  • All travelers need two negative test results. The first test, not older than 72 hours, is needed before entering the country. The second test needs to be taken between four and seven days after arriving in Switzerland.
  • All travelers must check the latest travel rules on Travelcheck.
  • Some travelers from high-risk countries, including Americans, are required to be fully vaccinated.
  • All travelers must fill out an entry form.

Related: Country-by-country guide to reopenings

Switzerland mask requirements

Masks are mandatory in all public indoor spaces and on all public transportation including:

  • Trains, trams and buses.
  • Mountain railways and cable cars.
  • Ski lifts and chair lifts.
  • Ships and boats.
  • Aircraft (all scheduled and chartered flights taking off or landing in Switzerland).
  • Enclosed and underground railway stations, airports and other public transport access areas, and enclosed waiting areas.

Switzerland COVID-19 vaccine requirements

  • A valid COVID-19 vaccine certificate is required for public restaurants, wellness facilities and museums.
  • A valid COVID-19 vaccine certificate is required for indoor hotel restaurants, bars, etc.

Other travel restrictions

For the most recent information on traveling to Switzerland, you can use the country’s Travelcheck portal set up by Switzerland’s Federal Office of Public Health. After asking what country you’re flying in from, why you’re visiting and your vaccination status, it is designed to detail what pandemic-related measures you need to take to visit.

Swiss Travel Check website tentative approval page. (Screenshot courtesy https://travelcheck.admin.ch/check)
Swiss Travelcheck website tentative approval page. (Screenshot courtesy of travelcheck.admin.ch)

For frequently asked questions about travel restrictions and pandemic-related issues in Switzerland, be sure to check out the website of the State Secretariat for Migration, where information is updated often.

Planning a trip to Switzerland

Another good resource to help you plan your trip to Switzerland, listing everything from the latest travel restrictions to the top hotels and restaurants, is this link on Switzerland Tourism’s website.

After the holiday rush you can score some decent prices on nonstop flights from the U.S. to Switzerland. As of this writing, flights ranged between $580 and $900 round-trip.

To fly into Zurich (ZRH) and Geneva (GVA), you’ll find the most nonstop options (and delicious Swiss wine and chocolates) on the country’s national airline Swiss Air.

Swiss Air flight. (Screenshot courtesy Switzerland tourism)
(Photo copyright: KMB courtesy of Switzerland Tourism)

Some of the most popular nonstop options include flights from New York City (JFK), Newark (EWR), Boston (BOS), Chicago (ORD), Miami (MIA) and San Francisco (SFO).

Related: How Swiss business class manages to remain excellent — even during a pandemic

The Lufthansa Group owns Swiss so they share the Miles & More frequent flyer program, but you can also book award flights on Swiss using United MileagePlus or any other main Star Alliance transfer partner.

You can also use American Express Membership Rewards partners like Air Canada Aeroplan,  ANA Mileage Club or Avianca LifeMiles to book flights on Swiss.

Also, starting Dec. 13, you can fly Swiss nonstop once again from New York’s JFK to Geneva with four weekly flights.

Related: I burned 130,000 Aeroplan points for a weekend in Switzerland

Several U.S. airlines also fly to Zurich, and you can find nonstop flights from the U.S. to Switzerland on United, Delta and American Airlines.

Related: Switzerland is reopening, and you can fly there with wide-open business-class award space

If you are looking to burn some Delta SkyMiles, you can fly from New York to Zurich for 148,000 miles round-trip in business class with several connections. Check out this post for details. The cash price for a similar itinerary with fewer stops is $2,871. A similar flight using American Airlines AAdvantage miles to fly British Airways would be about 45,000 miles in coach or 198,000 miles in business class.

Delta SkyMiles award to Zurich. (Screenshot courtesy Delta)
Delta SkyMiles award to Zurich. (Screenshot courtesy of Delta)

A critical time for Swiss tourism

Switzerland’s more relaxed travel restrictions come at a critical time for the country’s economy.

Switzerland Tourism told TPG that before the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019, tourism brought almost $18 billion into the Swiss economy. Last year, in 2020, that number was almost cut in half.

The winter season traditionally brings close to 8 million visitors. The number of Americans visiting last winter was down more than 94%.

The message right now from Switzerland Tourism? The more than 200 world-class ski regions like Zermatt, St. Mortiz and Verbier are open and more than ready for business.

Eiger Express in winter time, Bernese Oberland / Eiger Express im Winter, Berner Oberland. Neue V-Bahn. (Photo courtesy Swiss tourism)
The Eiger Express in Grindelwald, Switzerland. (Photo courtesy Swiss Travel Systems/David Birri/Switzerland Tourism)

Bottom line

The Swiss say the beloved Matterhorn, a jaw-dropping 14,692 feet high, is the most-photographed mountain in the world and that this majestic beauty is waiting to welcome everyone again.

The Matterhorn in Zermatt, Switzerland (Photo courtesy Swiss Tourism)
The Matterhorn in Zermatt, Switzerland. (Photo copyright: Gornergratbahn courtesy of Switzerland Tourism)

Personally, of the 68 countries I’ve traveled to, Switzerland is one of my favorites for its breathtaking scenery, award-winning resorts, hotels, spas, wineries and culinary experiences. It’s particularly magical during the winter months. And yes, I’ve taken a picture or two, or 100, of the Matterhorn and I’m looking forward to going back to Zermatt and taking more.

Featured photo copyright Gornergratbahn courtesy of Switzerland Tourism.

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